Tag Archives: food photography

Getting Real

real maine food

Real Maine Food: 100 Plates from Fishermen, Farmers, Pie Champs, and Clam Shacks published this week by Rizzoli is the culmination of a project I began working on in September 2013. How satisfying to see the finished product of a long-term, labor-intensive project! Hard work, yes, but documenting the work of a wide range of the state’s unique food producers—from a fifth-generation maple syrup maker to a nationally revered heirloom apple expert to scallop dredgers to stone ground flour millers—was also some of the most rewarding and interesting work I’ve done. Many images that originated with the book project appear on my recently overhauled web site, most notably in the Ocean section.

scallops

Sorting scallops near Chebeague Island.

Lobster bake on a 19th-century schooner.

Ben Conniff and Luke Holden, the book’s authors, operate fifteen lobster-shack style restaurants—called Luke’s Lobster—in the U.S., all serving exclusively Maine products. Initially a food writer, Ben had the idea to do a book that would showcase Maine food and the people that work so hard to produce it. I jumped at the chance to partake in a subject near and dear to my heart.

Our travels took us around the state over the course of a year. Following the seasonality of the food gave me renewed appreciation for those who make their living growing and harvesting the bounty of Maine’s fields and waters. So often, the season for one’s product of choice is limited to a few months at best, which means long, grueling days packed with many challenges, not the least of which is weather. Given the choice, I’d certainly opt for the most glorious of crisp fall days picking heirloom apples in a centuries-old orchard to bitterly cold mid-winter ones harvesting mussels from an ice-covered barge on the open ocean, although photographing both was a treat!

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John Bunker picking heirloom apples.

Bangs Island Mussels

Matthew Moretti of Bangs Island Mussels readying a boat to go to the barge from which they harvest and clean mussels.

North Haven Oyster

Adam Campbell of North Haven Oyster Company with a prime specimen.

Ben does a great job of describing our encounters with various food producers, making this much more than a cookbook in the traditional sense. I can recall several pre-dawn mornings waiting on various piers for one kind of boat or another that would whisk us off into some unusual and captivating world different from any we’d experienced before. The people we met during these adventures were so passionate and knowledgeable about their professions that they were a real joy to learn from and spend time with, and, of course, to document at work. Some of my favorites, both visually and from a personal standpoint, were apple expert John Bunker (so singular in his knowledge that many people here refer to him simply as “the apple guy”), and Adam Campbell and Matthew Moretti, who are sustainably growing oysters and mussels, respectively.

In addition to the myriad environmental shots, I shot 20 plated dish or ingredient images to go along with a quarter of the recipes in the book. The rest of the Maine-based artistic team was the fantastically creative designer Jennifer Muller (yes, she hand-lettered those recipe titles) and the ultra-talented and meticulous food stylist and recipe developer Vanessa Seder (check out those expert butter- and cheese-melting skills). Since the three of us have a similar aesthetic sense, we had a great time compiling our various props and making plans for how to best portray the selected recipes. We shot over four days, emailing the ever-patient and helpful (“Hey, could you go easy on the polka dot props?!”) New York-based editor, Christopher Steighner, sample images along the way. Here are a few of the resulting recipe shots. Some others can be viewed in the Table section of my site.

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Lobster rolls à la Luke’s Lobster.

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Ingredients for finnan haddie (smoked haddock) and leek pie.

squash soup

Butternut squash soup.

The depth and breadth of this project was a rare and wonderful opportunity for me as a photographer. Seldom does such a suitable long-range project present itself. I feel lucky to have been a part of it. Reading this book and making the recipes in it, I hope you’ll feel as inspired and energized by the people producing and harvesting food in Maine today as I do.

Festive Cranberry Tart

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I thought I’d squeeze in one more post before the end of the year (I know, wonders never cease) in case anyone is looking for a somewhat healthy, easy, impressive-looking and extremely tasty dessert to make for a holiday gathering. Vanessa Seder, an incredibly talented food stylist and recipe developer I often work with, was the inspiration for this recipe. She created a cranberry tart for a cookbook we both worked on this year, and her photo of it on Instagram got me thinking something similar would make a great holiday card for my clients. I spent two days playing with adaptations of the recipe, shooting it and making the cards. Time consuming, yes, but worth it for a nice end-of-the-year marketing piece. Here’s the photo that I printed on the card. It’s already gotten a great response!

