Food Photography Workshop with Cottage Farm and Betty Liu

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Last month I FINALLY got to take a food photography workshop with my favorite food blogger, Betty Liu!!!!  She was a guest host with Krissy O’Shea from Cottage Farm for a one day workshop in Boston.  I was re-entering surgical residency the next day but decided to spring for one more day of fun before going back!  The workshop started with a private dinner at Loyal Nine the night before where we were served a special menu of savory pea pancakes, reminiscent of scallion pancakes, topped with grilled freshly harvested peas and, baked cheese with rhubarb and homemade crackers, delicious roasted chicken paired with balsamic glazed onion and fresh peas, and finally to end the night, strawberry rhubarb pie…all of course washed down by a refreshingly crisp French white wine.

The next morning we were off to an early start at Warehouse XI in Union Square.  Luckily we had some coffee from No Six Depot along with buttery croissants from Forge Bakery and fresh berries, yogurt, and homemade granola by Betty to get us caffeinated and started.  And of course we snagged a few photos of the breakfast set up :).

After breakfast, we quickly got to work learning camera and composition basics with a brief lecture from Betty and Krissy before starting to learn the basics of food styling.  We used natural light and they really pushed us to take advantage of different lighting scenarios like using darker lighting for some moodier shots while using bright spaces near the window for sunny breakfast shots.  The first scene we shot was mostly from a top down approach- actually setting up the scene on the ground! Genius for anyone who is short with back problems- sure beats balancing on a high chair to lean over and photograph!  Krissy set up the scene with breakfast remnants, demonstrating how to add in little touches (like crumbs) but at the same time not making it look overstyled.

Next we practiced some action shots from the side of Betty and Krissy pouring coffee (we maybe drank a little more too).

From coffee we moved on to my favorite…cheese!!!! We had sooooo much cheese donated by Vermont Creamery but I was tortured momentarily when I had to wait to dive in so we could practice some food styling!  Betty and Krissy set up a beautiful table spread of cheese, honey, bread, flowers, and little utensils.  Then we all took turns photographing the scene from the side and up top on a ladder…and then finally it was time to dig in!!!!!

Of course after cheese there was more eating with some delicious salads prepared by Krissy for lunch.  Check out the beautiful rye berry salad recipe by Krissy on her blog.

Following lunch we were all in a food coma but there was no time for rest…it was time to practice what we learned!  We broke off into groups to create our own food setups to photograph.  I think we did a great job (and had great teachers!)!

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After all our hard work, it was time for some relaxation and cocktails made by Nic Korn, a local mixologist.  He made delicious aperol spritzes and cocktails with mint and gin.  I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos of the beautiful drinks!

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We finished with a brief tutorial on post-production editing in Lightroom and I picked up a few tips from Betty- including how to add my own filter which you see featured here!   Thank you to Krissy and Betty for an incredible and educational workshop!  I left the workshop with a new arsenal of photography, food styling, and editing skills and met some great people I home to stay in touch with!

 

Cooking Vegetarian with Alden and Harlow and Formaggio Kitchen

Almost 2 years ago I wrote a blog post trying to recreate the “ubiquitous kale salad” from one of my favorite Boston restaurants, Alden and Harlow.  While my version was pretty good, it still paled in comparison to Alden and Harlow’s creation.  Luckily, I finally got my chance to learn how to make it this past week at a sold-out vegetarian cooking class with Michael Scelfo of Alden and Harlow hosted by Formaggio Kitchen.

Normally vegetarian cooking doesn’t get me super excited.  However, Michael Scelfo takes forgotten or common vegetables (like kale, broccoli, or carrots) and turns them into star dishes, bursting with texture and flavor.  Trust me, you won’t miss the meat in any of these!

Scelfo started the class by talking about Alden and Harlow and his original concept for the restaurant.  At the time, he was trying to eat healthier and cook with more vegetables at home with his wife and three children.  He focused on making simple dishes with good ingredients and new flavor profiles.  He then took this concept of home cooking and elevated and refined it for Alden and Harlow.  If you follow his instagram feed (@mscelfo) you’ll see all the mouth-watering, restaurant-worthy dishes he cooks at home for his lucky family (#dinnerathome).

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His restaurant has been wildly successful and he’ll be opening his second restaurant, Waypoint, in a few months.  One of my favorite things about Alden and Harlow is how often Scelfo rotates the menu, creating new dishes based on what is available and seasonal locally.  However, there are a few old-standbys that have been on the menu since the early days and they just happen to be vegetarian!

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The first dish of the night was the highly anticipated “ubiquitous kale salad”.   First raw kale is mixed with raw, thinly sliced fennel.  The salad is then elevated by adding a rich, creamy dressing of creme fraiche, pistachios, lemon and honey and then topping it with crispy fried kale (everything is better fried, right?).  The outcome was as delicious as I remembered and I can’t wait to make it at home!

