Styled food photo shoot

Tomatoes: Flavors of Summer

I am an unashamed lover of all things tomato. Well, except for tomato juice. That's just plain nasty.

But give me a vine ripe -- preferably home-grown beauty -- a salt shaker, and I have a meal that's perfect for any time of the day or night.

I typically plant three or four tomato plants each spring. I'd grow more, but my husband is allergic to them. Good! More for me. But honestly, the past two seasons have been dismal when it comes to my tomato harvest. Dismal is a generous term. It was downright pathetic. I successfully grew a whopping three, count 'em three, Purple Cherokees (my favorite) and five black cherry tomatoes.

I'm blaming an abnormally cool April that immediately went into a sweltering May with little rain and it stayed like that all summer long. Even with ample irrigation, my crop was pitiful.

According to Wikepedia, the tomato originated in western South America. While many people think it's a vegetable, genetically, it's a fruit. Tomatoes are the edible, often red, berry of the nightshade Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant. There are more than 3,000 varieties of heirloom or heritage tomatoes in active cultivation worldwide and more than 15,000 known varieties.

Fruit. Vegetable. Whatever you call it, they're downright delicious.

If you had a bumper crop, send some my way.


Tomato cucumber salad:

This simple salad could not be any easier to prepare. Dice up your favorite cherry tomatoes, add cucumbers (something we did grow in abundance this year), add cubed feta and your favorite herbs (fresh thyme and oregano, all home grown) and toss with Italian dressing (Good Seasons seen here) and salt and pepper to taste.

Tomato cucumber salad

Tomato cucumber salad

Slow-roasted Beefsteak Tomatoes

The secret to roasting tomatoes....low and slow. These beauties were roasted on a sheet pan in a 200-degree oven for about two hours. I don't really set a time. I usually eyeball them to tell when they're done. Cut beefsteak, or any large meaty variety, into wedges and arrange on a sheet pan. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, your favorite herbs (thyme and oregano), drizzle with olive oil (go light) and a balsamic glaze. Once they're done, add more herbs.

The recipe possibilities for these are endless. After I pulled them from the over, I ate 10 standing over the pan.

Slow roasted tomatoes

Slow roasted tomatoes

Caprese

The only thing simpler than the tomato cucumber salad seen above is caprese: a salad of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. I sliced up red beefsteaks and yellow tomatoes and added fresh mozzarella, drizzled with olive oil and a balsamic glaze. Garnish with fresh basil.

The red tomatoes came courtesy of my brother-in-law who has a badass garden and grows hundreds of pounds of vegetables a year. The yellow variety compliments of my mother-in-law. The basil came from my garden. I also made four jars of pesto this year, but that's a blog post for next year.

Caprese

Caprese

Bruschetta

Some of the best bruschetta I've ever consumed was in Italy. Ever since then, I've been on a quest to find good bruschetta here in the states.

Bruschetta originates as an antipasto (starter dish) from consisting of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil and salt.

I took mine a step further and topped by adding herbed ricotta, roasted cherry tomatoes and topped with fresh herbs, olive oil, balsamic glaze and S&P (salt and pepper). I started with a good crusty, ciabatta. I sliced it on the diagonal and brushed with olive oil. After a few minutes of stove-top searing, I spread a nice thick layer of herbed ricotta followed with the roasted tomatoes and garnish as desired.

This is perfect starter for your next dinner party or even a light dinner all for yourself.

Bruschetta

Bruschetta

Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

I broke my own rule on roasting for this dish. Instead of roasting low and slow, I opted for high and fast. I cranked the oven up to 500-degrees.

Using my $2.00 flea market, cast iron skillet, I added a variety of cherry tomatoes, peeled, whole clove garlic, fresh herbs and a generous amount olive oil. After only 10 minutes, I finished them under the broiler on high for a few extra minutes. The high heat causes the tomatoes to burst, releasing their juices and making it's own sauce.

Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

Once the tomatoes were done, I added a few more fresh herbs and served them atop thin spaghetti topped with shaved Parmesan and S&P to taste. You could also use angel hair if preferred.

Blistered Cherry Tomatoes with Thin Spaghetti

Blistered Cherry Tomatoes with Thin Spaghetti

Blistered Cherry Tomatoes with Thin Spaghetti

Blistered Cherry Tomatoes with Thin Spaghetti

Whatever tomatoes are leftover will keep in the fridge for a solid two weeks. If they last that long.

