Scenes From A Cookbook Shoot

44

Monday, February 21, 2011

Angie and Virginia
Angie and Virginia: not bad when your call sheet for the day starts with an outstanding caramel cake!

I was on a week long cookbook shoot this past week and I admit I did not cook or bake much since I was surrounded daily with the most fabulous dishes that will be in Virginia Willis upcoming book Basic To Brilliant Ya'll published by Ten Speed Press and released next Fall. I am now in a few rounds of editing the manuscript for Foodography but I did not want to pass on the opportunities to upload a few phone snapshots from this past week.

I love photographing cookbooks. The dynamics are so completely different and crazy in their own way and I have been so very lucky to work with extremely talented cooks, writers and chefs who are passionate about their job as I am about mine. I LOVE my job! Not only do I get to play with my camera settings, lights, composition, styling all day long but I am also privileged to eat some wonderful dishes.

Building A Set
I love that shooting is as much about improvising a composition as it is capturing it properly.

Virginia's recipes are no exception. I laughed every time Virginia graciously accepted my compliments about her dishes. Are you kidding me lady? Every bite that graced my lips warmed my soul and made my feet dance a little twist under the table. I can't wait for everyone to get this book in their home. Oh yes...

Angie- Fabulous Prop Stylist
I renamed Angie, the Prop Guru.

We shot Viriginia's cookbook in my studio and being stuck up there with the kitchen downstairs, I did not have the chance to take a picture of the unsung heroes of this shoot, Gena Berry and her crew of interns who made such beautiful foods and kept us well fed and rolling the whole time.

I admit I was in prop heaven when Angie unloaded what looked like another 10 houses worth of dishes and linens in the studio space. "Yes please!" were my words to having the space packed up with dishes. I was loving it...ah! It was so smooth and easy working with Angie which made the magnitude of the task at hand really enjoyable.

Bailey, Betsy and Angie
Betsy from Ten Speed Press and Angie Mosier and my personal assistant, Bailey a.k.a "Wiggle Butt".

Finally, having Betsy from Ten Speed Press join us for the whole week was the icing on the cake. I particularly loved seeing her take on some Southern ways while down here. It's easy to fall in love with the South and its charming hospitality. I did.

Colorful Produce

It's easy to create wonderful recipes when there is such wonderful produce as Melissa's and Whole Foods in our baskets and no, they did not pay me to say that...!

An easy recipe combining good food, great people, great spirits and a love of a job well done.

I'll be back later this week with some exciting news to share!

Good For The Heart Grilled Salmon Pasta & Salmon Swiss Chard Quiche

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Spaghetti With Grilled Salmon, Grape Tomatoes & Capers

Real evening off with my honey. Not the kind where I have to scoot off back to my desk to finish one more chapter. Real walk with the pups. Not the kind I quickly run them around the block wishing they wouldn't play hide and seek for 20 minutes. Real adult conversation with my mother. The kind that leaves me feeling punched to a pulp but hopeful and strong. Real shower. So hot and rejuvenating my fingers get wrinkly and my skin becomes red. All real.

It's easy to think of everyday things as regular happenings. Amenities, privileges and responsibilities to others. They're not. I look at my window overlooking the creek and all I see is marsh land gently swayed by the breeze and the incoming tide. I realize then that what we, B. and myself, work so hard to maintain, even when we struggle, is never taken for granted. I am thankful that my feet are grounded into grasping what is important. We enjoy running water and electricity, education, freedom of speech and assembly.

Swiss Chard & Salmon Quiche

I spent pretty much the last two weeks split between the work laid out before me and the TV turned to Egypt. It made everything we were doing, him grading paper and me writing the final chapters of my manuscript, trivial and small. And it was. And it was not at the same time. One more time I was privileged to watch another Berlin wall fall, another Romania do away with dictatorship, another Kosovo say no more to oppression and fear.

And once more I was reminded of the privilege I had to work my passion for a living and to be given the tools and freedom to do it right. So with one eye glued to the television and the other on the computer screen, I buckled down and finished writing the last chapter and appendices. When everything was uploaded to the server around noon, I crashed. We both crashed actually. Wiped out. My brain could not come up with one more proper sentence. My heart was happy for I had exercised one of my fundamental privileges, to be free to write.

Rainbow

We took the rest of the day "off". A luxury these days but we drew the curtain closed, put on old LPs, a sea of pillows down on the floor and just chilled. Bill, who held me figuratively and literally for the past three months I was writing held me one more time as I fell asleep in his arms. All the Valentine's day commercial things might have gotten to me, but he's my rock. And we take care of each other.

Even when things are crazy busy, there are a few things I will not make compromises about. Quiet time just the two of us with no radio, no shop talk, not bank/house talk is one of those. The other is food. Nourishing, well prepared and wholesome food. It's one of the few things we can do to keep us going. Share with friends is even better.

