Un Bacio in Cucina

a photographic exploration of Italian food, culture & wine

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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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White Mountains TV Interview

I was recently interviewed on White Mountains TV in New Hampshire and here is the video of it. They haven’t had a food photographer on the show before so they thought it would be a fun and different perspective. Hey, who doesn’t like to talk about food, right?!  This area in the White Mountains is huge for weddings so there are a lot of wedding and portrait photographers here but not many that are professional food photographers.
The host Rob Clark was very animated and asked some great questions about the product photography and restaurant photography that I’ve been working on. We started off talking about my shoot in Sicily for a luxury olive oil company and estate called Mandranova and showed some images of the villa, the olive harvest and the food that will be in the book they are publishing this year.
Since I do a lot of bottle photography in my studio we touched on that as well and I was able to show some samples of my work and explain the importance of lighting and how it can make a dish look appetizing or not so appetizing.
It was broadcast in standard definition so the images were not crystal clear but hope anyone interested would check out my website. I now work out of New York and New Hampshire and am working on capturing some business from Maine. There are so many restaurants and foodies in Portland, Maine so I spend quite a bit of time there as of late.  Thanks for watching and check out more of my work and passions on my website at www.lesliebrienzaphotography.com.

 

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East Wind Snack Shop Photo Shoot

Industry Magazine’s new issue featured my images of a recent photo shoot at East Wind Snack Shop in Brooklyn. Love that magazine and Amanda McCoy wrote such a nice piece on Chef Chris and his incredible Chinese snack shop.  Such a great place to get dumplings and other delicious Chinese food. Chef Chris is brilliant and his restaurant is always packed. The article is here with all of my images. 

A New Wind – Industry Magazine

Industry Magazine -East Wind Snack Shop

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From the tree to the bottle – The olive harvest in Sicily

Last month, I was commissioned by Mandranova, a luxury villa and olive oil company in Sicily, to photograph the olive harvest, the estate and the recipes for their forthcoming book. This book will celebrate and coincide with their tenth anniversary and will include many of the authentic Sicilian recipes they prepare for the guests like Cannoli, Timballo di anelletti, and Pasta con le sarde a mare. These are some of the images from the harvest to the finished product. More of my work, including food and wine images, can be seen on my website. Thank you for letting me share this short photo essay with you. If you have any food, product or lifestyle projects please contact me below or visit my website at www.lesliebrienzaphotography.com

The method of collecting and gathering the olives on nets in Sicily

The method of collecting and gathering the olives on nets in Sicily

A worker gathering a handful of Nocellara olives during the harvest

A worker gathering a handful of Nocellara olives during the harvest

 

 

 

 

 

From tree to mill as quickly as the baskets can be filled. Always a tractor standing by to guarantee the freshest oil possible

A peaceful and contemplative scene in the mill. My job was to capture moments like this and the way of life in Sicily

Always enjoyed photographing in the production facility especially when I could hold a small cup under this fresh and warm stream of olive oil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They also produce a blend. This is the new bottle from the 2015 harvest. Bottles are one of my specialties and all the magic happens in my studio

They also produce a blend. This is the new bottle from the 2015 harvest. Bottle photography is one of my specialties and all the magic happens in my studio

Four olive varieties are grown on the property, Nocellara, Giarraffa, Biancolilla and Cerasuola. All native to Sicily. This is one of the styled bottle shots of the Giarraffa I shot in my studio

Four olive varieties are grown on the property, Nocellara, Giarraffa, Biancolilla and Cerasuola. All native to Sicily. This is one of the styled bottle shots of the Giarraffa I shot in my studio

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Spaghetti with Roasted Summer Squash, Tomatoes and Ricotta Salata

One of my absolute favorite things about summer is the local farmer’s markets and the abundance of the freshest fruits and vegetables available. Not only are they beautiful specimens to photograph, it’s no secret that the freshness of ingredients can make or break a meal. Summer squash is high on my list to cook with and to photograph but is so underrated. It must be because we are overwhelmed by the amount of varieties that are available and how fast squash grows. Because it’s so readily available it just doesn’t seem special, but it really is. It’s one of those vegetables that can take over a garden in no time and we end up giving it away to everyone we know because we just don’t know what to do with it all. Here is a recipe I created where you can use a good amount of it for a nice dinner or double the recipe, and use a lot of it for a party or leftovers for several days. When summer squash is oven roasted it has a very delicate flavor and does not overpower a dish, it actually marries nicely with other subtle ingredients. Always use the freshest ingredients possible and the highest quality extra virgin olive oil and balsamic you can find. Your guests will thank you. If you’d like to see more of my work feel free to visit my website.

Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes basil and ricotta salata-IMG_4008

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil and Ricotta Salata. Photo by Leslie Brienza

Spaghetti with Roasted Summer Squash, Tomatoes and Ricotta Salata
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Ingredients
  1. 1.8 kilograms zucchini squash
  2. 3 garlic cloves, whole, peeled
  3. 4 T olive oil
  4. 140 grams cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  5. 1 handful fresh basil leaves
  6. salt and pepper
  7. 2 T olive oil
  8. 230 grams spaghetti
  9. 100 grams ricotta salata
  10. extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Cut ends off of zucchini and cut in ½” slices lengthwise. Lay all slices on baking sheet with garlic cloves, brush olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  2. Roast in oven at 190° Celsius for 40 minutes, turning over slices halfway through roasting
  3. While zucchini is roasting, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, cherry tomatoes and basil leaves to serving dish
  4. Once zucchini is browned remove from oven and cool
  5. Cook spaghetti al dente, reserve ½ cup pasta water
  6. Drain spaghetti and add to serving dish. Mix together with tomato mixture, adding reserved pasta water to desired consistency
  7. Grate ricotta salata and mix in, reserving some for topping
  8. Cut up zucchini into bit size pieces and add to serving dish
  9. Mix all together well then top generously with more grated ricotta salata and drizzle with a high quality extra virgin olive oil
Un Bacio in Cucina http://www.unbacioincucina.com/
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Chocolate Easter Cakes with Honey Mascarpone

Since Easter is my favorite holiday I was inspired to create, style and photograph something beautiful and delicious as a personal project. This is a simple chocolate cake recipe that is layered with mascarpone, an Italian cheese made from cream, and candy coated milk chocolate Easter eggs. This will make a lovely dessert for an Easter brunch or dinner. It is unbelievably good and you are guaranteed to make a lot of new friends with this one. Enjoy!

Chocolate Easter Cakes with Honey Mascarpone

Chocolate Easter Cakes with Honey Mascarpone. Photo by Leslie Brienza

Chocolate Easter Cakes with Honey Mascarpone
Makes 4-6 cakes
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Ingredients
  1. 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  2. 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon good quality unsweetened cocoa, I use Droste
  3. 3 tablespoons canola oil
  4. 3/4 cup water
  5. 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  6. 1 3/4 cups sugar
  7. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  8. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  9. 2 eggs
  10. 1/2 cup buttermilk
  11. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  12. 1 cup Mascarpone
  13. 2 tablespoons honey
  14. 6 ounces candy coated chocolate Easter eggs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease and lightly flour a jelly roll pan
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat
  3. Once butter is melted whisk in the cocoa and stir until smooth
  4. Add the water and oil to saucepan and bring to a boil
  5. Remove the pan from heat and set aside
  6. While chocolate mixture cools whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl
  7. Pour the slightly cooled cocoa mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla
  8. Add the buttermilk mixture into the batter
  9. Pour the batter into pan and place in oven on center rack
  10. Bake until the top is firm to touch and a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Set aside to cool
  11. Once cake has cooled, cut out rounds using a biscuit cutter or top of glass, about 2 1/2" in diameter, set aside
  12. Mix honey and mascarpone together in small bowl
  13. Place one cake round on plate, spread mascarpone on top, add another cake round, then more mascarpone until there are three cake layers and three layers of mascarpone.
  14. Dust cakes lightly with powdered sugar and top with crushed chocolate eggs.
Un Bacio in Cucina http://www.unbacioincucina.com/
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