Raspberry and Pear Mini Tarts

Did you know that today is World Photography Day? I have to admit, it totally slipped my mind until I was sipping my coffee and scrolling through social media this morning. <hangs head in shame>

In honor of today, I've decided to not only share this delicious and easy Raspberry Pear Mini Tarts recipe, but I'm also sharing five things that you may not know about me as a food photographer. Hopefully it inspires anyone who has an interest in picking up a camera to go out there and do it. We all start somewhere.

1) I didn't learn to cook until I met my husband, Mike.
Yep, it's true. My mom used to say I left for college knowing how to boil water. In college, I would stock up on ramen noodles and Kraft mac and cheese, so she wasn't exactly wrong. When I met Mike in my late 20's, he cooked for me on our second date. He made asparagus risotto and to this day, he still makes it for me. I remember watching him cook in my tiny apartment kitchen and was amazed at how much he enjoyed doing it and how easy he made it look. My favorite (besides devouring it) were the smells that filled the room. They reminded me of my Mom getting up at 5am to start preparing Thanksgiving dinner and my Dad's homemade chicken noodle soup simmering on the stove. My love for good food has always been there, but Mike got me to see that cooking was not only something I could do, but something I wanted to do.

2) I started taking pictures with my cell phone and lighting from a window in my apartment.
I didn't go to school for photography. While I was learning to cook, I started seeing food differently and was drawn to how beautiful the ingredients were. I would be in the middle of chopping up scallions and would "see something" in how they were laying on the cutting board. I'd move everything into the living room where there was a large window and I would take several pictures with my iPhone. It sounds so simple, but I was starting to fall in love with the process of cooking and how beautiful it is. Then, my family surprised me with my very first DSLR (a Nikon D3100) and from there, I started to teach myself how to use it. Today, I love to shoot with the Nikon D750.

3) I always wear an apron during my shoots.
I love aprons. I wear them during my shoots because I'm constantly handling the food and I need to wipe my hands off a lot. I also like to switch between lenses on the fly, so I use the large pockets to keep them protected and near me. My Mom just sent me a new apron recently. The note said, "To my Saveur Photography Finalist. Love, Your Proud Mother." I've been wearing it everyday.

4) I have a love/hate relationship with my tripod.
Do any other photographers feel this way? I love to move around a lot during my shoots to find the right angles and compositions. It's faster to move myself than to move everything in front of the camera or adjust the tripod ever-so-slightly. However, sometimes depending on the light and my settings, my tripod is the best thing in the world to help me get the shot I want. See? I love it and yet, I find myself avoiding it.

5) I have three go-to resources for inspiration.
A big part of what keeps photographers dedicated to their craft is inspiration and a big part of what burns them out is the lack of it. Although there's an unlimited variety of inspiration out there for me, three go-to's come through every single time.

The first is my Anthropologie catalog that comes in the mail. I love the composition on each page, the colors and the mood. I am not a fashion photographer, but for some reason those catalogs feel like a guide for me as I continue to develop my own style. The shoots always seem to be somewhere exotic and beautiful too and I can't help but feel inspired to explore (not to mention go shopping).

The second is simply walking around the grocery store or the farmers market. Sometimes, I just want to go look at everything with no intention and no plan. It usually inspires my next shoot or at the very least, something tasty to make for dinner.

And last, but definitely not least, people. I'm an introvert at heart, so this one was not as obvious to me in the beginning. Now, I realize how important it is to have a support system when I'm in a creative rut and even when things are going really well. Whether it's Mike, my family, my friends or communicating with my connections through the blog and social media, they're all consistent with support, energy and love. I feel incredibly lucky to have all of you behind me.

Voting is still open for the Saveur Food Blog Awardsso be sure to vote as many times as you want! I'm still pinching myself that I'm a finalist for Best Photography.

I'm heading to Minnesota next week for a couple of restaurant shoots and to celebrate with my Mom. I'll be back soon with more goodies for Up Close & Tasty and don't forget to grab the Exclusive Sale (this month only) from Sur La Table below! 

Cheers and Happy Friday!

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Exclusive Sale at Sur La Table in August

Exclusive Offer! Save 20% Off One Item with code HERB16 (some exclusions may apply) only at SurLaTable.com! Offer ends 8/28.

