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4 posts categorized "101 Things"

17 January 2011

101 Things - Food Photography with Clare Barboza


Over the last week or two, I’ve been dealing with a severe case of ‘I’ve got so much to do in every direction that I must go and hide and gibber quietly to myself in a darkened room’ which I’m finding is not the optimum solution to my ever-lengthening to do list.

So it’s mostly going to be pretty pictures until I emerge from under the layers of work, admin and clutter which are currently overwhelming me.




On Saturday I took some time off from the insanity, to do yet another photography class to keep me going on my 101 Things list. (By the way, I have apparently inspired Lara at Food. Soil. Thread and Helen at CountrysideWeddings to similar madness, so please go and encourage them too).

Clare Barboza, whose Child Photography class I recently took, is also a mega-talented food photographer and works out of the same awesome studio as Lara Ferroni.

The class was extremely useful. We talked about lighting and basic technique; critiqued photos Clare had taken; took shots of beautifully prepared and plated food cooked by Chef Becky Selengut and Marc Schermerhorn; tried plating and styling our own shots, critiqued our shots as a group and then got some tips on post production.

Here are some of the shots I took. My hit ratio of good shots to crap is still frustratingly low (and these had to be significantly worked on in Lightroom) but I feel like I’m starting to grope my way towards a style. The lighting and the studio props make everything so easy though.

I know I always say this (hey, what can I say, Seattle is STUFFED with prodigiously talented photogaphers) but again I can’t recommend this class highly enough if you’re into food photography. I believe Clare has got another couple of classes coming up, check on her blog if you’re interested.


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30 December 2010

New Year’s Resolutions


This year I have decided NOT to make any resolutions because a) I am absolutely crap at sticking to them and b) I’ve got quite enough on my plate thank you with my 101 Things list.

The good news is that I managed to make further inroads into the list over Christmas.

First up was ‘go snowmobiling’. 

Many moons ago, when I’d just met the Boyfriend (before he became the Husband) we went on a skiing holiday to Whistler (little guessing that we’d be living in Seattle and spending our Christmases there, ten or so years into the future).

I had been trying my hand at snowboarding and after a couple of lessons the then Boyfriend and I decided to board down the mountain. It turns out that I’m even worse at snowboarding than I am at keeping New Year’s resolutions and it soon became apparent that there was no way I was going to make it to the nearest chairlift before nightfall.  Cue a ruggedly handsome snowmobiler rushing to the aid of this damsel in distress and whisking me off down the mountain at top speed. And I’ve wanted to go snowmobiling again ever since.

So it went on the list and the Husband and I signed up to go snowmobiling last week in Whistler. I decided that it would only count for the list if I drove one, little realising how terrifyingly huge they are.

Here I am as nervous as hell before we set off.




Here I am clinging on grimly for dear life (yes, I promise that’s me).




And here we are after I decided that my tentative driving  was hugely unenjoyable for all concerned and I climbed on the back of the guide’s machine, whizzed at furious speed through the snowy trees, and  fulfilled all my snowmobiling fantasies.

It turns out that snowmobiles are another thing (along with cars and supermarkets) that are not designed for people who stand just over 5 feet tall.  It really would have helped if I’d at least been able to see over the windshield which became totally covered in snow at one point.




The other thing I can of course tick off the list is ‘knit a sock monkey’.  Here are a couple of last photos, before I bore you to death, of Carmen B modelling a few accessories.  I knitted the hat on Christmas Eve, made her earrings and sourced the little sunglasses online.


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What are your resolutions this year? Is anyone going to join me in a 101 Things List?  If you’re feeling introspective then this list of prompts from Reverb is very thought-provoking (I may work on it in January).

Sadly Carmen Banana has not been an unequivocal success. The Minx was very impressed that I’d knitted her and told me that ‘she looks like she came from a sock monkey shop’. However the next night I found that she had been relegated from the Minx’s bed ‘because she looks a bit scary’. I have to say that I can’t really disagree with her.