 

The next dish he taught us is a complete surprise to the palate: Pickled corn pancakes with buttermilk, maple, shishito, and popcorn.  This dish was based on corn pancakes his family made growing up but  elevated and punched up a few notches.

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This creation is the epitome of sweet and savory; the sweet corn pancake and maple is balanced out perfectly by the whimsical popcorn topping and shishito peppers.  He makes a sweeter version with fruit for brunch.

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The final dish he demonstrated was charred broccoli with butternut squash hummus, bianco sardo and smoked cashews.  The hummus is made with roasted butternut squash and smoked cashews as a base.  While it may be hard to smoke cashews at home (due to strict Boston area fire rules) the rest of the butternut squash hummus is relatively straightforward and versatile.  Scelfo encouraged us to experiment and change up the dishes depending on availability of ingredients or taste preference.

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By the end of the class I was surprisingly full from all the delicious vegetables…and maybe slightly tipsy from the plentiful Montenidoli Tradizionale wine (thanks Formaggio Kitchen!).  Scelfo really proved that vegetarian cooking can be both flavorful, innovative, and easy to do at home.  Kale salad anyone????:)

 

Cocktails and Cheese with Alden and Harlow and Formaggio Kitchen

Normally when people think of pairing cheese with alcohol, they immediately think of wine and cheese.  However, apparently we’ve been doing it wrong this whole time!  The tannins, in wine, especially red wine, dull the palate, according to Food52, and make many wines a less than ideal choice to pair with cheese.

So what should you pair with cheese?  Follow Formaggio Kitchen’s lead and pair with beer, cider….and COCKTAILS! (Check out their full listing of classes here)  The idea of pairing cheese with cocktails may scare you at first, but trust me, it is genius!  Especially when the cocktails are made by Seth Freidus, bar manager at Alden and Harlow (one of my favorite restaurants currently in the Boston area).

Seth started out bartending in high school, mostly because it looked cool and fun.  He continued to bartend in college, eventually landing a job at Eastern Standard after he graduated.  He learned a lot on the job and supplemented this by reading books about cocktails.  He’s now gained national recognition as the bar manager at Alden and Harlow and likes to focus on housemade vermouths and rotating cocktails utilizing seasonal ingredients (think turnips, eggplant, or beets!)

To create this class, Seth met up with Julia Hallman, general manager of Formaggio Kitchen, to plan the pairings.  While the selection of cheese often drives the pairings, this time Julia and Seth mixed things up a bit (no pun intended) and chose the cocktails first- I can imagine this was a fun planning session!

The final cheese plate is shown below:

Class started with a classic cocktail- the Green Fly- created in the early 20th century.  A stirred cocktail, it consists of gin, lemon juice, chartreuse (an herbal liquor), demerara syrup (similar to a simple syrup but using demerara sugar) and finished with a touch of orange oil from an orange peel .  This was paired with Ruggles Hill Ada’s Honor, a goat’s milk cheese from Hardwick, MA.  This farm is run by Tricia who milks all 14 goats by hand!  The cheese has a lovely bright, clean, and herbal flavor that was balanced out beautifully by the citrus based cocktail.

Next we moved on to shaken cocktails with a variation of a negorini.  This cocktail contained gin, cardamaro (a vegetal amaro), and a sweet vermouth (Dolin Rouge). This cocktail was described as “vegetal” and “nutty” and was paired with a Corsu Vecchiu, a sheep’s milk cheese from Corsica, France.  This region is known for its cheese-making traditions that never change and result in the same salty, bright, rich cheese every time.

This was followed by another stirred cocktail using Oloroso sherry, Applejack brandy, demerara syrup, lemon juice and a touch of salt.  The nutty, rich flavors of this cocktail lend itself well to “ripe” and “stinky” cheeses such as Rippleton, a sheep’s milk cheese from Casanovia, New York.  This cheese is a bright orange color on the outside from the wash-rind process, while the inside oozes with soft, delicious, pale yellow cheese.  I happen to love this kind of cheese but was a little skeptical about pairing it with a cocktail- but it totally worked!  This was one of my favorite pairings of the night.

Next, we went back to shaken cocktails with a mezcal based drink.  Mezcal is a delicious smokey agave liquor (similar to tequila) and it was shaken with dry vermouth, Manzanilla sherry, demerara syrup and finished with lemon oil from a lemon peel.  The smokey, sweetness of this cocktail was balanced perfectly by the savory, salty, richness of the Tomme Crayuese cow’s milk cheese it was paired with.  Tomme Crayuese…cleverly called “Tom Cruise” by the staff at Formaggio…is from Savoie, France and is produced via an aging process resulting in a layered cheese with a harder rind and soft, creamy interior.