 

Broiled Salmon with Scallions and Sesame

Whenever I need recipe inspiration I grab my notebook, a bunch of food magazines and head somewhere tasty to do a bit of research. It's a nice change up from my home studio and I get to scope out a variety of restaurants that I could potentially work with at the same time. That’s how I came across this recipe for Broiled Salmon with Scallions and Sesame in Bon Appétit.

Everyone has foods that they need to be in the mood for to truly enjoy. For me, it's salmon. It's no secret that I'm an avid seafood lover, but salmon and I only like to hang out on occasion. However, this recipe is super easy, full of comforting Asian flavors and comes together very quickly. Think of using your broiler as a grill and keep an eye on it.

I've found that some people are intimidated by the idea of cooking any kind of fish. They’re concerned about under or over-cooking it. But if you cook the fish to 145 degrees, you’re always good to go. Mike and I use this food thermometer from Weber, which is completely reliable and assures that just about anything is perfectly cooked and ready-to-eat.

How easy is that? <says Barefoot Contessa, one of my favorites!>

Speaking of kitchen gadgets, here’s another reminder that Sur La Table is offering an exclusive sale for 20% off one regular priced item this month. I've included the direct link below too. I haven't decided what I’m going to get yet, but I'll let you know when I do. What are you going to get?

Thanks again for all the excitement and support about Saveur - your votes and encouragement are so very appreciated.

Exclusive Offer! Save 20% Off One Item with code HERB16 (some exclusions may apply) only at SurLaTable.com! Offer ends 8/28.

Cheers!

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Sur La Table. As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Up Close & Tasty up and running!

Raspberry Gazpacho

Before we break for the weekend, I think I may have found the solution to an obstacle that I've experienced with gazpacho. I love gazpacho. The bigger the bowl, the better. But, I've found that my friends don't want a soup that is served cold. So, I decided to try something a little different.

Part of the experience of food is the presentation. People eat with their eyes first. Another part is the interaction. How do they get to taste it? While I was prop shopping at World Market, I came across these cute mini mason jars. I knew they would be perfect for my experiment, because instead of eating the gazpacho like a regular soup, why not drink it? When I had friends over to taste test, they ended up wanting seconds and thirds. Even Mike, who isn't a big gazpacho fan, was impressed with the flavors and loved the smaller portion.

And, can I be honest? I was a little skeptical of this recipe at first. Raspberries in a gazpacho? But, I threw everything in my Vitamix and gave it a try. Be sure to strain the seeds through a mesh sieve and let it chill for a couple hours in the fridge before serving. I can assure you it's quite delicious. It's sweet and spicy and I'm really into that flavor combination. It reminds me of the Pineapple Sake Sangria with Jalapeno from Food & Wine, which obviously isn't a garden-flavored drink, but it has that sweet and spicy combo that I'm really enjoying this summer.

As the week comes to a close, I'm still happy dancing in the midst of all the excitement that unfolded on Monday. I've been so overjoyed by the outpouring of support and excitement from my family, friends and even people I've never officially met before! It's amazing. I hope you all know how much it means to me. Photography isn't just what I do... it's a part of who I am. Pursuing it everyday is such an incredible adventure and I wouldn't be able to do it without your support. Thank you.

Have a relaxing weekend and don't forget to Vote for your favorite blogs on Saveur as often as you want!
xo

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Vitamix. As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Up Close & Tasty up and running!

Cilantro-Basil Pesto + Saveur Finalist for Best Photography

It's been an exciting few days. In attempt to stay somewhat focused and productive with my shoots, I took a simple approach with our cilantro and basil. These herbs are overflowing in our garden, so I decided to make a bunch of Cilantro-Basil Pesto.

I think cilantro is probably my favorite herb. Although the smell and taste of fresh basil always tugs at my heart strings, there's something extra special about cilantro. I add it to many recipes because the flavor always seems to compliment everything else. But not everyone likes cilantro. I've discovered that people either really love it or can't stand it - there's not really an in between - very similar to how people feel about oysters

This recipe comes together so quickly and if you're not a fan of cilantro, just use extra basil. I used my Vitamix again, which has become a regular go-to in my kitchen these days. You can use the pesto a variety of ways, but since Mike got us a charcoal grill this summer, I decided to grill up this simple pesto flatbread with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. One tip I have is to roast the slices of tomatoes for about 5-10 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees first. I slice the tomatoes thin and sprinkle them with a touch of dried oregano since I love how it enhances the flavor of the tomatoes. When they're done roasting, I add all the ingredients to the flatbread and hit the grill.  The first time I tried this approach with the tomatoes was with a BLT Pizza recipe from Cooking Light. I tried it again with this recipe and it was delicious! 