01 November 2010

101 Things – Learning Thai Cooking


One thing I’ve added to my 101 List is to learn Thai cookery.  It’s so thoroughly and deliciously complex, looks so very beautiful and is a wonderful vehicle for consuming tons of healthy vegetables and lots of yummy seafood.

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It’s also a cuisine about which I am almost completely ignorant.  I love it, but rarely stray from Pad Thai, Tom Yum Soup and Red Curries on the menus; never cook authentic Thai at home (though here’s a stab at inauthentic Thai) and have never been to Thailand.

For the purposes of the list I defined my goal as completing six workshops or classes on the subject over the next three years.  I know that Thai cooking is as complex, if not more so, than French cuisine, but I figured that six workshops would be enough to give me a somewhat reasonable grounding.

The class in Thai Comfort Cooking I took at PCC in Greenlake was perfect for a beginner like me.  The amazing teacher Pranee Halvorsen, is a lovely Thai lady from Phuket, despite the Norwegian married name. She took us through four courses of a Thai comfort food feast, with detailed recipes and wonderful stories, chopping and stir frying all the while and patiently answering all our questions.




She showed us her favourite products, talked about specific Thai techniques and  ingredients, offered substitutions for difficult to get items and demonstrated how to make garnishes and ingredients such as sauteed shallots, crushed chilli peppers, vinegar and jalapeno condiment and dark soy sauce, and then served out each dish to eighteen people, so we got a fabulous lunch along the way.

By a huge coincidence Pranee had been a student with me at Jackie Baisa’s photography workshop, so she very kindly let me take photographs throughout the class. Again the overhead lighting was flat and unforgiving, but the dishes were too exquisite (and exquisitely delicious) not to look amazing whatever the photography.



I’ll be attempting to cook all of these dishes over the next few weeks so there will be recipes and more pics coming.  In the meantime feast your eyes on these pics.


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21 October 2010

Food Ninja – Peperoncini e Melanzane Sott’olio


Or peppers and aubergines (I’m sorry but I really cannot bring myself to say ‘eggplants’) preserved in oil the Italian way.




I’ve been following ace Seattle foodie Salty Seattle, whom I first met at the Ice Cream Social, on Twitter where she’s recently been having a lot of fun with the #foodninja hashtag. So much so that she, Salty Ninja, and her foodie friends Fujimama (Fuji Ninja) and Bell’Alimento (Bella Ninja) have recently set up a Food Ninja competition with some quite fabulous prizes.

Unfortunately it is not entirely clear to me what a ‘food ninja’ actually is, although it appears to involve badass cooking skills (or indeed ‘skillz’), doing death-defying things with knives, high kicks and possibly flying through the air, all while wearing stiletto heels.

So what’s a girl to do when her knife skills are pedestrian, she can’t wear stilettos due to acute plantar fasciitis and she looks ridiculous in a bandanna? After much thought, I decided to do death-defying things with red hot peppers instead.  The good news is that this recipe doesn’t even require badass cooking skills or even skillz, just a bit of care and patience (though don’t mention this to the ninja ladies).



I’ve been wanting to write this post for quite literally years.  When I was living in Europe and after my parents died, I would often spend Christmas with my Italian relatives in Piemonte. And let me tell you, Italy is a very good place to be at Christmas.  The cuisine of Piemonte is rightly famous for its antipasti or appetisers. On the night of Christmas Eve my aunt (a true food ninja if ever I met one) would serve a twenty course feast – a parade of seventeen varied and delicious antipasti which would leave you groaning on the floor before the pasta, meat and dessert courses even made an appearance.

Of these, my very favourites were the piquant ‘sott’olio’ vegetable preserves she would bring up from her cellar – zucchini, artichokes, aubergines and teensy hot peppers stuffed with tuna, all silky smooth and dripping with flavoured oil, just begging to be mopped up with some good crusty bread.

She gave me her recipe but I’ve never made them before – I even added ‘Make Italian Sott’Olio Preserves’ to my list of 101 Things - so it seemed like a sign when I was casting around for something ninja-like to make and I saw precisely the right tiny round bottomed peppers I needed at the farmers’ market (does anyone happen to know what variety these are by the way?)





