Cookbook Reviews: Around The World

This week’s book review from Kristina makes an avid traveler like me want to head straight to the closet, grab a bag and toss some stuff in it and head somewhere. And then eat non-stop. I’m loving all these reviews and can tell I’ll need to make a curry today.

I don’t know why, but each autumn I decide I want to try cooking new foods at home.  This year, it’s curry.  It goes back to a conversation I had about curries with an Indian colleague.  He said, “For starters, it isn’t something you just sprinkle powder over.  It’s something done up with individual spices, and takes a long time to cook to develop the flavors.”  The powder sprinkling part was a reference to Italian menu items of “pollo al curry” and the likes.  I, of course, don’t order curry dishes in Italian restaurants, but it made me get out there and start looking for ways to learn how to cook curries at home.  This of course spun off into a “What else can I make at home that I always look for in restaurants, or that I dream of planning my vacations around?” and that’s how I got to this week’s book reviews.  My non-European cookbook round up.  I should launch into a million qualifications of this list, because I do really care that you don’t think I’m a troglodyte. The most important qualification is that I don’t pretend to know how to make food like a native with the help of these books.  I’ve had many bases for comparison, though lacking the palate of a native, I can only say that I’m happy with the alternatives that these books offer me for my home kitchen.  Of course my non-European collection doesn’t stop here.  But these are a few I’m really liking now.

I Love Curry by Anjum Anand  (2010 Quadrille Books, photography by Jonathan Gregson) First thing I did when I got this was look through it twice marveling at the photography.  It is beautifully styled and photographed.  It is varied.  Divided up by main ingredient (poultry, fish, meat, etc), there’s something for everyone.  One of the most discouraging things about non-European cookbooks is that they often require loads of ingredients I can’t easily find in Italy and they seem complicated.  This book has enough recipes that do not require specialty shops and process is clear and simple.  Sunday has become curry night in my home because of this book.  It’s a great resource for anyone who doesn’t need a tome, just a solid collection of curry recipes which are approachable and render fabulous results.

Miss Masala:  Real Indian cooking for busy living by Mallika Basu (2010 Collins UK no photography).  This book is exactly what the title says.  Written by the author of Quick Indian Cooking blog, this book is the adaptation of her website.  Remember what I said about lots of ingredients and complicated process?  Out the window with this book as well.  Not just limited to curry, this has the range of Indian food at your finger tips, in a journal style format, almost like you’re reading someone’s notebook.  I have used this to find recipes to accompany the curry main dishes in Anjum Anand’s book (above).  It may seem cliche, but I really never realized how easy it was to make many of these dishes.  Once the simplicity is revealed, it opens up a new horizon in the kitchen and on Mondays when I take my lunch to work I feel so proud of myself for being able to make and eat exactly what I want when I want it.  This book is for the same type of person who would like I Love Curry, but with a broader collection of Indian recipes.

Kansha:  Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions by Elizabeth Andoh (2010 Ten Speed Press; photography by Leigh Beisch). In addition to Indian food, I always look for good sushi, tempura, and udon.  But I feel lazy when I don’t try to break my routine, so as part of my “expand my cooking repertoire” research I wanted to learn more about Japanese cuisine and wanted to be able to make it at home.  Kansha (which means ‘”appreciation”) was a revelation to me.  Elizabeth Andoh is an expert on Japan and its culinary traditions.  I learned so much about ingredients, technique, and Japanese cuisine, that I treasure this equally as a cookbook and a source of cultural information.  Given the difficulty of finding many of the ingredients she uses here in Italy, it is a special occasion book for me.  If you live in an area where Japanese ingredients are easier to find, it could very well become a regular source of recipes.  This book is for vegans, vegetarians, and anyone looking for a good Japanese food book with thorough cultural, ingredients, and technique notes.  The photography and styling are also wonderful.

Everyday Harumi:  Simple Japanese Food for Family & Friends by Harumi Kurihara (2010 Conran Octopus; photography by Jason Lowe). Everyday Harumi is a beautifully photographed, easy to source, easy to make collection of Japanese recipes.  This is Harumi’s third book, I believe, and it is exactly what I was looking for to add a few new dishes to my line up.  The book starts out with the pantry essentials– none of which are so unique you’d not use them in other dishes, nor too hard to source.  Harumi then provides recipes to make sauces from those ingredients which you can keep on hand.  Part of Harumi’s success is her ability to break down the recipes into few simple steps.  Maybe that’s just Japanese cooking, I don’t know! I do know that the recipes in this book are perfect when you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, preparing ingredients, or standing over the stove. If you can only afford one Japanese cookbook (modern cuisine, not traditional!), you should seriously consider this one, or another of Harumi’s titles.

