Since Valentines Day is officially sanctioned for chocolate indulgence, here’s a traditional seduction item that any one can create to warm the heart (and libido) of their beloved. Just get some really good quality chocolate… Soma’s Dark Fire would be my first choice to heat up the evening. Melt it very slowly in a pot over boiling water (a double boiler) and dip in whatever comes to mind!
This shot was (obviously) fun to create… and I learned some interesting bits about making cinemagraphs along the way. Find out about how to create these fun “motion stills” at
With the first hints of cooler summer evenings, I start to yearn for rich hearty soups that are a meal unto themselves. Which brings me to bouillabaisse, a classic recipe that hails from the fishing docks of Marseille. The list of ingredients that go into this dish is hotly debated among aficionados, but the real key is to select the freshest of seafood that’s available. The classic Provençal version calls for at least 3 different Mediterranean fishes, shellfish and Langostine (Mediterranean lobster) all cooked in careful order in a vegetable and saffron flavored broth. Once all the fish are cooked, the broth is served in a bowl with toasted baguette and rouille (a saffron and pepper aioli). The seafood itself is served separately after the broth….. an elegant and delicious meal, especially for a large dinner party.
Now you’re probably wondering how I got this still photograph the boiling water and a little hints of moving steam. This is a new spin on an old animation format (.gif) that has recently become popularized as a Cinemagraph. They’ve been a big hit in the fashion world, and I think it’s going to be the next fun thing for food photography. Here’s a link to our behind-the-scenes look at how this was created.
And here are the ingredients that went into this beautiful bowl of bouillabaisse.
I’ve been totally revelling in the wonderful variety of fresh berries at our local farmers market, so I thought I’d share with you my favorite summer dessert. Zabagloine (or sabayon to the French) is a very traditional Italian dessert made from egg yolks, sugar, and a sweet wine all whipped into a light frothy foam. In Italy it’s often served over fresh figs, but I love it over assorted berries. For this particular recipe we used a sparkling wine, which makes it even frothier and more fun to eat. This makes a perfect dessert to finish off the Egg in Phylo Brunch.
Although this looks fairly fancy and intimidating, it’s actually a very easy dessert to whip together at the last minute (Especially if you happen to own an electric whisk). It’s a great way to impress your guests! By the way, a “double boiler” can simply be a metal or glass bowl sitting on a pot with water boiling in it. Here’s the recipe:
Zabaglione (Sabayon) with Berries
- 1/3 cup
- 1 Cup
Sparkling wine, Ice wine or Marsala
- Fresh Berries
- Combine all ingredients over a double boiler and whisk ingredients together.
- Whisk until the consistency resembles lightly whipped cream. Be careful to not over heat the eggs, as they will scramble.
- Remove from heat when it reaches a foamy whipped consistency and serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator.
- Place berries in a heat proof serving glass. Spoon sabayon over the berries and carefully torch (brulee) the sabayon until till its lightly browned.
This shot was also one that we did as part of my summer workshop...
Wow, it’s been a busy summer so far, with shooting, teaching and running a workshop keeping me hopping…. which is why it’s been a while since my last post. In fact, Linsey and I created this dish as a demonstration of food photography for my summer workshop.
It’s actually a delightfully easy yet elegant brunch item. The egg is baked in the phyllo at the same time as the tomatoes and asparagus are baking. It’s sort of an upscale egg in the hole. The asparagus spears are great for dipping into the egg yolk as well.
Before you get started with the eggs, slice some tomatoes in halves, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chopped herbs and coarse salt. Put them in the oven at 350º and cook until they’re almost dried (they should be ready about the same time as the eggs). Wrap the asparagus spears in prosciutto and spread them out on a baking dish. They take about 15-20 minutes to cook, so they can go in as you pull out the phyllo for the eggs.
Here’s the recipe for the eggs:
Egg in Phyllo
- 1 package
- 1/2 stick
- 1 oz
grated parmesan cheese
- salt & pepper to taste
- With a pastry brush, coat a muffin tin with melted butter (a silicone muffin mould works very well!). Cut the phyllo into 6 inch squares. Lightly brush each layer of phyllo with butter and press it into the muffin mould. Build up 5-6 layers in four of the muffin moulds.
