The second issue of Edible Westchester Magazine features a photograph I took of Chef Chris Vergara. He took me on a foraging walk through some public lands in Westchester County. We looked for ramps, wild onions, and mushrooms. While squatting in the bushes, to get this shot, I also kept my eyes open for ticks and poison ivy. I love photographing in nature, but I am a little bit obsessed with the pests and hazards.
And, here is a shot Chef Vergara took of me, from my perch behind a log.
A video I made became a top 5 finalist for an Eddy Award. It’s not a win, but it’s not a loss! (The Eddy Awards are brought to us by the people who put together the family of Edible magazines.) I made the video during a cover shoot for the premier issue of Edible Westchester magazine. Chef Christian Petroni, co-chefs and friends gathered to cook a local lamb using an Argentinian style of cooking. Petroni had a steel cross, of sorts, fabricated by a steel-worker, and he lit a fire underneath. They spent the day stoking coals, watching the meat get “more and more sexy by the minute.” Check out the video, above.
How to prep a double crust pie… look at it! It looks just like the ones my grandmother used to bake. Erin Jeanne McDowell, the Fearless Baker, shows you how to prep that dough, so you can make one, too. We made this pair of pie videos in the week prior to Thanksgiving. Although, there is a whole season of pie-appropriate holidays to come. I’m definitely going to see if I can make one to match Erin’s.
If you have ever wondered how to prep a single crust pie, here is a very clear demonstration. Erin Jeanne McDowell, the Fearless Baker herself, and I made a video showing you how to do it. This video shows the step between making your dough and filling and baking your pie. This shows the very crucial rolling out, trimming, and crimping of a single crust pie.
Look at all that butter! No matter how many times I work with Erin (and I have worked with her a lot, both when I hire her to make food for my photoshoots, or when she hired me to photograph her baking cookbook) I am always surprised by the butter in the dough. One day I will get it right, and stop over-mixing mine. One day.
The Fearless Baker Cookbook was published yesterday. My friend and colleague, Erin McDowell, wrote it and I photographed it for her last summer. Erin wrote a beautiful story about the process for Food52, complete with lots of behind-the-scenes pictures I took for her. Check it out for a sample of her terrific writing. And here are some photos of recipes you will find in the book. As Erin writes: 200 recipes, 1000 photos later, The Fearless Baker is born…
I recently visited the Canoe Hill Restaurant on assignment for Hudson Valley Magazine. The restaurant is owned by Michael DelGrosso and his wife, Lauren Lancaster. They are Hudson Valley transplants, via Brooklyn, where Michael helped create the aesthetic of many of Manhattan’s and Brooklyn’s most beautiful restaurants. I only wish he would bring his eye to Woodstock. I would be a regular.
I returned from a week photographing a cookbook in Montreal and decided to spend a month cooking French food. I turned to a book that is already on my bookshelf: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
These photos are not examples of what the recipes should technically look like – only what they did look like. But I am excited. The stock that simmered on my stove for two days, eventually became Glace de Viande (meat glaze). We reduced a tablespoon of that glaze with wine and shallots and made Beurre Marchand de Vins (Shallot Butter with Red Wine). We put slabs of it on an inexpensive cut of beef, and transformed the steak into a delicacy.
I am really loving preparing simple ingredients in a different way than my standard, and creating entirely new flavor profiles. I make soup all the time. But Soupe au Pistou (Provencal Vegetable Soup with Garlic, Basil & Herbs) is a fresh take in my kitchen.
I am working on my baking. Now that I have made “cream puff paste,” I will use that basic recipe and make gnocchis.
We hosted Easter weekend for some grown ups and a trio of children. Here are some food memories… Thank you to Kendra McKnight for making mince-meat tarts, home-made raspberry marshmallows, charcuterie, French 75s, lakeside grilled leg of lamb with yogurt-garlic sauce, and so much more. She even delayed her family’s morning departure so she could teach me step-by-step her favorite pie crust recipe.
I am in Montreal this week, photographing a cookbook for Joe Beef. This got me thinking to the year I spent photographing their first cookbook. It was before I had my daughter, and that makes it seem like such a long time ago. Although, she is only 5 years old, and in the scheme of things that is no time at all. I am so excited to be here. This is the 2nd week of a at least a few I will spend with the team on this book. I so look forward to what Fred, Dave, Meredith, Marco, Ari, and the rest of the team (their family has also grown since I was last here) will show me.
Below are some shots I did for their first cookbook.
This winter, I spent some time with Erin McDowell, filming baking videos. These videos will roll out as social media spots in advance of her upcoming cookbook, The Fearless Baker. Erin is an incredible baker, and also a food stylist. I work with her often on shoots for my clients, and last summer she asked me to photograph her own cookbook. We ended up shooting every single recipe, which is unusual. But if you know Erin, you know she is not only fearless, but has boundless enthusiasm and energy. The book will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this October. Until then, here area a few videos showing the techniques you will find in those pages.
