Un Bacio in Cucina

a photographic exploration of Italian food, culture & wine

Wedding Photography in Portland, Maine

As a food photographer I shoot food, product and packaging but on occasion an opportunity arises that I’ll be hired as a second photographer for a wedding. That was my day yesterday. A nice change of pace, and a jump start into the busy season.
The wedding and reception took place in Portland, Maine at one of the venues at 58 Fore Street, at The Portland Company marine complex. The event space was stunningly rustic but romantic with exposed blue tinged brick, high ceilings, wrought iron beams, oh, and a beautiful view of the harbor. Industrial meets elegance is the best way to describe it.
The setting for the actual wedding was outside on the banks of the harbor on the Eastern Promenade and the bride and groom arrived to awaiting guests on the old Maine Narrow Gauge railroad which, in itself, is a fun time for a photographer. It was a beautiful day with patchy clouds and slightly overcast which is the perfect diffusion for eliminating those harsh shadows. What a fantastic way to spend a day in Portland, Maine. Stay tuned for a few images..I don’t publish every event I shoot on my website so If you’d like to see more of my weddings, including some images of my first Italian wedding in Rome, Italy, and other non food industry events, here is the link to those images.

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Mushroom Lasagne

Mushroom Lasagne

Two summers ago I spent a month in Tuscany, Italy photographing several wineries and a bed and breakfast outside of Siena. It was September and I remember waking up and feeling the subtle transition from the summer heat and humidity to a crispy coolness in the air, a sign that Fall was on it’s way.  I also remember the sacks of porcini mushrooms the family that I stayed with used to bring home and the aroma that filled the kitchen as they prepared delicious meals using those fresh mushrooms. I was more than grateful to be invited to the dinner table and learn a few tricks in the kitchen. Recently, I’ve been feeling that same crispy, cool air as the weather is transitioning in Maine and New Hampshire as I daydream of that golden time in Italy.
I get inspired this time of year to make something with fresh mushrooms just so I can relive that experience I had.  A fresh mushroom lasagne seemed appropriate and a definite crowdpleaser. Although I can’t get those fresh porcini’s here in the US, the dried ones seem to do the trick. I used more porcini’s and add a bit of butter because I love how the butter helps bring out the richness in the mushrooms.
When served with a salad of greens and tomatoes this is a simple and delicious meal that will ease you right into Fall.

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A rustic and healthy lasagne that feels like Autumn in Italy

Mushroom Lasagne
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. For the mushrooms~
  2. 1.5 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  3. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1 tablespoon butter
  5. 1/3 cup diced sweet onion
  6. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  7. ½ cup red wine
  8. 1 1/4 pounds cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  9. Salt
  10. 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  11. 1 teaspoon fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
  12. Freshly ground pepper
  13. For the béchamel~
  14. 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  15. 2 tablespoon butter
  16. 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  17. 3 tablespoons flour
  18. 2 cups milk
  19. 1/4 tsp salt
  20. freshly ground pepper
  21. For the lasagna~
  22. 3/4 pounds no-boil lasagna sheets
  23. 6 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  24. fresh parsley leaves
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit)
  2. Grease bottom and sides of rectangular pan with olive oil
  3. Soak the porcini mushrooms in 2 1/2 cups of boiling water for about 30 minutes. Drain, making sure to squeeze out all the liquid from the mushrooms while reserving the porcini broth
  4. Rinse mushrooms in cool water and roughly chop
  5. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat.
  6. Add onion and garlic and cook for two minutes or until onion is translucent
  7. Add porcini's, their liquid and wine, cooking covered, but not completely, until liquid has almost evaporated.
  8. Increase heat to medium high
  9. Add crimini mushrooms, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper and cook until juices from the crimini’s evaporate
  10. Take off heat and set aside
  11. Heat the oil and butter over medium heat in a heavy saucepan
  12. Add the shallot and cook until fragrant, about two minutes
  13. Sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture starts to bubble, but not brown.
  14. Whisk in the milk slowly and stir constantly until mixture thickens
  15. Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed.
  16. Strain mixture directly into pan with the mushrooms, reserving about four tablespoons of bechamel
  17. Stir until incorporated and set aside
  18. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil
  19. Add about 4 lasagne sheets and boil for about two minutes. These will be used for the top layer only.
  20. Remove from water and lay to drain on flat surface
  21. Spread the reserved béchamel on bottom of lasagne pan
  22. Top with a layer of uncooked lasagne sheets
  23. Add a generous layer of mushroom mixture followed by a layer of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  24. Repeat layering of lasagne sheets, mushroom mixture and cheese until you have enough room for one more layer
  25. Place partially cooked lasagne sheets on top and cover with the remaining mushroom mixture and cheese
  26. Sprinkle top with parsley
  27. Be sure to cover all corners and exposed sheets with sauce so they will cook thoroughly. If you like some crunch to the top layer you can leave some areas exposed
  28. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes
  29. Remove foil and bake an additional ten minutes or until top is golden browned
  30. Remove from heat and let sit for ten minutes before cutting and serving
Un Bacio in Cucina http://www.unbacioincucina.com/
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New Photo Studio for Food and Product Photography in Biddeford, Maine