- Bake in a 350º oven until the phyllo just starts to brown (around 10-15 minutes). Remove from the oven. Crack one egg into a small cup, and gently pour it into the phyllo cup. Repeat for the other eggs. Return to the oven and bake until the white of the egg is firm, but the yolk is still a bit soft (let your finger tip guide you).
- Gently remove the egg and phyllo from the mould and serve topped with grated parmisan.
Hot summer days and warm nights are just around the corner, so here’s a refreshing cocktail to sip while chilling with your friends.
It’s a fresh spin on a classic martini…. using gin, Limoncello and a hint of basil to compliment the juniper flavour of the gin. We rimmed the glass with Pop Rocks, just for fun. If you haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, this is a good one! Here’s the recipe.
By the way, Limoncello is an Italian liqueur that’s very popular in the south, especially along the Amalfi coast and around Capri, where the lemons are grown. It’s made by infusing liquor with lemon peel for a month or so, then sweetening with a simple syrup. It’s often made at home in the region, so here’s a recipe if you want to give it a try. It’s usually served chilled as an after dinner drink, and it’s very refreshing on its own or with a splash of soda. In this cocktail it brings a fresh lemon flavor with a bit of sweetness to mellow out the gin.
Now you’re probably wondering how we got this big splash for the shot.
I can tell you that we had a lot of fun and Linsey got very wet!
Now that the weather is finally starting to warm up you’ll soon be getting invites to backyard parties and barbecues! And with them, the inevitable command to “just bring something”. Here’s a quick and easy solution that will delight and mystify the other party guests.
The “recipe” couldn’t be simpler. Just mix Mascarpone Cheese with Dalmatia Dried Fig Spread and spread the mixture into Belgian Endive leaves (how’s that for a pan-european mix?). I like the Dalmatia spread because it has a concentrated fig flavour, not too sweet, and it’s available in my local Metro grocery. The intriguing thing about this recipe is the combination of the slightly bitter crunch of the endive and the smooth sweet of the fig and mascarpone somehow confuses the palate, and no one can quite figure out what they’re eating, although they’re certainly enjoying it! It’s entertaining to see what people guess as they try to identify the flavour.
Whenever I take food to a party I like to make a pleasing presentation (so disposable paper plates are definitely out!), but not have to worry about reclaiming bowls or platters at the end of the evening. One of my fav solutions, shown here, is the woven lids from Chinese bamboo steamers. They make a great serving platter, come in a variety of sizes, and only cost a couple of dollars in any chinese kitchen supply store (my local haunt is Tap Phong in Toronto’s Chinatown).
So next time you’re asked to show up with a party platter, or just need a tasty snack for watching the Food Network, give this quick combination a try.
This is a great way to transform whatever leftovers you might have in the fridge into a delicious and healthy meal in a bowl. I like to use chicken or beef stock (which I make in large vats and keep in the freezer). All I have to do is heat the stock, dissolve some miso paste into the hot stock, add a package or two of frozen Japanese noodles and then toss in whatever odds and ends I have laying about the fridge. For this particular dish we used the leftover pork tenderloin from this recipe. We added in some enoki and baby shiitake mushrooms, green onions, sliced peppers, bean sprouts and fresh parsley. We also added a few drops of sesame oil for a nice perk in flavor. About 20 minutes to make from scratch, and it sure beats Ramen Noodles!
A few ingredient notes:
Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans, rice, barley or other ingredients. It comes in a variety of colors, from white through red and brown. It has a earthy, salty flavor and is used extensively in Japanese cooking. I like the darker red or brown variety for its rich flavor. You can purchase miso paste in any Asian grocery and it’s showing up more and more in regular grocery stores, partly due to its health benefits. It keeps very well in the fridge as long as it’s stored in a sealed container. Because it’s a paste, it’s hard to dissolve in a large pot of stock, so I scoop a small amount of the hot soup into a bowl and then mush in the miso paste until it’s dissolved, then I pour it back into the large pot. How much miso to add really depends on your taste and how salty like your soup. I usually put 2 or 3 heaping tablespoons in a pot of soup.
