My first time being published!

A few months ago a received and email from Callisto Media.  They’re located in San Francisco and they publish books. Lots of books. They were interested in talking to me about the possibility of writing and photographing a cookbook on sous vide cooking. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I got to being even considered for something like that. Of course my answer was yes and we scheduled a phone call in the upcoming days. I really liked them from the get go. They were pretty clear about their approach to publishing, their schedule, deadlines, process, etc, etc, etc. I went on and on about cooking and sous vide and photography, etc, etc. With my crazy work schedule I feared I would not be able to write and photograph (not to mention do all the cooking) in the proposed timetable. So I took a few days to think about it and was pretty honest about being concerned with delivering the writing and the photos on time. They understood, and the conversation almost stalled at that point. I suggested only doing the photography to what they seemed opened to but they needed to regroup and come back to me with a verdict. 

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My Food Photography Gear.

My Food Photography Gear @ thatothercookingblog.com by Paul Palop

Some of you have asked me about food photography and what kind of gear I use to photograph the food on this blog so I’ve taken some time to write a little bit about it here. I love photographing food and sharing what I know. I’ve written about phone photography  here and there but it’s not usually what I do. I like that subject because phone cameras are very accessible and really cool. I’m gonna go over what I actually use in the kitchen to take pictures and other equally cool and related stuff.

A little background and context. Photography is one of my many hobbies. I’v been shooting amateur wildlife and landscape photography for some years and over those years I have acquired quite a bit of gear.  I won’t recommend specific gear or brands here. This is not and ad post, this post is just about the gear I happen to use and why I use it. With that being said… let’s continue. I switched to digital SLRs in 2005. Bought a canon 20D (which I still own and sometimes use) and took it to New Zealand for a 6 month trip. I also bought a couple of cheap lenses (the camera kit’s ones which were optional) and a some time later I got a little book.

My Food Photography Gear @ thatothercookingblog.com by Paul Palop

The little book, which is responsible for a lot of what I know today and also responsible for a few significant expenses at the camera store is this one (I adore this book):

My Food Photography Gear @ thatothercookingblog.com by Paul Palop

A few years later, getting ready for a trip to Costa Rica I finally decided it was time to get a full-frame camera and a couple of better lenses. It’s worth mentioning that the camera body has little to do with the picture quality but with more “serious” cameras, certain controls/wheels/switches/buttons can allow a photographer to be more creative or have more control over the final shot. I decided to buy a canon 5D Mark II. That was like 7 years ago. This is the camera I still use today.

My Food Photography Gear @ thatothercookingblog.com by Paul Palop

These are some of my lenses, they aren’t professional (L-ring) lenses but they are amazing lenses and can deliver professional quality as far as my untrained eye can tell. I keep a uv filter on them at all time to protect the glass. Always keep a uv filter on your beloved lenses and you won’t have to worry about scratching them. Anyways, here they are:

Canon 50mm 1.8 which is the lens I use the most. Literally 90% of the food on this blog is taken using this relatively cheap lens and a miracle of technology. The sharpness is outstanding. It has a nice DOF range and the beautiful bokeh. Food seems to love this lens. Doesn’t get any better for the price.

My Food Photography Gear @ thatothercookingblog.com by Paul Palop

 

Canon 80mm 1.8. This one I use in specific situations where I want a flatter perspective. Seems a bit warmer as well. The image quality is probably as good as that of the previous lens, although this lens isn’t as cheap. It’s a beautiful portrait lens. Outstanding sharpness.

My Food Photography Gear @ thatothercookingblog.com by Paul Palop

Sigma 105mm EX Macro lens. Ok this one can be a bit pricey and I use it for nature macro photography mainly but sometimes I do macro food photography on the blog. This is the lens responsible for those extreme closeups. I love it. Probably the sharpest lens I own. It isn’t trivial to use but worth it.