Thai Street Food by David Thompson (2010 Ten Speed Press; photography by Earl Carter) My fascination with the Australian food scene introduced me to David Thompson’s work many years ago.  His first book, Thai Food, is a 650+ page true to the letter collection of recipes, and history of Thai food.   I believe Thompson’s goal with Thai Street Food was to make the recipes much easier than those in Thai Food so that we could all try our hand at it.  He succeeds in content.  Few are the recipes with one or more hard to find ingredients.  Technique is simple, albeit sometimes requiring many stages to pull the recipe together.  Earl Carter is one of the best photographers out there and his photography is what I really love most about the book.  The photographs are great scene-setters, and remind me of the few days I spent around Bangkok a few years ago.  In my opinion, because I do like evocative images, this book is worth it for the photography alone.  Where it gets complicated is the book’s size and weight.  It is HUGE. This makes it a coffee-table only book for those of you who do not have a lot of kitchen space to open a cookbook.  Of course, if you do what I do, which is trot back and forth between the kitchen counter and the dining room table, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume:  Cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean by Silvena Rowe (2010 Hutchinson; photography by Jonathan Lovekin) I bet you thought I only craved Asian food at home.  Surprise!  I crave everything.  Silvena Rowe’s book is one of the few I have of this cuisine type.  There are a few reasons I like it.  First just reading the header notes and stories make me want to hop on a plane and go explore Turkey, Syria, Greece.  Second, though Italy is considered Mediterranean, the flavors are so different from what I might usually find here, that I love to break the ‘monotony’ (not said in a bad way!)  Third, the recipes are short and easy.   There are quite a few very good vegetarian dishes in here including falafel recipes with various ingredients, vegetarian kofte (like meatballs…with or without the meat), dips, and filled pastry dough.  I like this really for the vegetarian options it gives me, but also love the lamb.   There are a few desserts, but nothing that jumped out at me– I do not know enough about Eastern Mediterranean cuisine to know if that is generally the case (not big on sweets), but the small number of sweets doesn’t take away at all from the rest of the book which is much more than satisfying.



Meyer Lemon Cupcakes

Ok, well actually, that would be Meyer Lemon and Ricotta Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. Whew! That’s a mouthful indeed, in more ways than one. I want to remind you of the Scharffen Berger Chococolate Adventure Contest, this time it’s all about cupcakes. And since I’m judging this contest next year I want to make sure each and every one of you enters! Visit the official site for rules and information.

In the meantime, here’s my cupcake creation using the adventure ingredients. I chose the flavor of meyer lemon (an all time favorite, hands down) as well as ricotta and white chocolate. They’re rich, slighty tangy with wonderful citrus and white chocolate flavors. And no, don’t ask me how many of these I ate today as I photographed them because I would never tell you (3 1/2 plus a giant spoonful of the frosting).  Hey, since the holidays officially begin today can you blame me?

Meyer Lemon and Ricotta Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting makes 12

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
2 egg whites lightly beaten
½ cup part-skim ricotta
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 Meyer lemon, zested and juiced

Frosting:
3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
4 ounces Scharffen Berger white chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Garnish:
1 ounce Scharffen Berger white chocolate, shaved

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer beat together the sugar and egg until light and
fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. With the motor or speed on medium-low add the ricotta, melted butter and buttermilk
to the sugar mixture.
5. Begin adding the flour mixture to the sugar mixture in thirds, scraping the bowl down
after each addition until fully incorporated.
6. Gently fold in the lemon extract, zest and juice. Stir.
7. Line each cup with paper liners and fill each about 2/3 of the way with batter.
8. Place cupcakes in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until light golden
brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cupcake.
9. For the frosting, place the sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and begin
beating on low speed until just combined. About 2 minutes.
10. Add the cream and turn the speed to medium-high and continue beating the mixture,
until smooth.
11. Reduce the speed to medium and slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate.
12. Fold in the vanilla until fully incorporated.
13. Once the cupcakes have cooled, place the frosting into a piping bag with a star tip and
pipe a small amount of frosting onto each cupcake.
14. Top each cupcake with a sprinkle of white chocolate shavings and serve.

