Friday, May 29, 2009

Greek Chrysanthemum Cocktail

Greek Chrysanthemum Cocktail

Thanks to the latest days rain I'm starting to breath again and then the time is right to switch from long drinks to something more concentrate and alcoholic, a cocktail in short.
The following recipe is my re elaboration of the chrysanthemum cocktail, but with Ouzo instead than Pastis (even if someone uses Absinthe). I dedicate it to a friend of mine of Greek origin, Peter, a great chef and food blogger who lives upside down in Australia. Cheers Peter!

Ingredients for 1 serving: 1 1/3 oz. Dry Vermouth, 2/3 oz. Benedectine, 1/5 oz. Ouzo.

Preparation: pour all the ingredients together with an ice cube in the shaker. Shake energetically and serve it in a Martini glass garnished with orange zest, previously sprayed into the cocktail.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Polpettine di Spinaci - Spinach Meatballs


Also today I'll show you another recipe from the cuisine of Bologna, lighter than the last one, for the joy of all the people who, like me, is on diet and who could use it as a complete meal for lunch or dinner. The ones who haven't weight problems can use this dish as a starter, but the evil god of the fat people will punish you one day.

The ingredients here are very typical of my region: sausage, spinach and Parmesan cheese. We can meet them in many sauces and various combination. Here they are used to produce some small meatballs that, when hot just after being cooked, melt into the mouth. You can use their flavor to slothfully trick who doesn't like vegetables, just like mother did when I was a child with this and others deceits.

Ingredients for approximately 4 persons: 1.1 lb. of spinach, 7 oz. fresh sausage, 8 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, 3 1/2 tablespoons of butter, 2 eggs, breadcrumbs, grated nutmeg, salt, pepper.

Preparation: wash the spinach and boil them is a few water (or steam them). Put them in a bowl together with the sausage, the cheese, a pinch of grated nutmeg, a couple of whisked eggs and salt and pepper as you like. Mix well the dough and shape from it some little balls that you have to sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Fry the balls in some hot butter and serve them at table still very hot.

Polpettine di Spinaci - Spinach Meatballs

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Baroque Fruits






A little "divertissement" of mine trying to emulate baroque painting using the camera and digital post production. Nature is really impressive and it just takes some light and a bit of work to bring out all its beauty.




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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Apple Sunrise Long Drink

Apple Sunrise Long Drink

There's nothing we can do. The hot weather is hitting like it were full July. So also today I spent my time more with drinks than in kitchen, this time preparing a fresh summery long drink invented by the german bartender Charles Schumann in 1980.

Ingredients for 1 serving: 1/2 oz. Crème de Cassis, 2 oz. Calvados, 3 dashes of lemon juice, 4 oz. of freshly squeezed orange juice.

Preparation: pour each ingredient in order into a glass for long drinks (highball or collins), previously filled with ice till the top, and stir gently so to mix them a bit.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

"Rustici" with Lard

Rustici al Lardo - Rustici with Lard

I found this recipe in a book about the traditional cuisine of Bologna and it is our version of eggs and bacon. Especially in the countryside, bread with lard was a very common breakfast so people could have a scarce lunch later without moving away from the field where they were working. But also for us sedentary people, who don't want to eat too much at dinner with this hot weather, this recipe could be a good solution.

Ingredients for approximately 4 persons: 8 thick slices of cured lard, 8 slices of home-made bread, 3.5 oz. of butter, 3.5 oz. of flour, 4 tablespoons of grated parmesan (or pecorino) cheese, 4 eggs, pepper, salt.

Preparation: whisk the eggs, the cheese, the salt and the pepper in a large bowl, then add the flour to create a thick batter. Bath the lard slices into the batter and put them to fry into the hot butter until they'll be browned on both sides. Serve them upon home-made bread slices, previously toasted.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Blue Hawaiian Long Drink

Blue Hawaiian Long Drink

Yesterday, here in Bologna, temperature, and most of all humidity, raised to levels as it were full summertime so I sincerely wouldn't like to be near a kitchen at all. I wanted something fresh... tropical... icy!

Then I remembered the cocktail invented in 1957 by bartender Harry Yee at the Hilton Hawaiian Village when Bols introduced their new liqueur: the Blue Curaçao.