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With two sweet tooths (yes, this is technically the plural of the phrase) in our house, I’m always searching for healthy, but still satisfying dessert options to make. I try to avoid refined sugars (or use them sparingly) and use whole grains as much as possible. You might be surprised at how often it’s possible to create great desserts with these parameters. In this case, the almond meal and spelt flour crust is crumbly and flavorful, and the tartness of the cranberries is set off just enough by the natural sugars in the maple syrup and apple cider to make the filling pleasingly sweet, but not cloying. So here’s my somewhat healthy version (okay, so a stick of butter isn’t ideal, but I also tried this with an almond meal and coconut oil crust, which was almost as good) of a cranberry tart that you can wow your friends and family with this holiday season. And they won’t have to feel bad about having that second slice!

Festive Cranberry Tart

Dough:
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. sea salt
1 cup spelt flour
½ cup almond meal
1 large egg, beaten
8 Tbsp. chilled, unsalted butter cut into small pieces

Filling:
4 cups cranberries
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup spelt flour (or arrowroot)
¼ cup apple cider
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Mix sugar, salt and flour in a medium bowl. Mix butter in with your fingers until a coarse meal with pea-size pieces forms. Drizzle egg over butter mixture and mix gently with a fork until dough begins to hold together. Form into a ball and place on a piece of plastic wrap. Flatten into a disc about ½ inch thick, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 13” round about ¼” thick. Transfer to an 11” round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing it into edges. Trim off excess dough by running a rolling pin over the edges of the pan. (If you don’t have a tart pan, you can use a pie plate instead; adjust diameter of rolled-out dough accordingly).

Mix cranberries, maple syrup, flour and cider in a medium bowl until combined.

Fill the tart shell with the cranberry mixture and place tart pan on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 50 min. or until filling has thickened (it will solidify more as it cools). Cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving if desired.

Shooting Raw

Why, yes, it has been an extremely long time since I have put up a new post here. I won’t make any excuses about how crazy my life is and how I don’t have time for this or that. Everyone’s life is crazy so really I don’t think anyone needs to make a big deal out of it, okay? Okay. Glad that’s settled.

But (you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you), I will take this opportunity to mention that some of the reason for my absence from this blog is my involvement over the past year in doing the photography for three cookbooks, which, on top of my other assignments, has kept me more than a little occupied! Two are still in progress. One just came out this month. It is called Plant Food and features innovative raw, vegan recipes. Published by Gibbs Smith, it is a colorful volume holding much inspiration within, no matter what your dietary preferences.

My work on this book took place on both coasts. While Belfast, Maine, and Santa Monica, Cal., are worlds apart, the book has a consistently fresh, vibrant and artistic tone. The chef at M.A.K.E. in Santa Monica, Scott Winegard, made my job much easier by turning every dish into a meticulously crafted work of art. Early on it was clear that simple props and subtle lighting would be the best way to approach his creations so as to let the food shine.

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Some of my favorite photos in the book are the chapter openers. When I discovered the authors were breaking the book into 13 chapters that described either the process used to create the recipes in each section or their contents, I realized it would be helpful to have a photo for each chapter that was representative of what lay within. While this was not part of the original scope of work, I knew it would make for a better book. I created many of them on the spur of the moment or, in some cases, culled appropriate images from my archive.

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While raw food practitioners will not be strangers to concepts like dehydrating, smoking and sous vide, these methods are not in my repertoire, nor do I have plans to rush out and buy the necessary equipment to partake in them, but I am curious about adapting some of these recipes for my own style of cooking. I’m betting the fennel crisps and coriander toast recipes, among others, could be easily adapted for an oven.

I’ll certainly be trying the mushroom pate which involves no special gizmos and contains ingredients usually found in my kitchen. I’m also eager to attempt the tree nut “cheeses,” which are little more than nuts blitzed with water and left to age (photo above in the “aged” chapter opener). And I will look forward to simple, but unique combinations like avocado, radish, nori, and sunflower seeds with miso lime dressing, as well as snap peas and pea shoots with mint and lemon hazelnut dressing when early summer produce finally arrives here! Whether you follow the recipes, adapt them to fit your own diet, or use them as inspiration to make up your own healthful dishes, give Plant Food a try. Failing all else, get it just to look at the pretty pictures.

(Check out the table section of my web site to view more images from the book.)

Consider the Mandoline (or something like it)

   mandoline veggies

I’m currently reading Bee Wilson’s fascinating book Consider the Fork, which is about historical changes in cooking implements and methods, and how they’ve affected what and how we eat, and, consequently, human health. She talks about kitchen gadgets that we love (she, too, is an aeropress devotee!), as well as those that get cast aside because they don’t prove useful enough, or because they actually create more work for the cook. We don’t have too much gadgetry in our kitchen, all things considered. I have to think long and hard about adding anything new as I’m loathe to clutter the cupboards any further. This is one reason that, despite pining for paper-thin veggies on occasion, I’d long avoided getting a mandoline. The other, of course, being the horror stories of people losing finger tips under its razor-sharp blade (including Wilson herself).

