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Nika's Culinaria - Eat With Your Eyes: November 2006

Nika's Culinaria - Eat With Your Eyes

Culinary Photography

Christmas Foreshadowed

christmas rice crispie treats

Yes, we already made our first christmas cookies.

I think the most gratifying part of the year in terms of baking and especially making cookies is around Christmas. I mean, when else can you make WAY too many cookies and send them to friends and relatives. If you made "July" cookies and sent them out, people would NOT know what to do with that, would you?

christmas rice crispie treats

I personally am really digging the christmas cookie thing this year because they are the supermodel of cookies. They can be so beautiful. They can be so kitchy. They can be so nostalgic.

They definitely multitask and they are yummy. Whats not to like?

christmas rice crispie treats

Amuse Vue - Newsletter ready!

Amuse Vue Newsletter

Well, I have now put the finishing touches on the first issue of Amuse Vue, the newsletter for this blog.

Surf to the Amuse Vue site and download a copy today. I am still tweaking the newsletter site and getting the listserv finalized so that you can subscribe to an email reminder of when the latest issue comes out.

Go and check out the Amuse Vue site and more importantly, the newsletter in the archives! I am working to reduce the file size as well. Be patient, it has lots of high resolution photos so it makes the file heavy.

Let me know what you think. The contact page at the Amuse Vue site is pre-functional so drop me a note here as a comment if you wish.

Cooking with Q: Mango Apple compotes in pastry shells

Q finishes her Mango Apple compote dessert How-2 guide

(Mango Apple compotes in pastry shells © 2006 Nika)

Today Q is going to show you all how she made these Mango Apple compotes in pastry shells. You may wonder what a compote is. According to the Wikipedia, a compote is:
.. a dessert made of fruit cooked in sugar syrup.
We took it a bit further and put the sauted fruit into pastry shells that had been filled with vanilla pudding.

1 Mango
1 Apple
1 container Vanilla Pudding (it would be even better if you made your own homemade pudding. Thats another post, as Alton Brown would say)
3 Pastry shells (We used the pre-fabricated pastry shells from Pepperidge Farms. They are great and work every time. You can also make them yourself!)
Minced ginger
1/8th teaspoon real Vanilla
4 tablespoons butter (If not salted, add a pinch of salt to the cooked fruit.)

Mango Apple compote dessert - 1 How-2 guide

(Mango Apple compote ingredients © 2006 Nika)

Mango Apple compote dessert - pastry How-2 guide

(Close up of frozen pastry shell from Pepperidge Farms © 2006 Nika)

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Line a baking sheet with some parchment paper and stick it down to the sheet with a bit or water or cooking spray.
Bake as per package instructions. Make sure to watch them so that they do not get too brown.
Remove and allow to cool.

Mango Apple compote dessert - pastry How-2 guide

(Pastry shells ready for the oven © 2006 Nika)

Mango Apple compote dessert - pastry How-2 guide

(Baked pastry shells © 2006 Nika)

Cut out the central part to make the cup to receive your filling.

Mango Apple compote dessert - pastry How-2 guide

(Cutting out central party of pastry shell © 2006 Nika)

Cube mango and apple. You are going to cook these two fruits seperately. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter to a small pot over medium heat. Add mango, 1/8 teaspoon of minced ginger, and 2 tablespoons of white sugar. Cook until it has dehydrated a bit and the sugar is starting to thicken the fruit juices. Cool. Repeat with the apple but use vanilla and no ginger. Cool.

Mango Apple compote dessert - 2 How-2 guide

(Cubing the fruit © 2006 Nika)

Put some vanilla pudding on the bottom of each pastry shell and then add the cooked fruit. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Mango Apple compote dessert - pastry How-2 guide

(Q finishing off the Mango Apple dessert © 2006 Nika)

Mango Apple compote dessert - pastry How-2 guide

(Q chopping the fruit and posing © 2006 Nika)

cooking with three kids

(Q is watched by her little sister and brother. The cat got in on the act too.
© 2006 Nika)

Mango Apple compote dessert - pastry How-2 guide

(Here we can see the audience a bit better © 2006 Nika)

Food & Wine Magazine Photo Contest: I am one of the first place winners!

First Place win in Food and Wine Mag food photo contest

(My winning image: Spice cake with homemade dark chocolate sauce
© 2006 Nika)

I am very proud and honored to say that I am one of the four first place winners in the first annual Food & Wine Magazine food photography contest!

They write about the contest on the Food & Wine Magazine web site.

The grand prize was a very spiffy Canon camera. Firts place winners got most excellent swag, as seen below!

The grand prize winner Jessica Thomson of Seattle, WA won with an image of "Papaya-Jalapeno Sorbet in Black and White Espresso Cups". Very lovely.