Ingredients for 1 serving: 3/4 oz rum, 3/4 oz vodka, 1/2 oz Blue Curacao, 3 oz pineapple juice, 1 oz lemon, 2 teaspoon liquid sugar (or cane sugar).

Preparation: combine all the ingredients in a blender and mix well. Serve the cocktail in a highball glass filled with ice and with half slice of orange.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Meatballs


Who has never seen the scene from the Disney movie "Ladie and the Tramp" with the spaghetti and meatballs dish that made sparkle the love between the two dogs?

Well, i always wanted to prepare that dish, also because when I was a child my requests for it were always vetoed by my tuscan father who was horrified at the tought to use that sauce on spaghetti.

But in the end one has to fullfill his childish whishes and so I searched again and again until I found this recipe from Abruzzi that isn't banal at all, actually it's really tasty, and finally gives some dignity to this mistreated dish.

Ingredients for approximately 4 persons: 1 lb. fresh spaghetti alla chitarra, ½ lb. ground beef, ½ lb. ground pork, 1 egg, ⅓ lb. stale bread, 2 tablespoons of grated pecorino cheese, 1 tablespoons of raisins, 1 tablespoons of pinenuts, 2½ cups of peeled tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of parsley, some basil leaves, 1 garlic clove, 1 onion, milk, salt, pepper.

Preparation: prepare a sauce with the tomatoes, minced onion, basil and some salt and pepper and put it on a low heat until it condensed a bit. Soften then the stale bread using some milk and put the raisins into lukewarm water. Put into a bowl meat, bread, raisins, pinenuts, pecorino cheese, egg, parsley and the garlic (previously minced) and some pinches of salt. Knead the dough with the hands until it is well mixed up, then shape some balls from it and put them to fry in copious boiling oil. Put the balls into the sauce and let them cook together on a low heat for a couple of minutes so to flavour them. Cook the spaghetti in some stock, strain them and put them in a pan with sauce and the meatballs and cook all on a low heat for another couple of minutes.

Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Polpette - Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Meatballs

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Photography and Reality



Yesterday I worked at a shot for my advertsing portfolio where I choosed as subject a beer produced by a belgian trappist abbey.

Working with a subject such a beer has various issues to be solved: the transparence of the bottle and the liquid inside, the shape of the bottle, the name of the product to be put in evidence and, most of all, create a set for the shot so to tell a story.

But this latest aspect is fundamental for every kind of photography, but more often then not too much overlooked. A photograph has to tell a story.

Also who is shooting for his blog should always think what she want to say with that photo. Just show her recipe? Or try to tell something more to the viewer?

It just takes a detail, like a couple of glasses to hint that the table wasn't prepared for just a person, or a crumpled napkin that tells that a lunch is underway, and a shot comes alive.

Technique is important, learning how to use the lightning is fundamental, but as in literature, taking photographs means "inventing" a reality to be able to tell what maybe exists just in your fantasy.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Avocado and Green Apple Sauce

avocado

Avocado is a fruit that gives me the impression of a pinenut too much grown up. Problem is that I'm greedy of pinenuts, so I always try to find a recipe where using it.
Adding to this my passion for mexican food and the guacamole and you can easily guess from where I got the inspiration for this completely vegetarian sauce (for the joy of all the vegans) that you can use on seafood, meat or, like I already did, on some hot croutones.

Salsa di Avocado e Mela Verde - Avocado and Green Apple Sauce

Ingredients for approximately 4 persons: 1 avocado, 1 green apple, 1 onion, 1 peeled tomato, 1 garlic clove, juice of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp minced parlsey, 1ts minced chili pepper, 1 ts salt.

Preparation: incredibly simple. Just put all the ingredients in a bowl and start to mince them with a pestle (or if you're lazy just use a blender), slowly adding the lemon juice, until you have a creamy sauce. If you want you can use fresh red chili pepper.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Food Photography: Lighting

Hard light, Soft light

This one should probably be an elemental and simple concept for many people, but others, specially the ones who are starting to shot with artificial lighting, are confused about it.

Light, whose rays are hitting the subject from the same angle, produces a high contrast situation, with neat and well defined shadows, HARD shadows, from which it is called hard light.

