Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cater, cater, careful what you wish for!

We've fed the crew working on the 520 bridge a few times this year. Looks peaceful here but it was on a barge surrounded by construction equipment. We wore hard hats and orange vests too!
It appears that all my scheduled posts for the past two weeks didn't post so I'm just doing a quickie until I can figure out what happened.

I've been a busy girl.

For example, how does one cater 1750 people one day and then turn around and cater 900 the next, departing at 6am? One does it with some difficulty. Add in eight caterings the next day down a few staffers, followed by two caterings by just the owners, because you have to give people days off but not yourselves, and, well...I'm sore.

But that's not all, dear Sally and Dick, no that is not all I can do. Because there was a tiny space in the schedule, I fit in a brown belt karate test in the mix.

Yep. I'm sore. And though I got some dirty looks by the ladies I hired to clean my house yesterday (like this lady can't even pick up before we come? And did you look at her fridge?) I didn't care because no one has managed the household for weeks and frankly after being buried by caterings, I just couldn't die by burial of dog hair.

Look for blog posts in the next day or so that will come before this one. First I have to get the kids up, make their lunches, drive them to the kids club, pick up the laundry for Pete's, run to work, help get the 95 guest catering out, then take the smaller delivery, then join the other catering, and come back to do the May books for the accountant. Then I'll see what's going on with the blog...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Corn and Tacos: Playing with my new camera

Depth of field and composition were only things I could dream about with my phone camera. My new Nikon makes it easy. Here are some shots from a dinner in Vegas, on Cinquo de Mayo with the Char-broil group. The tacos were prettier than they tasted, but the corn was as good as it looked.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How to Make an Origami Parchment Box for Baking Seafood

I know in Italian cooking, steam-baking seafood in parchment with herbs and broth is a common way to cook. At a cooking class I took at Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas, chef Ramos put a Pacific Rim spin on that method by cooking a seafood medley in origami boxes made of parchment.

He and his students showed us, but it was too quick for my fumbling hands. Besides, I knew I'd seen the box pattern in one of my son's origami books. Here is what the boxes looked like once folded.

I found step by step instructions here for making an origami box, also called "Masu" in Japanese. For the parchment box, simply make two of these - one for the bottom and one for the top.

Place bottom of boxes on cookie sheet and add raw seasoned seafood, herbs, vegetables and about two small ladles of broth - not enough to make it mushy, but enough liquid to get some steam going. Put top on securely. Bake in pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your seafood.

You may empty the contents once cooked, but if you are going through the trouble of making the box, why not place the whole box in a dish? Simply remove the top and serve.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cooking and Photography in Vegas!

I blog for Char-broil, in case you didn't see the giant badge to the right. Earlier in the month I had the opportunity to go to Vegas to meet with the other All-Star Bloggers and higher-ups at Char-broil, and to see the new line of grills rolled out at the hardware show.

Sure, we did some work, but we also dined, wined, saw the amazing Cirque du Soliel show, Mystere.

As is traditional at our gatherings, we also  learned. Each year we meet focuses on some part of our development as bloggers, personalities, and cooks. Last year, for instance, the focus was on video, with a training and (gentle) critique session with former anchor Elizabeth ONeil. Her new cookbook, the Slim Down South, is doing very well.

This year we were lucky to have a joint cooking lesson by Chef Ramos at Le Cordon Bleu paired with a food photography lesson by photographer Matt Aremendariz, who wrote Food Photography for Bloggers. Chef Ramos, who I totally wanted to hide in my luggage and take home with me,  took us through two dishes - a seafood boullion - cooked in a really cool origami parchment box - and a skirt steak with thai chili butter, served with and sauteed vegetables and shaped sushi rice.

This is what my two final dishes looked like. As usual, it was challenging to take photos while cooking. I'll be doing a separate post on how to make the origami parchment boxes.

Matt naturally talked about composition and lighting. He gave us great tips for whether we were shooting with a phone camera, or something better. I tend to obsess about lighting and want to work on my composition this year. The new camera has helped my photography tremendously. Check out the dessert!

Then they brought out dessert. Oh yeah. It was gorgeous and just begging to be photographed.

The students took turns telling us about the process. They were nervous, which was sweet, but also reminds me of how so many in the cooking profession don't seek the limelight. They like it back in the kitchen, protected by those swinging stainless steel doors. The Food Network, blogging, and social media have made cooking this very public profession. Hopefully, there will always be a place for the shy wallflowers who quietly do their magic. I'm much more trustful of their talents, far less of those that spout at the top of their lungs.

Our teachers were of the former ilk. Kind, seemingly humble geniuses. Chef Ramos was one of those chefs with this calm humility, while underneath I imagine he was shaking his head, laughing at all of us running around his kitchen, making a mess, missing steps because we were too focused taking pictures (me), or unable to do an entire dish without written instructions.

It was truly a special experience and just one of the reasons I love working with Char-broil. The other reason all the fun I have with my fellow all stars. But what happens in Vegas...well you know.

Monday, June 2, 2014

My New Camera!

Finally. Julie has bought a real camera. It only took five years since her cookbook came out.

I'll stop talking in the 3rd person. I bought a Nikon D5200 and picked up a better lens for food photography. The camera store clerk said I wouldn't be satisfied with the lens that came with the camera. While that may be true soon, he has no idea how low the bar is.

I'm just thrilled with it. Look for me steppin' up my photography game this year! And yeah, I know this shot isn't great, but it shows you the camera, OK?