Entries tagged with “Lisa Cherkasky”.


The Splendid Table radio program is a longtime favorite of mine. I especially admire radio host Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s creativity in her regular “Stump the Cook” challenge: Listeners call in and ask her to combine random ingredients into something they can cook—and would like to eat. So, I was excited to be asked to shoot images for this new monthly USA Weekend Magazine feature that spotlights her on-air challenges. As usual, Lynne came up with a delicious-sounding, inventive recipe, incorporating all the ingredients into a harmonious whole: Sriracha Oatmeal-Crusted Tilapia over Pan-Roasted Carrots with Almond and Garlic. (Listen to this “Stump the Cook” radio spot, here.)

Like Lynne’s creative recipe, the USA Weekend page design combined the ingredient of typography to integrate with my photo for a fun, dynamic layout that really invites the reader to dig in. My creative ingredients included their page layout, food items and the background. According to the layout given to me, we shot the photo with plenty of textured, but neutral background to set off the dish and to allow for design flexibility. I like the photo of the dish by itself, with styling by Lisa Cherkasky, but, I appreciate it even more as they chose to frame it in their layout.

Sriracha Oatmeal-Crusted Tilapia_510

One of my favorite aspects of my work is the collaborations I have with creative clients. So, I thought it was cool when I learned that two of my own collaborators teamed up: The Plate’s on The Table: The Splendid Table featured Bonnie Benwick, Deputy Food Editor of  The Washington Post. Splendid Table Editor Sally Swift interviewed Bonnie about one of the recipes I shot for the Washington Post Magazine’s regular Plate Lab feature.


The regular collaboration with Bonnie even extends to her styling the Plate Lab shots (some written by Food & Travel editor Joe Yonan or other staffers). Almost every week they feature a restaurant recipe that is developed for home cooks. This edition of Plate Lab, featuring the recipe for Toum, a garlic paste by Chef Joseph Chemali, shows another photo I appreciate even more in the page layout. I loved the coincidence of my collaborators collaborating and I look forward to more projects with all (including USA Weekend Magazine)—as we create more of our regular features this year!


You scream, I scream. Choctál’s fantastic ice cream is something to scream about. Deceptively simple, Choctál offers “just” vanilla and chocolate—but, they are four specific variations on each of those classics, made with all-natural, excellent ingredients from all over the world. I learned about them—and got to taste than all—when I shot their delectable product line for their website, along with food stylist Lisa Cherkasky.


Each flavor comes from a different vanilla or cacao bean from a single source. As their website explains, “Like fine varietal wines and gourmet coffees, Choctál ice creams are made from single-origin ingredients—one variety of cacao or vanilla, harvested from a single region. It’s the unique flavor profile of each local variety that gives Choctál chocolates and vanillas their deliciously distinctive nuances.” The vanillas come from Mexico, New Guinea, Indonesia and Madagascar.


The chocolates come from Costa Rica, Ghana, The Dominican Republic and Borneo. You can order any—or all—of these flavors from the Choctál website (they pack in dry ice and FedEx). They even offer groupings: All vanillas, all chocolates; or, “tours” of Latin, Island, African or World flavors.


All Choctál ice creams are “super-premium,” which means it must be at least 16% butterfat. What’s not to like?! This is some of the best ice cream I have ever had. But, the taste and quality of the ice cream are only two reasons to like this company. They are also very environmentally aware and socially conscious, and I like to work with companies that hold those values, and give back to their communities.


These eclectic empty bowls are gathered from my own studio collection of vintage kitchen wares, and appear on the website’s “Find Us” page, where you can search for ice cream to fill them. It was fun setting them off with the variety of cool vintage ice cream scoops, brought by Art Director Raeanne Hytone.

What a treat it was, shooting for Choctál! It was a race between how fast this rich, exotic delicacy might melt on set, and how fast we could eat it!