By this point, we were starting to feel a bit tipsy with the generous pours but in the name of cheese and cocktails we persevered on!  Next we tried another sherry based cocktail with Oloroso sherry, Applejack brandy, Montenegro (one of my favorite amaros) finished with orange oil.  This was the perfect pairing for the rich, caramely Olimankaas cow’s milk cheese studded with bits of crunchy, salty lactose crystals.

Last but not least was another mezcal cocktail.  This one was shaken with Cocchi Americano, Oloroso sherry, green chartreuse and finished with orange oil.  The resultant cocktail was paired with a goat’s milk blue cheese- Persil Rambouillet from Ile-de-France.  The mild saltiness of the blue cheese lent itself well to the smokey notes in the cocktail.

I have to say, after this class, I am a definite believer in pairing cheese with cocktails.  I was surprised at how well every cocktail balanced out the cheese and fully enjoyed every single pairing!  And as if the night couldn’t get any better, we headed out to Alden and Harlow for a late night feast after class!

If you haven’t taken any classes at Formaggio Kitchen, make sure to check out their class listing here.

Full disclosure:  I am “paid” by Formaggio Kitchen in cheese and alcohol to photograph classes 🙂

Happy 2015!

2014 has been good to me:  I finished my third year of residency, started a research fellowship, and reclaimed by social life!  I picked up a new and exciting hobby (photography).  My little brother got engaged (and now I’m being FORCED to go to Paris for the wedding!) I made some new friends and rekindled relationships with old ones.  I cooked and baked A LOT of amazing food (and photographed the sh-t out of it!).

But now it is time to look forward to, hopefully, an even better 2015.

2015 will be the year I finally travel to Hawaii and return to Paris.  2015 will be the year I try to reduce my own food waste while also trying to cook more at home and eat out less (already failing this one).  2015 will be the year I finally gain some patience (maybe? I have a feeling this one will be a forever goal).  2015 will be the year I master Lightroom and improve my photography.  I could go on and on because there is always room for improvement, as doctors, daughters, sisters, bloggers, photographers, researchers, friends and people.  Happy and healthy new year to all of my readers!  Scroll below for a few of my favorite creations and photographs from last year.

 

8 Crazy Bites: A Kitchen Kibitz Hannukah Event

On any given night, Jeff Gabel can be found drinking craft cocktails at Trade, dining at Boston’s hottest new restaurants, or at home creating Asian/Jewish fusion dishes such as tom yum matzo ball soup or bagels with gochujang cream cheese and lox.  He may look young, but his name is rapidly rising in the culinary world of Boston, and beyond.  As evidence, he was recently named one of Zagats 30 under 30 which honors “gastronomic game changers” who are “redefining the way we eat, drink and interact with food and beverages across the U.S. – all before their 30th birthdays”.

This award comes from the success of his recent pop-up series called Kitchen Kibitz.  A former NYC resident with experience in the Jewish nonprofit sector, Jeff noticed a dearth of Jewish cuisine in the city of Boston and decided to do something about it…thus Kitchen Kibitz was born!  Kitchen Kibitz aims to put modern and new twists on classic Jewish food in different kitchens/restaurants all over Boston to help reconnect Jewish and non-Jewish locals to Jewish cuisine and traditions.  So far he has hosted several events such as ThanksGivukkah with Zagat 30 under 30 alum, Josh Lewin of Whisk, Southern Schmear with Hungry Mother’s Barry Maiden, and Land of Milk and Honey with Sofra’s Geoff Lukas.

This past Sunday was his 2nd Hannukah event where he teamed up with Stephanie Cmar (former Top Chef contestant, Zagat 30 under 30 2013, and owner of Stacked donuts pop-up) and Chef Steve “Nookie” Postal, of Commonwealth (formerly chef for the Boston Red Sox) who has his own plans to open up a Jewish inspired restaurant, Steinbones.

I had the privilege of being “hired” as the event photographer (will work for food!) and got to work “behind the scenes” as Chef Nookie and Stephanie Cmar prepared multiple variations of latkes and donuts.

The first latke was a purple carrot latke with carrot gel and persimmon.  The sweetness of the persimmon worked perfectly against the salty, fried latke, almost like a play on apple sauce.  And the colors were beautiful!

The second latke was sweet potato with smoked salmon and dill.  Again, this latke played on the sweet and savory combination, this time featuring the sweet flavor in the latke.  The smoked salmon was delicious with the perfect amount of smokey flavor.

