Happy Holidays

Marian Keyes wrote – ” What is life but fleeting moments of happiness strung together on a necklace of despair?”. Dismal beginnings to a post with a cheery headline isn’t it? Bear with me because its not all bad. I do an end of year stock taking, as we all do, and I do mean of life itself during the year. It started well, with trips and the much anticipated move back to the US, work was good and half way down the year it all simmered down and now at the end of the year, its rather quiet. I can’t complain. This coming from someone who is an eternal pessimist is an amazing thing in itself and there seems to be some truth to Marian’s words. The truth is that I choose to focus on the first part of it rather than the latter. You see, I have tried a few new things this year which means that I have struggled, fallen flat on my face and even failed at certain endeavors, but I choose to look at those fleeting moments of good that have made it all worthwhile. Those little triumphs are testimony that I am going in the right direction and somewhere in the future is that big cake with a cherry on top, waiting for me. My failures are guide posts that tell me what not to do and what is sorely lacking in my quiver of skills. At the end of each of those falls, there has been an ah-a moment, telling me how to move forward. So this can’t be a necklace of despair, but it looks to me more like I am still stringing the pearls of wisdom together.

Alright, let me hang up my yoda hat and get back to business. It has been a good year, got pictures published in a book, ran a magazine successfully for a year and  booked a group exhibition for the next year, not too shabby despite a loser second half of the year. And if you will indulge me for one more moment with that aforementioned hat, let me also say it is rather difficult to be sad and/or dissatisfied when the holidays come rolling around. I don’t know what it is about Christmas it evokes the child in me, who is lost in the visions of charlie brown and perhaps even sniffles( if you even know the character!). This time of year is all about near and dear ones and this year has been graphically lucid about the ones I can actually trust. When Christmas swings around, I can’t help myself….I just am happy. You could kick me in the shin and I guess I would still smile!  Something about the season just gets me everytime, I have to bake cookies and send it out to loved ones, I have to write out holiday cards, I have to bake like a maniac for my nephews and I shop a full day for everyone in the family and spend one more day wrapping them with care. There is no time left in the day to wallow! Perfect!

So here’s to Christmas….and putting all your troubles behind and looking forward with educated eyes…

And so I’m offering this simple phrase,
To kids from one to ninety-two,
Although its been said many times, many ways,
A very Merry Christmas to you 

And I wish you and yours a very Happy and Prosperous New Year too……and I will see you bright and early next year, if not before. But before you go, thank you for taking the time out to read and look at my pictures, whoever you are, wherever you are. I will leave you with some shots of some of the cookies I sent out this year.

Chocolate clouds - 1 Linzer - 1 Linzer 3

 

As usual everything on this blog is Copyright of Photopportunist/Shruthi V. DO NOT reprint or reuse without the author’s explicit permission. Please visit – http://www.photopportunist.com if you are interested in working with me or if you intend purchasing a print.

Happy Holidays

Sweet Surrender to Gluttony

Gluttony is a sin, as listed and described by the Bible, but every Thanksgiving is secretly about gluttony. The coinage of the term “holiday weight” must have been based on the massive binge that begins with Thanksgiving and ends with New Year, when after, more than a month of stuffing one’s face with every possible sweet and savory delight that we can concoct, our bodies have had enough and is ready to take the plunge into the empty promise of a New Year resolution. But while it lasts, lets stuff it with things that can make grown men weep with satisfaction. One of the desserts on my table for this thanksgiving were Pecan Bar, I had a pumpkin chiffon pie and the thought of another pie was too much to handle, so the pie became a bar.

Let me first talk about photographing this. I had decided that I wanted a dark, moody background, because the bars themselves have very warming browns and caramel colors in it and the dark background was to tone it down. It also worked in my favor that today is a dark, gloomy, snowy day in New Jersey – so light was perfect. The pictures were shot near an open window and the background and surface are both black foam boards. I used a white foam board to reflect some light back to cut out some shadows, besides this NO other equipment was used. When you see the pecan bars, you will notice their raggedy edge, it is by default and by design. I hate when things are TOO perfect and the organic feel is lost.

The recipe is from Ina Garten with just the addition of a little bit of grand marnier.

Ingredients

Crust:

Topping:

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 cup good honey
  • 3 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 2 pounds pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp grand marnier (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 by 12 by 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be very sticky; sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.

For the topping, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the heavy cream , grand marnier and pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.

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Sweet Surrender to Gluttony

Playing with food is not a bad thing!

Fall is inching ever so closely, that when I look out my window I can see some orange and red leaves peeking back at me. Soon it will be cold, and everyone will talk about layering and jackets and bundling up by the fire – and before you know it, the holidays will be upon us! Its almost that time of year when one tends  to think about comfort food. But I am clutching on to summer’s coat tails and wringing it of its very last bounty. Oh, don’t get me wrong – I prefer the cold over the heat but summer gives me one thing in plenty that I adore the most – fresh strawberries! Like carrots, I hate cooking strawberries. The sweet but tart red stippled fruit doused with a generous dip of my version of fromage blanc with mascarpone, is the simplest manna one can construct within a matter of minutes. It almost gives me the feeling of enjoying a day of tennis on the lawns of wimbledon. A version of Strawberries & Cream, so wrong for you and just so right. Its like that seductively attractive guy you know is bad for you but you just can’t seem to keep your hands  to yourself.

So here is the “recipe” ( a rather unusual thing for a blog focused more on photography) –

1 pint of strawberries hulled

1  8oz container of mascarpone

zest of one lemon

2-3 tbsp of heavy cream/whole milk (whichever you prefer)

2 tbsps of honey or 1 tbsp of confectioner’s sugar ( add more if you want it sweeter)

1 tsp vanilla extract ( not essence)

Mix ingredient 2-5 in a bowl to a consistency where you can dip a strawberry into ( add more milk if required). Tastes better if the dip is a little colder than room temperature, Dip strawberries & enjoy.

But coming back to comfort food and the upcoming change in season, I foresee a lot of experimentation with soup. One of the few things I will list as comfort food is a no-nonsense chicken soup that my mother used to make for us. Nothing like the sometimes insipid to taste, chicken noodle soup. Heck no! This was a spicy concoction that could clear a sinus. It was spicy and warmed up every thing it touched and even our dog used to love it and drink it piping hot. She always used the giblets, some of our Indian spices, a good heap of garlic and chopped up coriander and that was all the flavor that this clear broth required along with salt & pepper. From the smell to the taste, this rather uncomplicated soup was a giant hug that relieved us of congestion and cold.

Speaking of spices, I was wondering about photographing some Indian spices that we use often and was doing some research online to see what compositions had already been done. Symmetrical compositions with wooden spoons or bowls, all whole spices in a row, powders in a heap at a market were all that I could find. Also in all my previous food photos, I saw an element of symmetry and pattern and I wanted to break the mold. Spices are a cook’s palette and that sentence got me thinking. There is some symmetry in this too, but just as a subtle reference. Let me know what you think.

 

I will also be writing a piece on food photography for a magazine I edit so I needed a cliched but fun shot that was simple and could take some text on it, so I shot this…

 

 

All of these photos were shot using natural light, near an open window on a slightly overcast day. I used a diffuser to even out the light hitting the food and to get softer shadows.  The only post processing done on these pictures are for contrast and a slight amount of color saturation.

As usual all photos and material on this blog are copyright of the author. Please DO NOT reuse anything from this blog without the author’s explicit permission. If you are interested in working with me or want to buy a print, please leave me a message.

Playing with food is not a bad thing!