Udon noodles are the thick chewy Japanese noodles, and I love them in soups. I prefer to buy them frozen (they always have a large variety at T&T grocery), as they come packaged in meal size blocks. He just tossed them into a soup and warm them. I find the frozen ones retain the best texture and chewy tenderness when cooked. You could also use ramen or soba noodles which are widely available in dried packages.
I’m a big fan of making my own stock! For chicken stock I save the bones and carcasses whenever I cook chicken. I keep them frozen in bags until I have enough to make a stock. They usually pick up one or two “old chickens” to toss him as well. I prefer to keep my stock very simple, usually just adding an onion and maybe a few cloves of garlic. For beef stock I buy some beef bones very inexpensively at any grocery that has an actual butcher. I like to roast the bones in the oven until they’re browned as I find this makes a richer stock. I like to keep my stocks boiling at a very low boil for a long period of time, five or six hours at the least, so I tend to make stock when I have a quiet evening at home. After that I simply strain the stock into a large bowl and put it in the fridge to allow the fat to float to the surface and congeal so it’s easy to remove. Then I put the finished stock in plastic containers and freeze them. Few things give me such a sense of satisfaction as loading a big stack of stock into the freezer!
The other ingredients are totally up to you and your fridge!
This recipe was inspired by a childhood memory of a trip my family took to Québec where we dined at a restaurant called L’Atre (unfortunately now closed) on the Ile d’Orléan. The restaurant was housed in an old farmhouse deep in a secluded wood, and we were actually taken there in a horse-drawn sleigh. The meal was traditional Québecois and the one dish that still sticks in my mind is the dessert of Maple Sugar Pie. Incredibly rich, sweet and gooey with maple syrup and heavy cream. So totally decadent.
Since winter seems finally to be coming to an end, and the maple sap will soon be running, this seems like a great time to revisit that childhood memory. Linsey has updated this traditional Québecois recipe with a lighter touch and the addition of roasted almonds to balance out the sweetness of the maple syrup.
Assistant and BTS shots: Adriana Garcia Cruz
I realized lately that I’ve been getting a lot of requests to shoot food on location for restaurant menus and websites. So I thought I would post a selection of some of the shots and talk a bit about what goes into them. Without all the tools, toys and tricks of the studio I find it’s best to keep the shots very simple and clean and resist the temptation to put too much stuff into them. I also find that restaurants tend to want very straightforward photographs of their menu items so that they can be used for a variety of applications.
I love to find a bit of natural light to work with, and since most restaurants have big windows, this makes my job easier. I also like to work closely with the chef, making sure that each dish is lovingly prepared for the camera. I always remind them not to apply any sauces until the last minute as I’m ready to take the shot.
Finally, it’s always important to work quickly and efficiently, so as not to tie up space and staff in a busy enterprise! Keeping these points in mind, it’s possible to create appealing food shots that really capture the essence of the restaurant’s menu. And the best part is you get to eat the results!
Since we’re still caught in the clutches of a frigid winter, I thought I’d offer up this decidedly decadent, very adult hot chocolate. Definitely the best way to warm up after a frigid walk in the woods. It’s also the perfect nightcap, sipped in front of a roaring fire with your Valentine’s date.
The secret to this indulgence is to forget all restraint. Get some really good cocoa, like Callibaut, or if you’re near the Distillery District in Toronto, try Soma. Then make your hot chocolate with whole milk, or better yet half-and-half. Fill the bottom of your glasses with Kahlua (or your favorite liqueur; Amaretto, Cointreau or Grand Marnier all work well). Then drizzle the hot chocolate slowly into the glass over the back of a spoon, so as not to mix in the liqueur. Top with homemade marshmallows, and brown them a bit to give them that toasted flavor. (a barbecue lighter or plumbers torch works well here)
Making your own marshmallows is really fun and easy. They’re so much tastier and firmer than the plastic bag variety! You can even flavor them with vanilla, almond or mint extract for an extra kick. Here’s the Recipe
Warning: once you’re tasted this delicious concoction, you’ll never want to go back to plain hot chocolate!
Yes, the holiday season is upon us so you’re probably going to be doing some entertaining, and in all likelihood at least one of your guests is going to proclaim that they are a vegetarian, vegan, celiac, lactose intolerant or all of the above. Well here is a simple, elegant and delicious solution.
