Archive for February, 2012

 Food—I love it. I photograph it. I eat it. I don’t cook it (usually)!

Marty and I were asked to bring dessert to a dinner party. Not just any dinner party, but the regular get-together with our wonderful dining group, the Society of Food Aficianados (SOFA). For 15 years, we’ve been part of this casual group that is serious about food, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. The elegant name is (mostly) tongue-in-cheek. Chuck Bernstein, a SOFA group member, explained in his article on us for The Washington Post in 1998, saying “SOFA” has “…all the right connotations: demanding of good food but not too snooty; comfortable with barbecue or beurre blanc, like dining on favorite sofas, in salons and TV rooms around the world. Plus [it’s] catchy.”

Every dinner takes its theme from the host’s main dish. I described to Marty, the chef in our family, what dessert I thought he could make that would go with Louise’s winter comfort-food dinner: Apple Galette, from the Chez Panisse recipe on epicurious.com. It seemed like the perfect match. In my mind’s eye I could see them clearly: warm and rustic, with cool, winter window light, shot from above.

There, job done… I’d contributed my aesthetic judgement to envision this, so I could move on with my day. But, the time came to make it, and Marty got into a work crunch. What? The chef was too busy to cook? We couldn’t let SOFA down after all these years—I had to step up and represent the family.

Yes, I whined and begged Marty for help…I can cook basic main dishes and simple sides. But baking desserts is so specialized—and seems so exacting and scientific—and people really look forward to them—so, the pressure was on. Feeling tragically out of my element, I found my comfort zone by photographing during the process.

For the apple galette, I used Granny Smiths.

After the annoying manual labor of coring them, I rewarded myself by arranging them in an amusing fashion to shoot.

So many distractions along the way, even the butter wrappers looked nice.

I also had some plums left from that day’s photo shoot for Chef Todd Gray’s cookbook. So, I decided to make a plum galette as well.

I roasted them to bring out their sweetness.

There are only two rules in SOFA: “Pull out all the stops”; and, “Make something you’ve never made before.”

Ha! I totally qualifed! The galettes looked just as I envisioned them—only, I never expected that mine would be the hands that realized that vision. SOFA said they really enjoyed it—and accused me of holding out on them for 15 years by hiding my baking talent!

 

What a treasure to have this new portrait of me and Mara.

It was taken by my talented friend, the distinguished DC-based portrait photographer, Mary Noble Ours. We were lucky enough to be invited to sit for her, and are grateful to have the image of us together, capturing this time in our lives.

I met Mary Noble many years ago through our mutual friend and colleague, photographer Cameron Davidson. I just really enjoy her—she is a true artist! Plus, she loves food and is a wonderful cook. Her work captures a wide variety of subjects, from intimate portraits of pregnant women and newborns to authors’ book jacket photos; from horsewomen to violinists—and all kinds of adorable children. You can see in the faces of her subjects that they are relaxed and natural with her.

Having a portrait taken can really create some anxious self-consciousness, but Mary Noble is expert at putting her subjects at ease. She took my portrait previously, which I really like—I use it for my headshot. But, even though I’d sat for her before, I was a little nervous. I just feel inherently odd being on the “wrong” side of the camera! I kept feeling like I should be “doing” something, and couldn’t visualize what I looked like through her lens. It was kind of an out-of-body experience! But, when I stopped thinking and listened to Mary Noble, it was fine. She knows the right angle and the right light, and she has a certain sensibility that she is going after… So, I relaxed and let her use her talent!

She also shot this portrait of Mara alone, which is really lovely.

Thank you for our wonderful portraits, Mary Noble!

Valentine’s Day can be a big deal—big opportunties for some restaurants and other businesses, and big pressure on (some peoples’) relationships. I’m glad to see my clients making their customers happy any day of the year, and wish them all well for this special holiday that keeps them very busy!

As for relationships… Marty and I try to treat each other special everyday (I know, that sounds sappy!). After 25 years, it is a little easier, now that the kids are on their own, which leaves a little more time for “us.” Our favorite Valentine’s Day tradition is to lay low and hang out at home. So… I wonder what the chef (AKA, Marty) has planned…? (No pressure!)

No doubt chocolate will be involved! Chocolate treats are a Valentine’s Day tradition—and I love it. While the health benefits of dark chocolate are widely promoted, this delicious Apricot Almond Truffles recipe maintains the indulgency quotient while upping the nutritional value.

I shot the photo above (styled by Lisa Cherkasky) for USA Weekend Magazine (below). The recipe is by Ellie Krieger, USA Weekend contributing editor, nutritionist, Food Network host and author.

I hope everyone has a fantastic Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!

Apricot Almond Truffles

1/2 cup whole, natural, unsalted almonds
1 1/2  cups dried Turkish apricots
1 Tb. honey
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. salt
3 ounces dark chocolate
(60% to 70% cocoa solids), chopped

Place the almonds in a dry skillet over a medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until they are toasted and become fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. Put the almonds into a food processor and pulse a few times until the nuts are coarsely chopped. Add the apricots, honey, cinnamon, ginger and salt to the processor; process until the ingredients are finely chopped and begin to stick together, about 45 seconds. Roll the mixture with your hands into heaping teaspoon-sized balls and set them on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper.

Place a small bowl or double boiler over a saucepan of barely simmering water, over low heat. Place half the chocolate in the bowl and stir until melted. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the remaining chocolate, stirring until it is melted.

Roll the apricot balls in the melted chocolate, one or two at a time, until they are all covered. Place them back on the waxed paper, and then chill in the refrigerator until set, about 15 minutes. Serve and store at room temperature.
Yield: 20 truffles
Per truffle: 80 calories; 3.5g fat
(1g saturated); 1g protein;
12g carbohydrates; 2g fiber;
0mg cholesterol; 30mg sodium