Category Archives: Books

Da Mama…A Nonno…Un Regalo

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 12.33.35 PM I receive a lot of messages through the various media outlets I participate in. The overwhelming majority of them are from people that are interested in learning more about food photography because of my role as workshop instructor and writer. I welcome the inquiries about upcoming events and the quick questions about cameras or lighting techniques. Most of the people who reach out are just like I was about 12 years ago…looking to reinvent themselves.

I also get the occasional college student or recent grad looking to hone their skills further or a pro shooter from a different discipline looking for some advice on how  to tweak their approach for food. Mostly adults looking to find what they need to make a career or advance a  hobby in food photography.

Then there was Sabriina Costa. I do not know Sabriina…she was just an email address and a request for some help which I gladly gave her. She sent me an email, like lots of others I get for a quick bit of advice about how to pick some equipment and how to diffuse light in a way appropriate for food. She did some research on the web, found me, looked at my work and decided I would be a good guy to ask. This all seemed pretty normal to me until the follow up email I got this week.

Sabriina Costa is a student at Westbourne Grammar School in Melbourne, Australia. She is 15 years old and decided to write and photograph a cookbook about her family and traditions and in particular the recipes of her Nonna. She took on this project, from what I could gather from her emails, with her grandmother about a year ago as a school assignment. What it has morphed into is an amazing testament to her love for her family. She has dedicated the project to the memory of her grandfather, her Nonno, who passed away from cancer in 2006. She is selling her book online and will be donating 100% of the proceeds to the Cancer Council.

As many of you may already know my blog was created in the memory of my Sicilian great-grandmother, who we called Mama. I helped Sabriina not really knowing what she was trying to do but the realization of what she has accomplished and what led her there sent chills up my spine.

The book is called Segreti Della Nostra Cucina or Secrets from Our Kitchen. I love this title. It speaks to the passion and intimacy that a true Italian kitchen really has. It reminds me of what I love about the way I learned how to cook. It makes me feel that the connection I feel to the foods of my childhood and the people I shared them with is a universal emotion. These feeling go to the core of why I do what I do. It is obviously what has driven Sabriina to do the same. I am more than happy to help her raise money for cancer…something I have my own intimate experience with since my mother, Terry,  is a 12-year survivor. I am also quite impressed with the writing and photography in her book.

I am honored to have played even the smallest part in helping her produce a work so filled with love for people and a culture so similar to the things that inspired me and my career. Buy her book…it’s money well spent.


Filed under Books

TV Beckons…Well sort of.

51E2np9vRVL._SY300_Over the past year in addition to my other assignments, I shot a cookbook for the ABC TV show The Chew. Some of the other things I have been doing outside of my studio, as many of you know, is teaching food photography workshops and speaking at blogger conferences about food photography. On top of that the Outtakes column on The New York Times Diner’s Journal has given me the opportunity to share what I know with a broader audience still. Well, I am getting yet another wonderful opportunity to do more of the same.

The Chew has invited me to be part of a segment on “Taking Better Blog Pictures” and it will run Wednesday May 22nd at 1pm ET. It will also be available on the web later that week. I hope you will be able to check it out.


Filed under Books, cookbooks, Food Photography Workshops, Food Writing, NYT Diner's Journal, Photography

Hometown Treasures…

People give me and send me a lot of information about food. Websites, links to blogs, recipes, magazine articles and especially cookbooks. Everybody has a cookbook…well everyone except me…but just about everybody else has a cookbook.

I recently I received a cookbook as a gift from Micki Connolly, mother of a good friend. She was part of a group who organized a cookbook for her Florida retirement community comprised of family recipes from resident snowbirds from around the world. It’s a fascinating treasure trove of regional specialties from folks like our parents and grandparents. I leafed through and found things like Super Bowl Chili from Edna Scipione of Wickliffe, Ohio and Scallops a la Crabtree from Dan Crabtree hailing from Lancaster, England. It goes on and on.