Next came artichoke latkes with apple butter followed by my favorite latke of the night: potato latke with Nookie’s special Pastrami and whole grain mustard.  It’s not easy to find good pastrami in Boston, but this was perfection!  I can’t wait until Steinbones is open and I can eat this on a regular basis!

The last latke featured another specialty that will be a mainstay at Steinbones: brisket!  This was a smokey, perfectly tender brisket completed by  Dr. Brown’s black cherry bbq sauce and served atop a parsnip latke.

The meal was rounded out with ice cream sandwiches with hannukah gelt ice cream as well as Stephanie Cmar’s delicious donuts with Manischewitz jelly (yes Manischewitz can actually taste good!).

And of course the meal wouldn’t be complete without the specialty cocktail of the night dubbed “The Chosen One”.

Overall, it was a delicious event that redefined traditional Hannukah cuisine. Check out Kitchen Kibitz for upcoming events in the New Year and Happy Holidays to everyone!

A Spoonful of Lovin’ at Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ Ultimate Tailgate Fundraiser

As you may remember, several weeks ago I took 2 photography classes at the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE).  After the intermediate photography class with Chris Padgett, he mentioned that he may need an assistant to help with some food photography at an upcoming event.  Lucky for me, his assistant fell ill last minute and he needed a “pinch photographer”.  After learning about this amazing event, I was more than happy to fill in as amateur food photographer for the night!

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Ashley Stanley, Founder and Executive Director of Lovin’ Spoonfuls

Lovin’ Spoonfuls is non-profit organization founded in 2010 by Ashley Stanley to facilitate the rescue and redistribution of healthy, fresh food that would otherwise be discarded.  Lovin’ Spoonfuls works with many local grocery stores, produce wholesalers, farms and farmers markets to help provide hunger relief in the  Greater Boston area.  They have rescued over 2 million pounds of food to date!

The culinary board includes many big names from the Boston food scene such as Joanne Chang (Flour, Myers & Chang), her husband Chris Meyers (Myers & Chang), Michael Scelfo (Alden and Harlow) and Jamie Bissonnette (Toro and Coppa) amongst others.  This was the 4th year of their large fundraising event, aptly named “The Ultimate Tailgate”, consisting of multiple auctions, raffles, a DJ and delicious food from about 20 Boston area restaurants.

The event was held outside in a large, heated tent at Sam’s at Louis with a gorgeous view of the waterfront.

As you can imagine, I was in foodie heaven!  Not only did I get to sample appetizers from some of my favorite restaurants, but I also had the opportunity to meet many of the chefs and unabashedly take photos because it was my “job”…and all for a good cause!  Below are many of the food offerings from the night.

Tiffani Faison’s (Sweet Cheeks) shrimp boil was my favorite dish of the night.

Not only do I love shrimp (and corn, potatoes, sausage and butter) but the display was so fun and colorful to photograph…not mention that Tiffani is super nice and makes incredible biscuits!

The most interesting dish award went to Mei Mei for their Kung Pao Curry Frito Pie.  Warning: fritos and any food that accompanies them may be highly addicting!

The beet tartare pictured above from Fairsted Kitchen was a play on deviled eggs.  The simple combination of deviled eggs and sweet roasted beets was delicious and had me coming back for seconds!  I’m going to have to figure how to make these- they would be an excellent appetizer at a holiday party.

In between preparing food, socializing and eating, the chefs also did a little goofing around!

Beverages included beer by Peak Organic Brewing Company, wine by distributor M.S. Walker, as well as signature cocktails from Sam’s.

One of the more creative dishes was the chorizo, potato and squid quesadilla from relative newcomer on the Boston dining scene, La Brasa.

At one point during the night I was surrounded by the intoxicating aroma of fried chicken, only to find myself next to these mouthwatering duck drummettes with  red plum balsamic glaze from Sam’s at Louis.  If I hadn’t been so full by this point (it’s easier to eat and photograph at the same time than you think) I would have taken at least seconds…and maybe even thirds.

Bergamot served a deliciously tender brisket over a bright and acidic red cabbage slaw.

Nebo was so popular with their Italian sausage, rustic broccoli rage-pine nut pesto and provolone sandwich that they ran out of sausage by the end of the night!

Merrill & Co. served up large meatballs slathered in a robust tomato sauce and topped with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.

And finally, no food event with Joanne Chang would be complete without dessert!

I’m not about to quit my day job but it was pretty fun being a photographer for the night!  (Hopefully I get “hired” for another gig soon!)

If you would like to learn more about Lovin’ Spoonfuls or donate to this wonderful cause, please click here.