What a difference a day, or should I say a geographical life change, makes. I made a bold move recently from New York City to Maine, spending the winter in New Hampshire’s White Mountains in the interim. It’s been several months since I’ve settled into a lovely mill town between Portland and Kennebunk, Maine. I have found the food and product scene here to be very creative, diverse and incredibly healthy given the abundance of organic farms, fresh seafood and the passion behind the creations of beautiful and delicious food products and packaging.  As a food photographer, I see Maine in the same way as having a big chocolate cake in front of me, highly irresistible to say the least. Lobster and seafood, blueberries, maple syrup…the list goes on. Most of the restaurants here serve wild harvested and organically grown foods from farmers, fishermen  and foragers from all over Maine and other parts of New England. You haven’t eaten lobster until you’ve eaten Maine lobster, no doubt about it! As a product photographer, the majority being food products, I have seen so many creative, organic and rustic packaging that is in alignment with the deliciousness of the food inside.
This has a been a busy week as I have several food and product photography shoots confirming through the summer months. Product photography is one of my niches and given I have a passion for lighting in my studio I lose myself in the process. I tend to get a little obsessed with getting rid of reflections on bottles and other highly reflective materials, which so many food products utilize.  Let’s face it, it’s easier to get it right in the camera than have to manage it after during the post production phase. I’d rather be eating a delicious meal at a local restaurant than working in Photoshop at my desk. Although I do love Photoshop. :). My website has a lot of examples of the types of food and product packaging I photograph. So happy to be a part of New England and all it has to offer. There is a reason the official slogan for Maine is Vacationland.

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Nonantum Resort Food Photography Studio Shoot

Kennebunkport is one of the most picturesque villages in southern Maine with sweeping ocean views, fresh coastal air, friendly people and incredibly delicious food. Visitors come from all over the globe to enjoy the Spring, Summer and Fall festivities and great weather found there.
The Nonantum Resort is one of the quaint, luxury resorts in Kennebunkport with all of the same qualities, but I might add with exceptional food and drinks, a true representation of Maine cuisine.
I recently spent a day in the studio photographing and styling food and drinks for their website, posters and other marketing materials. Since the resort is situated on the coast they wanted a nautical theme for the images. Chef Steve True and company came to the studio, O’Maine Studios, in Portland, to prepare the dishes one by one. Once I saw the dishes being prepared I quickly set up and styled the scene appropriate for that specific dish. After a few tweaks to the final plate, I photographed each in it’s different nautical and rustic setting, from a gorgeous Poached Pear Salad, French Onion Soup and a Beef Tenderloin topped with crispy leeks and baby Portobello mushrooms to some innovative drinks from Bar Manager, Mark Wozny. On deck were a Singapore Sling, A Maine Blueberry Martini and a Champagne Sangria, to honor the weddings and events they have at the resort. If you find yourself vacationing in Kennebunkport, the Nonantum Resort is worth a visit not only for the food and drink but also for their beautiful and romantic setting and ambience. Some images can be seen on the food | styling page on my website.

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Pea Shoot Soup

How many times have you bought pea shoots for garnish or a sandwich and ended up having them go bad in the refrigerator? I’m guilty of that. I bought a bunch recently to use as a garnish for a styled image I was working on and didn’t want them to go to waste. It was cold outside, a bit snowy, and thought a soup would be nice. What harm could pea shoots do in a soup? Well, let me tell you, some broth, veggies and pea shoots created an incredibly delicious soup that warmed the body and soul.  Since they can be stringy and not very easy to eat in a soup it made sense to blend everything together to make a puree. I also had a lot of radishes leftover from a shoot. I wanted to use them as garnish and put a bowl in the styled set up but the bright red color just didn’t resonate with my vision. I decided to roast the radishes. Contrary to what people believe, they can be roasted. The peppery flavor is more subtle and a hint of sweetness comes through. The roasting ended up muting the red color giving it exactly what I was envisioning. The perfect understated pop of color to compliment the rest of the image.
Here is a quick and easy recipe you can make any day of the week with a few simple and healthy ingredients.