In these deep days of winter, I have been playing around with food motion. It is so much fun. I am becoming obsessed. Here is one video I made, it is a recipe for shrimp scampi, which my husband cooked in honor of the most delicious wild-caught shrimp we found at a local butcher shop. It’s a very simple recipe. It is quick to cook, and it is rich and delicious with crusty bread or pasta. See this video, and a few other examples of food in motion over at my website, www.jennifermay.com
I was recently asked to do some butcher shop meat photography. The Applestone Meat Company wanted pretty much all of their cuts of meat documented. The challenge was to come up with an attractive way to photograph this glorious meat in its raw form. We wanted appetite appeal, and that can be a tough ask from a raw piece of meat. We brainstormed. They suggested white. I suggested marble. We decided to show the raw meat in the very early stages of cooking. The higher end cuts were dressed up in only salt and pepper. Some of the other cuts were given marinades and dry spice rubs.
This butcher shop also produces a lot of sausages – andouille, bratwurst, hot Italian, chorizo, Parmesan and broccoli rabe and many more… well over a dozen different blends. We wanted to show these, but we didn’t want to show them raw with raw ingredients around them. So, we cooked the sausages in a way that reflected their particular characters. One of the butchers at the shop happens to be a trained chef. He and the Applestone team came up with recipes, and he cooked them for the camera.
Look for these images rolling out on the Applestone Meat Company’s website and social media channels in the near future.
On a chilly day in January, I made preserved Meyer lemons. I will give them a shake every day, and in about three weeks they should be ready. I am collecting recipes for pasta, gremolata, roasted potatoes, relish and fish dishes. I am excited to see what new dimension this condiment will bring to the food we cook at home!
I have always wanted to explore Nova Scotia. My grandfather grew up in Cape Breton, during the Depression. He wrote a memoir for his family, and it is one of the most powerful stories I have ever read. When Angela’s Ashes became a literary sensation my family and I nodded in unison. Frank McCourt’s story reminded us all of my grandfather’s, William O’Hagan. As a child, he had to help support his family. He gardened with his brother and was compensated in carrot thinnings. His mother bathed the children twice a year, and boiled their clothes. To his classmates, he was known as Stinky Billy. We grandchildren called him Buzz.
How someone could have survived what my grandfather lived through with an endless sense of humor, and whose favorite taste descriptor was “Beautiful,” is beyond me. Home-pickled herring, with a slice of onion, and a smear of mayonnaise on toast: Beautiful. My grandmother’s piroski (a recipe passed down from her mother, who was raised in Russia): Beautiful. Pan-fried cod, steamed clams, grilled salmon… we caught all of these things on the west coast, we ate them, and Buzz declared: Beautiful.
This summer, my husband, daughter and I took an impromptu Nova Scotia road trip. Our route started in Yarmouth, after a 5-hour catamaran ferry ride from Portland, ME. We camped in as many provincial parks as we could. We swam in beautiful beaches along the South Shore. We visited Lunenberg and stocked up on reading material at Lexicon Books. On our way to somewhere else, we found a white sandy beach and swam at the side of the road. We arrived on the Northumberland Shore, walked on red sandy beaches, and swam in the famously warm ocean waters. The rest of our trip took us through Halifax and then along the Bay of Fundy where, in some places, tides rise and retreat 50′ in one cycle.
We sought out seafood. I’m sorry to say it, but we had high expectations and were often disappointed. Of course, I probably should not have ordered lobster poutine at a touristy lobster pound.
Overall, it was an incredible trip. Different, in some ways, than what I had expected. We looked for places to buy fresh seafood near the docks, and found we were out-of-season, or the fish shacks were only open once a week and not on they day we were there. We did not make it to where my grandfather grew up. Cape Breton Island, and the Cabot Trail, await us on a follow up journey. There would be no sense driving a magnificent roadway with a carsick and road-weary child in the back, I figured. More camping awaits us, more beaches.
More than anything, as a west coaster, who only really feels home when I am in sight of an ocean, I think of Buzz. I imagine how he must have felt, when he left the east coast for the west, and made a home on the Pacific.
This July 4th we were invited to spend the weekend in a pre-Revolutionary house on the other side of the Hudson River. We picked snap peas and flowers at Hearty Roots Farm, blueberries at Grieg’s Farm, and we stumbled upon an undisturbed thicket of black raspberries.
We admired the historic details in the old mansion, known as the 1773 Calendar House. One night, our host filled two enormous brass candelabras with white tapers, poured wine, and told us tales of the Livingston family who used to own the home. We ate in the once-grand dining room, and imagined the time when the house served as a meeting place for Generals of the American Revolution.
