Monday, May 17, 2010

Ready for My Closeup

Putting together a small business is a lot of work. I've spent months creating new recipes, revisiting old favorites, and collecting new ones from numerous sources, all in an effort to cobble together a seasonal menu of dishes that are fresh tasting, work well together, are seasonal, and reflect the kind of cooking for which I'm known....homestyled, casual yet sumptuous. My husband says instead of using "From my kitchen to yours!" as my slogan, a more appropriate one is "Lots of food and plenty of it!" Okay, I admit it. I tend to make too much food and offer too many dishes. I can't help it; one flavor combination inspires another and, being a believer in instant gratification, I must create it. So sue me.

So that was the easy part. After fashioning a reasonable Spring menu consisting of soups, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, sauces and salad dressings, I realized pricing might be of interest to potential clients. How to go about it? Despite having created this blog---a huge achievement for a technophobe like me---I am a complete illiterate in most things Apple and have no clue how to use the internet as my friend. Thus, it was off to the markets and restaurant supply companies, pen and pad in hand, to record current prices of the hundreds of ingredients I commonly use in my kitchen. Afraid of being apprehended and accused of corporate spying by the otherwise harmless-looking security personnel employed by these establishments, I hid my writings within my bulky purse, perched in the child seat of my shopping cart. And I made multiple trips. Multiple. Just when I thought I'd gotten the last of the needed dollar per item, I'd realize I really needed the price per ounce or pound! Back to the store...

Eventually, I had pretty much everything I needed to launch my business, except advertising. Now friends have been urging me for years to start up something like a Personal Chef career or Home Delivery Business, but I can't really expect my friends, who eat regularly as our guests in my kitchen, dining room, or backyard, to actually start ordering my food and PAYING for it. And word of mouth can only do so much. Although since using them as guinea pigs for the last twenty years, you'd think it's the least they could do.

That is when, as I handed out copies of my Spring menu and business cards to parents watching the volleyball game, another mom overheard me describing my predicament to a friend and told me she had just started a business making homepages for other entrepeneurs--eureka! Now we're cookin'!

Which brings us to the comedy that was last night's FOOD PHOTO SHOOT; it was time for our glamour shot and I needed an audience of willing participants. One phone call and I'd enlisted our dearest friends, a family of four, with whom we've shared too many meals and memories to count. I started planning the menu right away, pouring over old and new recipes, looking for something 'kicked up a notch', that would challenge me to sharpen some long-neglected skills and give me another opportunity to fire up my new deep-fryer.

The dishes had to be indicative of my style so the resulting photographs would reflect well on my soon-to-be new homepage, challenging to produce in a short amount of time, and of course, delicious.

Stuffed fried zucchini blossoms were scratched from the starters, as my produce man told me the flowers are not yet in season. So off to the fish monger, who happened to be having an excellent sale on gorgeous sea scallops (i'll take three pounds, thank you very much), and turn them into Coquilles Saint Jacques borrowing from a recipe by Paul Bocuse, as our first course.

While I was there, I also selected a mess o' already shucked oysters (I mean really, who has time?) that I would soak in buttermilk and hot sauce, dust with sifted flour, cayenne pepper and lemon zest and drop in the deep fryer for our hors d'oevres, along with some ancho chile and cornmeal fried okra (making use of another of those frostbitten baggies lingering in our freezer). These were accompanied by homemade chipotle mayonnaise and devoured as soon as they came out of the fryer basket. It was all I could manage to salvage a few and set up our first camera shot of the evening.

Did I mention we are a group of eight very opinionated people who are not afraid to assert ourselves? Can I just say the camera made the rounds of eager hands as each of us tried to outdo the other with lighting ideas, changing out serving pieces, and climbing on countertops and stepladders. It was a loving chaotic spectacle in progress, as I continued dredging and frying. Here is a picture that made the cut.

Next, it was onto the scallops, which seemed to know their purpose as they simmered happily in the golden butter and sang when the vermouth hit the pan. Perfection! And the photo looks rather nifty too.

Lastly, I tossed the rib steaks in a couple of pans with shallots, onions, more anchovies (!!) and a healthy amount of cabernet, and brought them to just-this-side of medium rare, as one of our revelers wisely removed the casserole pan of Bayaldi (a layered gratin of zucchini, eggplant, heirloom tomatoes and onion) from the oven, with its molten emmental cheese bubbling enticingly on top. The camera recorded the action, someone poured the wine, and we toasted the success of our first pictorial layout.


  1. Hey- when's our turn to be the guinea-pigs? We even have a budding photographer in the family who needs to shoot a "series".
    That menu sounds delicious, but I know how you hate to repeat yourself.

  2. Yes, everyone had an opinion on how best to photograph the feast. However, we all unanimously agreed, the food was supberb. Thank you!!!!

  3. Your food is DEEEE-- Licious.. So much talent going in the right direction. Your future is happening NOW. Keep up this great work, your passion is bubbling over and you are in forward motion. Fortune teller told me to tell you: Don't look back, don't look left or right.... keep going straight ahead. XO Pam