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 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!
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!