The other three runners up are:
- Linda Nihot of Astoria, Ny with "Eggs in Bombay"
- Karen Bolla of Alameda, CA with "Pears"
- Christian Remy of Brooklyn, NY with "Cooling Pomegranate Syrup"

I got three books and a lovely letter from their director of photography. These are great books filled with lots of excellent food photography. Cant wait to dive into them!

Food & Wine food photo contest - Woo hoo!  I am one of the runners up!

(F&W SWAG! - personal info erased © 2006 Nika)

When I hit the submit button I NEVER thought it would win, I just dont WIN contests, ever. All I can say is that you can never know how these things will turn out unless you give it a chance!

Again, my thanks go out to Food & Wine for selecting my photo this year!

Contemplating Food Photography

medium format snapshots - after

(Medium format via CS2 © 2006 Nika)

A bit of navel gazing today.

Why do we blog?

Why do I blog?

The truth is that it is a way to have a conversation with you about something that I find, obviously, endlessly interesting: Photography. It so happens that I find food most accessible and mutable. Food photography is not so much about making us hungry to eat or showcasing any sort of culinary or food styling talent I may have or develop but rather, its about the technical and aesthetic process that goes into shooting beautiful and interesting food.

Why not shoot quirky images of poodles or drainage pipes?

I shoot food because it is easy to care about and become invested in the subject. The nature of food photography is such that you fall into and consume the image almost effortlessly.

I make it public here because your side of the conversation helps me grow and understand the impact of my photography on the viewer. For this reason, every comment you all have given me has been worth its weight in gold.

That seems to be a good enough and re-affirming reason to blog.


(Gallery Print via CS2 © 2006 Nika)

Pre-constructed tomatillo salsa

tomatillo - macro shot

(Tomatillo en macro © 2006 Nika)

I am working myself up to making a tomatillo salsa with these lovely tomatillos that I shot today as well as the jalapenos shown here. These are our organic homegrown jalapenos that are starting to ripen!

tomatillo 2 - PS after

(More tomatillos © 2006 Nika)

Meditation on a jalapeno 2 PS after

(Red Jalapeno © 2006 Nika)

Tomatillo strip tease

(One last tomatillo © 2006 Nika)

I am thinking about this recipe by Rick Bayless.

Salsa Verde: Green Tomatillo Salsa

Recipe courtesy Rick Bayless. From Mexico One Plate At A Time


8 ounces (5 to 6 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
Fresh hot green chiles, to taste (roughly 2 serranos or 1 jalapeno), stemmed
5 or 6 sprigs fresh cilantro (thick stems removed), roughly chopped
Scant 1/4 cup finely chopped onion


For the All-Raw version: Roughly chop the tomatillos and the chiles. In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatillos, chiles, cilantro and 1/4 cup water. Process to a coarse puree, then scrape into a serving dish. Rinse the onion under cold water, then shake to remove excess moisture. Stir into the salsa and season with salt, usually a generous 1/4 teaspoon.

For the Roasted version:

Preheat a broiler.

Roast the tomatillos and chiles on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until darkly roasted, even blackened in spots, about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side, 4 to 5 minutes more will give you splotchy-black and blistered tomatillos and chiles. In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatillos and chiles, including all the delicious juice that has run onto the baking sheet. Add the cilantro and 1/4 cup water, blend to a coarse puree, and scrape into a serving dish. Rinse the onion under cold water, then shake to remove the excess moisture. Stir into the salsa and season with salt, usually a generous 1/4 teaspoon.

I will post back when I settle on a recipe and share the end results.

Books of Note:

Whats on your food blog bookshelf?

whats on your bookshelf?

(My food photo and blog bookshelf © 2006 Nika)

Things are settling down from the whirlwind of the birth and integrating the new little guy into our lives. Lots of cleaning has been happening (millions thanks to my mom who has been a HUGE help and who unfortunately just left today!).

With the cleaning came some much needed organization. One thing that came together was some of the books I use for culinary and photography inspiration.

I love reading the Culinary Institute of America's "The Professional Chef, Seventh Edition" and "The Advanced Professional Pastry Chef" books. These text books are jam-packed with very useful information that builds a good foundation for any cook. They also have some great pics.

I am going through my new "The Photoshop CS2 Book for Digital Photographers", learning as I go.

The technical and artistic aspects of food photography are discussed in a clear and simple voice by Lou Mann in his book "Digital Food Photography".

But when I want to become truly inspired I look through some books I got recently from StockFood. These food photos are divine even though they are stock images!

There is much to learn from these catalogs of books if you pay attention to the details and try to put yourself in the pro-photographer's shoes.

my inspiration -1

(Close up of some of StockFood's catalogs © 2006 Nika)

Whats on your shelf?

© 2005-2007 Nika's Culinaria - Eat With Your Eyes

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