- KNOW THE BASICS. Get to know your camera and practice the principles of light exposure, color, and composition. When you start using the manual mode of you camera you get really creative. There is a tendency in food photo to shot wide open and create blurry backgrounds to draw the attention of the viewers to the most important part of the dish. But in some cases you may need a little more background in focus, if nobody will be able to recognize the elements in the background, that shallow deep of field may not work.
- USE NATURAL LIGHT. The best light for food photography is the light that you don´t even notice when looking at the picture. You want it as natural as possible. Move around and don´t be confined to the kitchen. A simple window is most of the times a nice diffused light source. Food shot in direct light may look harsh and flat. If the light coming from your window still makes harsh shadows and highlights you can use some white linen curtains to soften. You can also use a white foam board to bounce light back onto the plate and reduce shadows. Never use built-in flash!
- CHOOSE PROPS CAREFULLY AND VARY THE BACKGROUND. Play with a variety of plates, bowls, glasses, flatware, and napkins (or remnant fabrics) in different shapes, sizes, and colors to make your image pops. You can create modern, rustic or French bistro styles: for a modern style choose swoop Asian bowls with white or black colors for a clean background, for a rustic style wooden backgrounds made of reclaimed wood are perfect, and for a French Bistro style you can use a marbled pastry board and a linen tablecloth and build the look with vintage silverware. Just don´t overdo your prop to avoid distracting backgrounds.
- PREP YOUR FOOD. Food stylists carefully put food on a plate with tweezers! So, try to get your shooting dish as perfect as you can. On the other hand, a bit of mess like cookie crumbles can be as effective as a clean plate, it makes it more real and appealing. Delicious dishes are not always good for pics, don’t just consider the finished product on the plate and look at the ingredients—perhaps a shooting of the ingredients or a “work in progress” shoot are sometimes more interesting .
- PLAY AROUND AND FIND THE BEST ANGLE. Camera angle is what creates a sense of depth, perspective and scale. Food generally looks good with overhead shots, but you may prefer a 45° degree or a 90° angle from the table depending on the dish. A stack of pancakes will look better from the side (90° angle), while a slice of pizza may look better with an overhead shot. Never shot a dish from only one angle. Frame your dish carefully, not too close or too far away. Try to walk around your plate to capture lighting from different angles and then chose the favorite later. As you can see, the perfect photo takes lots of shots! Never give up..practice, practice, practice.
While I was creating recipes for Food and Nutrition Magazine (FNM), I realize how important is to get a nice strong image to make your creation shine and to inspire others to cook healthy foods. I don´t intent to be a professional food photographer (like the ones from FNM) but with some basic photography knowledge, lots of practice and some tricks food images can get a lot better (I´m still practicing). For bloggers, mouth watering food pictures can attract more traffic to their website. So, here I share the more useful tips I´ve learn when taking food images:
On Sunday evening I thought that I should start my week full of energy, so I made this delicious, slightly sweet bread. Ideal for Holiday baking too! It´s an easy, one bowl, no-mixer batter. Ready in less than 1 hour. Here is the recipe:
1 1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup superfine sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup pistachios, finally chopped
Lemon glaze: 1/2 cup superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or as needed for consistency)
1/3 cup pistachios
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 9x5 inches loaf pan and set aside.
In a large bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder. Mix in the butter, sugar and eggs and stir until ingredients are just combined. Add the lemon zest and juice and pistachios.
Put the mixture in the pan and cook in prehated oven for 40-45 minutes until firm and golden brown.
Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to a rack.
For the glace: mix sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until obtaining a thick paste. Spoon the glaze over the bread and sprinkle with pistachios. Serves 12.
I had it with a fresh homemade orange and peach juice!
From South America: 4 facts you need to know about Peruvian Maca
A friend of mine asked me: “Is it good to take maca? ..the vendor at the healthy food store said it has a lot of benefits”. Even though I practice in South America, I just said the truth: “I don´t know!” and started to look for some evidence. If you -just like me- didn´t know about maca, here you have the facts:
Do you know that Argentineans are descendants from immigrants, mainly Italians? Actually, Argentina is the largest country with more Italians outside Italy. That came from the current migrations in war times, from 1857 to 1940. Almost anyone has an Italian relative, my dad has born in Italy. That´s why every year, during the "Italian Summer", we celebrate the Italian Cuisine Week. Mangia che ti fa bene (a common expresion that means something like eat to be well) is the theme for this year. The celebration consist in big discounts and special events at true italian restaurants in Buenos Aires. Here you will find a list of the participating restaurants
The Italian Cuisine Week ends on Sunday 30th with a great event with cooking classes and free samples at NAVE MAYOR, USINA DEL ARTE, la Boca.