Farmer’s Market Photography Class

Apparently, most people (aka people with 9-5ish type jobs) have hobbies…or things they are interested in that have nothing to do with their career!  After working 80+ hours/week for the past 3 years, this concept, understandably, is a little foreign to me.  Yes, I do enjoy cooking, baking and blogging. Some might consider these “hobbies,” but I never quite had the time (or money) to explore this much outside the comfort of my own home.  In fact, my lack of time for hobbies/a social life got a little awkward when I went on a few first dates. The conversation often went something like this:

Boy: “So what do you do for fun?”
Me: “Well I’m pretty busy with work and saving lives, but I like to cook and bake when I can and I also have a baking blog.”
Boy: “Oh cool, what else do you do?”
Me: “Well….I guess I go to the gym occasionally?”
Boy: “What else?”
Me: “Ummmmm, I sleep every once in a while…”
Boy: “But you must have other things you like to do outside of work?  Hiking? Skiing? Going to concerts? You should come with me to this workout group that meets every morning at 6AM…maybe on slow day like a Friday?”
Me:  “Beep, beep, beep” (fakes “stat” page, stage exit right)

In an effort to have something to answer to first date questions like this…and to make the most of my time off (I mean research) I’ve been trying to develop some hobbies, mainly photography.  As you have seen on my blog (hopefully), I’ve had a mildly successful introductory foray into photography through photographing food porn for my blog.  However, I wanted to a) learn how to use the many functions on my DSLR camera and b) expand my subject matter a bit.  So this past weekend I took two photography classes at the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE):

Intermediate Photography with Chris Padgett

and

Farmer’s Market Photography with Brian Samuels

The first class was a technical class on how to use your camera and get the most out of all of its functions.  I definitely learned a few key things that will help my photography going forward.  In the second class, I got to apply what I learned with Chris, by going on a field trip of sorts with Brian and a group of eager new photographers to the SOWA market in the South End.  The market, bustling with food and fresh produce vendors, consumers, pets, arts and crafts and antiques, was the perfect place to work on composition and creativity.  It was a gorgeous day and if you’re going to be that sketchy person with a camera peeping out of the bushes (or tomatoes, gourds or flowers), it’s best to have a group with you!

Below are some of my favorites from the day.

Gorgeous purple radishes at a local farm vendor.

 

Some more local produce.  It’s fun to experiment with post-production editing.  I’ve been using the snapseed app on my iphone for much of my editing (I can instantly send photos from my camera to my iphone via wifi).  Color splash is another fun app that allows you to focus on one (or two) colorful objects to really highlight it, like the carrots above.

The market is also full of interesting people to (stealthfully) photograph.

Don’t forget to stop by Union Square Donuts for delicious fresh donuts in a variety of flavors (like brown butter hazelnut pictured above).  The wait in line is worth it!

There are a variety of non-produce items sold as well.

And finally, some more beautiful produce!

Shanah Tovah: Rosh Hashanah Dinner

Despite the balmy 80 degree weather this weekend in New England, fall is upon us.  And with it comes apple picking, pumpkin everything, and the Jewish high holidays.  While no one really looks forward to Yom Kippur (although it is fun to stuff your face with bagels and lox after 24 hours of fasting…and I suppose to pray and ask for forgiveness), Rosh Hashanah is always an exciting holiday.  Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year and also the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.  There are a lot of religious customs but what most people remember and look forward to is the tradition of eating apples dipped in honey to welcome in a “sweet new year”.

While the main event of this holiday is praying and reflecting at synagogue, blowing the shofar, and beginning the first of ten days of repentance, the celebratory meal often takes central focus.  I have been hosting Rosh Hashanah dinner for the past several years for my busy co-workers and friends who often don’t have time to make it to a synagogue or celebrate the New Year.  It’s a way to get my close friends together to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in our own way (with good food!).

Scroll down for pictures from this year’s dinner along with some recipes.  L’shanah tovah!

Rosh Hashanah cocktail from Union Square Cafe in NYC.

Ronda’s Challah

(This recipe is from my childhood best friend’s mom, you won’t find a better challah around!)

1 cup very warm water
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup honey
1 egg
1 tsp salt
4 cups flour
1 package Fleishman’s rapid rise yeast (important that this be rapid rise and not active)
1 egg
sesame seeds (optional)
2 apples chopped, cinnamon and honey (optional for making apple and honey challah)

Add the first 6 ingredients into a bread machine in order listed. Make a hole in the top of the flour and add the yeast. Set bread machine to dough cycle (approximately 1 to 1.5 hours depending on the machine). Take out dough and place on well floured surface. Punch down the dough several times and then make into 3 ropes. Braid the challah and place on greased baking sheet. If you want to make apple and honey challah then roll challah into one long rope, flatten and stuff with a mixture of apples, honey and cinnamon.  Roll into a bun shape.  Cover challah with towel and let rise for 1-2 hours. Beat egg and paint onto challah. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired. Bake in preheated 350˚F oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Recipe for spiced brisket with apricot and leeks.

