Monday, June 25, 2012

Goat's Cheese Lemon and Pea Pasta

This was another recipe from Jungle Frog's Donna Hay Food Styling and Photography Challenge. Unlike the past few challenges, this one was a very easy recipe and the styling was pretty easy too.

I again purchased a few props for this challenge.  I was thinking about buying an old frying pan from Goodwill and spray painting it white but then I thought eating from a spray painted pan might be a little toxic.  I decided to check out ebay and came across a ceramic white fry pan sizzler server for $10 and it worked out pretty well for the shot.  I also needed a white napkin.  I was just telling Mark a few weeks ago that it was weird that I have so many different colored napkins but no white and that I should get some.  I figured plain white napkins would be pretty easy to find, not so much.  I didn't want a whole stack of em, just one.  I ended up just buying one at Fred Meyer at the last minute.  The only white ones they had were checkered pattern ones but luckily you can't see the pattern in the photo.

This is the second challenge in the last few months that contained peas.  I hated peas as a kid and I still don't care for them much.  I have never even bought them for myself except for these two challenges.  The first recipe with them turned out pretty good so I decided to take another chance on them and this recipe was pretty tasty too.  I added the peas after draining the pasta though to keep the peas bright green for the photo. Now if a recipe comes up that calls for lima beans, I'm going to pass. If you want more information on how to participate in the challenges, check out the DHSPC page.

For my version of the photo, I used my light tent and a piece of white board in the front to bounce back some of the light to get rid of the harsh shadows. I bounced the flash at about 1/4 power into the inside left wall of the tent.

Centered below is the photo of the dish from one of last summer's issues of Donna Hay Magazine taken by William Meppem and styled by David Morgan

I did one version of the photo with the blue hue similar to the original and another without the blue hue.  I don't usually like photos, especially food photos that have a blue hue. It makes me think the photographer had the camera on the wrong white balance setting but I tried it out just to show that it can be done and it's not some special light they only have in Australia.  Here is how I did it:

How to add a blue hue to your photo:
You either need to shoot in RAW or take multiple pictures at different white balance settings to achieve this look.  In RAW you can change the color balance of your photos to whatever you want. You can try to change the white balance in post processing with a JPG but it will not look as good, trust me.  I used Lightroom to make the photo look normal with correct white balancing and exported that file into photoshop then I modified the RAW file again to change the color balance to have a blue tone and exported that into photoshop. I copied the blue looking photo as a new layer on top of the normal one, added a mask and painted over the mask to remove the blue hue from the pasta because blue pasta is just not appetizing.  I also added a gradient mask so the top half of the photo would be less blue than the bottom half.  And there you have it. It took  less than 10 mins of Lightroom/Photoshop work to get this look.
Goat Cheese Lemon and Pea Pasta Pasta with blue hue

Goat's Cheese Lemon and Pea Pasta
400g penne pasta
2 Cups frozen peas
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
240g goat's cheese, crumbled
50g baby arugula
sea salt
cracked black pepper
Cook pasta in saucepan of salted boiling water per package directions, adding peas in at the last minute or until al dente.  Drain and return to the pan.  Add the garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil and toss well to coat. Add the goat's cheese, arugula, salt and pepper and mix until just combined and serve.

Friday, June 15, 2012

BlogHer Food 2012 Day 2 Recap

Day 2 began much like day 1.  I drove to the South Kirkland Park & Ride to catch the same bus to Seattle.  The Saturday bus doesn't come as frequently so if I miss the bus I'd have to wait a half hour instead of 10 minutes for the next one so I got there a little early to make sure I didn't miss it.

I decided to travel lighter on Saturday.  On Friday I brought my laptop after reading that a lot of people brought theirs to take notes.  Unfortunately I did not think it was a good idea.  I have a 17" laptop and also had bags of swag that I had to carry all day.  Maybe if I had a tablet or smaller laptop it wouldn't have been so bad.  I took notes the old fashioned way and did not miss not having the laptop too much on Saturday but I also didn't take as many notes.

I had just received the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 the week before the conference and had a few borrowed lenses from Olympus (12mm F2 & 45mm F1.8) for the occasion and was glad the camera arrived in time.  Even though the camera was released a few months ago, getting one was difficult even though I pre-ordered it in February.  The demand for this camera was apparently much higher than expected and there are many people still waiting for theirs.  One of the best things about this camera system is everything is so much smaller than a DSLR and the picture quality is just as good so I was able to carry it and 4 lenses in a tiny little backpack so it was perfect for the conference.  I'll be posting an in depth review on my blog a little later if anyone is interested. I did get quite a few people ask me about it.

