Food, Musing

soup, photography

When I got my iPhone I never thought I’d be using it to do the majority of my food blogging. After all, last June I got a sweet 50mm lens, which is both one of the cheapest DSLR lenses (at about $100) and one of the best for the two things I love to shoot the most: portraits and food. It’s a beauty, and it continues to serve me well. Yet sometimes, in my fast-paced life, when I’m blogging about a dish I’m also cooking for my house dinner, I realize I have to be somewhere. This requires that I scarf down my food and not spend 20 minutes styling it as I’d like. Then I whip out the iPhone. I can edit photos with a number of apps, my favorite being good ol’ Instagram, as long as it’s not overused. It becomes important to focus on placement, lighting, and angles when shooting with a phone. As you can see in these photos, I made sure to use a nice bowl (earthenware) and shoot on a white countertop, with minimal surroundings and clear, fresh light. Food photography doesn’t require fancy material!

The photos are from a recent post for Food Matters, a community that is cooking through Mark Bittman’s Food Matters cookbook together, one recipe at a time. Check it out here.

Standard
Food, Recipe

C^3 Granola

20120422-230517.jpg

Home-made granola is delicious and cheap. It only takes about half an hour to make. You can personally tailor it to your every desire – more chocolate? Less sugar? Apricots, not raisins?

I’ve been reading Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook, which I highly recommend. I decided to roughly follow his recipe for homemade granola. I’m hooked. The one flavor I haven’t been able to find is a good tart yet sweet granola on the store shelves, so I went ahead and customized this one.

chocolate cherry coconut granola

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup of each of the following: semi-sweet chocolate chips, dried cherries, diced dried apricots, chopped walnuts
1/4 cup almond slivers
3/4 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened, big flake
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon agave
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. Combine everything but the dried cherries, apricots, and chocolate chips in a bowl. Mix to combine. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pour granola mixture on top, spreading evenly. Bake for 10 minutes. Mix up granola with a spatula; re-spread. Bake for another 10 minutes until light brown. Remove from oven and mix in fruit and chocolate. Best eaten with almond milk or on top of oatmeal or yogurt!

Standard
Musing, Recipe

Swedish kladdkaka (cloud cake? mud cake?)

I’m going to admit it right now: when I meet someone, then get to know them a little better, one of the things that comes to the forefront of my mind is food. You may be picturing me standing there, oblivious to chatting, with only a cheeseburger craving on my mind. No, it’s not like that. I mean, their food. Their food history, their experiences, their likes and dislikes. I’m not performing a secret food-background check on everyone I meet, either. Call it…the anticipatory excitement concerning the potential for a food journey? Something like that.

Growing up, I’ve always tried to be open-minded about food, because when you consider food as more than just itself—molecules and calories and nutrients and texture—oftentimes you find there is a story. An experience. Nostalgia plays a large role – I guarantee anyone will smile if you ask them to recollect a memorable meal eaten, a dish they learned to cook from Mom or Dad, a kitchen accomplishment. It draws you closer to them, and at the same time widens your own horizons.

The summer after my freshman year, I found myself in Northern Sweden, quite near the Arctic Circle, staring down a bowl of reindeer (or was it moose?) soup. For a while I had been an off-and-on vegetarian, for reasons unclear even to me, and now I was curious and slightly timid about this soup. I was visiting the Swedish grandparents of my boyfriend at the time. He told me that his grandfather’s favorite part of the dish was skimming a layer of pure fat off the top with a spoon. His grandfather was over 75 years old, had one lung, and still worked around the clock, farming and hunting. He spoke no English so we chatted to each other in our respective languages, nodding politely and gesturing, a slightly futile but wonderful, touching attempt at connecting. I ate the hearty soup that his grandmother had made, thinking of all that had gone into making it, appreciative of getting to try a staple dish that was a big part of their culinary life.

Over the course of my next month in Sweden, I would eat fermented herring that, according to Wikipedia, was found to have “one of the worst smells in the world,” and wash it down with fiery schnapps that made me gasp. I would receive chewy, tough reindeer jerky from said grandfather for a hiking trip. And though I couldn’t say these made my top food lists, I asked people to tell me stories about them. My boyfriend recounted childhood midsummer celebrations and his love of his hard-working grandfather. Here I was, getting to sample some of their past.

(Food journeys exist in the future as well as the past. Going on a local quest to find a food you’ve never tried before, a favorite dish, or the best pad thai creates experiences with someone that are fun and out of the ordinary. Push your boundaries – it’s just as valuable to know what you don’t like as what you do like – and explore. The notion of stuffy, expensive dinner dates with white napkins and unpronounceable menu items, while fun, is, well, stale. Run down a local food truck. Walk into an eatery without having read a single review. Order food for one another.)

The following recipe doesn’t contain reindeer, schnapps, or smelly fish. Rather, it is a translated recipe for one of my favorite Swedish dishes, which has its own memories attached. It’s light and delicious. I licked my plate clean.

Kladdkaka (Cloud Cake, Chocolate Sticky Cake)
Makes 1 8-inch circular cake

Ingredients
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla sugar (substitute vanilla extract if needed)
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter pan. In a mixing bowl, mix together eggs and sugar until just combined. Melt butter in a pot on the stove using low heat, then add to the eggs and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, vanilla sugar, & salt. Combine wet and dry mixes. Stir well to avoid lumps.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 12-15 minutes. The cake will be moist—when checked, it should not jiggle in the middle, but a fork might not come out clean when done. Let cool, and then serve with fresh, unsweetened whipped cream and strawberries.

Feedback on this from said Swedish friend: “Well, where did you get the name cloud cake from? If anything, it translates to mud cake.”

So my last-minute Swedish translation might have been wrong. To me, the best part of this cake lies in the dreamy scoops of hand-whipped cream. But then again, the cake is a sticky, rich chocolate one, so “mud” makes more sense.

Cloud and mud cake? Let’s just say you should try this, because the creamy lightness combined with the indulgent chocolate is a dessert you will savor.

Standard