The Secrets to Dazzling Food Photos Revealed

Are you as obsessed with food photography as we are?  If so, have we got a book for you.

The Food Stylist’s Handbook by Denise Vivaldo with Cindie Flannigan is such a fun read we almost decided to become food stylists on the spot. Their book has all the guidance necessary to begin or advance a food styling career. This how to manual explains exactly what the job entails, equipment needed, the different niches and of course, how to get started. But don’t overlook the fact that it also contains a ton of valuable advice for us regular folk looking to put out stunningly beautiful culinary masterpieces we want to shoot and eat.

We adore the Tricks of the Trade chapter that delves into topics as diverse as getting more height out of pancakes, which brand of egg to use for a flawless presentation and achieving the most gorgeous spiral cut from your ham. Above Cindie assembles the perfect Sundae, but this one’s made of Crisco not ice cream, so admire but don’t eat.

It doesn’t matter whether you want to configure fake or edible food, the tips in The Food Stylist’s Handbook help everyone present a better plate. Need some guidance in making that burger you’re about to consume more instagram friendly?  It’s in the book, showing how one can adorn with condiments found on the table, perfect for a restaurant blog post. Want to impress friends who come over for lunch? The magic to beautiful bacon for your club or BLT is in the cooking method, using skewers or foil to get just the right curl to your strips.

Edible flowers add a charming touch to any plate, especially white china laden with salad and chicken breast in need of a pop of color.

And a dash of just the right herbs and spices brushed around grill marks make shrimp irresistible.

Regardless of why you want a stunning presentation, the answers you are searching for abound in words and pictures throughout this sensational guide book.

And the ladies haven’t forgotten the importance of serving containers and utensil recommendations to insure that delicious courses get the best send off possible.

So take it from the women who have honed and mastered the techniques and get your own copy of The Food Stylist’s Handbook.  Who knows, you may become the next Picasso of the instagram world or at the very least of your own kitchen table.

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Cooking Classes Celebrate Culture and Cuisine


We find cooking classes to be one of the most enjoyable and interactive ways to learn about a new country, city or cuisine. Where else can we get insider information on local dishes, ingredients, customs, family life, manners and setting a traditional table?


In Istanbul we were eager to expand our understanding of Turkish food and signed up for Turkish Flavors, Sephardic cooking class which delves into founder, Selin Rozanes’ family recipes. After an introduction to Turkish seasonings at the spice market, we were ferried across the Bosphorus where a car shuttled us to her handsome home with its well designed teaching kitchen.


We went right to work with Selin’s expert guidance on techniques, spice mixes, variances in Turkish red pepper pastes and advice on how to procure the freshest local ingredients.


There was plenty of chopping, rolling, forming, mixing, sautéing, baking and boiling. But with the work spread between our team of participants, and Selin’s lovely housekeeper taking care of all the washing up, it felt effortless, playful and productive.  A little white wine soothed any discomfort we may have felt during the rainy, cold and exceptionally windy day, which turned out to be perfect weather for a cooking class.


We progressed at breakneck speed and at the end of an hour and a half, had an expansive feast laid before us.


Turkish dedication to hospitality, beautiful presentation, as well as delicious food was evident and we spent the afternoon leisurely savoring and discussing Turkish food and culture.


Our main dish, Split Belly Eggplant (Karniyarik), combined ground beef, onions, herbs and spices, which are stuffed into eggplant halves before being drenched in tomato sauce and decorated for aesthetic and flavor optimization.


Selin is more than happy to adjust the menu to accommodate dietary restrictions and the vegetarians in the group were easily taken care of without depriving the omnivores.


Carrots in garlicky yogurt and tahini dressing, one of the stars of the class, is an inspired melange of freshly grated carrot sweetness playing off tangy dairy and smooth, rich, sesame paste.