Sizzle & Smoke: What an apt title for Chef Steven Petusevsky’s new cookbook for the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Steve has a lively (sizzling! smoking!) personality, which always makes for a great flow of creative energy at a shoot. Shooting his recipes, along with food stylist Lisa Cherkasky, reminded me of why I love summer.


This Grilled Athenian Burger, made with lean ground beef, features Greek Yogurt Spread, and is served on a whole grain bun. The subtitle of the book imparts the real angle: it’s The Ultimate Guide to Grilling for Diabetes, Prediabetes, and Heart Health. Grilling food can be a naturally lower-fat, healthy way to cook. In this book, Steve offers 125 delicious recipes for meats, seafood and poultry, as well as nutritious sauces and sides. A real expert on healthful cusine and natural foods, he’s also really fun to work with, and truly, a class act!


Grilled fresh corn-on-the-cob is such a summer treat. This version, “Mexican Street Corn,” is served with a blend of tangy cheeses and fresh herbs.


“Greek Roast Potatoes with Lemon and Garlic” is a plain, simple, and light side dish—but it’s really packed with rich flavor. Find the recipe  on Steve’s website.


I love that a book on grilling includes dessert recipes, too! This dish is “Grilled Poundcake with Melted Berries.”


As ADA’s website says, “Whether you grill with charcoal, gas, or an indoor grill pan, Sizzle & Smoke is the perfect resource for the BBQ chef looking to cut calories and pounds without cutting out the fun and flavor.”

Happy (and healthy) grilling, everyone!


It’s strawberry season—the perfect time for this Summer Breeze Smoothie! It is one of a series of “Fun Family Recipes” that I shot, along with food stylist Lisa Cherkasky, for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Their We Can program offers these recipes online and as these downloadable PDF recipe cards, shown here.


This recipe for Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken is a smart, lighter version of this classic, favorite dish.


This Quinoa and Black Bean Salad recipe is refreshing and vegan.


This recipe for Autumn Salad, including Granny Smith apples, dried cranberries and walnuts, would be tasty any time of year.

I feel good about working with programs and clients that help to provide information on healthy and delicious foods, like NHBLI’s We Can program: “(Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition) is a national movement designed to give parents, caregivers, and entire communities a way to help children 8 to 13 years old stay at a healthy weight.”

Some of these recipes originally came from NHLBI’s own books: Heart Healthy Home Cooking, African American Style and Delicious Heart Healthy Latino Recipes.




Appetizing appetizers can be just a few easy steps away… Food Network’s 12 Last-Minute Appetizers from the Pantry presents ideas that transform packaged items into “company-worthy snacks.” I shot this group of images showing basic ingredients and their appealing, simple transformations. Even colorful, jarred red peppers look more inviting when “cut into strips and tossed with olive oil and something green…cilantro, parsley, capers or scallions.”

This feature was one in a Food Network series that I did with food stylist Lisa Cherkasky. The other features are: 5 Pantry-Raid Recipes, using only “nonperishable pantry ingredients”; and Supermarket Ingredient Shortcuts, suggesting “quick fixes at the grocery store that will help you get dinner done quicker tonight.” Sometimes I can really use this kind of practical inspiration in the kitchen, so I hope it helps other busy people, too!




What makes it worth getting out of bed at a B&B or hotel? A fabulous breakfast! Even on vacation, I might jump out of bed for these “Lemon Souffle Pancakes with Blueberry Compote.” This recipe, from 1851 Historic Maple Hill Manor in Springfield, Kentucky, won BedandBreakfast.com’s award for the “Best B&B Breakfast Tournament.” I shot this image for USA Today’s magazine, Best Years’ story, 6 award-winning breakfasts from B&Bs.”  It might just be worth the trip to Kentucky, but in case you can’t make it there to taste them (or to bring home the pancake mix they sell), try their celebrated recipe


Breakfast can be tempting and relatively healthy—even when traveling. That is the new attraction promoted by Springhill Suites by Marriott. For their guests’ complimentary breakfasts, they are offering a new selection of “fresh, natural, delicious options,” including this oatmeal, beautifully studded with selections from their toppings bar. Here is an array of their new, healthier breakfast treats, which I shot, with food-styling by Lisa Cherkasky


I love the fresh colors that the creative team at Marriott chose for this promo. The simple, clean design of these pieces…and the tasty breakfast possibilities…make me want to book a stay!



