Beth – Our blog is a labor of love done around our work schedule and responsibilities to our families and friends. Bette was crazy busy so we decided to invite Kira Corbin to our shoot to style the next two blog postings. Below she writes about her passion for props and what she considers and thinks about when styling for a photograph. We loved her point of view and collaborating on all these images. If you want to see more of her work go tohttp://kiracorbin.com/
Kira – For this story, and all of the lovely work the ladies are doing here on OST, the focus is on the ingredients, so that was my starting point for propping. On the one hand I consider how to represent them well graphically, in terms of shape and color, and on the other in mood and spirit. Green garlic is a spring time treat, the newly born garlic plant shooting up, and the mussels are briny, tender and highly perishable. Freshness and the fleeting feeling of spring are themes here.
To use only white, for the clean, fresh aspect of spring, was an option. But I found some inspiration in the idea that sometimes introducing an opposing color, some sharp contrast, is what will help the eye see the difference, and see each color more clearly. If all of the props in this shot had been white, the food would still certainly pop, but you might loose the impact of the white. That fresh feeling of the white. It might have just all melt away, too neutral. And though food is the star, the props are there to create connotation, environment, mood. Additionally, the introduction of some black and green props merges all of the ingredients together, bridging their aesthetic differences and creating visual cohesiveness, very much how the recipe melds each individual flavor into a unified (delicious!) expression.
A.J. – I love using pancakes for savory preparations. This recipe works well with any smoked fish…….trout, salmon, etc. I was very excited to use the smoked pollock that I found at the Union Square Greenmarket. Occasionally I’ll hot-smoke a piece of salmon using my stove-top smoker. Serve these pancakes as an appetizer but they also work well for lunch or as a light dinner.
Cornmeal Pancakes with Smoked Pollock and Crème Fraiche Sauce
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon brown sugar
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1¾ cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons melted butter, plus additional for coating griddle
8 ounces crème fraiche
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 teaspoons freshly grated horseradish
1 heaping teaspoon grainy mustard
1 Granny Smith apple
Juice of ½ lemon
8 ounces hot-smoked pollock
Micro greens, for garnish
Watercress, for garnish
Merlot sea salt, to taste
To make cornmeal pancakes combine flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk and melted butter. Stir with a whisk until blended. Heat a large griddle or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Lightly coat hot griddle with butter. Add one heaping tablespoon of cornmeal batter at a time and brown pancakes on both sides. (Pancakes can be kept warm in a 200-degree oven while preparing rest of the recipe.)
Combine crème fraiche, lemon zest, horseradish, mustard and sea salt to taste.
Core, quarter and thinly slice the apple; toss with lemon juice. Flake smoked pollock and divide equal amounts over each pancake. Top with sliced apples, garnish with micro greens and watercress. Drizzle with crème fraiche sauce and sprinkle each pancake with merlot sea salt. Serve immediately.
Beth – Last summer I had the luck of meeting the owners Natalie and Steven Judelson of the Amagansett Sea Salt Co.amagansettseasalt.com. We were renting a house in Amagansett for a week and friends who were visiting suggested we take a look at their operation. Little did I know that we would drive down a dirt road next to a cornfield, to find row after row of wooden structures with black plastic buckets covered with plastic domes set up in a field. Of course I came prepared with a camera albeit a point and shoot and took these photos while we were there.
Natalie and Steven graciously poured us glasses of Prosecco and explained the process of making salt from the Atlantic Ocean just down the block. Natalie provided us with snacks so we could taste the different salts and explained her process for making the merlot salt used in our posting. I highly suggest that to learn about how they make their salt you watch this video where Natalie and Steven explain the process. Amagansettseasalt_vimeo
Bette – These white porcelain dishes are vintage lab pieces by Coors. They are collectible and I love them. I have been collecting them for years and have found them in the most unexpected places. They are not difficult to find at flea markets, and antique stores throughout the country. I love them for their simplicity.
We have carried them in my store ARCHIVE HOME in Nyack. Please visit us at the store or find us on ETSY -archivehome
A.J. – I was enamored with this round cast iron griddle when I saw it at Beth’s studio. It was another great find by Bette. She was about to wrap it up and return it to her studio when I suggested we use it for an OST shoot. I have a small well-used collection of cast iron skillets, griddles, muffin pans, baking pans and covered casseroles. I use them often and for all sorts of frying, braising, bread baking and I occasionally place one directly on a rack over the hot coals of my Weber grill. They are favored by many cooks for their ability to conduct heat evenly. Cast iron is basically indestructible but it’s important to always keep it well seasoned. Keep your eyes open for cast iron pans when browsing through antique shops and fairs. They are usually affordably priced and will last a lifetime.