It's exciting times like these where I really enjoy the simpler recipes. I've been very giddy and a bit distracted since learning that I am a Finalist for Best Photography in the Saveur Food Blog Awards. The unexpected news came to me in an email while I was finishing up a shoot at my home studio with my sweet little helper (our tabby cat), Ollie. Completely surprised and excited, I yelled, "Holy Shit!!!"... which is the same thing I happily yelled when Mike asked me to marry him. I re-read the email several times to be SURE that I read it right and then proceeded to cry the happiest tears and share the amazing news with Mike and my family. This is like a dream!

THANK YOU to all who nominated Up Close & Tasty. Being recognized at this level is humbling and very exciting for me! Your support and encouragement are instrumental in all of this and I would love to get your vote in the Best Photography category! Congratulations to all of the finalists! I'm so grateful to be a part of this with you! 

VOTE HERE! 

In celebration of all the good news, I also want to share some exclusive sales (links below) from Sur La Table. Don't forget there's also Free Shipping on orders of $59 or more! I think some new props or kitchen gadgets are definitely in order, don't you?  Cheers!

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Sales

Exclusive Offer! Save 20% Off One Item with code HERB16 (some exclusions may apply) only at SurLaTable.com! Offer ends 8/28.

Save up to 75% Off All Clearance Items Only at SurLaTable.com! Hurry, Offer Valid for a Limited Time.

New & Only at Sur La Table! Shop Fresh for Fall with the exclusive Jaques Pepin Collection! 

All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Vitamix and Sur La Table. As always all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Up Close & Tasty up and running! 

Oysters with Sparkling Rosé Mignonette

It's one of my favorite days of the year... it's National Oyster Day! I don't actually remember the first time I tried oysters. I just remember always loving them. Most of my memories of oysters include travels with Mike and although it's hard to pick favorites, I'll share three of them.

One was the first time Mike and I travelled to San Francisco together. We were visiting his brother and sister-n-law and they took us to the farmers market at the Ferry Building. It was around 10:00am and there was an oyster stand selling Kumomotos for $1.50 each, (which is a steal for that type of oyster). We must have enjoyed a couple dozen while walking around the farmers market together on that gorgeous fall morning. 

Another was during Mike's and my honeymoon in 2010. We flew out to Oregon and cozied up in Newberg for 7 nights. It's right in the heart of Willamette Valley, better known as Oregon's wine country. We stayed at a new inn & spa called The Allison. There's a restaurant there called Jory where Mike had surprised me with reservations. It was a very sweet surprise because it's not normally a place within our budget... but we were on our honeymoon, so... We were enjoying wine and oysters at the bar that faces the gorgeous open kitchen when suddenly I heard, "Regan? Is that you?" I looked up to see my high school friend, Sunny, the executive chef standing in front of us. I had no idea that he had become a chef... and what a small world to run into him there. It was one of the most delicious meals of my life.

The third was when Mike and I were in Paris. We took a somewhat impromptu trip when we discovered we could get there and back on miles. One of my favorite things about our trip was that we didn't plan a lot. We had ideas, but we mostly let things unfold on their own (and with a little help from Paris by Mouth). We stumbled into many delicious spots, and one of my favorites was L'Ecume Saint Honoré, a small oyster bar near our flat. We were the only two in there and since we clumsily tried to speak the little french that we knew, we got an extra glass of Sancerre on the house and one dozen oysters for the price of six.

Huîtres s'il vous plaît.

In shell-ebration of today, I decided to shoot and eat a few Deer Creek oysters with a Sparkling Rosé Mignonette recipe that I discovered from Food & Wine. I even got to play with my new Hampshire Long Cheese Board for the shoot. The recipe for the mignonette is included below and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! And, if you aren't a fan of oysters, at least enjoy today... it is Friday afterall.  

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Notes from photo shoot:
The beautiful wood surface is handcrafted by Erickson Wood Works.
Hampshire Long Cheese Board is from Pier 1 Imports.
Oyster shucker is from World Market.

All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.