After savoring a tableful of family recipes, we were rewarded with dried apricots boiled in wine and cloves, stuffed with clotted cream and rolled in pistachios. A most civilized end to a day delving into the Turkish culinary arts. We left with full bellies, open hearts and a recipe book filled with Selin’s top secret recipes.


Turkish Flavors offers walking tours of Istanbul, cultural and culinary tours in a variety of locations and her famous cooking classes, all designed to make you feel like a native. Bon Appetite.

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Healthy Eating Made Scrumptious


Amy Riolo has a new book out to add to her exciting collection.  The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook delves deeper into the benefits and delights of the world’s healthiest diet.


She divides her book into the following sections: whole grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts, olive oil, fish and seafood, dairy, poultry, eggs, meat and sweets, each with nutritional benefits, history, culture, lore and recipes.  In the fruit section we are quenched by her revitalizing North African fruit “cocktail” (page 50) of orange juice, strawberry puree, pomegranate syrup as well as the seeds.  We drink and eat this with a spoon to make sure we get the crunch of pomegranate seed in every sip.


From her vegetable section, we find the green beans, potato and cherry tomatoes with pesto (page 70) a well balanced blend of fresh produce, natural textures and herb driven flavors.


Quinoa, arugula and fig salad (page 40) from the whole grains section, has us embracing healthy dining with new vigor.


Citrus marinated salmon with fennel creme (page 116) is an easy to make dish that tastes like it was slaved over for hours.


And we love the fact that she doesn’t demonize dessert, but instead makes the fresh and wholesome into healthy treats like raspberry citrus clafoutis (page 174).

For those looking to explore the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and expand their repertoire with easy, whole food recipes, Amy Riolo’s, Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook is a first-rate resource.







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Two Methods For Garlic Infused Ghee


We love ghee, the Indian form of clarified butter, and we were so excited by Barbara Hansen’s LA Times article on Ghee, we had to attempt making our own infused ghee.


We also love garlic and decided to start our flavored ghee experimentation there.  We googled garlic infused ghee and figured out the commonalities before messing about on our own.

To roast garlic in the oven, bake one large head, intact at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. If you have a small bulb, half an hour should do it.


When cooled a bit, remove the outer papery skin and simply squeezed each clove from its pointy top half, and out the root end pours the soft, sweet roasted garlic paste.  We also made a second batch of ghee using sliced raw garlic with the same magnificent results.


Start with a pound of unsalted butter and melt on low heat.  We have an electric stove and set the dial at 2 for the entire process.  The large hunk of butter slowly melts into the pan. As the butter becomes liquid, a white film of milk solids appear on the surface, after which a slow bubbling begins.  At the slow boil start, we throw in our garlic.


The different forms of garlic react in different ways.  The sliced fresh garlic floats on top of the liquid just beneath the white foam, while the roasted garlic falls to the bottom of the pan.


We left the pan with the garlic slices to boil untouched for 30 minutes until it took on a golden color and the foam on top began to turn slightly brown.  The other pan with roasted garlic took considerably longer to turn color and at 50 minutes it was just beginning to brown.  It is important to watch your ghee because when it starts to turn color the process moves very quickly and can easily burn.  Both types are ready when golden and we then use a spoon to remove the crusty top and infused garlic, placing them both in a strainer over a bowl.


We follow by pouing the golden nectar from the pan through the strainer into the bowl.  We love the strainer we picked up from Daiso, the Japanese $1.50 store,  but any fine mesh, multiple level strainer or cheese cloth will do.


The strained liquid in the bowl is the ghee which we spill into a glass pyrex container when cool, seal with a tight lid and keep in the refrigerator for everything from cooking to spreading on toast.


We don’t throw the solids away, we take the white foam and garlic from the strainer and grind them with a mortar and pestle into a paste which topped with a little freshly grated parmesan on whole wheat bread creates a sensational garlic toast.


There are all kinds of Ayurvedic promises about the health benefits of ghee, we just love the taste and are excited about the myriad of infusion possibilities. Chai flavored ghee anyone?





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