lemon panna cotta
Now that we’ve seen the first inklings of spring, I thought it would be nice to make a not-too-heavy, not-too-sweet dessert to pair with some sunshine and [the hope for] warmer weather. Although you might assume that I used a hydrocolloid to make the gel-like panna cotta and a modified soy protein to create the foam, but this recipe is actually something your great grandmother could have made.  In fact, I used a basic panna cotta recipe from Epicurious as my starting point.  One of the keys to this recipe is to use really great cream and half and half – find the best stuff you can at a farmers market or a discerning grocery store.

Makes: 8 servings
Total kitchen time: 30 mins working + 4 hours refrigerating

Shopping list:
For the panna cotta

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 32 drops lemon extract

For the candied lemon supremes

  • 1 Meyer lemon, supremed
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. water

For the coconut foam

  • 1 13oz. can light coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 drop lavender essential oil (one drop goes a long way, but feel free to adjust to taste)

Garnish

  • Shaved coconut (available in the bulk foods section of finer grocery stores)
  • Edible flowers
  • Shaved white chocolate

 

  1. Add the water to a small saucepan and sprinkle over the gelatin to bloom.  After it has been hydrated for 1 minute or so, heat on low and stir until it forms a fluid.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the cream, half and half and sugar to a simmer over moderate heat until, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon extract and gelatin mixture. 
  3. Divide the heated cream base among 8 muffin molds (or ramekins) and transfer to the refrigerator until fully chilled, at least 4 hours. 
  4. To make the candied lemon, combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan.  Add the lemon supremes and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, flipping once.
  5. When you’re ready so serve, beat the coconut milk together with sugar and lavender essential oil in a medium bowl using a whisk or an electric mixer.
  6. To remove the panna cotta from their molds, I like to use my cooking torch.  With the torch on its lowest setting, quickly heat the outside of each metal mold, spending just a few seconds on each one.  The panna cotta should slip right out.  Alternately, heat the molds in a little warm water and run your knife around the inside to loosen. 
  7. Garnish the panna cotta with coconut foam, candied lemon, shaved coconut, shaved white chocolate and edible flowers.
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Reading time: 2 min

grapefruit-before-and-after

In Part 1 of this article, we got a behind-the-scenes look at the equipment, lighting and shooting setup used by Ryan Matthew Smith to achieve the stunning food photos in Modernist Cuisine.  Now, we’ll take a look at the second step in the process: cleaning up your pictures in Photoshop to really make them come to life.

Ryan is amazingly talented with Photoshop and he has shared some of his favorite tricks and techniques with me.  There is a lot more to be learned than what’s covered in this article, but this is a great start for any food photographer looking to squeeze a little more succulence out of your shots. 

The steps below are my attempt at cleaning up the grapefruit picture shown here.  Although my process achieves a similar result to Ryan’s work on the same photo, chances are, an experienced Photoshop guru like Ryan can correct this image faster, cleaner and more accurately.  However, as I was quite pleased with the finished product, so I thought I’d share my steps with you. 

At the end of the article, I’ve listed a handful of other useful Photoshop tips that Ryan was kind enough to share. 

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Reading time: 7 min

Last night, I enjoyed the rare privilege of experiencing a 29-course tasting menu prepared by the Modernist Cuisine team.  The dinner was spectacular and showcased some of the most innovative and sophisticated cooking techniques on the planet.  Often the flavors were new and complex as well, though now and then, a dish would surprise me with a familiar taste from childhood or years past.  I don’t dare try to describe every plate, but the majority of the dishes they served can be found in the book, in one form or another.

I’d like to give a big Thank You to the Modernist Cuisine team for hosting such a spectacular evening, and for their continued generosity.

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Reading time: 1 min
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