I have been making this recipe for almost 8 years and it is always a hit!  I’ve found that it is best to start it 2 days ahead of time and cook it the day before- leftover brisket always tastes better!

Now to the desserts…

Peanut swirl brownies

Rich and fudgey brownies with peanut butter, proclaimed by some to be the “best brownies in the world”!  I cut the recipe by half and make it in a 9×13 inch pan.  Be careful not to over bake!

Apple Crunch Galette that I served with lavender goat cheese honey ice cream.  The ice cream is a spin on the honey ice cream I made last year with an added twist:  I infused the milk/cream with dried lavender and substituted the cream cheese for 2 oz of goat cheese.

Apple Crunch Galette

(from the Kosher by Design cookbook)

Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
2 sticks (1 cup, 16 Tbs) unsalted butter, cold, cut into about 8 pieces
4-5 Tbs ice water

Streusel:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned oats (not quick cooking or instant)
6 Tbs melted butter

Apple Filling:
5-6 medium apples
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbs apricot preserves
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water or milk

For the crust:

In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar 2-3 times until mixed.  Add the diced, chilled butter.  Pulse until mixture resembles peas.  Add the ice water 1 Tbs at a time until the dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper.  Knead briefly to bring together in a ball and flatten slightly into a disc.   Refrigerate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

For the streusel:

In the meantime make the streusel by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and mixing with a fork until it comes together.  Set aside.

For the apples:

Peel, seed and slice the apples.

In a large bowl, combine the apples, flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Toss gently to coat.  Set aside.

To assemble the crostata:

Preheat the oven to 375.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and set on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper.  Roll the dough into a 14-15 inch circle.

Leaving a 3 inch border, spread the apricot preserves over the center of the dough.  Sprinkle evenly with 3/4 of streusel topping.  Next, starting at the outer edge and working your way into the center, lay the apple slices in concentric circles, going around and adding layers until the apples are used.  Sprinkle with remaining streusel.  Using the parchment to help, fold the dough border over the apples, turning as needed.  The dough will cover 2-3 inches of filling.  Slide crostata carefully on the parchment paper onto rimless baking sheet.  Brush exposed dough with beaten egg yolk.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and carefully cover dough with foil to prevent burning.  Bake for another 20-30 minutes until crust is golden brown and apples are tender.  Let cool for about an hour before cutting and serving.

And finally, what to do with leftovers..

brisket hash…

or…

Challah french toast with apple syrup! 

Edible Exposure: Food and Photography Class

I think I’ve missed my calling: food photography (aka food pornographer).  As I mentioned in my last post, my research fellowship has given me quite a bit of free time that I have been filling with both old (cooking/baking/eating) and new (photography) hobbies.  In my quest to completely fill my free time with something meaningful, I turned the to Boston Center for Adult Education’s (BCAE) fall curriculum of food related classes.  I had taken a few classes at their old location on Commonwealth Ave. but had not had the time to try out a class at their gorgeous new space on Arlington St.  I was excited to see that they had a “celebrity chef” series with well-known Boston area chefs taking charge of the classes.  I was of course immediately drawn to the class entitled Edible Exposure: Food and Photography with Michael Scelfo.  Not only did I want to learn more about food and photography, but Michael Scelfo is the owner and chef at one of my favorite local restaurants, Alden and Harlow, nominated for one of Bon Appetit’s best new restaurants of 2014.  I immediately signed up and was lucky to get a spot in this intimate class for 12.

The class started on a Tuesday evening at 6PM and we were greeted by representatives from 90+ Cellars wine who immediately poured us glasses of wine, picked especially for this dinner.  Once we were settled in (and slightly more relaxed), Michael gave a brief overview of food photography.  The class was geared towards using an iPhone (or smart phone) and various iPhone apps to edit the photos.  I, of course, couldn’t resist bringing my new “toy” (Nikon D5300) but learned a lot about different apps that can be used to edit the photos. I was pretty impressed that he does all the photography and editing that he posts on social media himself (Twitter: @mscelfo, @aldenharlow; Instagram: @mscelfo, @aldenharlow)- he takes some amazing food photos!

He then introduced his 2 sous chefs that he brought along to make our dinner that night.

On the menu:

I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed that we didn’t actually get to make any of the dishes (or at least get the recipes!), but it would have been an ambitious feat for a 3 hour class.  Plus, how can you complain about a private dinner and photography lesson (with wine) from Michael Scelfo?