Buenos Aires Market: a must for foodies
A lovely spring-like weather (we are in late fall now) make it ideal to spend time outside and visit another edition of Buenos Aires Market (BAM). This is a farmers market where more than 70 food producers exhibit their products over Saturday and Sunday. It is held once a month in an itinerant place in Buenos Aires City. Lots of local and regional, organic and gourmet products are available to taste (I love free samples!), to eat on the go and to buy at discounted prices. Here, my top five of BAM:
1. Food trucks. American style food trucks are now trendy in Buenos Aires. In BAM you can find gourmet food trucks like Paraje Arevalo and BA truck (with Chef Abdala delicacies like goat tagine) among others. They are great opportunities to taste fine dishes while avoiding their expensive onsite restaurants.
2. Breads. I love bread (as much as my 3 old daughter) and specially if it´s crusty artisan bread like the one from L´ epi a typical French bakery with 2 locations in Buenos Aires. There are other bread vendors in BAM, but this one was my favorite. I picked the traditional baguette, focaccia and parmesan cheese flavored bread. I´ll try pastries next time, but I´m sure they are yummy.
3. Drinks. It was unusually hot by this time of the year and I needed something fresh. There was a truck of Terma giving away free herbal lemonade. You will find lots of natural flavored waters, teas and fruit smoothies made to order. Also, there are some artisan beer vendors (place to be for most husbands)
4. Olive oil. Straight from Mendoza and La Rioja, you can buy high quality olive oil at a discounted rate. Olives and vegetables in olive oil were also at a good price. I bought some delicious artichokes hearts.
5. Papines or Andine potatoes. These are small potatoes (fingerlings) native from the Andes region, like the North of Argentina, where more than 100 kinds of potatoes and little potatoes are produced. They come in different shapes and colors (like lilac, blue, yellow, red and green) adding visual interest to any plate, with a nutty and earthy flavor.
Stay tunned for the next BAM edition.
Every May and in many countries, celiac disease associations gather efforts to increase awareness about celiac disease and to educate the public about early diagnosis and the gluten free diet, its only treatment (that has to be planned by an expert dietitian)
In Argentina, Celiac Disease Day is celebrated on May 5th
In Uruguay and Chile, Celiac Disease Day in on May 6th
In Europe is on May 16th (in Spain is on May 20th), while in the United Kindom Coeliac Disease Week is on May 11-14th.
In the US, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, puts together lots of free resources from e-cooking books to live webinars.
A recent article, “Applying the Precautionary Principle to Nutrition and Cancer” (Gonzales, 2014), was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition with guidelines for eating and cancer prevention. What is new about the report is the recommendation to limit or avoid milk and dairy products as part of a more plant based diet to prevent cancer. The evidence comes from the 2007 report of the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) and other evidence sources published after the WCRF/AICR report. The authors say that people cannot wait for evidence based consensus and that families have to act now on the best available evidence. So, they developed 6 dietary principles (see box) in which evidence of dietary influence in cancer risk is substantial, even if not conclusive. The report lists 6 guidelines that recommend eating more vegetables and fruits, more soy products, little or no alcohol, little or no dairy and red meats and avoidance of meat that has been fried, grilled or broiled.
SUGGESTED DIETARY GUIDELINES FOR CANCER PREVENTION*:
1. Limiting or avoiding dairy products may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
2. Limiting or avoiding alcohol may reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon and rectum, and breast.
3. Avoiding red and processed meat may reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum.
4. Avoiding grilled, fried, and broiled meats may reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney, and pancreas. In this context, meat refers to red meat, poultry, and fish.
5. Consumption of soy products during adolescence may reduce the risk of breast cancer arising in adulthood. Soy products may also reduce the risk of recurrence and mortality for women previously treated for breast cancer.
6. Emphasizing fruits and vegetables in your diet will likely reduce the risk of several common forms of cancer.
* Note that this review specifies suggested dietary guidance in which evidence of a dietary influence on cancer risk is substantial, but not necessarily conclusive
It is not new that there are many advocates for a diet that totally excludes dairy products –milk, yoghurt, cheese and butter- arguing that this helps to stop cancer cells from growing, especially hormone-related cancers such as prostate, testicle and ovarian cancer (see the Milk article in the latest FNM). But, what says the evidence? Studies that investigate a link between dairy and cancer are inconclusive. Some research shows an increase in the risk of developing prostate cancer (Li-Qiang Qin 2009), while others show possible protective role of dairy products on colorectal cancer risk (Murphy, 2013). And, consumption of dairy products has not been identified as a risk factor for breast or other types of cancer (Pala, 2009).
