Blueberry jam food photography and adventures in bread baking.

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Photograph by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Yesterday afternoon I arrived home to see a slightly panicked look on my husband’s face –  he had mixed bread dough and once it had risen sufficiently he turned on the oven only for it to not heat up at all. We bake our own bread all the time, Tom makes Darina Allen’s brown bread and I make sourdough pitas and sandwich bread. We have this down to a routine and panic doesn’t enter the picture, at least it didn’t, until yesterday. The wet dough actually overflowed from the loaf tin “I Love Lucy” style and with a faulty oven there was only one thing we could possibly think of doing – bake the bread on the barbecue! We lit the charcoal and put the dough in the refrigerator to try and slow down the yeast. Once the coals were ready, we put them to one side of the barbecue and put the loaf tin on the other side, covered it and crossed our fingers. Miraculously, we baked a perfect loaf of bread. I find this amazing.

You may have guessed by now that the slice of bread in the photo above is indeed from this loaf of barbecued bread. Good thing it was on hand as I challenged myself to some food photography today. The assignment was to showcase jam, in this case blueberry, with the goal of making the jam look sumptuous. Have I succeeded? Does it make you want to pick it up and take a bite? We ate this right after the shoot so I can confirm it was delicious indeed.

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Berkshire Food Guild’s Midsummer Feast at Mill River Farm

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Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jake Levin turns lamb on the spit at the Berkshire Food Guild’s Midsummer Feast.

The sight of a whole lamb being turned on a spit over open fire is nothing new to me. Countless Greek Easters of my youth dictated that one if not two lambs would be started on the spit early in the day, and that I would be required to take a turn turning the lamb, feeling the blast of heat from the hot coals and doing my best to turn the lamb evenly as it slow roasted. The word for lamb in Greek is arni, so Dad would always urge me, with a little laugh, to say hello to “Arnie” and I’d do my best not to imagine what our non-Greek New Jersey neighbors were thinking as they peered out their windows. Instead I’d try to connect with the many generations of ancestors before me who knew lamb on a spit to be a celebration, a rare luxury, a special feast.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

So I found myself completely at home this past Saturday seeing a whole lamb on the spit once again, but instead of an Easter celebration with Greek flavors of lemon, rosemary, and oregano, this was a Midsummer celebration and the flavors were decidedly Scandinavian, the meat infused with blue spruce, juniper and oak smoke. Just as my family’s Greek Easter feasts were half a world away from Greece, so too was this Midsummer feast from Sweden. We were in New Marlborough, Massachusetts at the debut event of the Berkshire Food Guild.

The Berkshire Food Guild is made up of local food crafters whose mission is “to support and celebrate the regional food shed”. It also happens to be co-founded by my dear friend (and talented chef) Jamie Paxton. When she reached out to my husband, Tom, and I to photograph the event, we were delighted as it put in front of our cameras several things we are passionate about: amazing food, farm-to-table eating, an integrated and sustainable local food hub, organic agriculture and grass-fed meats. We couldn’t resist the opportunity and the gorgeous setting of Mill River Farm just sweetened the deal.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jazu Stine, Jamie Paxton, Brian Heck, Jill Jakimetz and Jake Levin of the Berkshire Food Guild.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Farm table and gorgeous views of Mill River Farm.

The idea for the Midsummer feast as the BFG’s first event was the idea of co-founder Jake Levin, nose-to-tail butcher, food writer and self-professed Scandophile. Jake fell in love with Scandinavian culture and cuisine though his fiancee, Silka Glanzman, and as he turned the lamb hours before the first guests arrived, he spoke wistfully of the summers they spent in Sweden with Silka’s Swedish relatives. Having been to Sweden myself with Tom’s family, I could well understand his longing.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jake Levin, co-founder of the Berkshire Food Guild during the farm tour of Mill River Farm in New Marlborough, MA.

When Jamie sent me the menu prior to the event, I knew the Berkshire Food Guild meant business – the menu was daring, unusual and ambitious. I was so pleased to hear on our arrival that the event was a sell-out, and that people in the local area were hungry for this kind of brave cooking. Around 6 o’clock guests began to arrive on the farm and it was a happy sight to see them shaking hands and forming a community that evening, supportive and appreciative of the talented food artisans working so hard to celebrate what is local, delicious and responsibly produced in and around the Berkshires. Some of the guests were farmers themselves, and they could take pride that their lamb and vegetables were being so lovingly showcased.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

After a tour of Mill River Farm given by owner Jan Johnson, guests turned their attention to the canapés, a true smorgasbord of seasonal gems devised by Jamie – deviled eggs three ways, liver pate, green pea pesto with local chèvre, pickled mackerel, hot-smoked bluefish, lardo with honey, and more. It bears mentioning that all the canapés were served on various scandinavian breads like knackbrod and frisian rye bread, milled and made from scratch by baker and co-founder Jill Jakimetz with 100% locally grown grain from Hawthorne Valley Farm. What a talent Jill is! A rumor circulated through the feast attendees that one rye bread in particular was baked for 12 hours.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jamie Paxton, co-founder of the Berkshire Food Guild serving canapés at the Midsummer Feast.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jill Jakimetz, co-founder of the Berkshire Food Guild milled and baked an assortment of Scandinavian breads from 100% local grains grown by Hawthorne Valley Farm.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

The fires, tended to and stoked by co-founder Jazu Stine, were blasting with indescribable heat and smoke, and over them everything was cooked on an outdoor kitchen of his own design. The lamb was stuffed with blue spruce branches, basted with juniper branches and oil and turned evenly on its spit. The peas, turnips, fennel, spring onions, garlic scapes, zucchini, and even pinnebrod, a Swedish bread made with dough wrapped around sassafras sticks (foraged by Jill), were all cooked over the fire. It was a gorgeous sight, and many guests wandered over to sneak a taste or snap a photo. What restaurant do you know that produces this kind of food experience?