Peperoncini Ripieni Sott’Olio
(Stuffed Peppers in Oil)

Makes 2 jars
20-30 little round bottomed hot peppers
1 cup (8fl oz) water
1 cup (8fl oz) white wine vinegar
1 can good quality tuna packed in oil
3-4 anchovies packed in oil, rinsed and patted dry
1 tbsp capers packed in vinegar or salt, rinsed and patted dry
2-3 cloves garlic (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil
Melanzane Sott’Olio
(Aubergines in Oil)

Makes 2 jars
Some beautiful firm aubergines (I used three)
1 cup (8fl oz) water
1 cup (8fl oz) white wine vinegar
6-7 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
dried oregano
dried chili flakes/crushed dried chili
Extra virgin olive oil



First up prepare your vegetables.

Peppers: Cut out the tops of the peppers and scoop out all the seeds with a knife and small spoon. This is pretty time-consuming which is why I only ended up making 28 peppers.  I shall regret this later.



Could this get any more ninja?  Red hot chilis AND knives.



Aubergines: Thinly slice your aubergines lengthwise. If you were a true ninja you’d probably use a ninja star for this, but I used a knife.




Layer the aubergines in a colander with plenty of salt. Put a plate on top and add a heavy weight such as a big bag of flour to squish out all the bitter brown juices.  Leave the aubergines for at least one hour and preferably several.

When the aubergines are ready, rinse off the salt and brown juices and pat off as much excess moisture as you can.  Cut the aubergine slices into strips about an inch or so wide with kitchen scissors.

Aubergines and Peppers: Heat the water and vinegar together until boiling. This recipe is easily scalable so just use as much water and vinegar as you need, remembering to keep a ratio of 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar. Two cups of liquid is fine for the quantities of vegetables I have here.

Scald the vegetables in the boiling vinegar solution for 2-3 minutes. I did my peppers and aubergines in separate batches so as not to mix the flavours.

When the vegetables are blanched, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and leave them to dry – the aubergines pressed between clean dry teatowels or kitchen towel, and the peppers placed upside down with their bottoms in the air on kitchen towel.




It is very important at this stage to dry the vegetables as much a possible as wet vegetables will go mouldy.  Leave them for several hours – my aunt suggests putting them outside in the sunshine, but then she lives in Italy.

Aubergines:  Sterilise your jars in boiling water.  When the aubergines are very dry, add a layer of oil to the jar, then a layer of aubergine and then a few slices of garlic, a pinch of chili flakes and some sprinkles of oregano. Continue layering the jar in this way until you’ve reached the top, making sure that the aubergine is completely covered with oil. This is again important for the preserving process.



Peppers: Sterilise your jars in boiling water. Prepare your stuffing by breaking up the anchovies with your fingers and stirring them and the capers into the tuna. If possible, gently pulse the mix in food processor until thoroughly amalgamated but stop before it becomes a sloppy puree. Filled the dry, hollow peppers with the mix.





Layer the stuffed peppers, slices of garlic and oil in your prepared jars as before, again covering the peppers completely with oil.

Store everything for several months in a dark, cool, dry place. It’s important to leave them for a little time if you can so that flavours meld and the oil becomes especially delicious.  This is easier said than done.

Serve with good bread, some prosciutto, some delicious tomatoes and a glass of chilled white wine for a taste of the Italian summer all year round.

And so, it was not what I was planning, but the first thing I can fully cross off my 101 Things list is ‘Prepare Italian Sott’Olio Preserves’. Only another 100 things to go.  I’ll do an update post when we finally get to open them, probably around Christmas time.

And if you want to me help me cross ‘Win Something, Anything’ off my list too, then I’ll be posting details of how to vote for this post in the next few days.

Oh and apologies for light posting recently. I managed to lose a bunch of posts I’d prepared, so I’m now having a ton of fun recreating posts I’ve already written up once. So much my favourite thing to do as I’m sure you can imagine.