A Heart of Courage

Friday, May 13, 2016

Linguine with mushrooms, olives and tomatoes.

Nestled in the picturesque region of the Puget Sound, Carol Hart spends her days in the wildly beautiful Pacific Northwest "taking pictures, digging in the dirt, and making an occasional mess in the kitchen." While she has carried an interest in food preparation since the age of 10 and has become quite an accomplished cook, she only recently took up photography again, a hobby she dabbled with in college. Now, she spends most days with a camera around her neck and her 3-legged cat, Peg, in tow as she explores her love of food preparation and photography. Her website is filled with helpful video tutorials on photography, lighting, food styling and cooking and she is a frequent contributor on other blogs. One peek at her site reveals this woman clearly knows what she's doing and it's no surprise she was featured recently in an interview on The Photo Argus

While life is more leisurely for Carol now than when she had a full-time career, she and her husband, Brian, of 36 years, still run a successful consultancy business. They are regulars at Pike Place Market and can be found browsing among favorite vendors in their weekly search for fresh, local ingredients. Together, they prepare a tempting array of dishes which end up in her photos and on her table. 

On the blogging scene since 2011, Carol's first posts express a poignant glimpse into her heart as she quotes Nelson Mandela, saying, "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but to triumph over it”.  Truly, this thought echoes the feeling in many of us as we step out into (sometimes) new territory to explore paths leading to exciting adventures in life. Hart's example of bravery proves we can start fresh with a new idea, no matter what season of life we are in.

Read on for my interview with this amazing woman.

Carol Hart

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, Carol?  I was born in Houston, Texas but my family moved to Southern California before I was a year old so I really don’t know anything about Texas. We moved around quite a bit but finally settled into the Redondo Beach area of California. My dad was a tool and die maker who invented things in his spare time. I remember a pair of skates he made for me that had ball bearings in sockets as wheels. He called them crazy skates. I just about killed myself trying to skate in those things! My mother was an avid crocheter. She made bedspreads, tablecloths, doilies. I think she could have crocheted an entire house given the time and yarn! She was also a good cook, but didn’t like to have anyone in the kitchen when she was doing her thing so I didn’t learn to cook from her. 

Cauliflower Leek Soup

Who inspired you to cook?  My grandmother was the one who awakened in me a passion for cooking. One summer when I was about 10 years old, I came in the house to get a drink of water. In the kitchen my grandmother was standing over the sink with a flat of strawberries on the counter, cleaning each berry one by one. I asked if we were going to have strawberry shortcake for dessert (my favorite dessert to this day.) She said some would be for that and the rest would be for strawberry jam. I was amazed and asked “you can MAKE strawberry jam?” She laughed and said “Well yes. Where do you think jam comes from?” to which I replied “the store”. Right then and there she got me up on a stool and had me help her make jam. When my mom picked me up at the end of the summer I proudly showed her a jar of the strawberry jam, bragging about how I made it. She simply replied “you know, you can buy that stuff at the store”. She just didn’t get it. But I did. That summer I gained an appreciation for how things are made and the joy one gets out of making good food for others. Love is the key ingredient that home-cooked food contains. You can’t buy that in a jar.

"Love is the key ingredient that home-cooked food contains. You can’t buy that in a jar."

Apple Galette

Tell us what sparked an interest in photography after all those years.   I had been working for a general contractor as a risk manager dealing with worker’s compensation issues for 15 years when the economy took a down turn and I was laid off. Since I had only a few weeks left on my company's medical insurance policy, I decided to get a mammogram. They found cancer. I had surgery, 3 months of radiation, and a full year of chemo. It was during chemo treatment that I found myself getting back into photography - something I hadn’t done in many years. Over time, I began pairing my photography with the food I was preparing at home.

Chocolate Meringues

How blessed you are to have a husband who shares your interests! Tell us about him.   My husband & I met at college. We were both taking photography courses. He was there to learn to become the next Richard Avedon (a famous portrait photographer at the time). I was there to learn to take good pictures on purpose! We would steal glances at each other in the print room. An invitation to coffee led to a dinner date, and a few months later we were married. I feel particularly blessed to have Brian as my life partner and that we are witnesses to each other’s lives. Our two common interests are photography and cooking. He is an excellent home chef!

Clam Chorizo Palella

What do you love about your life?  I love the flexibility I have over my time. We do have a successful business that keeps me busy, but not excessively so. I have time for my gardening, my photography, and time to explore new recipes. I have finally learned to let go of the idea of perfection. Embracing the perfectly imperfect has allowed me to enjoy things just as they are, not as I imagine they “should” be.

