carrot-ginger dressing

back in june, i attended a food styling workshop hosted by the nashville food bloggers.  it was not only a fun way to spend a saturday morning, it was very informative.  we learned how to style a salad.  sounds easy doesn’t it?  well, while it isn’t rocket science, it is complicated in that you have to arrange things just right or it doesn’t look appetizing and won’t photograph well.

the class was led by teresa blackburn and she showed us two techniques.  first, how to plate an actual salad and all of the components in it and then how to tell the same story with just a forkful of food.  my photos below will tell my story.

when we go out to japanese restaurants, my favorite dish always ends up being the salad served while waiting for sushi to arrive.  more than once, our daughters, and sometimes my husband too,  have passed their bowls to me.  weird, isn’t it?  what could be so wonderful about iceberg lettuce covered in pureed carrots?  well, for me, it’s the dressing.  there has always been something about that dressing for me.  it must be the combination of fresh, raw carrots with ginger and soy sauce, some of my favorite flavors.  recently, i found a recipe for carrot-ginger dressing from saveur magazine.  after making a few subtle changes, our own honey for the sugar and a little sesame oil, i had more than a pint of dressing to  keep me fed for the next week!  then i realized it was a chance to try and photograph a salad using my newly acquired skills.

for the actual bowl of salad, i attempted to use props with an asian flair to them.  i carefully arranged the salad but left it undressed.  next i staged the shot, set up the bounce card on a tripod, put the camera on another tripod and began taking test shots.  finally, i dressed the salad and took some shots.  meh…so disappointing.  i fussed and futzed and so on and so forth.  nothing.  no matter what, it just looked blah.  the lighting was not very interesting either.  it was late afternoon heading to early evening and the light was bordering on harsh.  i almost gave up completely but then had a thought; what if i broke it down and told the story of the salad with just a forkful of food?

it was if the stars suddenly aligned.  the lighting changed and it made the tomatoes and the dressing glow.  the shot isn’t perfect, but i didn’t expect perfection-just a chance to practice the skill.  and of course, to eat a small boatload of salad with carrot-ginger dressing.

saveur carrot-ginger dressing
makes about 4 cups dressing

1 cup vegetable oil-i poured 2 tablespoons sesame oil into the measuring cup and then filled it with canola oil
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoons sugar-i used wildflower honey from our bees
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
8 ounces carrots, raw-peeled and chopped into pieces
6 ounces onions, diced

the directions call for processing all of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  i did this but my food processor left it too chunky for me, i dumped it in the blender and blended it until smooth.  season with salt and pepper if desired.  serve over wedges of iceberg lettuce.  

food styling, kinda-sorta: apple and strawberry-rhubarb pies for a magazine

ever wonder just what the person behind the food blog does in real life?  we read the blog, follow them, use the recipes and even communicate with them, call them “friends” but do we really know them?  not really, and that’s okay.  so many food bloggers are simply talented home cooks/bakers while others are professionals in the kitchen.  myself, i fall into the latter category; i am a pastry chef and cookbook author.  
for years now, i have heard people ooh and aah when i tell them that i am a pastry chef.  it’s as if it is something so fantastic and magical and oh how they wish they could be one too.  if i only had a dollar for every time someone said, “oh that must be so much fun!”  really, fun?  it can be on occasion.  most of the time, it is hard work, physically draining and a bit stressful.  even so, i still have fun and most of all, i love doing what i do and could not imagine holding down any other type of job.  
every now and then, i have the opportunity to do something exciting on the job.  remember back in february when my coworkers and i went to the james beard house in new york city?  i am still in awe.  there have been photo shoots and video segments and all sorts of exciting events.  one such event was a recent photo shoot for a big magazine, i won’t name it now-but i will when it hits the stands.  there was a country music star in the photos too but, i was just happy for the chance to make a few pies for a national magazine.
for the shoot, they chose apple and strawberry-rhubarb pies, six of each.
apple pies getting ready to go into the oven
and in the blink of an eye, they are ready!
so are the strawberry-rhubarb pies
i can almost smell them-can you?

probably my two favorite fruit pies, apple and strawberry-rhubarb.  yup, this is the sort of day i would call fun.  the sort of day that makes getting up at 2:40am worth the lack of sleep.  the sort of day that makes working on your day off just fine.  it’s true, i live to bake, absolutely love to bake, so there.