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Co-founder Jazu Stine, left, starts cooking the fennel over the fire while Jake Levin turns the lamb on the spit.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jamie Paxton and Jazu Stine brave the heat of the fire and expertly bring out the flavors of the farm-fresh local vegetables.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jill Jakimetz puts pinnabrod, a Swedish flatbread wrapped around sassafras branches, over the fire.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Gasping for a beverage after shooting too long by the fire, Tom and I found sweet hydration in a few glasses of homemade rhubarb cooler. Jazu grew the rhubarb, Jamie made the rhubarb syrup – add some lemon juice, water, ice and garnish with lemon thyme and the result was one of the greatest drinks we have ever tasted. There were also sulfate-free, organic, biodynamic wines from two small producers in France, sourced by Berkshire Food Guild member Brian Heck, who also happens to be a coffee roaster at Barrington Coffee. Needless to say, the coffee accompanying the dessert (Midsummer spruce bavarian with strawberries, petit fours) was divine.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Rhubarb cooler, a delicious and refreshing non-alcoholic drink, went down very easily.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Berkshire Food Guild member Brian Heck readies a bottle of natural, sulfate-free, wine he sourced from small producers in France.

A crowd gathered with anticipation as Jazu broke down the cooked lamb, removing the blue spruce from the cavity, and pointing out which part was the tenderloin, which part the lamb breast, to curious attendees. At his side, Jamie worked with colorful and perfectly cooked local vegetables – butter-poached white and deep pink baby turnips, a medley of green peas (snap, shelling and snow), deep red beet carpaccio with buttermilk and dill – as she did her final plating before all the food was served family style on the long farm table. It truly was a celebration of seasonal living. Silka and I stood back and marveled at the sight, it was thrilling to see the mission of the Berkshire Food Guild achieved so successfully.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Perhaps the best moment was one the guests did not see, a short and sweet toast from Jake behind the scenes at the very end of the night thanking everyone who helped for all the hard work in producing such a memorable and delicious first event. Tom and I felt so lucky to be included in this group of talented and passionate people, and we can only look forward to the next time we get to collaborate with them. Perhaps a Greek feast someday?

The Berkshire Food Guild can be found online at http://berkshirefoodguild.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BerkFoodGuild.

Photography by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Ramps!

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Ramps - Photo by Diana Pappas

Stumbling upon a patch of ramps yesterday, my husband and I immediately began hauling these wild leeks out of the ground, using sticks as leverage to reach down into the soil and loosen the roots’ grip. It wasn’t our intention to go foraging yesterday, merely to enjoy our wedding anniversary with a walk in the woods on a gorgeous day, binoculars slung around our necks, with a tote bag filled with our bird field guide, a hiking guide and water bottles. Thank goodness for the tote bag, because we stuffed it full of these ramps, still only taking a little bit of the bounty being offered to us by the earth, but wishing we could take it all.

As we hiked back to the car, the gentle garlicky smell was driving me wild and my mind went on a cooking reverie, plotting a batch of ramp pesto, and also some ramp kimchi, and wouldn’t some pork dumplings with ramps be divine? And ramp quiche! I wanted it all. When we got home, daylight was waning but I moved quickly and managed to take a photo of the ramps to showcase their beauty – I love that blush of red on the stems leading into the elegant leaves, and the tangle of roots that hide beneath the soil’s surface, a wonderful contrast in texture.

Now, what should I make with them?

Doughnut Plant in New York City inspires a new photo!

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Doughnuts from The Doughnut Plant

Feast on these gorgeous doughnuts! Today my husband and I paid a visit to Doughnut Plant on Grand Street in New York City. We had not been for quite a few years, and we thought it was high time we treated ourselves to two coffees and two doughnuts, plus some to take home to sample and photograph, as you can see. In the shop we enjoyed a pistachio yeast doughnut and a vanilla bean & blackberry jam filled yeast doughnut. Divine! Pictured here are wild blueberry cake doughnut (lovely color), a chocolate hazelnut doughseed, Valrhona chocolate yeast doughnut, cinnamon sugar cake doughnut and finally, a Meyer lemon yeast doughnut. Whew! Definitely a place to visit next time you are in New York City!

This doughnut still life is now available on my Etsy shop. Yes, doughnuts can be art too.

Doughnut Plant has two locations in NYC, on the Lower East Side and in Chelsea.
379 Grand Street, between Essex and Norfolk
or
220 West 23rd Street, btwn 7th & 8th Aves in The Chelsea Hotel

Fish and chips and a walk on the beach

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Fish and Chips

Having married into an English family, I am happily adopting my husband’s traditions, tastes and favorite things like Yorkshire Tea(with milk only, no sugar) and football (soccer).  I’ve even learned some basic translations so I can speak British English when I’m overseas: thermos = flask, backyard = garden, fries = chips, chips = crisps, dinner = tea, dessert = pudding, and so on! One tradition I find myself craving today is that of a blustery, brisk walk on a cold beach followed by a well-earned feast of piping-hot fish and chips with a side of mushy peas, of course, and a pot of tea. The walk and the meal complement each other so perfectly! We’ve had some great fish and chips in England, most notably at The Magpie in Whitby, but also at the Waterford Arms in Seaton Sluice (pictured above, prints available in my Etsy shop). The walk on this particular September day was a real treat, blinding sunshine and some lovely cloud formations. Looking forward for my next walk along the North Sea followed by fish and chips!

Seaton Sluice