My Food Photography Gear @ thatothercookingblog.com by Paul Palop

I shoot virtually everything using a flash unit in a very dark kitchen. I would love to use the sun light but then I would have to shoot during the day and that’s not a possibility when I have a day job. This is the flash unit I use and adore. The canon speedlite 430ex II. I have this guy attached to a stand and I diffuse the light through a white umbrella. I have a cheap radio trigger setup. I keep a pc cord handy in case the radio trigger runs out of battery. And if all of that fails, I can still mount the flash on my camera, point away from the subject and bounce the light off a white diffuser or card.  This is an oversimplification of my flashlight shooting workflow but you get the idea.

My Food Photography Gear @ thatothercookingblog.com by Paul Palop

Other gear. I own a couple of Gitzo tripods. I also own a BH-55 RRS ball head, one of my most precious possessions. I rarely use any of these for food photography though. Mainly because I shoot with a flash. When I shoot with available light I do use them and if you want to get serious about photography and don’t plan on using a flash. Then get a tripod. I couldn’t stress this enough. You may have the steadiest hand on the planet but if you really want to know what your lens is capable of, shoot on a tripod and compare. I had no idea how sharp even my cheapest lenses were until I started using a tripod religiously.  If you are gearing up for flash photography though then save the money for that tripod. The exposure times in flash photography are so fast that unless you’re having a seizure while taking the shot, you won’t be able to get a blurry picture.

Photo editing. I do all my photo editing in Adobe Lightroom. For many years I used Photoshop elements in 2015 I decided to try Lightroom. It definitely improved my post editing workflow and made shooting in RAW format a wonderful experience. I now regret not having switched earlier to Lightroom. When I upload photos to my Instagram account I add another processing step to my workflow and use snapseed on my Iphone. Phone screens have a bit more color depth so I like to push the contrast and saturation a bit when I post to my Instagram account. I can do last minute temperature adjustments too. I keep my laptop screen calibrated too and which I do myself using my colorMunki Display. Takes like 5 minutes and this way I make sure that the color rendition of my screen is as neutral as possible.

Photography is an expensive hobby. It can be extremely expensive but there are options and good compromises. Second hand gear isn’t a terrible idea either. Specially if you buy from a friend. Many camera stores sell second hand gear. Some of my gear is second hand. You can forget about all this gear stuff and shoot using the camera on your cellphone. Those things have gotten pretty damn good lately and I’ve seen and taken some really good pictures with phones but they’re still no replacement for a good lens and a camera that allows you to manually control everything about the shot.

Thoughts on food photography. Let’s start by saying that I eat everything I photograph. I don’t photograph everything I eat though. When I have an idea for a dish that I want to document, I think about how I want my food to look on the plate… I definitely put extra effort in plating when I’m thinking about a blog post. I try avoid overdoing it as much as possible. I don’t have a staff of people helping me and I usually have to do everything myself in every photo session. So, in order to keep the food from spending too long sitting out while I shoot it I have to have everything ready and plate the food keeping things simple and manageable. I hate to admit it but there has been a few times when I tried to come up with more complicated plating ideas… while having to take photos at the same time only to find out that it is impossible to control. Stressful, I lose track of what’s important, I make a ton of mistakes and the end result probably ends up in the trashcan which is an crime and something that goes against what I believe. Nothing should ever go to waste. I hate it when something like that happens. Makes me feel awful.

If you want to get started in food photography. I would suggest starting simple, maybe borrowing a camera from a friend. Don’t invest in gear unless you really really love it and have the time to do it. There are tons of books on photography and food photography but I found over the years and that what’s taught me the most is reaching out to those food bloggers that take beautiful photos and ask them questions. People that are passionate about photography will very likely want to talk about photography all day long. They will talk about gear all day long and about light all night long. They will talk about props and backdrops and dishwater and silverware. They will talk about software. They will talk about lighting setups, etc, etc, etc. So don’t be shy and ask away. Some of them are too busy to get back to you but you will eventually get answers. I asked a bunch of questions and still have so many more to ask!

Light. Ah, yes, light is the single most important thing about photography, you can own the most expensive cameras and lenses in the world but no light, no photo. Crappy light? Crappy photo. Cheers!

 

 

Top Sirloin And Octopus

 

 

Year is almost over and thanksgiving day is here in a couple of days! I have been insanely busy at work to spend any time in the kitchen. Haven’t gone grocery shopping in what seems like forever. This has to end. Well, It will eventually end. Not soon enough though.