Bette - My sister, Patti Blau, is a wonderful illustrator, painter, and designer. When we were shooting the recipes with our “focus on fish” entry, the smoked fish was not very pretty no matter how we looked at it. We called Patti and asked her to illustrate something for us. I sent her the images that we shot for this recipe, and she sent me back these whimsical and wonderful illustrations of fish. I love her drawings. She paints interiors, vintage objects, tropical seascapes, portraits, fashion still life, beauty and food. We hope you enjoy her drawings as much as we do. She has a card linewriteables.comif you’d like to contact her or see some of her vintage designed cards and or her fine art paintings.
AJ – When I prepared this float for the photograph Beth and Bette were standing close by. We had already shot the glass with a stand-in. As the ice cream was carefully dropped into the drink, the glass became frosty and the mineral water fizzed up. A beautiful foam surrounded the ice cream. It looked exactly as I had planned. In less than a minute it was on set and our refreshing beverage was shot.
This is a perfect casual and easy dessert to serve after an outdoor barbecue. I love how the ice cream balances the tartness of the rhubarb. If you prefer, it can also be made with strawberry sorbet in place of the ice cream.
One pound rhubarb, trimmed and sliced
1½ cups granulated sugar
1½ cups water
Sparkling mineral water
Vanilla ice cream
To make rhubarb syrup combine the rhubarb, sugar, and water in a large saucepan. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender. Let cool. Strain and discard the solids. Chill the syrup until ready to use. It can be stored in the refrigerator for one week or up to a month in the freezer.
To make the Rhubarb Float pour some of the syrup into a tall glass. Add sparkling mineral water to fill the glass by two thirds. Add one or two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy immediately.
A.J. – I must admit, I had not eaten or cooked rhubarb until I was well into my adult years. After stumbling upon a simple recipe for rhubarb syrup, I thought it would be a good place to start. I could barely wait for the blush-tinted syrup to cool before I poured it over a glass of cracked ice and stirred in sparkling mineral water. But the puckery tartness of the rhubarb was unpleasing to me. I then went on to do a little research and soon discovered that the harshness of the rhubarb is tamed when in the company of other ingredients. The ubiquitous strawberry rhubarb marriage is one we are most familiar with. I have also paired rhubarb with apples and am most fond of rhubarb with raspberries. Over the years I’ve often thought about that rhubarb syrup. I planned to one day revisit and transform the recipe. Please join us on our next post as I turn that simple rhubarb syrup into pure ambrosia.
Bette – We try to visit my husband’s family every few years in Sicily. On one trip, my husband, kids and I were visiting Steve’s many many cousins in a small village called Baucina, 17 miles southeast of Palermo. I wandered into a teeny, messy “antique” store where I saw an oval ironstone looking platter poking out from under a pile of fabrics and books. Everyone thought I was crazy when I insisted on buying a suitcase to carry it home. But I knew even then that I had found a gem. The rhubarb was grown for this platter.
Beth – Ice cream is always hard to photograph. You have to work quickly to capture it at just the right moment. In this shot, we wanted it to look messy and real. So we left it out and waited – then shot, then added some drops of melted cream, waited and shot some more. My approach is to shoot an image multiple times capturing the ice cream in various stages. I’ll let it go far past what I think might work looking for a happy accident – a shot I might love but never think of. Once done, we review all the images and choose our favorite.
AJ – This is a recipe inspired by a sizzling platter of gratin de moules I recently ate in southern France. The mussels were simply slathered with an herb butter, topped with breadcrumbs and briefly roasted in a hot oven. In this version I’ve used Long Island littleneck clams and spring spinach that I first steamed and chopped. Spring spinach has a very delicate grassy taste that is different from spinach that grows in the fall. I’ve used spring garlic, rather than a more pungent storage garlic in the herb butter. Older garlic would overwhelm the spinach. If you are unable to find spring garlic substitute finely chopped shallots. Be sure to have some crusty bread on hand to mop up the butter.
¾ teaspoon mixed herbs, such as thyme, oregano, chives or lemon thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch of spinach, stems removed
1 dozen clams on the half shell
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
To make the herb butter combine butter, spring garlic, parsley, mixed herbs, and salt and pepper in a small bowl and blend thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Soak spinach several times in cold water to remove sand. Transfer spinach with any water that clings to its leaves to a large skillet. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, cover and cook over medium heat until spinach is wilted. Drain, refresh under cold water and drain again. Squeeze spinach to remove any liquid. Chop finely.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Arrange clams on a baking sheet. Top each clam with 1 teaspoon of chopped spinach. Reserve any remaining spinach for another use. Spoon equal amounts of herb butter over the spinach and sprinkle each clam with 1 teaspoon of breadcrumbs.
Roast clams in the preheated oven for 6-7 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Serve immediately.