Wandering the Botanical Gardens :: Volume II

botanical gardens

Lately I’ve taken to venturing out on photo-walks whenever I need to clear my head. And so, the other day, I found myself back at the Botanical Gardens. The vast array of new blooms kept me sufficiently enthralled for a few hours; the perfect distraction.

botanical gardens

Wandering the Botanical Gardens :: Volume I

Grilled peach and prosciutto salad

This week I created a grilled peach and prosciutto salad with creme fraiche dressing and crumbled goat cheese. We’ve been on a bit of a grilled fruit kick lately, peaches, apricots, whatever we can get our hands on, and when I saw this recipe in Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie at Home” cookbook, I just had to try it. Grilled peached, cured meat and goat cheese are a delightful combination.

grilled peach salad

The lemon challenge


A few weeks ago I attended a food photography workshop with the White on Rice Couple at CreativeLive. (check out my last post to read more about the workshop). Since then I’ve been dreaming about all the different dishes and ingredients I want to shoot. The possibilities are endless! Still, at the end of the workshop, one of the hosts asked us “So, what’s the next thing you’re going to photograph?” and my immediate response, “lemons!”.

The overarching theme to the workshop was that food photography tells the story you have to say about a dish. There are a thousand food photographers that have shot a thousand lemons, it doesn’t mean that the lemon has been overshot. Each photographer has their own experience, their own memories, their own take on what a lemon means to them. One subject. Many voices.

I decided to figure out my own ‘lemon voice.’ To me, lemons are essential. Although they are rarely a prime ingredient you should always have a lemon in the kitchen. Also, lemons epitomize summer. I’ve been trying to come up with a good analogy to my own life and photography but they all just turn sour… :)

In the end, really they are a just a beautiful ingredient, both in flavor and style.




A little CreativeLive Love

Oy, what a week! I meant to write this post when the emotions for my most recent appearance on CreativeLive were fresh, but alas the fates did not grant me the time. Between getting sick, locked out the house and other various mishaps this week has flown by in an unproductive haze. Still, I wanted to post a little CreativeLive love before the week ended. (If you never heard of CreativeLive, you absolutely have to check them out. They are an extraordinary online learning site, run by a wonderful group of people. Seriously, go to their site and discover a world of knowledge!)

So yeah, last week I attended another food photography workshop at CreativeLive. This was my third appearance in the studio audience and I cannot fully express how much each these experiences have meant to me. You learn so much over the course of the three-day workshop, but more importantly you meet some amazing people.  (To read about my first experience at CreativeLive check out this post from last year)

This workshop was run by Diane Cu and Todd Porter (aka the White on Rice Couple).  They are a charming duo with a beautiful photographic style and inspiring insight into the world of food photography. Unlike my first experience, which I went into basically clueless about food photography, I started this course with some knowledge of the work and business.  Still, it was wonderful to watch them work and hear a new perspective. I truly believe you can never have too many teachers.


Photo from the set. Styled by Diane Cu

Beyond the incredible insights into food photography, the most poignant moment for me was when they started talking about their beginnings. Diane mentioned that one day she was fed up with the business of food photography. That was it. She was done with their food blog.  She didn’t want to pursue this business anymore. But Todd said “No”, quitting was not an option. This struck home for me; it reminded me of my husband. Although he is not a photographer and not technically part of my business, he is the backbone. I can’t count the number of time I have expressed my doubts and desire to veer off this winding photographic path and he’s continued to push me forward.

Recently we were on a walk and I was worrying about something or other, he stopped me and said “Leah, What you do is really amazing. Well, I know I’m forced to say that, but I really mean it. You’re really talented. I don’t say that enough. You can do this.”

Food photography is still pretty new to me. It’s something I started doing because I just love good food; it was a natural progression. For now, portrait photography is my business and food photography is my hobby. I love them both, but we’ll see where the future leads. I recently started a project where I plan on creating and photographing one dish a week and posting here to my blog. So if you love food, stay tuned!

I’ll end with a “Thank You.” Thank you to CreativeLive for being the awesome operation that you are. Thank you to Diane and Todd for your incredible knowledge and for not quitting. And thank you to my husband for never letting me quit. You all rock.