This “spaghetti and meatballs” is actually spiral sliced zucchini with mushroom balls in a cashew butter sauce. I know this sounds very strange but it’s actually totally delicious. I was first served this dish by Peter Gault, a health trainer and raw food enthusiast, and once I tasted it I just had to have the recipe. Since then I’ve served it to many dinner parties and everyone is always amazed by the depth and complexity of the flavor, and they can never guess what the heck it is!
By the way, a spiral slicer is one of the handiest devices to have around the kitchen, as you can use it to transform any firm vegetable into thin ribbons or spaghetti-like strips for a variety of recipes. It’s a great way to make vegetables into fun stuff to eat for kids.
Assistant: Adriana Garcia Cruz
Linsey and I recently did a shoot for an interesting Korean style restaurant in Whistler BC. Celadon Whistler takes traditional Korean dishes and gives them a sleek, modern twist, and their own unique style.
The owners, Sonny and Maggie Huh, came to my studio with all the ingredients prepared and ready to go for a busy day of shooting. Sonny worked closely with my food stylist, Linsey Bell, to prepare each dish for the camera. He was quite amazed by the difference between cooking for restaurant customer and preparing dishes to be photographed. The detailing, fiddling, and fussing that go into styling a photograph are way beyond what you could ever do during a busy dinner service! Here are the results:
By the way, the food tastes as amazing as it looks! We all really enjoyed sampling and savoring these Korean delicacies. Maggie and Sonny recently hosted an event in Vancouver to launch their new menu, and they got a great review in the Foodists blog, which also features many of the shots. If you have plans for visiting Whistler this winter don’t miss this great restaurant, and say hi to Maggie and Sonny for me!
Like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve been cooking pasta in the traditional way for years… Boil in plenty of water, make a sauce separately, then combine. Then I saw an article in the New York Times that completely changed my approach to pasta!
Basically you cook the pasta in the same manner that you would make a risotto, by slowly adding stock to the dry pasta and allowing it to absorb the liquid as it cooks. Wow, talk about flavor! The pasta absorbs a deep flavor of the stock, and the starch in the pasta creates a rich, creamy sauce all by itself. So simple and so flavorful… now it feels wrong to plunge pasta into mere water.
For this particular recipe we combined orecchiette with pancetta, porcini mushrooms, shallots, sun-dried tomatoes and Buffalo Parmesan. The cooking method is the essence of simplicity. In a large pot sauté the pancetta, mushrooms, shallots and tomatoes until they are nicely browned. At this point I like to set them aside in a bowl so that they don’t end up overcooking as I cook the pasta. Put a little olive oil into the pot. Toss in the pasta and quickly stir it around to lightly coat with the oil. Now add about ½ cup of chicken stock while stirring continuously. As the stock is absorbed keep adding more and stirring it together. Keep this up until the pasta is cooked to a nice texture and there’s beautiful rich sauce in the pot. Add back the pancetta, mushrooms et al, stir together, grate in some Parmesan and serve. Here’s the recipe.
You can pretty much make this recipe with any ingredients you have on hand. I recently used lamb sausages, portobello mushrooms and a beef stock…. a rich fall flavor!
A note about stock: I’ve always been in the habit of making my own stock (chicken and beef) and keeping it frozen so I always have some on hand. (I know… I’m a bit of a fanatic that way!) However, these days you can get very good stock in the grocery store, often packed in those shelf-storable boxes….Pacific Natural Foods are available in Metro groceries, and are quite good. The Healthy Butcher also makes excellent stocks and sells them frozen.
To see how this shot was created, Click Here!
I tasted this dish for the first time in Watusi, a cool cocktail lounge on Ossington Street. I was fascinated by the name, as I had no idea what umeboshi was. When I tasted the dish all I knew was that umeboshi was delicious!
When I got home that night a quick Google search revealed that umeboshi are a Japanese pickled plum, commonly used to flavor or accompany Rice. The next time I was in T. & T. Supermarket (my favorite place for shopping Asian foods) I had a look in the Japanese section and found that they in fact carried umeboshi. They are a small, bright red plum (actually closer to an apricot) and they are sold either whole, in a plastic container, or in a tube as paste. I chose the whole ones since they looked prettier. They have a sort of sour and salty taste. Chopped up and lightly sautéed in butter with the shrimps they create a unique flavor that really enhances the seafood. I’ve done this same preparation with scallops as well and it’s delicious.
