Delectable Food, Great Photographs from Rob Davidson

Recipes

Chocolate Fondue: A classic Valentine Day treat

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

Epicure in Light Behind-the Scenes

Photo credits:
Food Stylist: Linsey Bell
Assistant: Nadia Cheema
Photography: Rob Davidson


A Bubbling Bowl of Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse ingredients

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.

Here’s a link to the classic version of the recipe, and here’s a simplified version.

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.

Credits: Photography by Rob Davidson
Food Styling by Linsey Bell
Assistant Nadia Cheema


A light late summer dessert: zabaglione and berries

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

Ingredients

  • 6
    Egg Yolks
  • 1/3 cup
    Sugar
  • 1 Cup
    Sparkling wine, Ice wine or Marsala
  • Fresh Berries

Cooking Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients over a double boiler and whisk ingredients together.
  2. Whisk until the consistency resembles lightly whipped cream. Be careful to not over heat the eggs, as they will scramble.
  3. Remove from heat when it reaches a foamy whipped consistency and serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator.
  4. Place berries in a heat proof serving glass. Spoon sabayon over the berries and carefully torch (brulee) the sabayon until till its lightly browned.
  5. Enjoy!
This shot was also one that we did as part of my summer workshop...

You can read more about how the shot was created here.


Egg in Phyllo Brunch

Baked egg in PhylloWow, 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

Ingredients

  • 1 package
    Phyllo dough
  • 4
    eggs
  • 1/2 stick
    melted butter
  • 1 oz
    grated parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Gently remove the egg and phyllo from the mould and serve topped with grated parmisan.
Here’s a shot of Linsey demonstrating for the workshop.

Linsey performing for a crowd


Miso Soup… my favourite fast food

Miso Soup

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!

See how this shot came together here!

Food Styling:  Linsey Bell
Assistant & BTS shots: Nadia Cheema


Venturing out of My Comfortable Studio

Chocolate Dessert at Tiara

 

Chocolate Dessert at Tiara

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.

Striped Bass at Crush Wine Bar

Beautifully Grilled Fish at Tiara

 

Crusted Rack of Lamb at Millcroft Inn & Spa

 

 

 

 

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.

Grilled Tenderloin at Crush Wine Bar

 

Seared Tuna at Crush Wine Bar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Trio of Chocolate at Crush Wine Bar

Dessert at Escabèch


Decadent Hot Chocolate (for adults only)

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!

Be sure to check out behind-the-scenes on this shot,
including my informative rant on lens shades!

 


Here’s to Pork Tenderloin!

Pity the poor, misunderstood pork tenderloin, victim of the pig’s wrongful reputation for fat!  This delicious and tender cut of meat is in fact very lean, carrying about the same amount of fat and cholesterol as skinless chicken breast. (Yes I was surprised to learn that too) But the flavor far surpasses mere chicken! When properly cooked, pork tenderloin has a delicate, almost sweet flavor that’s perfectly suited to a variety of marinating and glazing techniques.  It’s absolutely one of my favourite cuts of meat.

For this particular recipe I came up with a marinade of Nigori sake (a sweet, unfiltered sake), soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and wasabi powder. The slightly sweet flavor of the Nigori sake plays off beautifully against the bite of the wasabi powder. I then created a glaze of coconut milk, hoisin sauce and tamarind, which I painted on during the cooking. The glaze caramelizes to a rich black brown color and lends a nice depth to the flavor profile.  For this shot we seared the tenderloin in a pan and then put it in the oven to finish cooking. However this recipe also works beautifully on the barbecue. Either way, the secret to keeping this cut of meat tender and juicy is not to over cook it. Cook it until the meat just firms up to the touch and then take it off to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.

The tricky part of the shot came with arranging these items on the plate. We started out with one concept for the presentation, then had to make a hard left turn and try something completely different. Find out why it’s important to always remain flexible when shooting food. Read about it here.

Photography:  Rob Davidson
Food Styling:  Linsey Bell
Assistant: Nadia Cheema
Here’s the Recipe!


An easy Vegan “Pasta”

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!

Have a look at my behind-the-scenes blog for the complete recipe and cooking instructions… You’ll be amazed how easy this is to make!  Here’s the recipe.

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.

Click Here to see how this dish is created

Photo Credits:  Photography by Rob Davidson
Food Styling by Linsey Bell

Assistant: Adriana Garcia Cruz


Risotto-Style Pasta

Orecchiette with Pancetta and Porcini Mushrooms

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!

Photo Credits:  Photography by Rob Davidson
Food Styling by Linsey Bell

Assistant: Adriana Garcia Cruz