Week #19 – Food

Suddenly…a cooking blog?

The week’s topic is food and what better way to learn to photograph food than by keeping my camera at the ready while preparing something delicious!

This is like a bonus blog because I’ll not only be sharing my food photos for the week, but sharing the recipe and process for making a delicious Spinach and Cheese Strata. I adapted the recipe from smittenkitchen.com so click the link to see the original recipe and to follow along (because I am seriously not copying all of that here).

I still have a ways to go in learning about food photography, but I did do my research beforehand about the basics, and I’ve done what I consider a respectable job. So, without further ado…

Italian Bread (French bread works, too)

wm 1 Loaf

You’ll be cubing it. I found the fastest way was to cut several slices like the one below, stack them, and CAREFULLY cut the stack (hamburger style) in half and then in half again. Then, slice in the other direction so you have 8 cubes per slice.

wm 2 Cut Loaf wm 3 Thawing Spinach

If you haven’t started to thaw the frozen spinach yet, smack your forehead and do what I ALWAYS end up doing. Hasten thawing by running warm water over the package and/or leaving it to set in a sink full of water.

Tips about squeezing off all the excess liquid of the frozen spinach:

– Prepare a doubled paper towel (full sheet) and set it next to the sink
– Open package, pick up all of the spinach with your CLEAN hands, and squeeze
– Squeeze some more and for goodness’ sake do not stop squeezing until your hands hurt (really, it’s the best way)
– Once you are convinced you’ve manhandled it well enough, pick apart the spinach ball you’ve now made and place the spinach onto half of your paper towel
– Spread it as evenly as possible with no large chunks
– Fold the other half of the paper towel over and press down
**Note: if the paper towel becomes soaked right away, you didn’t squeeze hard enough! Go back and try again!**

Gather the rest of your ingredients and ooh and ahh at your funny cubed bread.

wm 4 Ingredients wm 5 Cube Bread

Shred your cheeses and chop your onion.

wm 6 Shred Cheese wm 7 Chopped and Ready

Prepare your frying pan. Use cast iron if you’re fortunate enough to have it, and saute your onions until soft.

wm 8 Butter in Pan wm 9 Saute Onion wm 12 Finish Onions

Throw in your spices. I declare that the nutmeg is the secret ingredient in this recipe. It makes a huge difference and makes the whole kitchen smell incredible.

wm 10 Secret Ingredient wm 11 Spices

Be careful when you add the spinach to the pan, there will still be some liquid and it will try to throw hot pieces of onion onto your toe. And it hurts like a bitch.

Sorry I don’t have a photo of the spinach mixed with the onions. As I implied, I was dealing with a first degree toe burn.

Now, find your baking dish. I use a 9 x 13 because that’s what I’ve got. Instead of doing the layers three times, I just do them twice over. Bread goes on the bottom. And grease your dish with cooking spray or Crisco!

wm 14 Bread Layer

Next, take half of your spinach/onion mix and spread it out over top of the bread. Careful, it’s still hot!

wm 15 Spinach Layer

Half of the cheddar and half of the Romano next. I was lazy and used pre-shredded Parmesan/Romano mix from Sargento. But let’s be for real, it probably cost me the same as buying the fancies from the deli and I didn’t have to shred it. Winning.

wm 16 Cheese Layer

The obligatory egg shot. Whip these suckers good because there are NINE of them plus almost 3 cups of milk.

wm 18 Nine Eggs

Y’all, I’m so excited about this next shot…

I definitely set up the tripod and used the continuous/timer setting to get 10 consecutive shots of me pouring the egg mixture. Naturally, the first few shots were the best as I was moving a bit too fast for the shutter in the latter ones. I’m glad I experimented with this and learned better what to do next time. But still…come on…SUCCESS!!

wm 19 Pour Evenly

Maybe I should have done my nails and moisturized…

The top is much shiner now that it’s covered in egg. Many times, that is what makes food photos look so good – the shininess of the fat. People relate that to good taste because…well, fat is delicious.

wm 20 Marvel wm 21 Close up  marveling

Still, I like the photo at the top of this post best because it feels very bright and fresh.

Let me tell you some things I’ve learned from this so far:

1) I was constantly moving things in the kitchen so the background wasn’t cluttered.
2) I shot some photos with a wider angle so I could get that f/3.5
3) Post-editing in food photography is, I’m pretty sure, almost mandatory so shoot in RAW.
4) Food looks best when it is bright and white. I was glad I shot in RAW because I had to change the white balance quite a bit. (I set it on Fluorescent, but there was a lot of natural light on some counters and tungsten coming from living room lamps! Thank God for Auto white balance in Photoshop RAW!)
5) You have to wash your hands a lot if you’re going to cook and shoot. (No wonder my hands look so blah.)

This sucker has to refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours. Tomorrow, I’ll bake it and we’ll see if I can get a good photo really fast! It puffs up beautifully in the oven but after 10 minutes out, it sinks back down. I’ll have to be ready!

Til then…

wm 22 Wrap and Refrigerate


3 comments on “Week #19 – Food”

  1. Thanks for a great post~ I always find myself shifting things for a more tidy looking background as well!

    After reading your post I am so hungry now haha XD

  2. […] So, is this post about photography? Yes, of course! Sometimes my posts are mulit-talented. See here. […]

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