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With the lack of personal time, the need to recycle my own memories becomes a necessity. Today I’m posting photos I took a long time ago but never really blogged them. It really isn’t a recipe. At the time I was just playing with lighting and plating ideas and took these. Pan seared top sirloin and a canned octopus from spain.

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The parsley and radishes are home grown. Ah, now I remember, this was during this summer and my plants were doing so well. Can’t wait to have the time to grow plants all year round. The only survivor from that batch is the tough nasturtium plant. That thing doesn’t care about this cold Vancouver weather. At least it hasn’t yet but it’s about to get a lot colder. Time to bring my friend inside  the house I guess. Anyways, happy Monday!

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I’ll be back soon.

 

Ramen Noodles : Sardines : Dried Anchovies : Sriracha : Quail Yolk

Sometimes, you just throw whatever you find in the fridge in a pot and magical s%@# happens. THAT… happened to me last night. I didn’t bother checking seasoning or temperatures, pretty careless about the whole thing actually. I was just not in the OCD mood and literally threw this meal together last second almost angrily, well kinda, actually not angrily at all, I was in a pretty good mood.  But usually proceeding this way ends up in disaster. I got lucky this time I guess. Pinch of this and that,  boiled some water, 15 minutes later I was done.

L I B E R A T I N G.

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I guess that feeling went away right around the time I had to place that egg yolk on top of that noodle mound, whatever, it was fun too. Anyways, for this post I tried a few new things photography-wise. I just got a gopro camera and a Knog LED light bank for it. Gopros are these tiny basic looking cameras. They’re super powerful tho, serious high tech stuff. They’re literally a cubic inch in size. They can do a lot of things. Time lapse photography is one of them. Wish they could do dishes too. I posted one video here, compressing about one hour into 50 seconds 🙂 Also, I used that Knog LED light bank instead of my speedlite flashgun for the main photography. It was super fun and I hope you enjoy the pics and vid. Ah right, the food… here is the recipe!

 

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Ingredients (serves 2):

500g Dry or fresh ramen noodles, or any pasta you like.

Sauce:
1 can of sardines in tomato sauce and olive oil.
2 Tbsp of dried anchovies (Japanese ones rule)
2 Tbsp minced garlic (yep, that’s a lot of garlic, bring it on)
A bunch of marinated soybean sprouts.

Garnishes:

2 Quail egg yolks. Or chicken egg yolks, let’s not discriminate.
Sriracha sauce to taste.
1 Tbsp finely chopped chives or green onions.
4 water crackers, crumbled.

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Noodles. Cook these at the end. Get the water boiling at the beginning tho. By the time that water boils, the sauce (instructions below) should be pretty much done. Add some salt to the water. About a Tbsp per quart. When the water boils. Add the noodles and cook until ready. Some noodles will come with instructions, follow them… or… throw those away, the instructions I mean. Cook them until they are done and al dente. After 3-4 mins, start checking. Ramen noodles have the best al dente bite, love them. It’s probably better to rely on your own senses than on those instructions anyways.

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Sauce. Like I said. Throw those other ingredients together in a pot except for the garnishes. Add a couple of Tbsp of water in the pot over medium heat. Boil off that water. That water will just cook the garlic and blend all the flavours together. Remove from the heat, and make sure the sauce is saucy, add some water if too dry. Keep reducing if it is not. Add the rinsed noodles to the pot and mix well. Keep the pot on the stove for a couple more minutes to boil off any extra water added by the noodles if that’s the case. Remove from the heat, keep mixing. Plate the noodles. Add the garnishes. Done. Easy. Hope the weekend is going great. I’m about to eat the leftovers from this post right about now.

 

 

8 More Tips to Take Your Phone Food Photography to the Next Level!

A week or so ago I posted the first article of this phone food photography series in which I covered what I consider to be the 5 areas everybody with an interest in improving their photo skills should get pretty good at. I’m trying to keep these tips as short and concise as possible and I hope you find them helpful. Based on these first 2 photos and the ones on my last post, you probably think I live at a burger joint. I do.