As for the picking, I have heard about black raspberries (aka blackcaps) for years but, until now, I have never found or tried them. Not 10 minutes after seeing a beautiful image of them on the Instagram account of the Catskill Native Nursery, we stumbled upon a huge patch. The entire edge of the long and winding driveway at the Calendar House was bordered by bushes loaded with fruit. My friend and I picked the ripest ones, and we transformed them into fruit shrub, aka drinking vinegar.
A shrub is an acidified fruit syrup. Invented before refrigeration, shrubs were originally intended as a way to preserve fruit past the growing season. I have spent most of June making them… strawberry shrub from the ripest strawberries, blackberry-raspberry shrub, and black currant shrub using berries from my garden. The ingredients are berries, sugar, and vinegar. The ratio is approximately 1:1:1. A heated shrub takes about 15 minutes to make. A raw shrub takes about two days, but you don’t have to do anything to it but wait. Here is a page with great information and recipes for shrub making, Here is another one on Food52.
For a refreshing summer drink, I like to splash about a tablespoon into a glass of sparkling water and ice. Shrubs also blend deliciously with spirits for a stronger cocktail.
As for the rest of the weekend, there are so many other little stories to tell. Little stories of life, mirth, and silliness. The morning of July 4th we crossed the river again, and prepared a pizza party for family and friends. But that is another story. Brick pizza oven reveal to come in a following post.
Last year I bought two tiny elderberry bushes from the Catskill Native Nursery, and planted them in a bare patch in my garden. This year they are 10′ tall and loaded with elderflowers. Eventually, I would like to make elderberry syrup, which is a potent anti-viral. But, I have some traveling to do this summer, and it is is possible the precious elderberries will be gobbled by birds before I get to them this year. Still, I wanted to do something special with this amazing plant. So I made elderflower cordial.
Elderflower cordial is simple to make. It requires only the beautiful flower heads, water, sugar, optional citric acid, and the zest and juice of lemons. You can also add orange zest and juice, which I did, for the color. My batch combined two recipes. One is from the River Cottage, and another from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.
There is one funny thing about elderflowers. They are either a super-food or potentially toxic. Searching “health benefits of elderflowers” reveals that they contain bioflavonoids and are antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial. Searching “are elderflowers toxic?” tells us the stems and leaves of the elderberry plant contain a cyanide-producing chemical. To put this in context, almonds also contain a cyanide-producing chemical. And we all know rhubarb leaves are toxic, while the juicy stems are delicious. To prepare elderflowers for infusion, you snip away all of the stems and branches. Problem solved.
Still, I tend to err on the side of caution, especially with something new. While I did serve the cordial at a recent cook-out, my cautionary words ensured I had only one unfazed sipper (besides myself). “Well” he said, “They sell it at Ikea.”
Cyanide and box stores aside, elderflower cordial is one of the most aromatic beverages I have ever made or consumed. It is delicate, and seasonal, and I like to think loaded with healthful properties.
Last night, the Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook took home the Food52 Piglet Award for 2016. It’s a huge honor to all involved. The judging happens through a bracket system, in which pairs of books compete against each other. Eventually, only two are left. Andrew Zimmern, of Bizarre Foods, made the final ruling. Yotam Ottoleghni helped it through an earlier round. Reading Ottoleghni’s review just about made my year. (Anybody who glances at this blog will know I am a huge fan of his recipes.)
The book was written by Jessamyn Rodriquez and Julia Turshen, and it tells the story of a bakery that is also a non-profit social enterprise. The women who apply to train at the Hot Bread Kitchen come from all over the world. They are taught artisan baking and business skills, to help them become successful culinary professionals.
The bakers also share knowledge of specialty breads from their home countries. Things like Persian Nan-e Barbari, Moroccan Msmen, and Ethiopian Injera are baked and sold by the bakery. Between all of this hands-on knowledge, and the writing expertise of Rodriquez and Turshen, it’s no wonder reviewers and judges have been describing the book as a transformative baking tool.
I spent two weeks photographing the bakery, bread, and the mostly-women bakers for this book. I worked with food stylist Erin McDowell, and prop stylist Barb Fritz. It took me about a year to work off the bread-pounds I gained from all of my snacking. And now I just want to bake more. One thing I know for sure: there is nothing so delicious as a buttery, flaky Msmen, hot from the griddle.
This morning I woke to the sound of chirping birds outside my window. The chirps made me think of spring. Spring made me think of summer. Summer made me think of picnics, grilling, and camping. And then I thought of this shoot I did recently for the Applestone Meat Company, showcasing their meats in all of those settings. This was all from beneath a heavy quilt in my bed, mostly with my eyes closed. The reality of the day is that the trees are bare, and the roads are icy. But the birds are returning, and it was a beautiful waking dream.