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Pea Shoot Soup
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups organic low sodium chicken broth
  2. 1 red potato, cut in quarters
  3. 1/4 t salt, optional
  4. 1/2 vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
  5. 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  6. 2 T olive oil (not high quality)
  7. 2 cups pea shoots, reserving some for garnish
  8. 10 radishes
  9. Extra virgin olive oil, good quality
Instructions
  1. Bring to a boil in a medium saucepan the chicken broth, potato and salt.
  2. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover almost completely, until potato is tender.
  3. In a small frying pan, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until onion is translucent and a bit browned. Set aside.
  4. While potato is cooking turn on oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Cut stems off of radishes, rinse and toss with some olive oil.
  6. Arrange on cookie sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes or until tender. Set aside.
  7. Once potato is tender, add pea shoots and onion mixture to saucepan and simmer for ten minutes.
  8. Pour mixture into a blender and puree, leaving the blender lid slightly off to allow steam to escape.
  9. Pour mixture in bowl, garnish with sliced radishes and pea shoots and drizzle with good quality extra virgin olive oil.
  10. Serve with brown rice in soup or on the side.
Notes
  1. Take care when pureeing mixture in blender as contents is very hot and can splash out if not careful.
Un Bacio in Cucina http://www.unbacioincucina.com/
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Homemade Almond Milk + Banana, Nut & Seed Smoothie

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to make good, healthy food. Homemade almond milk is one of my necessities and I make it consistently every four days to use in my daily banana, nut and seed smoothie. One cup of raw almonds soaked overnight will yield four cups of milk that you can use in cereal, smoothies or anything else.  I do have to admit it’s not the best for coffee because of the consistency but I use it for everything else.  Almonds are very healthy and full of antioxidants. The milk has minimal calories per serving, a lot less than regular milk, and if you have sensitivities to casein or lactose it’s the perfect alternative.

It’s easy to make and therapeutic, especially when you squeeze all of the milk out of the almonds through the mesh nut bag. It can help get any bottled up aggression out for sure and it’s fun to do! I decided I was going to do a little photography to capture the moment, below.

All you need is a blender and a nut bag really. Soak one cup of raw almonds in water overnight, drain and rinse, blend with four cups of water and strain in a pitcher through cheesecloth or a nut bag. I used cheesecloth and a funnel for a long time which can get messy and frustrating. The nut bag is definitely the way to go.  You can find these bags online or in any health food store.  I’ve seen them at co-op markets in New Hampshire, Maine and New York so they are surely available where you are.

Homemade almond milk

There are a lot of smoothie recipes out there but I’ve been making this particular one for years and have perfected it. It’s banana based and uses all raw nuts and seeds with a few special ingredients added in. Undeniably delicious and addicting.  Here is my version.

 

Banana, Nut and Seed Smoothie

Banana, Nut and Seed Smoothie

Banana, Nut & Seed Smoothie
Serves 1
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Ingredients
  1. 1 large frozen banana, peeled before freezing
  2. 1 ice cube
  3. 1 cup homemade almond milk
  4. 6 raw almonds
  5. 1 T pumpkin seeds
  6. 1 T sesame seeds
  7. 1 T flax seeds
  8. 4 cacao beans
  9. 1/2 t vanilla
  10. 1 t turmeric powder
  11. 1/2 t cinnamon
  12. 1 T almond butter
  13. fresh grated nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Add banana, ice cube, milk, vanilla, turmeric, cinnamon and almond butter in a blender
  2. In a nut and seed grinder, grind almonds, seeds and cacao beans until fine
  3. Add nut and seed mixture to blender and blend until smooth, adding more milk if needed
  4. Pour into a tall glass and grate fresh nutmeg over the top
  5. Enjoy!!
Notes
  1. Use organic ingredients when possible
Un Bacio in Cucina http://www.unbacioincucina.com/
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