In this article I will go over a few more concepts equally simple,  stuff you can start applying right away. No gear or software needed maybe a free app here and there 😉  Actually, on this post I kept my photo post-editing to a minimum, sun light did all the hard work for me. The sun is the best light for food photography. Also, these tips relate to DSLR shooting or any kind of camera gear you own really.  Let’s dive in again!

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Same deal as above. Cropped in post and some color correction done in snapseed to get the shot looking better.

1.Level your shot.

It's like I'm about to fall on my side... really crooked pic. Sometimes this framing works, but mainly, it doesn't
It’s like I’m about to go over board… really crooked pic. Sometimes this framing works, but mainly, it doesn’t

Crooked horizons are famous across the world of amateur photography. I can’t recall the number of times I have taken a picture with a crooked horizon line. I mean, it’s really hard to actually get it right, even with tons of practice. Maybe with some preparation, a tripod, a level, etc.. but otherwise, it’s just hard.

Nothing worse than a crooked horizon line when looking at a sunset pic right?  So let’s not do this or at least fix it in post.

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this is a bit better, not grate, the blinds in the back still feel unbalanced.. but it’s an improvement.

Even if minimally I usually need to correct this annoying issue in post. Thankfully, this is doable inside the phone via the photo editing tools on the camera app or via plenty of other free apps. Just rotate the pic until it looks right and natural.

When it comes to food, things get a bit trickier though. There’s rarely a horizon line in the picture and yet, the shot can easily be shot at a weird angle that just makes it uncomfortable to look at. I’ve seen successful food photography in which the shot was taken at a weird angle, but the person behind the camera was a professional or a really lucky person. In most cases and I mean, most, gravity should point straight down and not in weird exotic directions.

2. Simplify your backgrounds.

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All my crap in the background.. horrendous. Not even cropping could fix that. Clone stamping… if you’re a magician you could paint that stuff out. Good luck.

This tip has more to do with food styling and composition (also cropping which we covered in the previous article) than with photography. Some people have the gift of home decoration. A rag, some orange pillow over in that corner, great colour accent, the whole room comes together. I don’t have that skill. I don’t even like furniture all that much. I enjoy visual simplicity otherwise I get stressed (I’m way way OCD) and that’s how I tend to compose my pictures. Really simply.

The complexity of composing a shot goes up with the number of props in the scene. I’m pretty sure about this one. I think if you’re just getting started in food photography…

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Better framing and no crap in the background. There’s still stuff showing up in the corners but a little cropping action should take care of that.

keep your backgrounds as simple as possible. A clean backdrop, a simple plate, the food and go from there. It’s very easy to get distracted away from the food when too many object surround it. When I take photos of food at a bar for example, I remove my sunglasses. If there are too many coasters, I leave one in frame, maybe a portion of another in frame, I really try to get the complexity of the scene down to what really matters. My hamburger.

3. Wipe your lens.

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hamburger grease got on this lens…. awful awful disaster… imagine going through an entire photo shoot with a dirty lens like this… heartbreaking stuff. It’s happened.

This should be lesson number one in photography. It’s also common sense yet it happens all the time, dirty lenses. Greasy fingers are the worst enemy of phone photographers. I make this mistake pretty much everyday. A tiny imperceptible smudge over the camera lens and your whole shoot will be ruined. Nothing you can do about this other than… keep your phone smudge free. Really hard thing to do, specially when photographing food, that’s when fingers are at their greasiest.

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slightly better framing and CLEAN lens. The way it should aways stay.

If you plan on using JUST your phone to photograph your creations, then getting in the habit of wiping the lens clean before shooting should be routine and part of your prep. That’s what I do when I shoot with my DSLR which btw is mainly what I use to shoot food.

4. Use the Volume buttons to click.

Or not, depends on the shot. I won’t include a pic for this one. On my phone for example, having to look for that virtual trigger on the touch screen distracts me from framing the shot. Many cameras with touch screens have that problem. Phone photographers may have a hard time finding that virtual trigger on their touchscreens. I own an iPhone 5s at the moment, and when taking pictures, the volume buttons can be used as the trigger, and I often use them because I know where they are. I wish they were more sensitive, you really have to press down hard to activate them and that frequently introduces shakiness and blur, but with some practice, they can be mastered.  Just keep that in mind as an option.