But after seeing mention of the Muji grater slicer set on a food blog, I was ready to take the plunge. I was sold on its price ($17.95!), ultra simple design and compact form. It has more than delivered in the three months that we’ve had it. If you have never had a similar gadget, you will want to start slicing every fruit and veggie in sight (and maybe some other things too). You will likely stare in wonder at the beauty of each new item you reduce to transparent sheets within seconds. And some of those sheets you will stack and finely slice lengthwise to easily and quickly produce piles of julienned goodies. Your salads and stir frys will be transformed by virtue of pleasing shapes and textures, and your friends will be saying in wide-eyed amazement, “How did you DO that?!”

roots

peeled veggies

muji slicer with carrots

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While it is clearly a dumbed-down mandoline (it doesn’t have an adjustable blade so you’re confined to one thickness), this gadget definitely earns the small amount of shelf space it occupies. It is a much faster and more uniform way of finely slicing vegetables than using a knife. But be wary: you can still hurt yourself as you would on a mandoline (I haven’t YET). Also, the grater attachment isn’t particularly useful unless you’re looking for more of a zester as it tends to pulverize or shred more than grate. I’m sure there are other slicers out there similar to the Muji that work just as well if not better. They may not be as cute and simple though!

Here’s a quick and versatile salad to get you started as you begin to explore the possibilities available to you with this meal-transforming tool! Does this sound like an infomercial yet?

Root Vegetable and Apple Slaw

2½ c. assorted root vegetables (such as carrots, beets, celeriac, fennel or radishes)
1 crisp apple

Dressing:
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1½ T. apple cider vinegar
1½ t. lemon juice
1 T. honey
salt and pepper to taste

Peel vegetables if needed. Cut those wider than the slicing blade in half. Core the apple and cut into quarters. Slice vegetables and apple using the Muji slicer or a mandoline. Stack larger slices and then cut them lengthwise into thin strips to produce matchsticks. Create a mixture of shapes for a more interesting taste and appearance. Whisk dressing ingredients together and toss with vegetables and fruit. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Voila!

root veggie and apple slaw

Treasure Hunting

Don't go anywhere without your basket; you never know when you might need it!

I’ve written about foraging before, and my interest in it has heightened this year. It’s hard to describe the satisfaction of stumbling upon a bevy of beautiful blackberries, a carpet of brilliant orangey-red chanterelles popping out of brown leaf litter or a miniature forest of almost-camouflaged, apricot-scented black trumpets. While finding edible treasures is easily more than half the fun, the resulting culinary creations are all the more satisfying for having found the ingredients yourself for FREE in the WILD! Foraging is also an excuse to be outside paying close attention to nature in all its glory and learning more about the myriad plant life around us. Plus, eating foraged food is apparently all the rage now, as demonstrated by the international acclaim bestowed upon the Scandinavian restaurants Noma and Faviken, which have become trend setters in serving dishes centered on food found in their backyards. Further proof of the interest in this trend appears in an article in the October issue of Outside magazine profiling the Maine forager who supplies restaurants such as Momofuku.

When I tell people I’ve gotten into foraging, the response is either “Cool!” or, more often, “Aren’t you afraid of getting poisoned?” The short answer is “no.” I’m extremely careful. If I have any uncertainty, I either don’t eat the specimen or run it by people I consider to be experts. Of the seven or so edible mushrooms I feel totally comfortable in identifying now, even someone with a small amount of experience can, with a bit of close inspection, rule out whether they could possibly be something toxic. And none of them resemble any type that would be life-threatening.

Plump for the pickin'!

A friend recently said she even feels a little weird eating wild blackberries for fear they’ll somehow make her sick. I find this mindset ironic, but understandable. We’re so conditioned to buy our food in the seemingly sanitary environment of a grocery store, where it’s contained within a neat box sealed in plastic. And yet the chances of getting sick from cultivated food is so much higher than from the same food found in the wild where it hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals or touched by germ-ridden hands. In much of Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, foraging, and mushrooming in particular, doesn’t have this culture of fear associated with it. It’s been a family activity for centuries, with knowledge passed down from generation to generation. In his informative and entertaining book Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares, Maine mycologist Greg Marley talks about the myths associated with mushroom hunting and counters those myths with useful facts like “there are more edible mushrooms than poisonous ones, and more still that are non-edible but not poisonous,” “handling a toxic mushroom will not make you sick” and “the vast majority of toxic species cause symptoms that are, while unpleasant, not life-threatening.” And perhaps most tellingly, “On average, one or two people die of mushroom poisoning in the U.S. each year.”