"I have finally learned to let go of the idea of perfection."

Summer Berry Galette

What is your favorite thing to make? I love cooking and baking and especially love trying things for the first time. For a main meal, I especially love something that has been simply prepared. Fish, chicken, and vegetarian based meals are at the top of my list. What I love about baking is the precision required. The base ingredients have to be measured out properly. Baking requires one to be in the moment. My favorite desserts are those containing seasonal fruit.

Balsamic vinaigrette with thyme and garlic.

What inspires you?  In life, I’m continually inspired by the beauty in nature. The curl of a new fern frond, the edge of a tulip petal, the dew drops clinging to blades of fresh grass…it’s all so breathtaking. In people, I’m inspired by those who are quick to laugh, give big hugs, and listen attentively. In Seattle, I’m inspired by the abundance of fresh fabulous food we have available to us. Every time I walk through the Pike Place Market, I see a new vegetable or fruit that I’ve never seen before. It’s amazing.

"I’m inspired by those who are quick to laugh, give big hugs, and listen attentively."

Yogurt with apples, pomegranates and toasted quinoa.

Anything new on the horizon for you?  Just this year Kim Klassen, who offers online photography classes and has a beautiful blog called kimklassen.com asked me to do a monthly food photography post on her site! I’m two months in and having a ball. Brian & I are also working on recipes for a little cookbook we’d like to put together for family and friends. I’m also checking into becoming an instructor for Skillshare, but am having to give myself a lot of pep talks on this idea!

Lemon Creams with Blueberries and Gingersnaps.


Grilled Whole Mackerel

Grilled Whole Mackerel withe Lemon, Oregano and Olives


½ teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut into slivers
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano plus 6 large sprigs
One 3 ¼ - 3 ½ lb. cleaned whole mackerel (with head and tail)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 (1/4-inch thick) lemon slices


A 22-inch grill
Kitchen twine


Sauce: Whisk together zest, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste, then add olive oil in a stream, whisking until well combined. Whisk in olives and chopped oregano.

Make 1-inch long slits at 2-inch intervals down the middle of fish on both sides with a sharp paring knife then brush fish all over with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper.

Season fish cavity with salt and pepper, then evenly distribute 3 lemon rounds and 3 oregano sprigs inside the cavity. On top of fish distribute 3 oregano sprigs and 3 lemon rounds then tie fish closed with string at 2-inch intervals, securing lemon slices and oregano sprigs to the fish.

Prepare grill for cooking. Lightly oil the grill rack and heat grill to medium-hot. Grill fish 15 minutes on one side, then turn fish over and grill just until cooked through, about 15 minutes more.

Transfer to large platter then discard the string. Serve fish with the sauce.

Peach Blueberry Cake

Peach Blueberry Cake



1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla


½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca
2 lb. firm-ripe large peaches, halved lengthwise, pitted, and each half cut lengthwise into fourths
1 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


A 9-inch springform pan, food processor, electric coffee/spice grinder, oven


Pastry: Pulse together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and pulse just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea-sized butter lumps. Add egg and vanilla and pulse just until dough clumps and begins to form a ball. Press dough onto bottom and evenly (about ¼-inch thick) all the way up the side of springform pan with floured fingertips. Chill pastry in pan until firm (about 10 min.)

Place oven rack in middle position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Filling: Grind 2 tablespoons sugar with flour and tapioca in grinder until tapioca is powdery, then transfer to a large bowl and stir in remaining 6 tablespoons sugar. Add peaches, blueberries, lemon juice and gently toss to coat.

Spoon filling into prepared pastry and bake, loosely covered with a sheet of foil, until filling is bubbling in center and crust is golden, about 1-¾ hours.

Transfer cake in pan to a rack and cool, uncovered for 20 minutes, and then carefully remove side of pan.

Cool cake to room temperature, and then cut into thick wedges with a sharp knife for serving.

All photos courtesy of Carol Hart and used with permission. Please visit Carol's website, Open Hart for more information.  You may also follow her on Instagram: @carolhartseattle . 


  1. What a thoughtfully written article Naomi. Carol's inner strength shines through, and her joy in the 'perfectly imperfect' is a sweet reminder for all of us. And that jam doesn't come from the store!! Love Jennifer Emilson

  2. thank you for this lovely interview. I love Carol's take on life and that we can start something new whatever season we are in.