When instead the rays are hitting the subject from different angles they produce a low contrast situation, with unsharp shadows, SOFT shadows, so it's called soft light.

If there's just a single light source there are two factors that are determine which kind of light it produces: its size compared to the subject and its distance always from the subject.

The smaller the light source is compared to the subject the harder the light is, the farteher is the light source is from the subject the harder the light is, and, of course, the opposite.

These concepts are verifiable by anyone without any camera or other instrument. Just think at a sunny day. The Sun, looked from Earth, is a small and incredibly luminous sphere, in reality it's very large but also very very far from us. As its distance from us is very huge and we just see a little sphere, the rays of its light are hitting us from the same angle. So in a sunny day all the objects have a sharp and neat shadow. It just takes to have some clouds in the sky before the Sun that the light source is not the sun anymore, but the clouds that are before it. And the clouds are a lot nearer to us then the sun so they seem also a lot larger. And we could verify then that the shadows are soft and unsharp.

The kind of light influences the shadows and the reflexes (hard light = sharp shadows and brilliant reflexes, soft light = unsharp shadows and dull reflexes) but not how dark the shadow is. This is determined by the amount of light hitting the area in shadow. For this reason, in photography, to brighten up (gergal term = open) the shadows we use reflectors, alas instruments that reflect the light in the areas where there's too few of it.

Esempi - Examples

Hard light, look at the sharp contour of the shadow and the sparkling reflexes on the apple.



Hard light with a reflector on the opposite side, the shadow is still sharp buit a lot less dark, there are still the sparkling reflexes on the apple but its shadowy side is almost as luminous that the side facing the light.



Soft light, the shadow is unsharp while the reflexes on the apple are dull.



Soft light with a reflector on the opposite side, the shadow is almost gone, the reflexes on the apple remain dull but the apple looks evenly illuminated.



Conclusioni - Conclusions

What you have to do now is testing, testing and again testing with the various kind of lights, mixing them, adding reflectors, etc... As you could have seen there's not an universal recipe, it all depends on what you like and which kind of image you want to create.
The important thing is that YOU have to be in control of the light and not the opposite.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Il Profilo Migliore del Ravanello

Il blog culinario MiK (Made in Kitchen) è nato solo da alcuni mesi ma è già un "luogo virtuale" pieno di ricette, consigli alimentari e tutto quanto ruota al mondo della cucina.

Questo grazie all'idea del "social networking" che permette a più persone di partecipare coi propri contenuti e idee: ogni giorno si trova veramente sempre qualcosa di interessante da leggere e vedere.



Per questo motivo ho volentieri partecipato con una delle ricette di questo blog alcuni giorni fa, ed oggi, per chi fosse interessato, hanno anche pubblicato una intervista a quel vanitoso (parola di Paoletta) del fotografo Alessandro, concessa mentre il suo gemello sguattero lavava i piatti, sbuffando, in cucina.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Olympus Chrome Six II






1946. War is just ended in Japan and in the Olympus factory in Suwa the production of cameras, interrupted three years before, slowly resumed. Among these cameras there was a folder model that already experimented some success before the war: the Olympus Six. It was a camer inspire to the models built by the german manifacturer Balda, with a dual format frame: 6x6 and 6x4.5, switchable through an internal mask.
Two years later the model were renewed with a die-cast body, from which the adjective "chrome" added to the original name.
The camera I own is equipped with a Compur shutter and a Zuiko 75/2.8, a lens made by 5 elements in 4 groups that allowed a wide maximum aperture.

But how does this camera behave "on the road"?



I tested it with a Fuji Reala 100 film and the results show how much the japanes optical industry has been developed from these days. The poor Zuiko lens was for sure a pretty fast lens for medium format cameras in 1948, but it's also pretty soft and not well defined. Wide open the image borders are completely distorted by optical aberrations, that create spiral like patterns that could surely make happy the photographer who's seeking a "vintage" feeling as the images seem to come from a well older era than the years when this camera was built.

Link Esterni/External Links:

Olympus Chrome Six at Camerapedia
Olympus historical cameras/Fotocamere storiche della Olympus

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Sweet and Sour Radish

ravanelli radish

Today I suggest a very un-traditional recipe. I found it on a cookbook specialized about vegetables and it made me pretty curious about it. I also love radish, in my opinion it is "the oyster of the garden": just like oysters taste as sea, radish tastes as earth, a pure, primordial flavour.