Food Photography | Favorites from the Grill

As temperatures rise, we go outdoors. The days are longer and that affords us more time to spend with our friends and family enjoying all the things that summer offers us. At my house, it's grilling. It's so damn hot outside, I have no desire to heat up my house even more by cooking inside.

I'm pretty partial, and quite snobbish, when it comes to grilling. We are a charcoal house. ONLY charcoal. We own two Weber grills: a Smoky Joe and an 18" Kettle. We are soon buying one of their Smokey Mountain Cooker smoker, but that's another blog. I know there are devoted and dedicated propane grillers out there and that's fine. Stick with your heat-in-a-can and I'll still with my charcoal.

It DOES taste better! (insert your arguments here)

Who doesn't love a cheeseburger from the grill? Thick, fat and really juicy. Like dripping down your arms as you eat it kind of juicy.

I'm partial to adding sauteed mushrooms and onions to my burgers. But not raw onions. Those are too bitter and sharp for me. I love the flavor of caramelized onions. Slice and caramelize several onions and you can save them in the fridge for other dishes later in the week.

One pound cheeseburger with sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions. Served with chips.

One pound cheeseburger with sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions. Served with chips.


For the pescetarian, your grill loves shrimp. And you will too. Simply skewer them along with your favorite fruit or vegetable and you're in business. One thing of note, shrimp cook incredibly fast on the grill. 2-3 minutes per side at most. When they turn an opaque pink, they are done. If you overcook shrimp, you're chewing rubber. And I opt for the smaller shrimp vs. the super jumbos. Larger shrimp may be prettier on the plate, but they are often tougher.

Cooking tip: If you use wooden skewers be sure to soak them in water for at least an hour. If not, your skewers and your shrimp will go up in flames.

Grilled shrimp and pineapple with a red onion, pineapple and red pepper salsa.

Grilled shrimp and pineapple with a red onion, pineapple and red pepper salsa.


Flank steak with grilled tomatoes.

Flank steak with grilled tomatoes.

Flank steak is a favorite at my house. It's an inexpensive cut of meat but when prepared correctly, it's quite delicious. It's easy to marinate, quick on the grill, quick on the stove (I use my cast iron skillet) and perfect in stir-fry.

We did a simple seasoning of kosher salt, cracked black pepper and garlic powder. Simple is best. The same seasoning went on the tomatoes. To me, flank steak is best cooked at rare to medium rare and sliced extra thin. If overcooked and sliced too thick, you're chewing on shoe leather.

if you have any flank steak leftovers, they are perfect atop a mixed green salad. This is great use for leftovers for a light lunch or even dinner.

Flank steak salad.

Flank steak salad.


Grilled summer peaches with ice cream, brown sugar and caramel.

Grilled summer peaches with ice cream, brown sugar and caramel.

Peaches on the grill is one of my favorite summer desserts. It's an easy dish to prepare and a great use for peaches that are a bit mealy and a little overripe. I don't season my peaches with anything before I grill them. I put them on plain and let their natural sugars caramelize the top and lock in the flavor. Topped with vanilla ice cream, brown sugar sprinkles and a drizzle of caramel, you've got dessert. This is simple and fast enough for a weeknight dinner and fancy enough for guests.

Now go fire up your grill and see what's for dinner.


Can I tell you how much I love my food stylist???? This woman rocks! She hand-paintes things!

Can I tell you how much I love my food stylist???? This woman rocks! She hand-paintes things!

Personal Projects | Food Photography | Italian

Who doesn't love Italian food?

I honestly cannot think of one single person who does not love at least a good slice of pizza.

 

 Food Italian Styled

There's so much I want to photograph when it comes to food. It was time to make it happen.

I contacted one of Arkansas' premier food stylists and we collaborated back in October on the first of what will be a series of some of my favorite things in the world of food.

 Food Italian Styled

Muriel and I spent a wonderful and fun afternoon in my kitchen designing, styling and photographing a series of some SERIOUSLY tasty treats. Just about everything that was photographed was promptly devoured. I was fascinated as I watched her work. I wanted to learn. And learn I did.

 Food Italian Styled

I knew it was time-consuming to properly style just one photograph, but I was a but thrown off that it took almost two hours for just one image. We went back and forth, moving things around, shooting a photo and then trying something different.

 Food Italian Styled

I am beyond thrilled with how these turned out. It was well worth every red cent I invested in the food, props and the fabulous stylist. I have several more shoots planned in my head so my goal is to tackle one a month. Check back to see what we shot next!

 Food Italian Styled