The first dish was the spicy shishito peppers…and spicy they were!  Normally 1 in 10 peppers are spicy but I got “lucky” and at least 75% of mine were hot!!!!  For this photo with lots of shades of green, he showed us how to improve it’s appearance by turning down the “warmth” feature in Instagram. Decreasing the warmth brought in more blue tones to deepen the green color.

The next course was the charred broccoli with squash hummus.

This may have been my favorite dish of the night.  (My next mission will be to try to recreate that hummus!)  With this dish, he showed us how to use the app “color splash” which allows you to highlight one or two colors in a photo while leaving the rest black and white to really emphasize the main focus of the photo (in this case the food).

(photo courtesy of Michael Scelfo)

The final dish was the trenne pasta (a triangle shaped penne type pasta), a new menu item at Alden and Harlow.  The pasta was perfectly cooked and paired with guanciale, cherry tomatoes and finally anchovy crumbs for a texture contrast and umami type flavor.  This dish was full of color and therefore perfect for photos.  After taking photos of this final course, he showed us how to use the app “pic frame” to create a collage of the night’s dishes (see above).

Overall, this was a super fun (and tasty) class full of great food and helpful photo tips.  I can’t wait to try them out for my blog photos…and to return to Alden and Harlow for the amazing food!

Liebster Blogging Award

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Thanks Fashion Huntress for nominating me for the Leibster Award!  Leibster is a german word which means: sweetheart, beloved person, darling dear, darling; beloved, liked very much; affectionate, loving favorite, preferred above others; liked or loved above others.  The purpose of this award is to recognize up and coming blogs with less than 200 followers.   Everyone who is nominated is a winner with this award! (aka no final vote etc.)

To accept the Liebster Award, the rules are as follows:

1. You must link back the person who nominated you (see above!)

2. You must answer the 10 Liebster questions given to you by the nominee before you. (below)

3. You must pick 10 bloggers to be nominated for the award with under 200 followers (below- didn’t quite make it to 10 because a lot of great blogs I follow have more than 200 readers! )

4. You must come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer. (below)

5. You must go to their blogs and notify your nominees. (in process!)

My Nominees:

  1. Stellina Sweets
  2. 365 scoops
  3. I am a food blog
  4. Sundays with Jennie
  5. Runner on the Right
  6. Dietician Drive

Questions I was asked to answer:

1. What is your favorite time of day and day of the week?  Hmmm, I wouldn’t say I’m a morning person but once I’m awake, I kinda love those few minutes you have to yourself with a cup of coffee before the day starts and gets crazy.  Favorite day depends on the day I get off which changes every week!

2. Why did you start blogging? I started blogging for several reasons: 1) To have a place besides facebook to post all my food porn! 2) To push myself to test and create new dishes- or else I would find myself baking the same things over and over.

3. What’s your favorite article of clothing that you own?  I just recently purchased an adorable dress from Madewell with a fruit pattern on an off white background with side cutouts and pockets.  Love dresses with pockets!

4. If you were given a free shopping spree at any store of your choice, where would you pick?  Saks 5ht Avenue

5.Who is your favorite designer?  I love bags/purses by Marc by Marc Jacobs.  Dresses by Oscar de La Renta.  In my price range, my favorite store currently is Madewell.

6. What is your favorite quote to live by? “Everything in moderation, including moderation” ~Julia Childs

7. What is your shameless guilty pleasure? US weekly

8. Whose style do you most admire throughout history? Love  Miranda Kerr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman- always classy but stylish

9. What is one item on your current wishlist? A new pair of Tory Burch black patent leather flats.

10. What is your favorite holiday?  Passover!  I love cooking a huge seder dinner and inviting all my friends over.  The foods have such strong childhood memories for me!

Questions for my nominees:

1. What is the one ingredient you cannot live without?

2. What is your favorite cooking appliance?

3.  If you had unlimited money to travel to another country for 2 weeks, where would you go?

4.  Favorite guilty pleasure food?

5. What is your favorite season of the year?

6.  Why did you start blogging?

7.  If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

8. What would your last meal be?

9.  What is your favorite way to de-stress?

10. If you won the lottery, would you quit your current job?

“Flour, Too” Book Signing

Anyone who knows me or has read my blog, can probably guess that I have a minor obsession with Joanne Chang and Flour bakery.  Most of the recipes I have featured here have some component from Joanne Chang’s delicious confections.  So when I heard that she was releasing a new cookbook, Flour, Too I immediately pre-ordered a copy on amazon.  And when my blogging friend, Dafna (of Stellina Sweets) told me she’d be visiting Boston and would be attending a book signing by Joanne Chang tonight (at Kitchenwares on Newbury Street), I immediately changed my call schedule so I could join her!