Linsey suggested that we marry the shrimps with a delicately seasoned rice, since that’s the traditional Japanese way of using the umeboshi. This can be served as an appetizer, a tapas item or a main course. I personally like to serve these shrimp in the shell, since the peeling of them involves a lot of finger licking! However if you’re serving this to more decorous guests you may want to peel the shrimps first, as we’ve done here (or buy the “zipper back” ones that have been cut and veined before freezing). Just be sure not to overcook the shrimp; sauté them until they just turn pink and the flesh firms up. Any longer and they become chewy and lose their flavor.
This is my favorite recipe for emergency entertaining!
This elegant dish, with its oh-so French name (that simply means “in paper”) is deceptively simple to prepare and freeze in advance, ready for your next impromptu elegant dinner. I keep an assortment of these delicious packets frozen in Ziploc bags, so if a friend or two drops by unexpectedly I can glibly offer them a dinner, knowing that I can present a beautiful (and healthy) meal with no effort at all! If you feel intimidated by the idea of cooking fish, this is a simple, delicious and virtually foolproof technique.
The next time you’re shopping, pickup an assortment of fish fillets (any fish you like!), some of your favorite vegetables and fresh herbs, rice, Parchment Paper and some Ziploc freezer bags. Start by steaming the rice, and meanwhile slice the larger vegetables into a julienne (that’s another fancy French word for thin slices).
I like to use a random assortment of carrots, green onions, shallots, zucchini, snow peas, tomatoes or whatever else I might have around. Asparagus is a nice touch. I really like jasmine rice, though if you’re feeling particularly healthy brown rice is a good choice. This will also work with couscous or wild rice.
When the rice is ready let it cool a bit and place a nice portion on one side of a large square of parchment paper. Place the fish fillet on top of this and then arrange some of the vegetables on top of that. Add a few sprigs of fresh herbs or some of your favorite spices… Be playful! If you feel decadent, add a bit of butter or a sprinkle of olive oil.
Now fold the parchment paper over and tightly roll the edges together to form a tight package.
At this point they’re ready to be frozen, and I have a great tip for you. Slip one or two of the packets into a Ziploc bag and seal it. Then slightly break the seal and slip in a plastic straw. Hold the bag around the straw with your fingers and suck all the air out of the Ziploc bag, then pull back on the straw and seal the Ziploc. This works just as well as the fancy countertop bag sealers, and a plastic straw is a lot cheaper!
Toss your creations into the freezer and you’re ready for unexpected dinner guests. To prepare your dinner, pull out one package per person and put them in a 375° oven for about 40 minutes, or until the parchment paper starts to brown up. To serve, simply place the packets on a plate and tear them open. A delicious, elegant and extremely healthy meal!
I concocted this recipe in a moment of desperation. I was putting together a dinner for a close friend who mentioned at the last minute that his guest for the evening was completely vegan and allergic to wheat and dairy! I’d come up with a delightful menu for the evening, but I was lacking a desert. While shopping I had picked up some berries, but I definitely wanted some chocolate in the desert (after all, what’s dessert without chocolate). Unfortunately everything I could think of that involved chocolate also included dairy or wheat. Looking through my cupboard I noticed some cans of coconut milk and my always-ready supply of dark cocoa. In a mood of pure experimentation I dumped the coconut milk into a big bowl and started mixing in the cocoa. Much to my surprise they blended together easily and started to thicken up into a rich chocolate sauce. I added in just enough sugar to sweeten it and a dash or two of pure vanilla extract.
Wow, incredible chocolaty goodness! Somehow the coconut milk lent a deep rich note to the chocolate, and the sauce had a smooth consistency that just exploded in the mouth. Simply drizzled over the fresh berries, this was a great dessert!
This has got to be the simplest chocolate recipe I’ve ever seen. It takes exactly 5 minutes to open a can of coconut, throw in the cocoa and a bit of sugar, blend it together with a whisk and add a dash of the flavoring of your choice. As I mentioned sometimes I use vanilla, sometimes some lemon or orange zest and a bit of juice, and if I’m feeling particularly decadent, a dash of dark rum. If you’re into a surprising and exotic taste sensation, try adding in some chili or poblano pepper to add some heat to your chocolate. For a detailed recipe, look at the Recipes Page.
