Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dubai Autumn Salad

I grew up in a four-seasons part of the world. The blossoms and bright greens in spring, the yellow fields and crowded beaches in summer, the fall turning leaves, the cold and icy gray in winter. Absolutely, I am ignoring the overcast memory of miserably cold and rainy days that seemed to be year-round.

The seasons I grew up with often inspire me in cooking. Living in Miri I enjoyed playing around with four seasons in a hot climate. Young bright spring green in a vegetable salad with koriander chicken, summer sun in a yellow corn and red pepper salsa with grilled prawns and turmeric rice, warm fall orange and brown in a creamy pumpkin puree with Chinese style roast duck, dark days of winter in a caramelized tomato tart, tapenade and black lentil salad.

The other day while driving, I saw in the distance the setting sun. It was huge. Enormous. It was an incredible shimmering orange ball slowly going down. It illuminated everything around it in an orange glow. My car display indicated an outside temperature of 34C, and I thought to myself: "there you go, the orange of autumn Dubai style".

I thought about the ingredients I had in my fridge. Red, orange and yellow capsicum, portabella mushrooms, chorizo, parmesan cheese. I will make a salad. A Dubai Autumn Salad.

Next post: recipe of a Dubai Autumn Salad

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In Focus: Food To Shoot

While food photography is an art in itself, I do want to be able to take better pictures of food. Better exposure, composition, and focused or blurred where I want it to be. It will also be a new food focus for me: create a dish, take time and effort to style it and have fun shooting away.

So, after years of abusing my husband's DSLR camera, and blaming all but my lack of camera-understanding for the meager photographic result, I signed up for this "intro to digital photography" workshop. The 4x4-hours sessions are led by the dynamic Tiffany Schultz, a professional photographer with a background in fine arts. She loves the arts - all of the arts, she stressed - and this is beautifully clear from the perspective she takes on photography.

The workshop takes place in the DUCTAC (Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre). This creative place is literally in the shade of the ginormous indoor ski slope towering over the parking lot at this end of the Mall of the Emirates. Such a weird contrast. Walking to an art studio in 35+C heat under a steel and concrete construction where inside people are schwooshing down on artificial snow.

After the first two sessions, my head is spinning with ISO, shutter time, aperture, F-stop. Vaguely familiar terms on paper, but never understood their workings on a camera. We are shown how to browse through the camera menu, change settings (and back!). Our teacher-photographer is encouraging us to look and see. And shoot. As much as we can, using all different settings and compare the results.

Trying out the new tripod, and playing around with the settings, I aimed the camera on one of my summertime favorites: zucchini carpaccio.

zucchini carpaccio (recipe for 4)
2 large green zucchini
1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
handful fresh basil, chopped fine
juice of 1/2 lemon
sprinkles of sea salt flakes (I use Maldon)

Slice the zucchini lengthwise very thin (best to use a mandoline). Make a vinaigrette of the lemon juice, olive oil and basil. In single layers, spread the zucchini slices on a plate (use one big one to share, or 4 individual ones: the carpaccio marinates on the plate you serve it on), drizzle with the vinaigrette before adding the next layer (no more than 3, the end result needs to be a thin carpaccio). Do not use too much vinaigrette. The zucchini slices need to be drizzled, not bathed. Marinate for up to 30 minutes. I layered the zucchini and cut of the ends to get an even shape. I saved a few slices to create zucchini "roses". The other garnish in the picture are slivers of roasted red pepper plated as small rounds.

You can add more flavor-notes to the carpaccio. Think parmesan shavings, rose peppercorns, flash-fried basil, capers, small dice of black olives, morsels of sundried tomatoes. The list goes on...

eating out in Dubai: Pisces

Just before the summer heat, we had dinner at Pisces. We sat outside on the terrace. A nice terrace in the buzzing ambiance of the Madinat. Upstairs was P2, part of the restaurant but serving a bistro menu. We kept it in mind for a "next time".