Ravanelli in Agrodolce - Sweet and Sour Radish
Ingredients for approximately 4 persons: 1.3 lb. of radish, 2 oz. of butter, 2 tbsp. of honey, 1 tpsp and a bit of aromatic vinegar, parsley.

Preparation: cut away the green leaves fron the radish and put it under some water to clean it from every residual dirt, then boil it in some salted water for about 5 minutes. In the meanwhile heat some butter in a pan, add the honey and let it melt. Add the radish and brown it for about 5 minutes. Pour into the vinegar then and some water so to cover the vegetables. Cover the pan and let it cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes. Then serve the radish on a dish sprinkled with some minced parsley.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Food Photography for "Dummies"



Food Photography for "Dummies"

For some weeks Paoletta (the blogger-cook-photographer-tuscanian half sicilian who runs Anice e Cannella) asked me to run a "column" on her blog to help people, who is keen on cooking, to take better shots of their food.

Say it today, repeat it tomorrow, at the end I surrended (in exchange for one of her wonderful cakes to make whom she travel all the Tuscany to find that right kind of flour, do you agree Paoletta?).

So, starting from today, you could find on her blog a post where I'll answer to your doubts, given advices and, in general, try to teach the little I know about food photography.

Don't be scared though about what Paoletta is saying of me... I'm not that nasty... just a little.

Jokes apart I think that spreading what one knows about his work helps oneself to become better, not worse, in what she's doing: let the knowledge going around is always positive and the spirit itself of the Net.

I'm waiting you all also there now!

P.S.:

Chi vorrà esporre il logo dell'iniziativa sul proprio blog, può copiare questo codice:



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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spiced Hot Milk

Latte Caldo Speziato - Spiced Hot Milk

Spiced Hot Milk

It's already some days that the classic spring flu has been pounding on me so that I've been forced to consume an incredible quantity of kleenex and stopped a bit my evil smoking attitude.
But necessity is the mother of invention, as byword says, and the latest mornings, to get some relief for my poor throat I prepared to myself, instead than the usual caffellatte, this very simple drink, to be consumed very very hot.
Beside its great taste it has also some medical effect thanks to the antibiotic virtues of the honey. And without the dislike that someone has toward the taste of the traditional milk and honey.

Ingredients for approximately a tea cup: 1 cup of milk, 1/5 cup of fresh cream, 1 tablespoon of orange honey , 10 cloves, half vanilla bean.

Preparation: put all the ingredients in a small pan and let it cook on a very low heat for about 10 minutes, keeping attention not to let the milk boil. When ready filter out the cloves, I prefer to let them in the milk so they could continue to flavour it.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Shallot Sauce

Salsa allo Scalogno - Shallot Sauce

I have a very bad relationship with sauces. I clash with them before they could end upon the food they were prepared for. Yep! I hit them with bread slices, croutones or also fingers in some extreme situations.
Adding to it, another vegetable that I can't stop myself to buy is the shallot. Very smilar to onion, it got its name from the israelian city of Ashkelon, just north of Gaza and unfortunately pretty famous because the recent war news, from which has been told Crusaders "exported" it into Europe.
Anyway I often use it instead than onions, also frying it despite some people says that it becomes too bitter (which isn't enterily true in my opinion).
All this just to say that yesterday evening I just wanted to prepare to myself a sauce to be eaten just cooked, hot, on some tuscan bread slices. Here's the recipe. Ahhh.. it's also pretty good on grilled seafood and oven-baked vegetables.

Salsa allo Scalogno - Shallot Sauce
Ingredients for approximately a small bowl of sauce: 3.5 oz. shallot, 4 oz. butter, 4 eggs, 1 lemon, parsley, pepper, salt.