Props from the CreativeLive set

Props from the set

Added bonus, we got to meet Ethan Stowell during the workshop! As a foodie, meeting this famous chef was way cooler than meeting any other sort of celebrity. :)

photo (2)

Red Wine Poached Pears

For this weeks dish, I choose another Chef Steps creation; Red Wine Poached Pears.

mulled wine pears

I started by mixing an entire bottle of red wine with cinnamon, clove and allspice and letting it all simmer. The smell was devine! The recipe tells you to reduce the mulled concoction to 1/5 the original, but alas my kitchen tools failed me again and I did not get an accurate reading from the scale. I ended up over-reducing it by a rather significant amount. When it cooled, I basically had mulled wine taffy. Should have gone with my gut and not the scale measurement…

Still, I took that mulled-wine taffy and sous-vide it with the pears as directed. Happily it melted and coated the pears just fine. From the outside, they looked perfect, but when cut were still rather pear colored and not the beautiful tint shown on Chef Steps. I don’t think the pears absorbed my taffy mixture quite as well as the desired reduction. But oh well, they still tasted pretty yummy!

mulled wine pears2

On another note, it has been brought to my attention that despite the fast approaching summer and beautiful weather, I’ve created many autumn-type dishes these last few weeks. Oops. Autumn is my favorite time of year, I guess I just naturally gravitate to all things warm and cozy. :)

Next week I’ll try for a more summery dish. Hopefully the farmers market will provide me with some ideas! For now, I’ll leave you with this remnant of fall.

mulled wine pears3

Smoked Pork Jowl

…with pickled mustard seed and an orange-soy reduction.

This weekend we came across some smoked pork jowl at the local farmers market. We simply couldn’t pass on this succulent cut of fatty meat (really more like fat with a touch of meat…sorry arteries, my taste buds thank you). Although quite delicious on it’s own, we added some pickled mustard seeds (a la Chefsteps.com) and an orange-soy reduction to make it truly shine. Not a dish I could eat often, but certainly a tasty treat.


Brussels sprouts, two ways

brussles sprouts

Ah, the humble brussels sprout; a once despised vegetable that has recently (and happily!) made a culinary comeback. Gone are the days when the only way to cook a sprout (or any vegetable for that matter) was to steam it until you had a mushy mess, we have finally discovered that roasting is a much more desirable method.

I’m in no way inventing the wheel with these recipes, but if you haven’t tried roasting a brussels sprout, be sure to consider it for your next side dish.

Plus, from one batch of sprouts you can create two delicious (and simple) dishes.

(side note: this is the first time I’ve ever tried to write out a recipe. Please forgive if it’s confusing. I tried! My strengths lie more in the photography :) )

brussles sprouts3Roasted Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

1 cup brussels sprouts
2 tbs olive oil (or enough to coat)
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

preheat oven to 350.
cut off ends of brussels sprouts (toss the ends but keep the leaves that fall off, we’ll use these for the next recipe)
split sprouts in half
mix sprouts, oil, vinegar, salt & pepper
spread evenly on baking sheet
bake 30-40 min, until edges begin to char

brussles sprout chips

Brussels Sprout Chips

brussels sprout leaves (those outer leaves that fell off previously, although I recommend tossing the especially wilty ones…)
olive oil (enough to coat leaves)
salt to taste

preheat oven to 350.
mix leaves, oil and salt.
spread evenly on baking sheet.
bake for 10-15 min, or until leaves are fully crispy



Honeymoon memories

During our recent trek back east to visit family and friends, the husband and I decided to end our trip with a few days in Ogunquit, at the inn where we spent our honeymoon. The area is rather serene this time of year, just how we like it.

Although, I must admit, we went mostly because we were having a major craving for some fresh Maine lobster. It was just over week ago and we already want to go back.



Let them play!

When it comes to photographing children, my philosophy is ‘let them play.’ Taking a child and forcing them to corporate and pose for a photo is not going to get us anywhere….well nowhere fun at least. Instead, let’s play, run around and get to know each other. This is how the authentic moments happen.

Last week I got together with these five beautiful cousins and their grandparents for a fun, spirited session. They certainty kept me on my toes! Here are a few of my favorite moments.


And my personal favorite, showing Grandpa some love. Playing isn’t just for the kids!


Salmon Crudo

Now that I’m working for myself I finally have some time to focus on my food photography. My goal is to start a series of posts in which I share one dish a week (by announcing this, hopefully I’ll actually follow through :) ) . This project is not just about the photography but also my actual skills in the kitchen. My husband has been in charge of most of our meals and while I have happily played sous-chef to his head chef it’s time to get my hands dirty and try out some recipes for myself!

That being said, for this week’s dish, I must give all the chef-credit to the Husband. Although I did plate, and of course, photograph it.

Salmon Crudo

This delectable bite started out as an attempt to recreate Chef Steps’ Salmon Crudo. The original recipe calls for Ikura conesthinly sliced and pickled beets shaped into a cone and stuffed with salmon roe. Sadly our cheap mandoline proved useless for slicing the beets and is now sitting in our Goodwill pile. As we were unable to construct the Ikura cones, we opted to dice the pickled beets and lay them directly on top of the fish, along with the Ikura. Although not pictured, our final version included some pickled asparagus, which was a perfect final touch. All together it created a lovely blend of flavors.

Whether or not you like crudo, you must try the Horseradish Cream! Perhaps with a juicy steak? Or whatever else might fancy. :)