Despite evidence limitations, when it comes to milk and dairy, the article published in the JACN suggest: “Limiting or avoiding dairy products may reduce the risk of prostate cancer”. It was found that eating 35 grams of dairy protein (more than 4 cups of milk) increases the risk of prostate cancer by 32%. It´s believed that the mechanism to increase prostate cancer risk is the ability of a large oral calcium dose to suppress vitamin D activation and the tendency of milk to increase serum insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) concentrations.
The authors acknowledge disadvantages of this recommendation and suggest eating other sources of calcium (leafy vegetables, legumes, and calcium-fortified foods). As a food and nutrition professional, I believe that the recommendation of limiting dairy for cancer prevention can be risky and confusing for the press and for the public, specially, because dairy products are the main dietary source of calcium, an essential nutrient for bone health and may even prevent colon cancer. I think that, for now, we should focus on a total diet approach and recommend a healthy, well balanced diet (with more than 5 serving of fruits and vegetables daily). Calcium should be part of that diet, and milk is an important source of calcium.
Soccer teams are now in Brazil playing the 2014 FIFA World Cup, one of the most important sport events worldwide. Here in Argentina, it means more than a sportive event. The whole country paralyzes, people literally stop working to watch the games (while eating not very healthy snacks…) The most exciting part of the World cup starts today with the best 16 teams (Argentina, Argelia, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, USA, Suiza, Honduras, Brazil, France, Mexico, Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Costa Rica, Nigeria). Now, elite players prepare to play each game at maximum pace with not much time between games to recover. Diet may have its biggest impact in this phase.
Getting the right amount of energy to perform well is key, says FIFA on a nice nutrition segment of its website. Each team has people that carefully choose the right foods and fluids for players to eat during training, pre and post game and for recovery. A good diet can help support consistent intensive training while limiting the risks of illness or injury. That’s why many teams have dietitians or nutritionists on their delegations. For instance, USA´s team coach Jürgen Klinsmann has Danielle LaFata, MS, RD, balancing the high calorie needs of athletes with healthy eating. Klinsmann himself models healthy eating by emphasizing organic and local varieties of whole foods in his own diet. “He’s very involved,” team dietitian Danielle LaFata said to the Associated Press. “I think he’s more nutrition conscious than myself sometimes.” The US soccer team is urged to eat more fruits and vegetables and goes through a case of avocado each day! Meanwhile, Italy´s team nutritionist Elisabetta Orsi, emphazises a tricolor diet: “Pasta is our preferred fuel, and before matches we play with the tricolore: pasta with parmesano (white), prosciutto (red) and extra virgin olive oil (green), our natural medicine brought from Italy”, said Elisabetta to the Corriere dello Sport. But, unfortunately Italy couldn´t do it to this round of the Cup and were sent home. Lastly, according to the AFA website, Argentina´s delegation in Brazil does not have a dietitian in the team. They have chef and a kitchen assistant. They are not fueling on alfajores anymore... The New York Times reported that, Lio Messi used to be rewarded alfajores for scoring goals when was a kid. Now, Argentine players’ diet is based on carbs (pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes and rice), proteins (grilled meats like chicken, fish and beef) and vegetables (like broccoli, asparagus, spinach and green beans). For dessert, seasonal fruits and queso y dulce (an Argentinean dessert made of cheese and dulce de batata which is a sweet potato hard jam). All foods are local (Brazil) except from dulce de leche and dulce de batata that were brought from Argentina. What about the Argentinean asado? They eat this typical Argentinean barbecue while in Brazil but without organ meats. And, I suppose mate is present too!
At this stage of the Cup, the margin between victory and defeat is small. Attention to detail can make that vital difference. Maybe we can learn from players to chose foods (our fueling) more wisely to “perform” better in our life. See the FIFA nutrition booklet here and:
From the Academy Website: U.S. Men’s National Team Dietitian Fuels Performance:
Proper hydration. Even the slightest dehydration will impact performance. Playing soccer in Brazil's hot and humid weather increases fluid needs, and players may require as much as 10 liters per day. Electrolyte beverages, fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies contribute to a player's hydration needs. All contain vital nutrients such as potassium and magnesium, which are lost in sweating.
