Sunday, September 8, 2013

flatbread pizza

This blog is like my journal of creative endeavor.  Flipping back till 3 years and 1 month ago, my very first entry, is like reliving these past three years, a full spectrum of emotions flushing back.  Starting with simply passion and enthusiasm, I devoted a lot of spare time to learning and refining my photography and styling skills.  It was also then that I got into the habit of shopping photo props.  Eventually when I moved out of Watertown, NY, I'd had a considerable collection of them.  Unfortunately, while I was busy buying them, my aesthetic was evolving too.  I ended up having to throw away a lot of early purchases.  Then, the next chapter of life is called New York City.  I was fortunately enough to get in touch with a food photographer Colin who was willing to take me on board, so here it started my professional photography journey.  I was dreaming bold, full of ambition and aspiration.  I felt like living my dream! However, as days rolling by, and I learning and seeing the reality of the photo business, I became more grounded and started asking myself where my life was going.  With the professional photo industry floundering as DSLR cameras are more affordable and accessible to normal people, even experienced and well-established photographers are having a hard time making ends meet, where should all these young aspiring photographers go? I started to have doubt.  Colin advised me "Give it 5 years to build your network and brand, MAYBE you can make it." Yes, maybe or maybe not.  I couldn't wait that long just to find out it's a dead end.  The inability of seeing and controlling where my life was going frustrated me, but unfortunately this is the fundamental nature of any creative career.  I realized the discrepancy between a passion and a career. I was torn.  As much as it was hard to say good bye to all I'd invested in, my connection, equipment, website, job and newly acquired clients etc,  it was more important to realize that I was yearning for something more stable and foreseeable.  I had the urge to get back in control.  So I left.

Then it was a quiet year up here on the blog as I was working hard to transition my life.  I was eventually accepted to a master program to study something not as glamorous, but that would work out for my personality in the long term.  First week of school is just over.  I felt great!  Motivated, optimistic, and excited about my newest chapter of life!  Reflecting on my prior 3 years' emotional journey, I feel calm and peaceful.  As Steve Jobs once said, you have to look back, not forward, your life to make sense of all the random things that happened.  I think my past life as a photographer is already starting to make sense.

This blog may be quiet in the near future as I will be quite busy studying, but I will try to update it whenever I feel like using my creative right brain, just to give my overused left brain a break!

I've been itchy to try making flatbread pizza for a while.  The crust is lighter,crunchier and heartier. This weekend, I eventually made a point to go to an Indian grocery store and bought a bag of whole wheat flatbread.   Using whatever I had in the fridge, I made these two pizza.  The first one came with customized tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes diced into halves, mozzarella cheese, sautéed Chinese sausage (Yes, Chinese sausage, lightly sweet!), fresh basil and ricotta cheese.  I sprinkled some ground parmesan cheese after 12 mins baking at 400F.  It came out amazin'.  It's actually my first ever homemade pizza, much better than what I thought. I twisted the store bought canned tomato sauce by heating it on the stove to thicken the sauce and adding minced garlic, pinch of dried parsley, basil and oregano, as well as some honey.  The sauce turned out rich and sweet. It formed a thick foundation for my other ingredients.  For my second pizza, I threw in mozzarella cheese on top of the tomato sauce, sautéed mushroom and caramelized onion, and sprinkled dried thyme on top.  I didn't have a recipe in mind.  I was just being creative!   As I was juggling between cooking, styling and photography,  the sun was setting.  My kitchen window faces the west, so I was able to get very directional and rich-colored natural light, while my background was able to remain dark.   I am very happy with the photos, as you can see, coming from the left, the sun shined through the basil leaf,  giving the photo a rich tone and dramatic look.  All right, enough for the pedantic technicality, just enjoy the photos.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

my first homemade gravlax

Intrigued by some gravlax photos shared on my Facebook newsfeed, I looked into it and found the method quite simple and fast, I decided to give it a try this weekend.   New York temperature has been in the upper 90s in the past week.  I lost motivation to cook anything or eat anything hot.   This recipe came just in time.

The original recipe comes from Saveur as below,

2 tbsp. white peppercorns
1 tbsp. fennel seeds
1 tbsp. caraway seeds
2⁄3 cup kosher salt
1⁄3 cup sugar
2-lb. center-cut, skin-on salmon filet
1 cup dill sprigs, plus 1/3 cup chopped dill
1⁄4 cup aquavit (optional)
Mustard-Dill Sauce
1. In a small food processor, pulse peppercorns, fennel seeds, and caraway seeds until coarsely ground; combine with salt and sugar. Stretch plastic wrap over a plate; sprinkle with half the salt mixture. Place salmon filet on top, flesh side up. Cover with remaining salt mixture, dill sprigs, and aquavit.
2. Fold plastic wrap ends around salmon; wrap tightly with more plastic wrap. Refrigerate the fish on the plate for 48–72 hours, turning the package every 12 hours and using your fingers to redistribute the herb-and-spice-infused brine that accumulates as the salt pulls moisture from the salmon. The gravlax should be firm to the touch at the thickest part when fully cured.
3. Unwrap salmon, discarding the spices, dill, and brine. Rinse the filet under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Cover a large plate with the chopped dill. Firmly press the flesh side of the gravlax into the dill to coat it evenly.
4. Place gravlax skin side down on a board. With a long, narrow-bladed knife (use a granton slicer if you have one; the divots along the blade make for smoother, more uniform slices), slice gravlax against grain, on the diagonal, into thin pieces. Serve with mustard–dill sauce or on knäckebröd with minced onion. Refrigerate any remaining gravlax, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 weeks.
SERVES 8 – 10