I shouldn't complain. I really shouldn't. Our kitchen is quite lovely, especially for a city apartment. I've heard about (in fact, I've cooked in) some tiny spaces that barely fit one or two people. We actually have a table in ours and have managed to fit 15+ folks in the room (standing, of course). For me, the real challenge comes with the light. If you're just eating in there, it's fine... but for those of us who obsessively take pictures of our food, well, a well-lit kitchen is key.
Rarely do I photograph dishes in our kitchen, instead I move things out to our living room or our back deck to get the shots. It often means I need to get creative, shooting things close up or using textured backgrounds to make it pop.
If I need to work on a bigger project, I pack up bags of props, my lenses and any ingredients and I take a trip to my mother-in-law's to use her newly renovated kitchen. The light in there is magnificent and with all the beautiful appliances, I get a little spoiled by the experience.
This is what I did just last week on a day when I needed to do a shoot for a client and wanted to also work on a dish for the OXO "Very Vegetarian Recipe Challenge," which I'm really thrilled to be a part of. The guidelines for this competition are as follows: use three of the six OXO gadgets they were so generous to send participants to make a vegetarian dish that can serve at least 2 people, be made in 30 minutes or less, and incorporated veggies, a starch/grain, and dairy. Sounds easy, right? Well, we also couldn't use certain things, like blenders, a Dutch oven, or my favorite kitchen appliance, a food processor (WAH!!!!). But, you know what? When forced to think outside the box, you tend to do your best work and, I have to say, I think this was one fantastic salad. In fact, I plan on putting this on my Thanksgiving menu. Yeah, it was that good.
Shaved Fennel, Apple and Crispy Quinoa
Tools Sauce pot Mandoline slicer (from OXO) Whisk (from OXO) Salad dressing container (from OXO) Sauté pan
Salad Ingredients 1/2 cup uncooked red quinoa 1 cup veggie broth (low sodium is fine if preferred) 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed 1 honeycrisp apple 2 cups mixed greens, rinsed and dried 2 tablespoons olive oil Kosher salt
Dressing Ingredients3 tablespoons Greek yogurt 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 2 teaspoons honey 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil Juice of 1/2 a lemon Kosher salt
1. To cook the quinoa, add the veggie broth to a pot and bring to a boil. Stir in the quinoa, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until all the veggie broth has been absorbed, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the rest of the salad. Place the greens on a platter. Using the mandoline, thinly slice the fennel bulb and apple. Drizzle a little lemon juice on top of the apple slices so they don't brown. Decorate the greens with the fennel and apple and set aside.
3. Next, make the dressing by whisking together the greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, and honey. Transfer the yogurt mixture into a salad dressing shaker and add 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
4. Once the quinoa is done cooking, open the pot lid and let rest for 2 minutes.
5. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a medium sauté pan. Set over medium-high heat. Once the oil has heated, add the quinoa to the pan and spread out across the surface. Refrain from stirring as this will allow the quinoa to crisp up. After 2-3 minutes, give the quinoa a stir and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Remove from heat.
6. Using a spoon, sprinkle the quinoa on top of the sliced fennel and apple. Drizzle dressing on top and serve.