Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Introducing my Food Photographer - Jennifer Jagusak

A few months ago I took a class at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC for a class on Food Styling and Photography. It was a weekend intensive course on the art of styling food with tips and tricks on how to make your food look mouth watering- when really, if you saw how food was made to look good, you would have to throw it away, unfortunately.

I met the creme de le creme of food photography Jamie Tiampo and James Peterson along with food stylist Laurie Knoop. With my Cannon digital Elph I muddled along to take quality photographs - well I tried to at least. Truth is after the class I am still struggling to take nice photos. Main problem is my digital Elph- I need to upgrade to a DSLR camera, the other issue is capturing natural lighting, and lastly props.

Since that weekend at ICE was so intense, I became friendly with the food stylist Laurie, who kindly suggested that I get a professional food photographer to take my photos for my cookbook. She probably saw there is little hope in my photo taking skills. She was fascinated by the concept of my cookbook- Silk Road Vegetarian Cooking made Modern.

Most of the recipes in my upcoming cookbook need to be photographed because very little is written- in the form of recipes about Central Asian Rice dishes. The rice dishes require prep time and planning and quite a number of steps, which is where a picture can help the home cook get an idea of what the end result should look like. Very important in a cookbook.

Asian Slaw on countertop
Laurie heard of a woman, Jennifer Jagusak who was looking to break into Food Photography. Lucky for me.... really lucky for me Jennifer lives in the next town over from me - Port Washington. I called her and she was enthusiastic to be a part of my cookbook on Vegetarian Silk Road Cooking. She never really heard much on that cuisine - let alone tasted it, so felt an interest to not only shoot the photos, but also learn about Silk Road cuisine.

Arranging a Beet Salad
A couple of months after that class at ICE, Jennifer came to my home on a Sunday morning with all her beautiful props that were perfect for the shoot. It was an assembly of bright vibrant color cloths, interesting shapes of bowls and plates all with a Asian vibe. It was perfect. Jennifer really understood what I was trying to get across. She also made sure to take photos of the inside of my home, which is an eclectic mix of African and Asian art objects and furniture.

Me and Flynn in my backyard. I know.... we both have so much hair, you can't even see us

On that Sunday, I prepared about 15 different dishes - focusing on the Appetizers and Salads. It was not an easy task at all! Although very exciting to see how Jennifer skillfully amped up the foods into cookbook quality photos.

Spinach Quiche

The photos presented here are the out takes and we don't intend to publish them in the cookbook. Wait till you see the mouth watering photos that will go into the cookbook. Stay tuned....

That's me

You will also find the link to the photos that we - the students at ICE took for our photography class. Take a look at the lineup of talent in my class.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Quinoa and Broccoli with Japanese Carrot-Ginger Dressing

I was in an epicurean culture shock when I first arrived in Tokyo at the age of nine to visit my grandfather, who had lived there for some twenty years as a rare pearl dealer. My parents wanted to expose me to Japanese culture, which included sushi, but I was not a fan of raw fish wrapped in lettuce of the ocean. I still remember looking down the street at rows and rows of restaurants in the Roppongi neighborhood, the epicenter of Tokyo nightlife, and spying not one Western eatery. Finally I succumbed to a Japanese restaurant and we ordered a carrot ginger salad. That was my first introduction to this delightful Japanese condiment. Years later, I discovered from Good Housekeeping magazine that this dressing, typically served on lettuce greens, fuses well with the South America grain, quinoa.

To save on time and pots, you can steam the broccoli in a steamer basket on top of the bubbling quinoa in a rice cooker. While you wait for those two to cook, a food processor or blender makes quick work for the warm orange colored dressing that clings so well to the quinoa. The sharp flavor of the ginger is rounded out by the toasted nutty sesame oil and soy sauce, and mellowed by the sweet ground carrot. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6


1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups water
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large head broccoli, cut into florets
2 carrots, chopped 
2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
3-tablespoons vegetable oil
3-tablespoons rice vinegar
4-teaspoons gluten-free or regular soy sauce
3-teaspoons sesame oil

      1      Put the quinoa into a sieve and rinse it under cold running water. In a saucepan, combine the quinoa, 3 cups water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce the heat to low; cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl.
      2      Meanwhile, fill a medium-sized saucepan with enough water to come 2 inches from the bottom and set over medium-high heat.  Place the broccoli in a steamer basket, and when the water boils, set the steamer on top of the saucepan. Alternatively, place the broccoli directly into the nearly boiling water. Cook, covered, until the broccoli turns bright green and is crisp-tender. Add the broccoli to the quinoa.
      3      In a food processor, combine the carrot, ginger, oil, vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil and process until puréed. Add to the quinoa and broccoli and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cook’s Note - Another alternative is to combine the quinoa with water and salt in a rice cooker and use the steam basket that comes with the rice cooker for the broccoli.

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