Preparation: boil the eggs until they'll become hard, in the meanwhile mince thinly the shallot. Mix the yolk of the hard boiled eggs together with the shallot and the juice of the lemon and put it all to cook into a pan where you melted the butter. Let the sauce cook on a low heat until it will be creamy. Then add salt and pepper to taste, sprinke it with minced parsely and serve in table.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Meyer Görlitz Primoplan 58/1.9









Meyer Görlitz Primoplan 58/1.9

In another post of the last week I was telling you about my passion for old glasses. Some days ago it arrived to my address this glass from the UK: a Meyer Görlitz Primoplan 58/1.9 in Exakta mount that, telling from serial number, it should have been made in the '40, probably during the war or just before. Once it equipped the revoluctionary Kine Exakta, the first true reflex 35mm camera, that was presented at the fair Leipziger Früjahrsmesse in the spring of 1936.

Let's see how this other glass grandpa behaves in today digital world with the help of my faithful Olympus e410 (at least until I will find a suitable adapter to mount exakta lenses on my Canon EOS 5d mkII).

First thing you notice once you take it in your hand is the weight of this lens, it's made of brass! The glass is also pretty different to the one we're accostumed to today, it's uncoated and completely clear. Optical scheme is 5 elements in 4 groups and it was actually a great achievement when it was developeved because it allowed to build one of the fastest lens of the time.



I started to take some sample shots at full aperture and the impression is that it is very similar to some soft focus lenses, the rendering is extremely soft, maybe even too much, with a very pictorial bokeh though and great colors.

The biggest problems come from flares, it's an uncoated lens after all, but at full aperture this is evident also in the most luminous objects, like flower petals. On the right subject is a pretty interesting effect (there are some filters on sale to obtain similar results) but it requires a lot of control from the photographer.

Closing the diaphgram the flare problems are progressively mostly solved and also definition improves even if it's still mediocre at the borders. This is a typical problem of the first fast lenses, but it wasn't considered so critical by the photographers of those days. If you think about it these lenses should be used for portaits or other "central" framed subjects; for the landscapes view cameras were professionally used (they should used also today, but this is another story).

All in all is always exciting to use a part of the photographical history also because, as I said in the other post, old glasses are full of flaws but they aren't short of their own personality that makes them useful when one wants to take some kind of shots.

And as every other grandpa, also this septuagenarian has always a good story to tell.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Food Photography: Lighting

The subject of this post is about using in a simple way the lighting, both natural than artificial, to produce a food shot. I'm using as example an image I shot this week for a recipe on this blog.



The first advice I always give to everyone who's asking me how to improve his food photography is to choose a shot she particularly likes and study it, particularly trying to understand the lighting the photographer used. It's lighting what makes 90% of a shot. Browsing the net you can find a lot of food shots where the food has great styling and the shot has also a decent composition, but the lighting... terrible! This makes the food looking very unappetizing. Which of us would like to eat in a cavern or in a very dark room?

La prima regola - The first rule: KISS

KISS, which is the acronym for "Keep It Simple Stupid", is always the first rule to follow when you want to start to learn how to use lighting. But also when you will be become more expert, don't put it away. It's impressive how great photographers manage to create great shots using the simplest lighting schemes.

Analizziamo la foto d'esempio - Analyzing the example shot



Do you understand then how I used lighting in the example shot? If yes, great, congratulations. Otherway it's just a matter of experience, patience... and of using a little trick: look where the shadows are falling. On the opposite side there's the main light for sure.
In that shot you can see how the shadows are falling in front of the garlic, then the main light (in this case the only light I used, do you remember KISS?) is behind the vegetables.
Why did I put the main light there? Because backlighting, especially in food, exalts the shapes and the tridimensionality of the image, beside that it helps to show the texture of the garlic, which is very nice. A frontal light instead renders the subject "flat" and "dull". Do you remember the result when you use the little flash upon your camera? Here it is.
After having decided where to put the main light we have two other problems. The first one is that our eyes are a lot more sensible to light than film or digital sensor of the camera. So where you see just a darker area, the camera sees BLACK, or very close to.
We have to "open the shadows", as it's called in photographical jargon.
For this task I simply used a cheap white foam panel, placed exactly in front of the subject so that it would reflect the light coming from behind.
The second problem instead is the exposure. Garlic is white and the exposimeter of your camera in a pretty dark scene like this one would overexpose it for sure, because it'd try to get a medium exposition of the whole scene. In this case or you use a manual exposimeter mesuring incident light on the garlic (like I did) or, simpler, use a digital camera (if you're using film) and make some test shots until you find the exposure you like more. I know it seems unprofessional, but hey, it's practical ;)



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