AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Food Styling (Recipe: Fettucine with Spring Mushrooms DATE: 4/08/2009 07:05:00 AM ----- BODY:
Growing up, I cooked mostly from the Time-Life Cookbooks. I loved the pictures in The Good Cook series that guided me through the techniques of each recipe. When I tired of those, my mom bought me the Healthy Home Cooking series and then the Great Meals in Minutes. To me, these books were far more interesting than Judy Blume or Nancy Drew. I would browse through the pictures, and ask my mom to buy the ingredients of the most enticing photos.

On the cover of Fresh Ways with Fish & Shellfish was the most enticing photo of Shrimp and Asparagus Wrapped in Sole. I read the recipe once, twice and then after the third time, I finally queried my mom – how was I going to wrap the fish around the shrimp and asparagus to look like the photo? She couldn’t figure it out either, and so she got on the phone to call the editor. I guess at this point in the story, I should mention that she worked for Time-Life Books so it wasn’t completely over the top that she should pick up the phone.

It was at that moment I discovered what food styling is all about: making food look enticing and succulent for the camera. Realistic and edible are not required.

Every once in a while, I will style food for local photographer Ellen Callaway. Together we created a portfolio of food shots. Unlike the recipes I create for my blog, we pick dishes that inherently will work for the camera. Because of that early childhood trauma, I refuse to stage food that is not created according to the recipe accompanying the shot.

For a recent photo shot, I wanted to create a pasta dish with chanterelle mushrooms, but only hedgehogs were available.

Fettuccine with Wild Spring Mushrooms and Parmesan

½ pound fettuccine
3 scallions, cut lengthwise into 4 pieces each
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
½ pound chanterelle or hedgehog mushrooms, brushed clean and cut into quarters
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
¼ cup dry sherry
Salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste
Freshly grated parmesan

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. One minute before it’s done, add scallions to the water. Drain pasta and scallion together and toss with olive oil.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium high flame. Add butter. When it’s melted, sprinkle the mushrooms in one layer in the pan. Top with a sprinkling of garlic, shallots, thyme, salt and pepper. Let cook for 3 minutes without stirring. Stir and then let cook for another 3 minutes.
3. Deglaze the mushroom pan with sherry. When mostly reduced, adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
4. Toss pasta with mushrooms. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Some other photos, Ellen took of my food:
Braised Artichokes with Creamy Risotto

Beets and Goat Cheese Napolean with Buttered Walnuts

Cappuccino Petit Fours

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Sara DATE:4/08/2009 09:05:00 AM This pasta sounds so good. I haven't seen any great looking wild mushrooms yet, but I'm eagerly waiting for them to show up at the market! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Heather DATE:4/08/2009 09:26:00 AM i absolutely adore that your mom called the editor. how great!

i love fettucine! it's one of my favorite pastas! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:4/08/2009 04:33:00 PM As a food blogger, I often grapple with the challenge of taking photos that make people want to eat the food I'm writing about. Sometimes I think that "styled" photos go too far, making the food look intimidating to the home cook, or sometimes making it look artificial. These photos are lovely; they really strike a balance. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Reeni♥ DATE:4/08/2009 07:53:00 PM The photos are beautiful. I came across some pictures in one of Tyler Florence's cookbook that weren't true to the recipes. I was kind of perturbed! How cool that your Mom called the editor. Your pasta looks divine! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Bren DATE:4/08/2009 10:43:00 PM i love this dish!! i'm not the best at taking pictures and bear little patience for high quality styling. i know it makes a difference! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger adele DATE:4/08/2009 10:57:00 PM The pasta looks beautiful. :)

Food photography for the blog still drives me up the wall. If I could get away with it, I'd be strictly text-based, but I'm told that I need at least a few shots... ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types DATE:4/09/2009 08:09:00 AM I love the simplicity of the pasta dish, and lovely the fettucine looks looped up so nicely. Your story really underscores how important the visual element is in food. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Elra DATE:4/09/2009 11:52:00 AM I love the simplicity of your recipe. Delicious.
elra ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:4/10/2009 07:51:00 AM Sara - I was hoping to see them by now too. Maybe it's been a dry spring in the mushroom regions?

Heather -- She's always been very supportive of my cooking efforts.

Lydia -- Yes! It's the balance. I definitely struggle with it, and admire all your photos because I think you've found it!

Thanks, Reeni! I credit the photographer.

Bren -- I'm with you.

Adele -- maybe we need to start a movement for text-based blogs. For me, photos are definitely the hardest part.

T.W. - the loops are actually quite easy to do with a turning fork.

Elra -- Thanks! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener DATE:4/11/2009 09:14:00 PM That does look god, both the recipe and the picture. and I am so eager for spring mushroom, next week I think the woods may willingly give some... ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Maris DATE:4/15/2009 12:20:00 AM This looks really, really good! It;s been way too long since I've had great fettucine. ----- --------