Food first. In a sports world of heavy supplementing, Team USA's goal is to get their primary fuel from nutrient-rich foods. If needed, supplementing is customized for the individual, but food always comes first. An example of a meal three to four hours prior to a game would include whole grain pasta with Bolognese sauce, chicken breast, grilled asparagus, watermelon and pineapple.
Post workout eating. In order to minimize muscle soreness and maximize muscle recovery, post workout smoothies with the right amount of protein and carbohydrates are given after workouts within 30 to 45 minutes. One post-workout snack LaFata makes for the team includes 25 grams of whey protein mixed with water and 1½ bananas.
80/20 principle. Athletes should eat highly nutritious foods including lean proteins, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and low-fat dairy 80 percent of the time. The other 20 percent can be other foods that might be higher in fat and sugar. Team USA has their "20-percent meal" 24 to 48 hours after a game. After that, it's back to fit eating.
High nutrition with healthy fats. Players achieve high calorie needs by blasting their diet with a variety of plant-based foods while also adding healthy fats through nuts, seeds and olive or canola oils. The higher the calorie needs, the more generous you can be with healthy fats.
Healing foods for injuries. Team USA has dealt with their share of injuries at the World Cup. For injury recovery, LaFata recommends emphasizing whole-grain foods such as oatmeal, quinoa and wild rice. Other injury recovery foods include fatty fish, green leafy vegetables and legumes.
To culminate this NNM, themed Enjoy the taste of healthy eating, I´d like to share two aspects of Argentina´s food culture: family meals and simplicity:
In Argentina, we usually take the time to sit and have a meal. In the big cities, many people have lunch at work but they do share the other mealtimes with family. It has been shown that shared mealtimes makes family members feel loved, confident and happy. Also, homemade food in Argentina includes many preparations from scratch with few processed ingredients. Sharing mealtimes with your kids and involve them in the cooking process will make them have better eating habits since childhood.
Enjoying food prepared with fresh and minimally processed real ingredients is a national tradition. When you visit the supermarket you will see that there is not much variety of frozen meals or processed food boxes. Supermarkets aisles are not that overwhelming like in other parts of the world. Another example of simplicity: in Argentina the typical salad dressing is oil and vinegar (commonly olive oil and balsamic vinegar). That’s what the waiter will bring you to season your salad if you are eating out. And, don’t look for salad dressings in the supermarket, you won’t find much. Some of the typical condiments are mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and salsa golf (an Argentinean creation that resembles Thousand Island dressing). Just make your own dressings and toppings with real ingredients and bring in simplicity to your dinner table!
Meats are also lightly seasoned with just a pinch of salt and pepper (and sometimes chimichurri). No one puts butter or other toppings on a grilled steak, there is no need. And, recently, the province of Buenos Aires banned the salt shaker from restaurant tables in an effort to combat high blood pressure. It will be available upon request, but only after the guest have tasted the food. The new restaurant trend in Argentina is to get back to basics, value regional meals and natural ingredients.
Healthy eating doesn´t have to be boring. This year´s NNM theme remind us to enjoy food. What I like to do is to experience food ingredients from other cultures and take healthy and tasty ideas from each one. For example, it is known that many Americans don´t eat very well...but not all is wrong. For example, in the US I´ve learn to have dinner earlier (usual dinner time in Argentina is 9pm) and have a better digestion before going to bed. Also, I´ve seen that many Americans respect seasonality of fresh fruits and vegetables, making certain dishes at certain times of the year. Seasonal produce is less expensive, more nutritious, taste better and is more natural. When I was in Brazil, I took from them the idea of having fresh fruits at all meals. From Mexico, I took the idea of adding onions and peppers (even the spicy ones) to many recipes reducing the amount of salt when cooking, as well as adding avocado to many dishes. There are many other examples. Like Japanese, one of the healthiest cuisine, with sushi (most sushi is low in fat and has lots of fresh ingredients). Another pretty healthy cuisine is Greek, with its dark leafy veggies, fresh fruit, high-fiber beans, lentils, yogurt, olive oil, and omega-3-rich fish.
As an Italian (my dad was born in Calabria), I´ve learn to eat lots of vegetables and mainly the pleasure of food. Because of the Italian immigration, this was an influence in the Argentinean food culture too. Meal times are moments without any rush, where you can share with family and friends while enjoying food.
I use to take one day of the week (Fridays work for me) to enjoy a different ethnic meal. Sometimes I have to tweek ingredients that are not available here, but it´s fine and FUN!