Butternut Squash Tarte Tatin


Oh this little butternet squash tarte tatin, how much do I love you? Enough to have you three times over the past few weeks, all for the sake of “recipe testing”, you know.

And honestly, this upside-down tart is probably one of the best things I’ve had all season, if I do say so myself.

Sweet butternut squash is roasted and then placed on top of caramel in a baking pan. The whole thing is covered with puff pastry and baked, and when it’s ready you invert the whole thing onto a plate and just go for it. I’ve tried to be nice when eating this but you can’t, it just disappears so fast. It was a hit during our Friendsgiving last Sunday, but in a quick misfire of timing and communication it landed on the table during the meal and not as dessert. You know what? It didn’t matter. It was sweet and buttery, perfect with Gaby’s stuffing and just about everything else that afternoon.

Honestly, I do think you’ll love it.

Butternut Squash Tarte Tatin serves 8

Ingredients
4 cups butternut squash cut into 1-inch cubes
1–2 tablespoons canola oil
a pinch of salt
¼ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
a dash of nutmeg
1 (about 8-oz) sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed

Instructions
For the squash: heat oven to 400˚F. Toss the squash cubes in 1–2 tablespoons of canola oil, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and roast until tender, about 30-35 minutes, turning once during baking to insure even cooking and browning. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the caramel.

With the oven still at 400˚F, move the oven rack to the top position.

Melt butter over medium heat in a nonstick skillet, stir in sugar and cook until golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes, swirling skillet often. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg; pour caramel into an 8-inch by 8-inch baking pan. Place roasted squash over caramel. Unfold the puff pastry over the squash and fold any excess pastry down the sides of the pan and under. Prick the pastry with a fork all over and place in already hot oven for 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate, being careful not to burn yourself. It’s hot! Cut and serve. It’s fantastic with crème fraiche, ice cream or a nice dollop of whipped cream. Or as is. I’m not picky.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Hope you have a fantastic holiday tomorrow!



Spice Islands Flavor Explorer and a Contest!

Sugar and spice and everything nice, right? Well, I’m rather thrilled to announce a partnership with Spice Islands called The Spice Islands Flavor Explorer look closely at their website and you’ll see my lil mug…hi mom!)  I’ll be teaming up with them to provide recipes using their amazing collection of spices and extracts that will be featured on their new blog over at SpiceIslands.com/blog.  I’ll also get in my kitchen and have some fun with their pure Vanilla Extract, which is perfect for this time of year. And in case you didn’t know this (because I didn’t at first!) it’s all natural, made without corn syrup unlike other brands. But more on that later.

Now the last thing I want to do is sound like a commercial so let’s get this out of the way: I love them. I love their commitment to quality and their belief system about what they do, but equally important to me are the people behind the brand. I’ve since spent some time with the Spice Islands team and have some really fun stuff in store. I’m looking forward to sharing some really fun and delicious Spice Islands moments with you.

But first (and since we’re talking about vanilla here) I want to let you know that I’m hosting a contest called the Flavor Explorer: Vanilla Challenge. Submit your own original recipe using Spice Islands All Natural No Corn Syrup Added Pure Vanilla Extract for a chance to win $500 and a prize package filled with some of my favorite Spice Islands spices and blends. I’ll be selecting 3 finalists, making their recipes here and choosing the final winner so folks, make them good! (Not that I’ll have problems eating just about anything with vanilla since it ranks high up on my list of favorite flavors, you know).

And even if you don’t win numero uno there are still great prizes: the 10 semi-finalists will all get a Spice Islands prize package consisting of Spice Island products. I’m so very excited about this contest but you should head over to Spice Islands to read the official rules and all the legal stuff that you must know about. Once you’re ready to enter you can send your recipe and contact information to SpiceIslandsChallenge@c-k.com.

If you have any questions about the contest leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you! Now let’s explore!

The Fine Print:  I’m a believer in full disclosure so here it goes: I am working with Spice Islands to develop recipes as well as host this contest. I am being paid. However, the opinions and statements made about Spice Islands are solely my own without any message being required from this partnership. It’s a spice line I truly believe in, it’s all my own ramblings about them, for better or for worse!

Cookbook Reviews: Some Favorites

You know how important cookbooks are to us over here at Mattbites. This installment from Kristina Gill features a selection of some recent favorites and I promised not to be biased considering they come from a few of my favorite people. Take it away, Kristina!