While this cookbook does contain some pastry and dessert items from the bakery, it also features many of the favorite savory items like the sandwiches, soups and dinner specials.  The book signing started out with a short (but sweet- pun intended!) talk by Joanne Chang about how she got into the business, the growth of Flour, and the development of her two cookbooks (and plans for two more!).  And of course, she brought some sinful treats for us to try and savor (brown sugar-oat cherry muffins).  She then answered some questions from the audience and next the book signing began.  Not only is she smart (she has a degree in applied mathematics from Harvard) and talented, but she is super nice and personable!  I can’t wait to delve into the new cookbook- a world of cinnamon cream brioche, roasted lamb sandwiches, scallion pancakes, Boston cream pie, and Kouign-Amann awaits me!

Tribute to Boston

Monday afternoon at 2:50PM , April 15th 2013, I sat hot and sweaty on a tiny charter plane in Bimini (a small island in the Bahamas), waiting impatiently for it to take off for Ft. Lauderdale where I had a connecting flight to Boston.  I was anxious to return home after 10 days away.  Little did I know of the horror and tragedy taking place on the ground that moment in my home city. I landed to horrific footage and new reports of the events of the day, facebook and twitter were overflowing with marathon related posts and friends and family were texting me to make sure I was ok.

I do not consider myself to be a very emotional person.  My best friend will tell you that I never cried until I was 16 (although this isn’t actually true).  Being a general surgery resident, I’ve built up a tough exterior to deal with the constant stress and sadness that we deal with on a daily basis.  But when I heard about the marathon bombings and started reading stories about the injured and about the heroic acts that day, my heart broke and tears came to my eyes.

As everyone has likely read by now, Marathon Monday is a special holiday in Boston; a day with over 20,000 runners and about 500,000 spectators.  I saw my first Boston Marathon about 10 years ago when I went with my Tufts track team to heartbreak hill to cheer on runners.  It’s hard to watch without becoming inspired.  There are so many people running for a myriad of reasons: to raise awareness for cancer or MS, to honor a loved one, to overcome a personal struggle. The runners come in all shapes and sizes, they are old and young, some race in wheelchairs while others push their children in specially made wheelchairs.  I got bit with the marathon bug in 2006 and joined the Tufts Marathon challenge, training for my first (and likely last) marathon.  I developed a stress fracture about 6 weeks before the marathon.  I was urged to stop training, let my leg heal and focus on recovery.  But once you start training for a marathon, especially Boston, it’s hard to stop.  Somehow, pushing through the pain I managed to finish, although very slowly.  Crossing the finish line, with my parents cheering behind me, was a moment I will never forget.  The next year I smartly deferred running for volunteering at the marathon and I would have been there this year, cheering strangers on had I not been on vacation.

A recent article from “The Onion” poked fun at Boston for not being a real or legitimate city, people say we’re rude and call us “Massholes”, they make fun of our driving, our accents and confusing street layout.  But I’ve never been more proud to be from Boston than on April 15th 2013.  Our city came together in heroic ways and stories continue to flood the internet with acts of heroism, kindness and altruism.  The bombings took place at 2:50 PM, the first injured victim arrived at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at 3:08PM and was in the OR around 3:30PM- if that doesn’t scream teamwork then I don’t know what does.

This is a city with the top medical centers in the country, if not the world.  We are a city of academia and innovation.  We are the home to baked beans, Boston cream pie, clam chowdah, and fluffernutter.  We eat more ice cream per capita than any other city (despite our freezing temperatures most of the year).  We produced Aerosmith, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Mark Walhberg and more.  Every year we put on the best 4th of July fireworks show in the country. We have the best sports teams…or at least the best sports fans!  Whoever did this horrible act of hatred, picked the wrong city to mess with.  We will and we are continuing to live our lives.  As I walked around Boston, on this gorgeous day today, I did not see a city paralyzed with fear.  Instead, students and others were out enjoying the sun on the Boston Common, runners were running along the Charles, the T was busy and crowded as ever.  Our streets and sidewalks may be damaged, store fronts broken, our citizens injured but our spirits are not broken.  Stand strong Boston!

Springtime is (almost, kinda, sorta, hopefully) here

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It’s been a long winter here in Boston, marked by an especially ferocious Storm Nemo. Although I have lived in Massachusetts my whole entire life, I still hate the cold and haven’t even learned to ski! Luckily, we’ve been having little snippets of beautiful (aka 50-60 degrees) weather over the past 2 weeks…interspersed, of course, with bitterly cold days that have me running for my earmuffs and mittens. Hopefully, this means that spring is just around the corner, and with it delicious Spring desserts: lemon bars, mango and watermelon sorbet, raspberry tarts, etc. Until then, I’m heading south for some sun, vitamin D and warmer weather and will be taking a little hiatus from baking and cooking. See you soon Boston!