Then I discovered that this stuff is versatile. I put the leftover sauce in the fridge and the next day found that it had thickened up into an unbelievable mousse, just waiting for a spoon or even a stray finger! If you happen to have some popsicle molds, pour in this mixture and then freeze it to make the most delectable fudge sickles you’ve ever tasted. If you warm it ever so slightly in the microwave its the perfect chocolate drizzle or dipping sauce for anything you can think to put in it. When I feel like making a particularly pretty presentation I pick up those cute little angel cakes that they sell in the grocery store. I sort of paint the chocolate over the top of the cake, pile on whatever fruits I have on hand and then drizzle on a bit more chocolate, secure in the knowledge that one can never have too much Chocolate Delight!
Further experimentation has led to the finding that the best possible way to consume this stuff is with a bowl of fresh strawberries, naked in bed with a good friend!
Our local Ontario corn is now fully in season, so this seemed like a very appropriate recipe. This is a great way to utilize some leftover corn on the cob from last nights BBQ or dinner party.
I first tasted this delightful and unexpected salad at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, a very cool restaurant right here in Liberty Village. I was intrigued by the name, Popcorn Salad, and then delighted by this surprising combination of three types of corn which give a unique crunch and texture. Also, the use of a brown butter dressing lends a rich, nutty flavor to this salad. So the next night I set about learning how to brown butter to make the dressing, and re-creating the salad for my dinner guests. It was a hit, so I thought I’d share it here with you.
Basically it’s a simple green salad, using mixed greens or whatever you have on hand, liberally adorned with BBQ corn kernels, popcorn and Corn Pops. Yes, Kellog’s Corn Pops, the breakfast cereal! You can also get crunchy roasted corn kernels as well to toss in for some extra texture and flavor.
Brown butter is a classic French sauce simply created by cooking butter until it lightly browns. This has the dual effect of eliminating the water from the butter, thus concentrating the flavor, as well as imparting a rich, nutty flavor. It’s traditionally used on its own as a sauce for fish, chicken, or vegetables. In this case I decided to use the browned butter as a base for a vinaigrette to dress our salad. The brown butter blended with sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, a bit of olive oil and a hint of garlic makes a fabulous salad dressing!
Since we’re in the middle of the BBQ season, I thought I could start off with a delicious and different barbecue marinade that I came up with recently. It’s sort of a spin on the Mexican Molé Poblano, which combines chilies, chocolate and a whole whack of other ingredients in a dark brown sauce. I had recently eaten a truly horrible Molé at a Queen St., Mexican restaurant that shall go unnamed, so I guess I had the flavor on my mind.
In a big bowl I combined dark cocoa, lime juice, a pinch or two of Chile Pepper and a few dashes of Waha Wera Kiwifruit & Habanero Chili Sauce . This sweet but hot sauce is available from The Spice Trader on Queen St., West near Trinity Bellwood Park. Somehow the flavor of the cocoa, combined with a little sweetness from the kiwi and the heat of the spices, all blended with the lime juice just sets off flavor explosions! I threw in some chicken legs and let them marinate for a few hours (or overnight if you have the time), then tossed them on the barbecue.
Here’s a little tip for marinades, especially with chicken. Once you’ve made the marinade, set some of it aside and use that to brush on the chicken as it cooks. You shouldn’t use the marinade that the chicken has sat in since it contains raw chicken. I cooked the chicken relatively slowly over slightly cooled charcoal so it wouldn’t burn too much on the outside, brushing a bit of the marinade on towards the end for a bit of an extra flavor punch.
Roasted corn goes great with this recipe. My friend Nadia, whose family comes from Pakistan, recently showed me a tasty way of treating roasted corn. Combine paprika (or smoked paprika) with cayenne and a bit of sea salt. Cut lime or lemon wedges, dip them in the spice mix and rub them on the corn. A lively (and healthy) change from the old salt and butter! The kiwi and strawberry salad, sprinkled with finely chopped mint and just a drizzle of honey, adds a nice balance to the meal (and helps cool the palate).