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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Vegetarian Family Meals | Food Photographer Columbus Ohio

Casseroles, tacos and spaghetti are still great staples for feeding a family, but one week you'll be desperate for something different. Here are two great vegetarian dishes to feed you family--or in my case, my single self and three hungry, willing friends.

It's always smart to do two recipes in the same week that require at least one of the same ingredients. In this case, it's brown rice. Cooking rice takes a bit of time, so if you only have to do it once and you can make two meals with it, then that's one less thing to think about.

Many people are either afraid of tofu or have tried it once and didn't like it. Tofu can be prepared in many, many ways, and not all of them will appeal to you. It comes in a different consistencies and can be used in anything from smoothies to faux egg salad to a dish like this. I've had bad tofu dishes and good ones. I find the easiest way to experiment with food is to try a bite of someone else's dish when you're at a restaurant. I'm not a big fan of mushrooms, but I have found many dishes that have changed my mind. I don't always like to be the guinea pig, so when my friends order a mushroom dish, I take a bite.

This tofu dish was a huge hit. The sauce of this dish is like something straight out of a fine dining Asian restaurant and the tofu was perfectly crisp and firm. The second time I made this dish, I adjusted the original recipe and what you see in the photo. The black pepper that was originally added to the sauce is better showcased if the tofu is rolled in it before being fried.

Black Pepper Tofu
Adapted from the book Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi

4 cups cooked brown rice
2 packages extra firm tofu (I like Trader Joe's tofu)
vegetable oil for frying (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 tblsp butter
4 small shallots, thinly sliced
3 fresh red chiles, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 tblsp chopped fresh ginger
6 tblsp sweet soy sauce
1 tblsp sugar
2 1/2 tblsp coarsely crushed black peppercorns
2-3 green onions, diced, green part only

Pour enough oil into a large frying pan, wok or electric skillet to come 1/4 inch up the sides and heat. Mix together the cornstarch and black pepper. Cut the tofu into large cubes, about 1x1 inch. Toss tofu in the cornstarch and shake off the excess, then add to the hot oil. You'll need to fry the tofu in a few batches so they don't stew in the pan. Fry, turning them around as you go, until they are golden all over and have a thin crust. As they are cooked, transfer them onto paper towels to remove excess oil.

Remove the oil and any sediment from the pan, then put the butter inside and melt it. Add the shallots, chiles, garlic, and ginger. Saute on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients have turned shiny and are totally soft. Net, add the soy sauce, green onions and sugar and stir. Serve hot, with steamed brown rice. Serves four.

Greens with Carrots, Feta Cheese and Brown Rice
From Whole Foods

4 cups cooked brown rice
2 carrots, shredded
2 bunches dark leafy greens (kale, collard greens or Swiss chard), tough stems removed, leaves very thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 tblsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
fresh lemon, to taste

Put carrots, greens, onions, 1/4 cup water, salt and pepper into a large, deep skillet and toss well. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring once or twice, until greens are wilted and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Toss with feta cheese and lemon juice and spoon over brown rice. Serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4.

The great thing about this recipe is it is so easily adapted to what you have on hand. Use any cooking greens you like, you could add tomatoes, turnips, radishes...just like a casserole, anything goes. Pull from what you have and presto, dinner.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Raspberries 'n Cream | Columbus Ohio Food Photographer

Sometimes there's a photo I HAVE to get out of my head. I'll think about it for days, weeks, months, sometimes years (yes, years) until I finally it comes to life. This photo of raspberries and cream was imagined 11 months before it came to life--from the moment I bought the Globe Amaranth dried flowers from the farmers' market, I couldn't get this picture out of my head. The colors screamed raspberries and cream, and the red ones even look like raspberries.

I waited until I had the right props, found the best way to control the spilled cream, and had a free Sunday to put it altogether. There's a huge relief when finishing a project: Relief in seeing the idea through as opposed to abandoning it when a new idea comes along, and relief in watching it come together as I'd imagined it for so long. Have you ever had an idea like that?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Daikon Radish and Blue Cheese Wrap | Central Ohio Food Photographer

Daikon radishes are my favorite CSA/Farmer's Market find from last summer. I was so sure I wouldn't be able to find any at the grocery store when I started craving them this winter, but yet there they were, both at Whole Foods and Meijer. They're so refreshing in the dead of winter--a break from the hot, dense dishes I find myself making.

Daikon radishes are long, white radishes. They look a lot like carrots or parsnips. There's a very thin skin on the outside of them that I quickly and not too carefully peel off. They're really crisp and mild without much of a spicy bite to them, yet they  definitely belong in the radish category.

The three best ways I've found to use them:
1. In a Simple Salad of shaved daikon radish, shaved cucumber, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil, along the same trend as the one seen on Top Chef Texas with pickled vegetables.
2. In a fancier salad like this one with watercress, avocado and pomegranate
(Even I'll admit, this is a truly beautiful post.)
3. In the recipe I'm going to share with you here, one I made up all on my own, a blue cheese and vegetable wrap with daikon radish, cucumber and chicken.