Brrrr! The first day of winter is not until Dec. 21, but, it might as well be today. To get a birds-eye view of the first real snowfall of this winter, yesterday I ventured out of the studio into the sleet to take some shots of the historic Holy Rood Cemetery in Georgetown. Feeling that chill outside convinced me that it’s a perfect day to be inside—preferably with something hot and comforting to eat.

This is my idea of the perfect snow-day combo: “Grilled Cheese and Roasted Tomato Soup” from the menu at Founding Famers restaurants, which is also included in the new Founding Farmers Cookbook (by Nevin Martell, with my photos and styling by Lisa Cherkasky).

As the song says, “the weather outside is frightful,” but I can appreciate the beauty in it (especially now that I am inside, warm and dry). Mmmm…grilled cheese…


Thanksgivukkah: What’s not to love about eight festive days of turkey (sandwiches!) and pies? The last time these holidays converged was 1888. But, it doesn’t feel that out-of-sync. On both holidays we enjoy gathering with family and friends for a thoughtful, warm occasion marked with feasting on favorite traditional foods. And, event the purposes of both holidays are related:

“The concept of Hanukkah is a concept of thanksgiving. Hanukkah marks the first victory over religious persecution,” explains Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg of Baltimore’s Beth Tfiloh Congregation (who married me and Marty there). In a story about Thanksgivukkah in The Baltimore Sun, he observes, “On Thanksgiving, we’re celebrating living in a country that has allowed us to have that freedom.”

USA Weekend Magazine always gives readers holiday recipes. This year, they also consulted several pie-baking experts and published their tips for making the best holiday pies (featuring my photos and food styling by Lisa Cherkasky). If you find pie-making intimidating, the article offers this comfort in the words of pie expert Kate McDermott: “I think people are so concerned their pie should be perfect. They should throw that out the window. A good pie looks like it was made with love. Don’t strive for the perfect picture of what a pie ‘should’ look like.”

The classic-looking holiday plate above shows recipes from the new The Founding Farmers Cookbook, which I shot (with food styling by Lisa Cherkasky). These traditional dishes are: “Roasted Turkey with Sage Gravy,” “Roasted Chestnut-Corn Bread Stuffing,” and “Cranberry Relish.” You can find recipes for all of these in the book—but, if you prefer to not cook the feast yourself this year, you can also find them on the special Thanksgiving menu at their three restaurants.

A variation on the traditional Thanksgiving dessert might be this spicy, earthy “Sweet Potato Pie with Candied Ginger,” (below) from The New Jewish Table.

I shot the recipes for this cookbook, by Chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray of DC’s Equinox Restaurant (written with David Hagedorn). It celebrates the complementary blending of Ellen’s Jewish family favorites and Todd’s New-American cuisine point-of-view. There are sections for each season and special menus for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Passover and Hanukkah. Some of the great recipes in their Hanukkah menu are “Chopped Liver with Sweet Marsala Onions,” “Matzoh-Stuffed Cornish Game Hens,” and “Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Latkes.” If you don’t care to cook on/over the holidays, their restaurant, Equinox is offering special menus for both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah!

Happy Thanksgivukkah to all… Enjoy—it won’t happen again for approximately 77,000 years!