I again had my regular morning shake for breakfast and was looking forward to more bacon and eggs at the conference unfortunately there was none of that on day 2 it was all pastries and bagels.  I broke my diet a bit here and ate half a bagel with my herbal tea as I watched the breakfast keynote.  Jory Des Jardins interviewed Alicia McGlamory from MasterBuilt, Cassidy Stockton from Bob's Red Mill, Elise Bauer  from SimplyRecipes and Jaden Hair from SteamyKitchen on the topic of the intersection of brands, bloggers, ethics and opportunity.  It was noted that in the last 2 years the blog traffic from phones has increased by 50% and continues to increase.  Other than using Google Analytics for web traffic stats, another site was mentioned called Quantcast.  I use Google Analytics but haven't heard of Quantcast.  It will give you traffic stats publicly so other people can view your stats.  You can share the link to your stats to people you might be pitching something to so they can see what your reach is rather than you telling them.  I haven't checked this site out yet but I plan to.

I had good luck with attending a food photography session yesterday so I took my chances at attending another one.  Taylor Mathis spoke on the topic of Taking Your Food Photography Outdoors and On Location.  It was the first session that only had one speaker and was listed as being for all levels.  I beg to differ, beginner and possibly intermediate would have been more appropriate.  I know there were a lot of beginners in this session, many questions were being asked and lots of people learned some things.  Unfortunately I can't say that I learned anything from the session.  He talked about hard light and soft light and how to change the light using reflectors and diffusers, all stuff I've been working with for years.

Following the class he was leading a photo excursion through Pike Place.  I had originally planned on joining that group but decided I would join the Shutterfly excursion instead.  There is a BlogHerFood iphone app that includes a scavenger hunt where you send in specific photos and there was a section for the Shutterfly stroll requesting photos of things at Pike Place Market like the gum wall, Starbucks, Beacher's Cheese, etc. So I met them at their table and a small group of a dozen or so of us started walking towards Pike Place and while walking there we bumped into another group that was doing a Pike Place tour. I recognized a couple people in that group from Day 1 so I decided to switch groups on the way.

We met up with a tour guide and he took us on a whirl wind tour of the best restaurants in Pike Place.  He kept apologizing for going so fast because we only had a half hour and his tours are normally much longer and include some tastings.  The only thing we got to taste was some salt at Market Spice. What was worse is it was 12:30 and we were all hungry.  After the tour a group of us (Kathy_Writerbooklovercook, jennifersmentionables, beege, brenn24) decided to go to Piroshky Piroshky and got piroshkys to go.  The line was so long it wrapped around and down the side of the building.  I got the beef and onion.  It wasn't bad but it was a little greasier than I would have liked and also wasn't on the list of foods I can eat on my diet.  We headed back to the hotel for session 2.
Market Spice Salt Walking Pike Place

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

BlogHer Food 2012 Day 1 Recap

I took last Friday off from work to attend the two day BlogHer Food conference at the lovely Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle.  I decided to not pay for parking all day and instead drove to a park and ride in Kirkland and paid $2.50 to take a bus.  The bus dropped me off just a block and a half from the front door of the hotel so it was very convenient.

I've been to a similar conference called IFBC (International Food Blogger Conference) that was held in Seattle a few years ago and will be held in Portland this year.  BlogHer was a much bigger conference than IFBC but I'm sure after a few years IFBC has grown too. At BlogHer food we got to choose between 4 different topics at each session.  There were three sessions on Friday and two on Saturday.  Sometimes the decision on which one to take was easy and other times it was difficult.

Friday started with a nice breakfast spread.  Even though I had my regular morning shake for breakfast at home, I couldn't resist having a little bacon and eggs when I got to the conference.  There wasn't much else I could eat because of my candida diet.  I brought my bacon, eggs and a cup of herbal tea to the Spanish Ballroom for the opening presentation.  Diane Cu and Todd Porter from gave a "Pioneer Presentation".  My favorite quote from their presentation was "Your eyes are your lens. Your heart is your shutter."  They showed a few of their videos, one of them was titled "Our Life Recipe" and you can view it on their blog.  They spend a lot of time finding the perfect song for their videos and it certainly shows.  The whole room got teary eyed when Diane started talking about their dog, Dante.  There were some sad stories but also some happy ones, it was the perfect way to open the conference.
Dian Cu and Todd Porter
For the first session I of course decided to go with Food Photography Trends: Beyond Pretty.  Anita Chu owner of Desserts First blog and Stephanie Shih owner of Desserts for Breakfast were the presenters.  In case you are wondering, Stephanie really does eat desserts for breakfast, I asked her after the presentation.