Daikon Radish and Blue Cheese Wrap 
I eat large portions, so I say two wraps makes one serving.

2 small flour tortillas
4 MorningStar Farms Chik'n Nuggets, optional
        (just as good without any meat product, or with real chicken nuggets,
         boneless buffalo wings or grilled chicken strips)
handful of shaved daikon radish
handful of shaved cucumber
4 tablespoons blue cheese dressing
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
4 lettuce leaves

Use a simple peeler to shave the radish and cucumber. Microwave the tortillas for just a few seconds to make them pliable. Place heated chicken nuggets/chicken strips in the middle of each tortilla and divide the cheese, dressing, radish, cucumber and lettuce leaves between the two tortillas. Serve with a side of celery and blue cheese dressing for dipping.

This would make a great menu item for say, Whole World vegetarian restaurant here in Columbus. Often I find myself munching on cheese and crackers for lunch because I'm too lazy to fix anything. This was so super quick and easy, I ate this for lunch 4 days in a row and never got sick of it.

What were a few of my other favorite CSA/Farmer's Market finds last year? Napa Cabbage and Shishito Peppers were also at the top of the list. Maybe those recipes will make it to the blog this summer. What were your favorites?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Commercial Food Photographer | Best Lemon Curd Recipe Ever

Lemon curd: A dessert spread topping, made from a combination of egg yolks, sugar, fruit juice and zest that's cooked on the stove. It's soft, smooth, tart and served cold. It's similar to a custard and is often served with scones or used in pastries and tarts.

My reason for making lemon curd? I had a bunch of Meyer lemons, so I went searching for a recipe to try out. I love lemons because they're so tart they help cut desserts I would normally find overly sweet, like cake, and since I'm repainting my kitchen from green to yellow, this seemed like the perfect time for an all-yellow post. The new kitchen color is highlighted in red below. By the way, it's really hard for a food photographer to not choose a color based on its food name. I overlooked  "Spun Honey, Lemon Twist, Butterscotch Cream, and Fruit Compote" to find the perfect color without any outside influences, which is "Chickory Chick". Beautiful color, but the name is tragic.

I made Lemon Curd twice. The initial recipe was a bit of a train wreck for me. I can't necessarily blame the recipe, it was my first attempt and it's possible I just did it wrong. I considered giving up on lemon curd, but I didn't want all my hard work to go to waste, so I found a different recipe and tried again.
The biggest differences between these two recipes are:
The order the ingredients are combined.
The second recipe called for butter while the first didn't.
For the second recipe I ditched the Meyer lemons for regular lemons instead.

The two attempts are shown next to each other at the bottom of this next photo string. The one on the left (in pink bowl) was the failure and the one on the right (in clear Tupperware) was the winner. The first batch wasn't clear and shiny and tasted powdery, bitter and perhaps a little burnt.

Lemon Curd

2 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup butter, cut up in 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1-2 teaspoons cornstarch (optional)

1. Place sugar in a medium-sized pan over a pot of simmering water in a double-boiler. Add cornstarch (if desired) to help the thickening process. Gradually whisk in fresh lemon juice.
2. Add eggs and egg yolks, continuing to whisk steadily. Whisk over medium to medium-high heat, 10 to 18 minutes, until mixture thickens. (If it’s not thickening, increase the heat, being careful to continue whisking.) It should be about the consistency of hollandaise sauce.
3. Add butter, whisking to blend. Cook, continuing to whisk, one to two more minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in lemon zest. Transfer to a bowl and place plastic wrap over it, pressing over the top to prevent a skin from forming.
4. Chill. The lemon curd will continue to thicken some as it cools. This recipe makes about 3 cups lemon curd. Store refrigerated for one to two weeks. After the lemon curd is thoroughly chilled, you can fold in whipped cream to lighten the texture and mellow the flavor, if you wish. I prefer it full-strength.

Tips: Use a large whisk. It helps avoid froth and bubbles from forming on the top.
Make sure not to remove the mixture from the heat until it's really thickening, when it'll stick to the spoon and become a little more difficult to whisk. It will thicken more in the fridge, but not like Jell-O would.

Lemon Curd is great on top of cornbread, biscuits or scones. Other ways to eat Lemon Curd?

Lemon Curd Trifle
Ricotta Pancakes with Lemon Curd and Raspberries 
Lemon Curd Stuffed French Toast
Blueberry Lemon Curd and Quinoa Parfait 
Mini Lemon Tarts
Lemon Doughnuts
on top of pavlovas
on top of fresh berries and whipped cream
and last but not least, by the spoonful!

Lemon Curd makes a perfect gift, just spoon into any cute glass container like the one above. A little goes a long way, 4 tablespoons could be a serving--if you eat normal portions, which I don't. I ate about 3/4 cup in a sitting. I made this for a dinner party. One of my friends looked so sad when her bowl was empty that I spooned out seconds. There's no better testimonial than seconds.

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