Herbs

When I made this salmon and Swiss chard quiche, I actually had enough for a second one so I grabbed the phone and told our friends the house was open if they wanted to come and have a bite with us. And then I made a big plate of grilled salmon and spaghetti so I called another set of friends. Before I knew it we were 10 around the dinner table sharing a good meal and a few good laughs. Taking some time off and making sure that we eat well is one of the best thing I did these past few days.

These coming two weeks are going to be packed crazy. Virginia Willis, Angie Mosier, Gena Berry and crew are going to be here this whole week for the second round of her book Basic to Brilliant Ya'll with Ten Speed Press. I am so excited I can't stop bopping around. We work hard but at the end of the day we play just as hard...ehehe! The week after that I am starting a photo shoot for a more commercial client and pairing with a dear friend of mine on the project. Details soon but it's going to be some good grub too!

Anyways...I know tomorrow there is going to be a deluge of sweet things and chocolate on the blogosphere so I thought I'd give you a couple of savory recipes with salmon which we all know is wonderful for the heart... The grilled salmon and pasta dish was so refreshing and light that I made it again the day after!

Swiss Chard & Salmon Quiche


Salmon and Swiss Chard Quiche:

For one quiche (serves 6)

Note: If we don't wish to make this gluten free, reduce the egg yolks to 1 and use 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flours instead of the brown rice, millet, sorghum and cornstarch.

For the crust:
5 tablespoons (70gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 egg yolks
pinch salt
1/2 cup (80gr) brown rice flour
1/2 cup (60gr) millet flour
1/4 cup (30gr) sorghum flour
1/4 cup (40gr) corn starch

Prepare the crust:
In a mixer, whip together the butter and mustard on medium speed until light and airy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time and beating well after each addition. Mix until incorporated. Add all the different flours and cornstarch and mix briefly. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more rice flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic to fit your prefered pie pan. (I went with rectangular this time) If the dough tears while you roll or/and transfer into the pan, just patch it with your fingertips. Line the dough with a piece of parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dy beans and par bake for 15-20 minutes until completely done. Remove the weights and parchment paper. At this point you can refrigerate the baked crust for up to 5 days if not using right away or freeze it for up to 3 months.

For the filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion (I used 1/2 of a giant sweet Vidalia), sliced thin
1 cup packed Swiss chard (red - green rainbow - your choice), washed and patted dry
One 4-oz salmon fillet, raw and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2/3 cup whole milk
salt and pepper
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley

Prepare the filling:
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
Heat the oil in a large sautee pan over medium high heat and cook the onion until translucent (about 3-4 minutes), add the Swiss chard and cooked until wilted. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg, thyme and parsley. Layer the onion and Swiss chard at the bottom of the crust, top with the pieces of salmon and slowly pour the egg mixture over it.
Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the tart starts getting golden brown and the custard is cooked.

Grilled Salmon Spaghetti with Grape Tomatoes and Capers:

Serves 2

One 6 oz salmon fillet
3 oz dry gluten free spaghetti (we go with quinoa pasta usually)
3/4 cup halved grape tomatoes
2 teaspoons capers
olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh oregano

Pan grill or grill the salmon until cooked to your liking. Let it cool and chop it roughly or just shred it apart with your fingertips. Place it in a large bowl.
In the meantime, boil the pasta according to the instructions on the package. Once cooked, drain, and mix it in with the salmon, halved grape tomatoes and capers. Mix and adjust seasoning if necessary. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and prinkle with a few fresh leaves of oregano.

Nutella Cupcakes With Nutella & Cream Cheese Frosting

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Saturday, February 05, 2011

Nutella Cupcakes

Today is Nutella Day. And that, folks, makes me very very happy. That means I can dig my spoon with reckless abandon in the jar of Nutella. Oh wait...I think I have had Nutella day for 2 weeks straight now. Oops..

Nutella Cupcakes

It's been years since I have participated to a Nutella Day, an event created by my good friend Sara from Ms. Adventures in Italy and Michelle from Bleeding Espresso but given the amount of Nutella I have consumed to keep the writing and shooting going lately, I felt I needed to honor the delicious chocolate hazelnut spread.

Early Morning Baking

These cupcakes hit the spot. I wanted nothing more than to share a couple of these right away with B. but he was already gone for work. I waited patiently. Then I waited anxiously. My resistance was fading. And when he got home that afternoon, a couple were already gone. I had a cupcake with frosting. Then a cupcake without frosting. Then just frosting. One week from manuscript deadline, I think I am allowed a little lot of Nutella. And coffee.

Ok, so I got a bit carried away with the frosting. But that's ok. It reminded B. of the bakery cupcakes he's always lusting after. Good! Gluten free Nutella Cupcakes and Nutella cream cheese frosting or plain cream cheese frosting. Who can blame me? For once the ratio of cake to frosting satisfied me completely!

Nutella Cupcakes

Have a great Nutella Day and a wonderful weekend!

Nutella Cupcakes (adapted from this recipe) and Nutella Cream Cheese Frosting:

Note: I double lined the cupcakes just to be on the safe side but you don't have to.
The colored liners are from Bake It Pretty by the way.
Use 200gr all purpose flour to replace the sweet rice and millet flours and the corn starch if desired.