5. Diffused and Direct Sun Lighting.

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Backlight direct sunlight. I love how it works here. Flowers have amazing translucency properties and some foods do as well. Others don’t. Use direct sunlight to your advantage when possible.

I talked about indirect sunlight in the previous post. Now, how about direct sunlight. It’s awesome lighting but a bit trickier to use. It can also be diffused. How do you diffuse direct sunlight. Well, any translucent piece of thin white fabric is ideal. Most thin white fabric is translucent and I’m guessing fairly easy to find around the house. Anything that is translucent and white should do the trick, just place it in between your food and the sun and the light will become diffused.

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In food photography, soft diffused sun lighting like this will work in most cases. If you happen to be by a window with a soft translucent curtain, you’ll love the look of your pics. It’s an amazing way to light food photos.

Diffusing sunlight or any light source will diminish the intensity of that light source. That means, your exposure settings will have to be adjusted. Luckily, most phones will do that automatically, but it is good to understand that the exposure of the shot might require a little longer since there’s less light available… which means…? You need to hold that phone super steady or otherwise the shot won’t be as sharp as it should be.

6. Wear neutral colours when shooting.

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red cast from my soccer jersey… kill me, it will throw off any white balancing. Doom.

Might sound weird, but trust me, this is rather important, specially if you really want to take your food photography to the next level. Wear a neutral color or desaturated outfit. Food photography is close up photography in many cases, so any colour we wear might end up reflected on the food we are shooting. I love wearing red t-shirts. My photographs hate me when I do.

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AH! we’re back… the color of the plate is basically just the color of the light, a bit bluish, but that’s ok. It’s bounced soft sun light.

Sometimes I forget and go through an entire photo shoot wearing my spanish soccer team jersey, I mean, doesn’t get any redder than that thing, believe me. When I do, I introduce unwanted red reflections and a red cast on the entire picture. I hate my life during post. This is a PAIN to remove. Any bright colors will have the same effect. I’m sure when you go out dining, choosing your outfit isn’t driven by your food photography obsession and I hope it isn’t. We all may wanna wear our favourite outfits and look awesome, right?  😉 Just help it if you can, specially at home when shooting in a controlled environment.

7. Flattening perspective.

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this shot is alright i guess… but there’s a lot of foreshortening caused by the small lens on the phone, a wide angle lens. It can be a good thing or a bad thing. I like to shoot food with less distortion or foreshortening though.

We’re getting fancy now.  I love wide angle photography, specially if I’m shooting landscapes and stuff like that. For food though, I prefer longer lenses… but let me slow down a bit here and talk about focal length first. This is simply the distance of the lens to the image sensor inside the camera when the lens is focused at infinity. It’s measured in milliliters… and I realize most people are already yawning including myself…this is a hard one to explain in simple terms though. Phone cameras have small little lenses that have a wide field of view.

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This is basically the same shot but I have digital zoom on. I’m moving my camera away from the subject and zooming back in until I get the framing I want. This way I reduce the foreshortening and flatten the perspective on the image. Resolution takes a bad hit though. Keep that in mind.

Basically they can see more of the world in front of the lens. With a zoom lens, the lens sees less of the world but gets closer to it. Ok,  I’m confusing even myself now.. the best way to explain this without all the technical terms is with photos so let’s look at the pics here. We have the same subject shot 2 ways. With and without zoom. When we want to flatten perspective, the only way to do it on a phone is to use the digital zoom on the camera. Move the phone away from the subject and zoom right back in. The only problem is that digital zooms aren’t the same as physical zooms. The way a digital camera zooms in.. is really crappy actually. They just crop the picture, so there’s always a loss in resolution. Your pixels will become bigger and there will be detail loss. There’s no way around this. So keep your digital zooming to a minimum and your pictures will still look crispy.