The chapter I am most anxious to dive into is the dessert section. Desserts that harken back to before the age of the Hostess Cupcake are the glue that have kept family gatherings fun and memorable for generations. I feel honored to have copies of Heinz and Hella Wartski’s French Sable Cookie recipe, Celeste deCapua’s Mexican Wedding Cookies and Peggy Tuffo’s Penuche Nut Fudge.

The book is from the Winterpark Community in Naples, Florida and is titled Hometown Classics. The real charm of it is that the proceeds they raise from the cookbook go toward things like fixing up the community pool, the shuffleboard courts and the clubhouse. Hometown Classics represents a small group’s big effort to preserve their prized recipes and make their community a better place. They did a wonderful job. The great test of a cookbook is if it can arouse our curiosity enough to make the recipes…and I can’t wait to try some.


Filed under Books, cookbooks, Food Writing, With Recipes

Cookbook Pix…Yea or Nay?

Come over to the DJ and participate in our discussion on whether or not cookbooks need to have photos to capture your attention. Our friend Melissa Clark tossed out the question on Twitter and we are running with it.


Filed under Books, cookbooks, NYT Diner's Journal, Photography

ALCS Chicken Recipe #3

With the Game 2 loss and the prospect of a tough game against Lee…I’m countering with Chang. David Chang has taken the downtown restaurant scene by storm over the past few years and like the Yanks he is pure NY.  I first ate at Momofuku Noodle Bar just weeks after it opened and have been a big fan ever since.  One of my favorite dishes in Chang’s arsenal is his chicken wings. Chang admits in his book that it is the “world’s longest recipe for chicken wings“, so I’m using the simplified version that CHOW concocted for the home cook. Eat wings…Go Yanks!



Momofuku Chicken Wings

20 chicken wings with wing tips attached
8 cups lukewarm water
1 c. sugar
1 c. kosher salt
2 strips smoky bacon
1/4 c. vegetable oil
5 c. rendered pork or duck fat
1 c. mirin
1 c. sake
1 c. light soy sauce
Ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
5-6 pickled chiles
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

1. Separate wings into 3 pieces (tips, wings, and drumettes) by cutting at both joints. Reserve wing tips for the tare.

2. Combine water, sugar, and salt in a large container with a tightfitting lid or a large resealable plastic bag (at least 4 quarts) and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Add chicken wings and drumettes to brine mixture, cover, and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.

3.To make the tare, heat the oven to 400°F. Combine wing tips and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large oven-safe pan and toss to coat. Roast until wing tips are dark golden brown, about 1 hour.

4.Remove the pan from the oven, place over medium heat, and slowly add sake and soy sauce, scraping up any browned bits with a flat spatula. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by 1/2, about 40 minutes. Strain and set tare aside (discard the wing tips).

5.Once chicken wings and drumettes have finished brining, heat duck or pork fat in a large pot with a tightfitting lid over low heat until fat is 190°F to 200°F. Drain wings and drumettes from brine and pat dry with paper towels.

6.Add wings and drumettes to hot fat and cook, covered, over very low heat until just cooked through, about 30 to 40 minutes. (Don’t overcook the chicken; there should still be texture and bite to the meat.) When wings and drumettes are done, remove to a baking dish or baking sheet using a slotted spoon and reserve fat for another use.

7.When ready to finish wings and drumettes, heat the broiler to high and arrange a rack at the top. Broil wings and drumettes, rotating the pan halfway through, until skin is crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes.

8.Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Once shimmering, add garlic and chiles and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. (Make sure the garlic does not brown.) Add mirin and cook until the alcohol smell is gone, about 2 minutes. Add tare and reduce sauce to a light syruplike consistency, about 10 minutes.

9. Add wings and drumettes and pickled chiles and toss to coat, top with sliced scallions, and serve.


Filed under alcs, baseball, Books, cookbooks, Food Writing, NY Yankees, With Recipes

ALDS Chicken Recipe #2

Tex in the 7th, Mo in the 8th and 9th and we are off and running again.  With their opening come-from-behind victory over the Twins the Yanks picked up where they left off last October.  It seems our opening combo of Chicken recipe from a New Yorker, a friend I work with, who happens to have a new cookbook out, was pretty successful…so back to well we go.

