I am turning into a person I don’t know. Look I made a super sweet Sauteed Cherry Tomato Sauce. I don’t mean to say I am not the kind of person who wouldn’t love Sauteed Cherry Tomato Sauce slathered all over the very best 100% semolina pasta. Nope, the person I know as me would love that for lunch.
I am talking about the effort and time that went into this Sauteed Cherry Tomato Sauce. Not that I don’t usually put effort, time and love into my cooking. Am I confusing you?
You see I am writing a cookbook. I am also photographing a cookbook. That’s the stage I am at right now. Photographing. So I find myself doing all sorts of crazy things to get the shot. Things I would never have done for my blog before I started writing a cookbook.
Until this spring, every shot that ever appeared on this blog was taken with a point and shoot camera. My philosophy has been, “It’s just a blog”. Meaning I tended to cook and photograph the real food from my real life. I’d pre-plan the photo, sure. But when it came to shooting whatever I was going to post, I would typically try and get it done in about 5 minutes.
There is always the exception to the rule, but to me the very best blog posts are succinct visually and editorially. Of course there should be a great recipe. Of course. But in a perfect world my posts would be about 750 words and have one (maybe two) photos. If I can’t communicate my message using those standards then I feel I’m just being self-indulgent. (like today, oh well I’m not perfect). Now you may feel differently about what makes a good blog post. That’s great. You have your message and your style. But this is my blog and my rules. Life is easier if you try to please yourself first.
None of this means I don’t aim high. I like to use pretty or at least appropriate props. But really they aren’t props. They’re my real stuff. For the most part they match my taste and style and look good in my kitchen. Which means I shun what I call “styling”. Burlap napkins and rusty spoons have great visual texture. But I would never put one anywhere near my mouth. So why would I put one in a blog pic?
I don’t own tweezers. I would never consider using a paintbrush, and everything on the plate is edible because I plan to eat it. After all, it’s just a blog. I am not saying I don’t want my photos to be good. No, I have high visual standards. I just developed a process that allows me to get the look I am after with very little effort.
Fast forward to the book. The book that turned me into this person I don’t know. I got a new Canon 7D. I lay awake at night planning the photo. I seek out very specific props, even if I have to borrow them or, e‑gad, buy them. Sometimes the “pies” in my shots sit on the set for hours. Sometimes overnight, waiting for the right moment. Meaning I don’t always eat them. I even bought tweezers!
Sauteed Cherry Tomato Sauce
Which brings me to Sauteed Cherry Tomato Sauce. It came about because I am working on an Heirloom Tomato Tart for my Savory Pies book. It’s basically a tomato flan in tart shell. But it’s topped with heirloom, cherry-style tomatoes. So when it came time to “style” the photo for the recipe. I went all over town buying the prettiest cherry tomatoes I could find. Then I came home and picked through them one by one to get 3 or 4 to meticulously place on top a single slice of my Heirloom Tomato Tart.
I got the shot, but it took all day and I was exhausted, and starving. But I was not about to eat flan that set in the bright sun all day. Still, I had several pounds of cherry tomatoes littering the counter tops in my kitchen. The book may have changed me. But not so much that I am able to waste (edible) food. I knew I could make a very tasty Sauteed Cherry Tomato Sauce. So I gathered the also-rans and was getting ready to put them into a saucepan. But then I saw the vintage-orange-enameled-frying-pan sitting on the table, awaiting its moment as the next cookbook photo star. So instead of starting the sauce, I labored over the photo you see above. I used my tweezers to get every tomato in the perfect place. I love the way the orange and red vibrate. I think it’s a picture with great vintage-style. But when it came time to make the sauce, I moved the tomatoes to a “real” saucepan. After all this vintage beauty is a prop. A borrowed prop. I would never consider cooking in it. See how much I’ve changed? GREG
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 large onion peeled, trimmed, and thinly sliced
- 3 clv garlic cloves, minced
- 3 lb cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
- 0.25 t crushed red pepper (to taste)
- 1 c whole basil leaves, loosely poacked
- 1 pn each kosher salt & black pepper
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed or cast iron skillet set over high heat. Add the onion and garlic, letting it sizzle a moment. Then lower the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place 1 pound of the cherry tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor bowl Pulse 3–4 times, until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and repeat 2 more times with the remaining tomatoes.
Add the chopped tomatoes to the skillet with the onion. Add the red pepper flakes. Simmer, stirring frequently, until they form a sauce, about 15–20 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the basil. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with pasta or gnocchi.
Greg Henry writes the food blog Sippity Sup- Serious Fun Food, and contributes the Friday column on entertaining for The Back Burner at Key Ingredient. He’s active in the food blogging community, and a popular speaker at IFBC, Food Buzz Festival and Camp Blogaway. He’s led cooking demonstrations in Panama & Costa Rica, and has traveled as far and wide as Norway to promote culinary travel. He’s been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Los Angeles Times, More Magazine, The Today Show Online and Saveur’s Best of the Web. Greg also co-hosts The Table Set podcast which can be downloaded on iTunes or at Homefries Podcast Network.