8. Explore your subject.

If you have the luxury of time.. and by this I mean, you’re not just trying to snap a quick pic while nobody is looking at some fancy restaurant or some burger joint.. I get self conscious about this sometimes and rush the shot (even at McDonalds)… you should try to spend sometime taking pics from as many angles as possible and try spinning the plate around. You might discover that your dish looks nicer from a different angle. I do this all the time. I take a lot of pictures and then sort through them and select the winners.  In a single photo shoot I take about 50 pics and then select 3, maybe 4 and post those on the given article. It might seem excessive, but it pays off.  Also, be your own most unforgiving critic. It sucks but it helps.

5 Tips on How to Improve Your Phone Food Photography Now

5 Tips on How to Improve Your Phone Food Photography Now

I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for a long time. I frequently get asked about photography tips and how to get nicer pictures of food. Over the last few years I’ve found 5 areas that need to be understood in order to take a good photo (This is part 1 of my Food Phone Photography series, check the next one here). Specially a food photo. I’m working on a food styling post as well and can’t wait to finish that one, but food styling and plating without some basic photo skills is kinda pointless so I figured I’d start with this article.

5 Tips on How to Improve Your Phone Food Photography Now Another example of sunny window lighting, with the window behind the dish. There’s some tungsten contamination from some lightbulbs too terrible. Some post color editing done.

I will assume you don’t own any fancy gear (maybe you do and that’s cool too) and do most of your shooting using a phone camera (these tips apply to any digital photography). Phone photography is extremely popular these days and phone cameras have come a long way. I remember when they used to suck. These days, some amazing photography can be done with just a simple camera or a phone camera but to do so, understanding a few basic concepts of photography is indispensable. I’ll go over some basic stuff here that can easily be learned and applied right away!

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Rib Eye : Coffee, Madeira and Tamari Reduction : Baby Rainbow Carrots

 

I’ve been using instagram more and more these days and I have to say I really like it. Still a bit tricky to get photos from my SLR to my instagram account, but I think I have come up with a decent workflow and in the process I’ve actually discovered some pretty great apps for photo editing, which are slowly replacing my mac editing tools, including photoshop. Heresy! Well, I don’t like editing photos to death. If the photo is decent, a few little tweaks should be enough. Granted, I’m no professional photographer, but I do enjoy it a lot an have picked up a trick or two along the way.

 

Working in RAW mode is ideal, but takes a huge amount of disk space and processing power, so I like to stay in RAW format for only the initial stage of the photo editing process. I do shoot everything in RAW format. I like to have the ability to correct any white balance issues after the shoot and I also love having extra dynamic range to adjust exposure without worrying too much about clamping. Also, the sharpening and a few aberration corrections that can be done in RAW mode are very appealing as well. But after those few things have been corrected, it’s time for me to go into JPEG mode and never look back… until now.. some of these iPhone apps store images in your phone using the PNG format, which allows some of these apps to store the editing history into the file, which is great. It’s like a PSD (the photoshop file format) so, any editing step can be tweaked after the image has been saved. My favorite one of these apps is Snapseed.  For Watermarking, I use eZy watermark lite.  I also use dropbox to transfer my photos from my computer to my iPhone. And that’s about my current iPhone photo editing toolset.

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Back to the food. Rib eye, yes, anytime please. Saw these baby carrots at the store, had to have them. Coffee and steak, yes. A few radishes and some julienned green onions just to top it all off. I don’t think this recipe needs a lot of explaining. It’s delicious and very straight forward to make as it’s the case with many recipes featuring tender beautiful meat like rib eye. Here’s what I did and I hope you enjoy:

 

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Ingredients (makes 2-3 appetizer size portions):

1 Rib Eye Steak (thick, about 1in)
Salt + Pepper to taste

Reduction:

2 Tbsp Madeira
1/2 Tbsp instant coffee
1/3 Tbsp Tamari
1/2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Butter

Garnishes:

4 baby carrots
1 radish thinly sliced
1 green onion, green parts only, julienned
Nori cut into thin strips

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1. Make the reduction. Add all the liquids and the sugar into a small sauce pan. Medium heat. Reduce until syrupy. Remove from the heat. Add the butter at the end. Set aside.