Makes 12

For the cupcakes:
For the cupcakes:

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup (110gr)honey or light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground coffee
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup Nutella
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (100 gr) superfine sweet rice flour
1/4 cup (50 gr) millet flour
1/4 cup (50 gr) cornstarch (or use tapioca flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt

Prepare the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Place 12 muffin liners inside a muffin pan and lightly brush with melted butter (or cooking spray).
In an electric mixer, whip the butter and honey until fluffy at medium speed, 2-3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the coffee, milk and Nutella. Still on low, add the eggs, one at time and scraping the bowl after each addition. In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, cornstarch, baking soda and salt and slowly fold this in with the butter - Nutella mixture until the mixture is smooth. Divide evenly among the muffin liners and bake 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting or enjoy warm without.

Nutella Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 oz Nutella

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Sift the powdered sugar over the bowl and whisk for a few seconds. Add the Nutella and mix until completely incorporated. That is plenty for 12 cupcakes by the way. Halve the recipe if you plan to do some Nutella and some plain.

For plain cream cheese frosting:
remove the Nutella and add 2 tablespoons butter to make it 1/4 cup total and 1/4 cup powdered sugar to make it 1/2 cup total. Same process.

A Handful Of Chocolate Chip Cookies & A Glass Of Milk

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Do you have those days when you could just use a cookie and a glass of milk? When being six sounds just about as good as winning the lottery? Nothing has to be terribly wrong or terribly right. No. Just good enough to feel like having a cookie.

A warm embrace. A love note. A familiar face. A couple of cookies and a glass of milk. Same difference.

With work and life moving at a million happy miles an hour, all I wanted to do the other day was just to put my pen down and make cookies. And I did just that. The simple act of taking a tray out of the even and getting that first whiff of freshly baked cookies was just the ticket.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think I got a bit carried away though because I ended up making 3 dozens! I have a difficult time with happy mediums apparently. I am all or nothing. Even while baking. I was on a baking high and well, procrastinating on everything else for an hour made me feel like a kid skipping homework. Everything would be ok, there were cookies.

I grabbed a few and a glass of milk and I started going through all your comments about your food styling struggles or photography in general. You'll be happy to know that your questions on camera modes, settings, lighting, composition are covered in depth. As far as styling goes, I was thrilled to see that so many of your issues were topics I had chosen to use as examples. But I did see a couple of interesting ones which I must keep under wrap until the whole project is complete.

Chocolate Chips Cookies

There has been a lot brown foods made and eaten here the last few days, as well as soups, steaks, pasta, purees, pizza, etc... Lots more than we can eat in one day just the two of us! So with a box of cookies in one hand and a container of chili in the other, I knocked on the neighbors' doors ever so gently and left them at the door. They just had a baby you see. I bet everyone was happily getting some shut eye for a while.

It won't make everything get better but I figured that if a couple of cookies and a glass of milk made me alright with the world well, maybe the same could happen for them. On a side note, I still have to make the old pup stop howling everytime he hears the baby cries. It's not helping, ehehe!

Cookie Break

One more thing before I end this post. Like everyone else, we are glued to the news regarding the events in Egypt and as someone with friends deeply tied in with the country, I just want to tell all you who are affected by these events that we are keeping you close to our hearts.

Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from David Leite of Leite Culinaria.

Notes: I used half coconut oil and half butter for the fat in these cookies. If you do the same, make sure the coconut oil is soft still but not liquid. Coconut butter would work too. You can of course use the same amount in butter which would bring the butter amount to a total of 10 tablespoons.
I used ground flax seeds soaked in a little water to act as a binding agent to mimic the gluten or xanthan gum (I was out of it).
B. finds that flaxseed has a taste so I add just a pinch of cocoa powder to the batter to tone down the flax seed taste.


1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup corn starch (you can sub tapioca starch)
1/2 cup potato starch
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 tablespoons coconut oil (centrifuged, extra virgin)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground flaxseed soaked in 1/2 tablespoon water for 10 minutes
a pinch cocoa powder
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cups chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

In a large bowl, whisk together each of the flours and "starches" along with the baking soda and baking powder.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the sugars on medium speed for a couple of minutes, then mix for 1 minute more. Reduce the speed to slow and ddd the flaxseed and cocoa powder, the egg, beating well and scraping the sides of your mixer bowl if necessary. Add the vanilla extract and beat 30 seconds longer.

Add the flour mixture into the batter, mixing just until the dry ingredients are coming together. Add the chocolate chips and mix briefly to incorporate.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1-2 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F, position a rack in the middle of the oven and line baking sheets with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat.
Scoop your preferred size of dough balls onto your baking sheet, 2 inches apart from each other.

Bake the cookies about 12-15 minutes, depending on the size or until golden brown. Let them cool 10 minutes on the baking sheets before transferring to cooling racks.

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