Martha Rose Shulman’s new book The Very Best of Recipes for Health arrived in bookstores in August and is loaded with terrific recipes and pictures from your’s truly .  Martha’s Caesar Salad is a personal favorite.  This one is simple to make, so with a 6pm start this evening it won’t take you long to get it ready before first pitch.  Go Yanks!

Chicken Caesar

For the salad:

1 head of romaine lettuce

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, poached and shredded (about 2 cups shredded chicken) [editor: link shredded poached chicken breasts]

1 cup garlic croutons (see below)

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan or shaved Parmesan

Chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives, marjoram

For the dressing:

1 small garlic clove

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 anchovy, soaked for 5 minutes in cold water, then rinsed and drained on a paper towel

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon wine or sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 coddled egg yolk (optional: see below)

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Remove the tough outer leaves of romaine and discard. Wash and dry the remaining leaves. Tear into medium pieces and place in a salad bowl with the chicken, croutons, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.

2. Place the garlic in a mortar and pestle with a little salt and mash to a past. Add the anchovy and mash together with the garlic. Stir in the lemon juice. Add the vinegar, mustard, coddled egg yolk, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Shortly before serving, toss the dressing with the salad. Sprinkle on the herbs and remaining Parmesan, and serve.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6


To make garlic croutons, lightly toast slices of French or country bread. Remove them from the toaster and immediately rub with a cut clove of garlic. Cut into small squares or break into pieces.

To coddle the egg yolk, bring a small pot of water to a boil, slowly add the egg in its shell, and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of ice water, then carefully crack the egg and remove the yolk.

Advance preparation: The poached chicken breasts will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator. The dressing can be made several hours ahead.

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Filed under baseball, Books, cookbooks, Food Writing, NY Yankees, With Recipes

ALDS Chicken Recipe #1

Last October, when the Yankees were making their run to their 27th World Series Championship we piggy-backed onto the famed superstitions of former Yankee third baseman Wade Boggs (note here the omission of those other teams Boggs played for) for good luck.

Boggs believed that eating chicken brought him good juju with the Baseball Gods. We began posting chicken recipes during last year’s ALDS against the Minnesota Twins to fall into good favor with the supernatural forces all baseball fans pay homage to. We did so every game until they raised the trophy in their victory over the Phillies. The Yankees begin their title defense against none other that those Twins again tonight…so…here we go again.

We will open the series with a recipe from my friend and colleague Melissa Clark’s New cookbook, In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite.  Melissa is admittedly not a baseball fan…but she is a New Yorker and this recipe is a cross cultural New York favorite.  My grandma made one that is almost identical when I was kid.  Make this one tonight. Go Yanks!

Not-My-Grandma’s Chicken with Lemon, Garlic, and Oregano

Time: 40 minutes

1 1/2 pounds chicken drumsticks

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning

Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed (but use a lot)

5 garlic cloves

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 large lemon

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1. Preheat the broiler. Rinse the chicken, pat dry with a paper towel, and place in a 9 x 13 inch pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Broil the chicken, turning once, until light golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

2. While the chicken is broiling, make a garlic paste by either using a mortar and pestle to pound the garlic with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or mincing the garlic with a heavy knife, then using the flat side to smear and mash the garlic and salt into a paste. Alternatively, you can make the paste in a blender, if your blender can handle such a small amount. Stir the lemon juice and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper into the garlic paste.

3. Lower the oven temperature to 425° F. Using a pastry brush or spoon, slather chicken on all sides with one-third of the garlic mixture, a sprinkling of the oregano, and a drizzle of oil. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, slathering on more of the garlic mixture, oil, and oregano in 2 more additions (approximately every 7 to 10 minutes). The chicken is done when it’s golden brown and cooked through.  Serve with the pan juices or the tasty sludge on the bottom of the pan.

Serves 2

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Filed under baseball, Books, cookbooks, Food Writing, NY Yankees, With Recipes