2. Prepare all the garnishes. Slice the radish with a very sharp knife. And the same goes for the green onion. In a pot of boiling water, blanch the baby carrots until tender. About 8 mins. Remove from the water and into an ice water bath. Remove the skin with your fingers. Should be very loose. Dice to your liking.

3. Prepare the steak. About an hour before this all goes down, have the steak at room temperature, salt it generously, and allow to rest for that time. Before searing, make sure the steak is dry (with a paper towel) Either sous vide (about 20-30 mins at 125F and then sear it in clarified butter) You can also cook it traditionally, just make sure your steak is at room temperature, sear on a skillet with clarified butter or any high smoking point oil, and finish in the oven till core temperature is 120F, remove form the oven and let it rest for 20 mins. The carryover heat will get the core to the proper 125F.

4. Plate it. Drizzle the reduction over the plates. Cube the steak and place it on the plate with care, it will be bloody. Drizzle some more reduction over the steak cubes. Add the carrots, and the rest of the garnishes carefully. Use tweezers if possible. Make sure to have all your components ready before you compose the plate. Will be a lot easier that way.

That is it! Thanks for visiting!

 

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Short Ribs Sous Vide 72h 54C : Wine Reduction : Chimichurri : Garlic Sprouts

I like it when the ingredients drive the recipe. I found these beautiful short ribs at the store and immediately dropped whatever cooking plans I had previously.   I picked a few more things for the wine reduction as well. 72 hours later, I picked the rest of the ingredients, like the garnishes and such. After such a long cooking time at low temperature, short ribs are literally transformed into something that’s hard to describe here. They more closely resembled rib eye with an intense meaty flavor. Tender and juicy, with an amazing texture. My previous experiences cooking short ribs had been by braising them in wine, vegetables and stock in the oven for a few hours. This approach yields fall of the bone, delicious results. The meat though, is overcooked in order to break down the connective tissue within a reasonable time.  At 54 degrees celsius, the time required to achieve the same is about 3 days. Cooking the meat sous vide, allows for something otherwise impossible to achieve traditionally. The meat will be medium rare. You can also adjust the temperature and cooking time to achieve a number of different doneness levels and textures to suit your preference.

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I finally work a bit on the lighting setup in my kitchen and went back to using my speedlite flash which I really really like. Back to handheld photography (yay) which is super fast and flexible (getting on a tripod is a good option when shooting with natural light, the only option if you want sharp pictures really). I had to use a little remote trigger for the speedlite so it wouldn’t have to be mounted on the camera which can be very restrictive and how I usually have taken the photos for most of my previous posts. I also chose my 105mm sigma macro lens for this post, mainly because I love close up photography and macrophotography, but I also wanted to plate a smaller portion for the final dish. Appetizer style. 

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Ingredients:

2 lb short ribs (rack or individually cut)

Wine reduction:

1 can san marzano pureed tomatoes
1000ml beef stock
5 garlic cloves, crushed
750ml of a good red wine. I used a merlot.
1 celery stalk, small dice
1 large carrot, small dice
1 medium onion, small dice
1 bouquet garni
1 crushed bay leaf
white wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
sugar, salt and black pepper to taste

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Chimichurri dressing:

1 parsley bunch
1 cilantro bunch
1/3 C Olive oil
1/4 C White wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

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Garnishes:

Radishes thinly sliced
Chives finely chopped
Arugula leaves
Garlic sprouts

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Searing the ribs. Before searing the ribs, salt them generously and allow them to rest for an hour or two. In a really hot cast iron or stainless steel pan. Brown evenly. Work in batches and avoid overcrowding the pan. Reserve the ribs and allow them to cool off before going in the sous vide bag. Discard half of the cooking oil. Use this same pan for the second step of the wine reduction.

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Wine reduction. Step 1. In this recipe, I decided to reduce the wine on its own. Flambee when simmering, make sure all the alcohol has burned off. Reduce to about 150ml. Reserve.