There are quite a few books out right now which I’ve been very impressed by not only with refreshing content, but also in their presentation. As you may have noticed already, I choose cookbooks based as much on their content as their visual impact, opting either for fantastic images and great content or great content and no images over a book with poor images. Here are the ones I’ve enjoyed recently, all of which resuscitated a reaction I never expected to have when flipping through a cookbook! Don’t worry, I haven’t gone crazy, it’s just…when you are always reading cookbooks, you think nothing will surprise you. Instead, these books really made my day. Seen any great books lately?

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern (2010 Wiley; photography by Lara Ferroni) This summer I was grappling with some problems which my doctor and a friend believed might be gluten intolerance. So far, this has not been verified, but in the most difficult times, it was as hard physically as psychologically to deal with the idea that I might not be able to eat gluten ever again! If you flip through this book, you’ll see that there aren’t many special “tricks” to making gluten-free food. The recipes are of course all quite appealing, and there are recipes for gluten-free crackers, breads, and desserts. What I like most about Shauna’s book is that it is a reminder of how well you can eat without gluten. Instead of a finite set of recipes, for me it represented the beginning of a limitless horizon, and that’s what makes the book special for me, unlike other gluten-free books which can tend to make you feel as though you’ve got a set menu to choose from. Of course there’s a love story in there too, and that always makes people feel good, but for me, this book was all about freedom to choose foods, regardless of your dietary restrictions. This is a great book for anyone.

Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home by Lara Ferroni (2010 Sasquatch; photography by Lara Ferroni) Doughnuts were a special treat for Lara as a child, as they were for me. Flipping through this collection of recipes, each page was a childhood memory. All the logical variants on doughnuts are here, nothing far-fetched, nothing lacking. If there’s a type of doughnut you want to make (baked or fried, gluten-free or not), Lara has either included it or left you with the tools to make your own. Doughnuts are so simple, yet seem like magic when someone makes one for you before your very eyes! That’s what this book is, and I can’t really think of any way Lara could have done a better job! Except maybe to ship it with a half dozen old-fashioned plain cake doughnuts…no glaze!

Alice’s Cookbook by Alice Heart (2010 Quadrille; Photography by Emma Lee) Quadrille publishers has done a great thing– a new series of books for new voices in food. Alice Hart was their debut author, and I must admit, she should feel very proud of what she’s done. This is a compact paperback volume which is just the right size to carry around and study to tab all the great recipes. I try to test each book I own with at least one recipe, and for this one, it was the brownies. She boasted they are the best ever, and my husband concurs! The rest of the book is laid out around occasions in which you might prepare a certain meal– picnic, around the fire, Sundays, etc. I found this organization to be helpful not just for thinking of meal planning, but also in getting into narrative of the book and feeling as though I could relate to Alice’s lifestyle and how food fits into it. Some of the recipes are a bit involved, but every so often, it’s good to make an extra effort in the kitchen. I really like this book, a lot. With superb photography by Emma Lee, it is definitely on my list of favorites!



Wild garlic, gooseberries…and me: a chef’s stories and recipes from the land by Dennis Cotter (2010 Collins; photography by Cristian Barnett) I took a brief trip to Dublin last year and fell in love with Ireland before the plane even landed, understanding immediately why it is called the Emerald Isle. Inundated with cookbooks which are collections of recipes with brief headers, I like this book because the recipes are integrated into the author’s journey in search of vegetables in his native Ireland. I like that he starts out by citing Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book as an endless source of inspiration, admitting he’s never cooked from it! To me, that makes him human, and makes me quite interested in the conversational tone he takes throughout the book to describe how he identifies, gathers, and prepares his favorite vegetables. The recipes are not always the simplest nor the ingredients easy to find in a place like Rome, but the ones which are accessible are elegant and refined. I am putting a road trip through Ireland on my list of dream trips after this one.

Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town by Douglas Gayeton (2010 Welcome Books; photography by Douglas Gayeton) If you follow my tweets you know I’m curmudgeon-like when it comes to the organized Slow Food movement in the United States, as articulated by its most visible advocates. I won’t go into those reasons here, but I will say that I bought this book curious to see the perspective of this author, because I thought it had something to do with “slow food”. I was more than pleasantly surprised with the visual impact of the photography and layout. The author documented his time in and around Pistoia (close to Florence) in photographs and words. My first thought, given the way Gayeton has used writing to ‘narrate’ most of the photos in the book, was to call it a “Where in the World is Waldo Part 2″. Gayeton’s photographic work is impressive, to say the least, and the writing is quite distracting. Unfortunately, only a few have overlays which can be lifted. Notwithstanding, I got sucked in by the sheer number of elements which appeared in each image, as simple as they seemed on face. This is definitely a coffee table book which I find myself revisiting often, and it is a book that I have enjoyed reading and studying a bit at a time, so that I can discover something new each time I pick it up.

Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Yea, so I’m still continuing with Thanksgiving sides and apparently I’m still on this Chipotle kick. I can’t help it. A part of me thinks I might have taken a quick ride on a time machine back to the 1990s when everything went chipotle, but to skip over its smoky personality because of fashion would be a disservice to my table. So while I was experimenting with recipes recently like this Chipotle Sweet Potato Spoon Bread I did that’s over on the Cooking Channel I decided to do a simple mashed sweet potato with a nice dose of chipotle. It’s far from an original concept, I’ll give you that. But it’s delicious and a nice change. Plus if you’re inclined to do a different type of turkey this year (something with an Asian or Cajun flavah) then these sweet spuds will be maaaaaaarvelous.

Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Since I’m on a Food Network/Cooking Channel tip here, I’ve based this recipe on Alton Brown’s recipe. Not much changes, it’s literally quite simple, but I might add the teeeeeeeeniest tinnnnnnniest bit of extra adobo sauce for added flavor. And when looking for chipotles you’ll find them in a can packed in sauce, referred to as “chipotles in adobo”.  You will always find a few cans in our pantry. Oh, that sounded like I was giving you our stash, didn’t it? I wasn’t. You’ll have to buy them yourself.

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (you can use salted, it’s fine, just taste as you go along so you don’t oversalt!)
1 whole canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
1 teaspoon of the adobo sauce from the can
1/2 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter, see above)

Put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until tender and cooked. Drain and return the potatoes to the pan and add butter, peppers, adobo sauce and salt, if needed. Mash them up well, mixing ingredients. Serve immediately. So simple.



Dorie Greenspan’s Spiced Butter-Glazed Carrots

Thanksgiving mode has officially begun at our house. And I love it.  We’re currently ramping up for T.D.R.F.T.W.W.S.O.T.A, or “Thanksgiving Dress Rehearsal For Those We Won’t See On Thanksgiving, Actually.” It’s our 3rd year, let me explain the concept: we host a sit-down Thanksgiving meal any time during the month of November before the actual day. The table is set, the turkey is cooked, and it’s a chance to make the dishes you’ve never made before and give them a trial run before running off to your real Thanksgiving event. Basically, it’s Thanksgiving times two and while it seems like double-duty it actually allows us to see our friends that already have family commitments.  Scratch your head, I know what you’re thinking: Thanksgiving is crazy enough, why would I want to do it twice? See, here’s the thing: having a trial run is fun, low key and just feels different. More like a dinner party. And when the big day comes you know what we do? We get out of the house and visit friends and family, bringing the dishes we’ve tested and know will be enjoyed by everyone.

This year there’s one recipe that I knew wouldn’t need any testing because it comes from Dorie Greenspan’s new book, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. There’s a reason why it’s #1 on Amazon and the New York Times Bestseller list. I want to sleep with it under my pillow. I’m sure we all do the same thing when looking through cookbooks: we flip through, saying to ourselves “Oh, I’ll make this!” before flipping through 5 or 20 pages before saying it again. However, with Dorie’s book I find myself saying that on every page, with every recipe, and it’s clearly going to be a problem for me. One giant delicious problem. Back back to Thanksgiving. I’m serving her recipe because I love carrots as a side dish, they add color to the table as well as that sweetness that goes well with just about anything. And any chance I can get to add vegetables I’ll go for it. Dorie’s recipe is simple yet flavorful thanks to the generous amount of ginger, some garlic and cardamom seeds. It just tastes like the holidays, a phrase I’m not sure I can explain.