I'm always a little worried going to photography presentations at conferences like this because I'm afraid the material would be too basic and I won't get much out of it being that I would consider myself advanced in my photography skills.  The itinerary we received displayed beginning, intermediate and advanced below each of the sessions which I found to be helpful and this one had Intermediate/Advanced under it so figured it might be ok. I'm glad I chose this session because it was my favorite session.  The great thing about it is they didn't only talk about techniques but they talked more about the different styles of photography and the evolution of styles over the years.  I always knew there were different styles but I never tried to categorize them or really think about them that much.  They grouped food photography into 6 main styles:
- product photography
- journalistic
- bold/clean
- bright/propped
- lifestyle inspired
- chiaroscuro/dark

I don't think many people have heard of the word chiaroscuro before, including me.  It's an Italian word used in the art world that means "light-dark".  I was able to easily identify which style was mine. Product and bold/clean is definitely me.  I'm just not very good at using a lot of props in my photos though sometimes I try.  The presentation was centered around a single slide that had 8 differently styled photos of the same chocolate cake to illustrate the different styles.  It was really interesting to see the same subject photographed in so many different ways and I was surprised to find out that they were all photographed using natural light. The slide below must have been the most photographed slide at the conference.  I saw everyone holding up their phones and cameras to take a picture.  Stephanie just posted on her blog yesterday the individual photos from the slide below along with the characteristics of the styles used for each of the shots.  It's a great write up and highly recommend checking it out if you didn't get to see the presentation.
One Cake 8 Styles

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Whole Foods Pollinator Picnic

I took some time off from work last week to attend the annual BlogHer Food conference which happened to be in Seattle this year, only an hour drive for me.  I took half a day off on Thursday to attend a pre-conference "Pollinator Picnic", hosted by Whole Foods.

We learned about the importance of bees in our community and how the bee population has gone down over the years due to pesticides, mites and stress from being moved from one place to another.

Some interesting bee facts:
- Since 1974 we've lost half of our bee colonies
- 1 hive of bees can pollinate 3 million flowers a day
- It takes 3 hours for bees to resettle after being moved or handled
- Queen bee will lay 2000 eggs a day during the peak of the season
- Bees never sleep
- Each bee hive has 10-30k bees per acre
- 75% of our fruits and vegetables are pollinated by honey bees

We got to hear from some local companies like Seattle Bee Works who helps people get set up with hives in their own back yards, FinnRiver Cidery who rely on bees to pollinate their orchards, John Rogers from Organically Grown Company who uses bees to increase his blueberry production and Denise, The Local Forager who gets to visit with local farmers, ranchers and producers.  The Seattle rain paused just enough for Krista from Seattle Bee Works to take us on a little tour of the apiary at the Washington Park Arboretum where the picnic was held.

Finnriver Ciders Beek's Honey

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Green Garlic and Spinach Soup

Green Garlic, Leek and Spinach Soup I've never used green garlic before but got some in my Full Circle box.  I kept putting off looking for something to do with it. Two weeks went by and I still hadn't used it.  I pulled it out and looked at it. It was starting to get wilty and wasn't sure it was even still good anymore.  I peeled back the outer layer and chopped off the tops and it looked good as new!

I saw @brandiego post something on twitter about using green garlic and I asked him what he was making with it.  He replied back with "green garlic and spinach soup".  The following day I decided to look up a recipe for this soup.  I came across Orangette's recipe and it turned out to be the same recipe @brandiego made the night before.  I only had 3 green garlics and I had some extra leeks in the fridge that were getting close to needing to be thrown out so I tossed some leeks into the soup. I left out the crème fraîche in the original recipe.  I thought about just adding a bit of milk but the soup was already pretty thin so decided against it.

I was really surprised how easy and quick this recipe was to make.  Most soups I've made take hours but this one is done in less than an hour.  I will definitely try it again and maybe add some various herbs to the soup.

Recipe adapted from Orangette's Green Garlic and Spinach Soup recipe.

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced
3 green garlics, thinly sliced
salt & pepper to taste
1 qt chicken broth (homemade if possible)
1 bunch of spinach leaves

Heat oil and butter in large pot over medium heat and add green garlic, leeks and a pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes, until garlic and leeks are softened but not browned.

Add stock and increase heat to bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add spinach and remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Working in batches, purèe the mixture in a blender.  Do not fill more than 1/3 full or you will have a mess.

Return the soup to the pot and cook over low heat to rewarm for about 5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spinach Green Garlic and Leeks Pouring Soup