Wine reduction. Step 2. In a wide saucepan over medium heat (same pan used to sear the ribs). Add some vegetable oil. Or use olive oil if you prefer. Add the onion, carrot, celery and some salt and cook until slightly browned, about 10-15mins. Add the pureed tomatoes and garlic, and cook until tomato puree is deep brown. Add the stock, the reduced wine. Add the bouquet garni, the bay lead and simmer for about 35 mins uncovered. Adjusting the flavoring of this reduction is hard to describe in a recipe. Taste every few minutes, adjust salt, acidity, add vinegar and or sugar. Some pepper. Basically, adjust to your liking. Before achieving sauce consistency, strain the sauce and discard the liquids. Return strained sauce to the pan and reduce until syrupy. Allow to cool. This sauce doesn’t need any thickeners. Tomatoes to most of the thickening (pectin) and the collagen in the ribs (that will be released during the sous vide step). There should be about a cup of sauce at this point.

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Sous vide step. Add the sauce and the short ribs into the sous vide bag and seal. Vacuum seal. I used the water displacement method. Should work totally fine. One thing to note. I’m using ziplock bags. They are reliable for up to 24 hours.. after that, I’ve noticed the water in the immersion circulator get a bit cloudy from some of the cooking liquid escaping the ziplock bag. I’m gonna need to find a better bag. Anyways… cook at 54C for 72 hours more or less. Remove the ribs form the bag and reserve. Strain the liquid and place in clean saucepan.

Wine reduction. Step 3. Reduce the liquid until really syrupy. Final seasoning adjustments might be needed. Reserve.

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Chimichurri dressing. You can remove the parsley and cilantro stems. I only cut off a portion of them and discarded the ends. Chop the rest coarsely. Add to a blender. Add some of the oil and vinegar. Run the engine. Stop the engine, push down on the leaves with a spatula or wooden spoon. Run the engine again. It’s a bit of a balancing act. Add more liquid. Stop the blender. Push down on the leaves. Run the engine. Eventually the chimichurri will liquify and blend nicely on its own. Remember this sauce has to be pretty thick and be runny at all. Run the blender for a good 5 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper. Add some oregano if you like. This is a great sauce to keep in the fridge and it stays for a few weeks and develops better flavor overtime as well.

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Plating. Spoon sauce over the plate. Dress some rocket leaves with chimichurri. Place over the sauce. Slice the meat off the ribs. Add a few slices and top with the sliced radishes. Sprinkle the chives and some olive oil. Serve.

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Merry Christmas : Happy Holidays : Best Wishes and a Great Year 2014

I will probably not be blogging in the next few days (hopefully I can sneak one more post before this year is over). In any case, I wanted to say hello to my friends and wish you all a merry christmas and a happy new year and thank you all for supporting this cooking blog (that cooking blog I guess) and with whom I’ve had a blast interacting with, exchanging ideas with, talking about cooking and photography with, and learning lots and lots from.

I took this photo the other day and I’ve been wanting to use a pomegranate in some recipe just so I can share it because I really like it, but I give up (since, I’ve learned how to properly seed a pomegranate, not this “silence of the lambs” homage). The holiday colors are all in there, right? maybe not the holiday theme with reindeers and happy snowmen with carrot noses, because it does look like a crime scene instead, or maybe, just maybe it is an explosion of nostalgia over this crazy year that’s ending, and the anticipation over a new one which hopefully will be better than the last. I prefer this cheesy version.  It really was just me making a mess in the kitchen though.

Cheers!

Paul. 

post # 101 : Thank you!

About 3 years ago I decided to learn how to cook. I never thought my interest would last this long but it has, and it never crossed my mind then that I would  end up documenting it on a blog. That other cooking blog started about 2 years ago but I only started posting frequently and regularly  in the last 12 months. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I had no idea I would meet so many incredible people that are so passionate about food and writing and photography, it’s been humbling and one of the most fun learning experiences of my life. I was never much of a blog reader but that has changed thanks to this wonderful community of people who take the time to write and tell us a little bit about themselves, what they do, how they do it and why. Anyways, just wanted to send a thank you to all my friends and readers for sticking around this long and being supportive.  I will continue to document my cooking adventures here. Hopefully you’ll stay tuned!

paul.