Spiced Butter-Glazed Carrots from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table

I am obsessed with this book and will tell anyone who will listen to me that I feel like it was written just for me. Of course I know this isn’t true but it will now live on my shelf of “forever” books: the ones that I will always keep near me.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 ½-inch fresh ginger, peeled and then sliced thin
1 garlic clove, split with the germ removed and then sliced thin
seeds from 4 cardamon pods, bruised slightly in mortar and pestle or with back of chef’s knife
salt and freshly ground white pepper
12 medium carrots (about 1 ½ pounds), trimmed, peeled and cut on the diagonal into 2-inch pieces
1 cup chicken broth

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Stir in the chopped onion, ginger, garlic and cardamon seeds, season very lightly with salt and white pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and stir to coat them with the butter. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover the saucepan and cook until the carrots are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove the cover, raise the heat, and cook until the broth almost evaporates completely, leaving the spiced butter glazing on the carrots. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Dorie says these are best served soon after they are prepared but can be refrigerated overnight and gently reheated the next day. When I made these at home that’s exactly what I did the day after with my leftovers and they were just as delicious. I love this recipe.

Special thanks to Dorie for reprinting permission. Please buy this book, it’s phenomenal!



Do All Cookbooks Need Photos?

Earlier this morning food writer and NY Times columnist Melissa Clark tweeted this:


Now as a photographer and someone who gets paid to photograph recipes and cookbooks you might think that my answer is a solid YES. But it’s not. I believe that great writing like Melissa’s can be enough, photos don’t always have to support a recipe. When they work together it’s magic, and sometimes a photograph can help a written recipe for a myriad of reasons (maybe it’s complicated, an unknown method, foreign title, etc.)  So now I’m curious and would love to know what you think!


(polls)

Is This Thing On? Taping a Segment

Adam and I recently taped a segment for an upcoming food show and I thought it’d be fun to share some behind-the-scenes moments. I don’t want to give away anything but it’ll air next spring on a certain cable channel that I happen to do some work for. Or maybe not once they get back to NYC and view the tape (rimshot, please).

So let me ask you: do you have dreams of your own television show? Do you think you’d be fantastic performing in front of a camera, beaming your happy face into the living rooms of happy viewers all over the world? THEN GOOD FOR YOU BECAUSE OH MY GOD IT IS SOME CRAZY WORK AND OH MY GOD HOW ON EARTH DOES AIDA DO IT?!?!??!?!??!?!?!?!?!!?!?

There. I feel better. It’s not that I am ungrateful but let me tell you this: those bouncing happy faces that cook with ease on television know what they’re doing. And how. And they’re gorgeous professionals with wonderful crews who have endless energy. Me? I was beat after 6 hours of doing it.


Am I signing? Practicing my zombie moves? I have no clue. I was setting stuff up here.

(by the way is anyone else watching The Walking Dead on AMC? I am so completely in love with that show, it’s beautiful and the zombies actually scare me.)

The crew arrives and sets up a few Kino Flo light kits. Kinos are constant lights (they stay on) that are balanced for natural daylight. You see them in video productions all the time and they make for a very solid yet pleasing light source. Plus they’re quiet and relatively easy to move around.

A few lights were even set upstairs in our brand new Prop Shop to illuminate the action down below.

Part of the segment involves photography so we set up a shot while the crew filmed us. Here a crewmember snaps a shot of the food with his point-and-shoot.

Here’s one of the final images. We shoot tethered to the computer so that we can see every image as they come in. It’s nifty when you’re in the studio. The downside? Everyone can see every image as they come in. Augh.

We moved upstairs to film a quick interview segment. Lights were set up everywhere, don’t think I wasn’t keeping a close watch on the fine breakable things. It would not have been pretty if one of those c-stands fell over on the Mud Australia, Caroline Swift or Rina Menardi. Not at all.

Delightful sound guy who’s name was Mike. Mike with mic.

Adam sets up some props while the crew does the flag and scrim thing.

Adam rearranges some color coded plates and bowls. This is probably my most favorite thing about our studio now.

Look! I’m taking a photo with my camera of the monitor that’s taking a photo of us. It’s all very Meta, you know.

We finished our interviews and headed downstairs to cook some food. Adam is doing some swap-outs and preparation for the camera. On the wall behind him are printouts of my cookbook coming out in Spring.  We chose a recipe from the book.

The cameraman gives us an ok sign. Things look good.

Finally, we made our way back to the front of the studio so that the camera crew could get beauty shots of the recipe. Adam refreshed the food and readjusted the plate while I stood back and let them do their thing. I enjoyed the break and it allowed me to be the spectator and not the photographer.

Social media in action: Adam tweets from the set.

The director views the food on that nifty little monitor. I think I need to get one.

I’ll make sure to let you know when it airs.