This project really did sing! Happily, most of my work does go well, but shooting the brand new Founding Farmers Cookbook was the kind of project that made me feel as if I could keep shooting for the rest of my life. I came to love everything about Founding Farmers—the food, the restaurants, their mission, and all the people I worked with. With three related locations in and near Washington DC, they are a collective of farmers and restaurateurs who offer “…a place where true, sustainably farmed, grown and harvested American foods are brought to [their] guests.” The fitting, full book title is: The Founding Farmers Cookbook: 100 Recipes for True Food & Drink from the Restaurant Owned by American Family Farmers.

We shot 109 photos, and they all came together easily and beautifully. Prepared recipes were styled by Lisa Cherkasky and shot in my studio, including Benedict Arnold (their unique take on Eggs Benedict), above (and Peach-Blueberry Crisp, at top). Everyone in the group connected immediately, with Jennifer Motruk Loy and Riva Warrilow of VSAG paving the way efficiently so we could focus on creativity. Aside from the actual recipes, the book was written by wonderful (and highly prolific) Washington, DC food writer, Nevin Martell, so it has to be good!

Prop stylist Audrey Weppler selected the backgrounds and props after we visited the restaurants. The eclectic materials in these shots really help to communicate the aesthetic of the restaurants—classic rusticity combined with a modern sensibility, as shown in the images above, Farm Bread with Brie, Onion Preserves and Sliced Apple, and below, Fish and Chips; and…

Southern Pan-Fried Chicken and Waffles, and…

Butternut Squash-Mascarpone Ravioli.

We also spent three days in each of the group’s three restaurants to capture action shots. It was THRILLING shooting there!

The energy, visuals, people and vibe were fantastic. I loved capturing it all, from the blizzard of sugar-coating Uncle Buck’s Beignets in the kitchen, to the bustle in the front of the house, with its colorful decor, including this display of preserves.

In some instances, as with this Skillet Cornbread, it was fun doing shots of the same items: the individual skillets of flaky, sweet cornbread, hot from the restaurant kitchen; and, shot in my studio, presented as it is served in the restaurant, with honey butter and sea salt.

Founding Farmers has a terrific mission, and they express it well on their own website: “The Founding Farmers name represents a combination of ideas: it is a celebration of the land and the American family farmer; it is a nod to the founding fathers of our country, many of whom owned and farmed land that surrounds Washington, D.C….” That Presidential-farm theme is very close to my heart, having spent so much wonderful time photographing George Washington’s Mount Vernon—the historic garden, recipes and mansion for various publications, including their cookbook, guidebook and annual report.

The book was designed by award-winning Washington DC firm, The General Design Company. I especially love all the playful-yet-streamlined (and data-packed) infographics by Creative Director, Soung Wiser. In addition to the great recipes, this type of useful, interesting information really adds value to this book. Check out a couple of my favorite graphics, below.

Being launched by Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC on October 29, the book’s press release includes the recipe for that fantastic Peach-Blueberry Crisp, shown at top. You may order their book online; or attend one of these scheduled book-signing events. Or, just make a point of dining at one of their three DC-area restaurants to sample their fantastic menu—and pick up your copy of the book there!

“Clamor in the kitchen”: Fun, organized mayhem in my studio, shooting for King Arthur Flour. It’s just an appropriate coincidence that it’s also one of the HZDG agency’s taglines for their campaign! My studio was totally buzzing with the creative energy and activity of all contributors to the project.

Looking at jumbled ingredients spread out in a kitchen, sometimes it’s hard to imagine they’ll eventually combine into the delicious, gorgeous dish you have in mind: will it be a recipe for a delicacy—or, a disaster? Diverse ingredients for this project’s complex recipe included models, makeup, costumes, sets—and, of course, food. For the photo backgrounds, we built two kitchen sets—and Lisa Cherkasky did all the real baking and food styling next to them, in my real studio kitchen.

At the end of the day the CD, AD and I looked at each other and couldn’t believe we had cooked it all up! The careful pre-production planning of our great team was key to making our recipe turn out so beautifully.

To see more about their comprehensive, multi-platform creative campaign for King Arthur Flour, please check out the agency’s blog.