One of the most surprisingly wonderful things about black trumpets is that they smell distinctly of apricots.

This isn’t to say that you should go about foraging without a care in the world. If you’re thinking about mushroom hunting get several books (I find it useful to consult a variety of guides as the information and pictures they provide vary), study specimens carefully before even thinking about eating them and seek someone with mushrooming experience to take you on a guided walk. As Marley says, “Nothing can boost confidence better than seeing a mushroom in the hands of a knowledgeable person.” Starting with one or two easy-to-identify varieties is a good idea and then, if you like, you can try to expand your list each year.

Red chanterelles, a rare find in Maine, were a gleeful discovery this summer.

The foraging mindset becomes a bit addictive once you’ve hit a few jackpots. For a few years now, my husband and I have found chicken of the woods mushrooms, usually without even searching for them. They have a way of just bursting out of a tree into your line of vision. This year, I was hoping to expand on our repertoire of known edible fungi. That wish was granted when, in August, my husband, who frequently runs on trails, brought home a delicate, reddish-orange specimen that looked mightily like a red chanterelle as far as I could tell from my handy Peterson guide. We went back and gathered a mother lode of them from that spot and had their identity confirmed by fellow foragers much more knowledgeable than we. Our sources were slightly taken aback as apparently the red chanterelle is uncommon in Maine. Once that happened, we became junkies constantly on the lookout for our next fix. Our craving was satisfied on a mushroom walk with former mushroom exporter and current amazing cheesemaker, Barbara Skapa, organized by the Belgrade Lakes Conservation Alliance in late August. It was here that we learned with certainty what black trumpets, yellow-foot chanterelles, golden chanterelles and lobster mushrooms look like. And once we had the knowledge, they seemed to appear around every corner. Okay, not EVERY corner, but still, we had enough to feed ourselves and several friends many a meal. As of this week, we’ve also added hen of the woods (or maitake) to our “sure of” list.

Rose hip syrup made from the ubiquitous (in Maine anyway) rosa rugosa (or sea rose) is a versatile, Vitamin-C-filled additive.

While I find mushrooms among the most satisfying foraged foods to find given their relative scarcity, more abundant wild edibles like blackberries and rose hips are fun to collect as well. In his fantastic book Wild Garlic, Gooseberries…and MeDenis Cotter provides a number of wonderful recipes for foraged foods, including a tasty rose hip syrup that makes a pleasantly fruity base for salad dressing, a soothing, Vitamin-C-filled warm beverage or an earthy-sweet dessert topping. Before the snow falls, I hope to eke out the last of the edible treasures in our midst, but when the season is over, it’ll be that much sweeter for its brief reappearance six months hence.

Summer’s Swan Song

Today was the first day in several months when I’ve woken up to temperatures in the mid 40s. I slept covered with a fleece blanket and donned several layers for my morning bike ride. Fall is undeniably on our doorstep. It’s my favorite season so I can’t complain, but I do want to pay tribute one last time to all the succulent food this fine summer provided. Very soon a selection of my food images will be available for purchase through StockFood. I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re online. In the meantime, here are a handful of my favorite shots from a summer of shooting lots of beautiful, fresh, local food. Enjoy the bounty!

It’s here, it’s here!

 

The 2012 Great Maine Food calendar is available as of this week. Published by Down East, it features 12 seasonal food photos of mine with accompanying recipes from various Down East cookbooks. Like the Savoring Maine calendar I published in 2009, there are also fun factoids about each food. Unlike the Savoring Maine calendar, the dates have boxes around them for all you people who like to write your dentist appointments down on your calendars! If you’re in Maine, please purchase them from a local, independent bookstore (such as Rabelais or Longfellow Books if you’re in the Portland area). Out-of-staters can order from the Down East site or Amazon. Get ’em while they last!

When Down East contacted me about doing a Maine food calendar last summer, I was thrilled. I had hoped to find a financially viable way of reviving the food calendar I’d self-published a few years ago and this was the perfect opportunity. All but the fiddlehead photo were shot over the course of a couple of months late last summer and early fall. It’s fun to see my style evolving since that last calendar when I had first started shooting food. Shots are less tight now and often involve more background and props. I like to think they tell more of a story. My palette has become more muted as well, letting the vibrant food speak for itself. Of course, I’m already thinking about how I’ll do things differently in the future, but that is the nature of being a photographer—there’s always room for growth and change.