Halifax photographer

Food Film #3 : JC's Sage and Pancetta Wrapped Shrimp

Sean and our very good friend JC met years ago when they both worked in the kitchen of il Mercato on Spring Garden Road (the old location). At the time, JC was the youngest chef to run a Bertossi kitchen - just 22 years old. 

Years later, after Sean and I were engaged, we knew, without a doubt, who we wanted to ask to be Sean's best man at our wedding. 

Sean and JC at our wedding - photo credit : Mike Tompkins

The first time I met JC, I felt as if we'd already been friends for years. He has a personality that feels like a warm hug, plus, he's super smart and knows a lot of stuff about stuff. He and I bonded over our passion for being creative in the kitchen and I often receive random texts like:

'$2 8oz side order of Canadian back bacon at the market, produced by a local farmer and fried up fresh this morning. Singing to me. And I don't mean that round ham lookin' shit either. Long, leggy, crisp and chewy, glorious back bacon. Maybe it'll actually make it past the line up next week.'

'Molasses cookies, root beer fudge, fresh honey comb, garlic jelly, fresh cheese, artisan sausage, zucchini relish, ammolite necklaces... It's market day in Lethbridge!'

'Friend of ours is flying in for the night tomorrow on her way through town (she's a relaxed vegetarian). To my inquiry "Dinner plans yet? Spag garlic? Shrimp? Lemon, capers, arugula?" I get back "No! OMG YES! ALL OF IT!" Lol, had to share the love. Hope you guys had a great week!'

You can see why I absolutely adore him. In fact, there simply isn't enough space on this blog to tell you how awesome he is.

A few years ago, JC moved to Edmonton (insert sad face here), and when he comes home to visit, he always stays with us. The last time he was home he said, 'Hey guys, I've been making this super easy little appetizer for friends out West and they go nuts for it. Wanna try it?'. We've been making JC's Sage and Pancetta Wrapped Shrimp for every cocktail / dinner party we've hosted ever since.

JC's Sage and Pancetta Wrapped Shrimp

24 shrimp, thawed, patted dry with paper towel

24 leaves fresh sage

24 pieces thinly sliced pancetta

- lay one sage leaf on each shrimp  - wrap each shrimp with one piece of pancetta - grill until pancetta is crispy

If you watch the video posted at the top, you'll see that Sean likes to gently stretch out each shrimp before wrapping. Also, between the sage and the pancetta, the shrimp have a ton of flavour so we never serve them with dip - they're always one of the first things to go!

Enjoy :)

Taste of Nova Scotia 2014 Culinary Guide


Below are some of my favourite shots from the 2014 Culinary Guide that I did throughout April with Christine White and Emily Haynes of Taste of Nova Scotia.

Dijon Mussels - Brooklyn Warehouse - Chef Mark Gray





Classic Nova Scotia Lobster - Saege Bistro - Chef Ray Bear


King Mushroom and Potato 'Chili' - Seasons by Atlantica - Chef Luis Clavel



Wild Blueberry Honey Lemonade - Van Dyk's 100% Wild Blueberry Juice


Mulligatawny Soup - Masstown Market


Seared Scallops with Beet Purée and Orange Butter - Le Caveau Restaurant - Chef Jason Lynch



Pan Seared Smelt - Pictou Lodge - Chef Thomas Carey


Also appearing in the guide are a few shots I've done over the last year:




You can find out more information about Taste of Nova Scotia, and the 2014 Culinary Guide at www.tasteofnovascotia.com.

Lighting Practice : Eggs

You may remember I bought myself a small studio strobe kit just after Christmas. For the last three months, I've been trying to teach myself how to make artificial light look like natural light and let me tell you - it ain't easy. Sure, I own some great books on the subject, and have Pinterest boards full of inspiration, but the only thing that seems to really work for me is practice.

I practice almost every day.

Some of the photos I take with my strobes look like absolute shit.

Some look like the egg photo above (inspired by this). I am pretty happy with this shot.

I'm still at the very early stages of learning, but I do have a few tips for anyone else that is trying to learn food photography with strobes:

- Keep a notebook - I have a thick, spiral bound ruled notebook that is PACKED with notes and diagrams of what has worked, and what hasn't worked for me, for every set-up - I use it as a reference and a starting point for every shot

- It's all about the shadows - You can buy a big beautiful softbox and get some really nice clean light on your subject, but if there aren't any shadows your photo will look dull and lifeless - shadows add depth which makes artificial light look more natural

- Study light everywhere you go - Seriously. Everywhere. The way sunlight streams onto your table in the restaurant at brunch, the way the gloom of a rainy day settles into your living room when you're reading a book in the afternoon, the way the sunset breaks through the trees in the park at dusk. Look at it. See it. It will change the way you look at lighting.

But of course, none of it matters if you don't practice.

The Basics : Chopped Garlic In Oil

This post seems so simple that I struggled with whether it was worth posting at all. Would readers find it insulting that I'd post something so easy?

But after talking to Sean I decided yes, I would post a 'recipe' for chopped garlic in oil. He and I agree - keeping a jar of chopped garlic in oil, in our fridge, has revolutionized our kitchen.

As the old lady says, 'We put that shit on everything'.

- as a sauce/base for pastas like my favourite, AOP

- as a base for pizzas instead of tomato sauce - top with prosciutto, Buffalo mozza and arugula - holy shit yum

- in scrambled eggs

- spread the oil on sliced baguette, toast lightly in the oven, top with cheese, meats or any kind of hors d'oeuvres topping

- in meat marinade

- in salad dressing (ok I don't really eat salad, but you could use it in a dressing)

- in pesto or dips

- chop tomatoes and basil - mix with garlic, a bit of oil and some salt and pepper - use as a bruschetta mix on toasted baguette slices (see above) or mix with Bocconcini for a Caprese-style salad

- put a dollop in a hot pan - add vegetables and sautée - same goes for chicken, shrimp or anything you'd cook like that

- add a spoonful to the onion when cooking risotto

- cook 1/4 C on low until garlic is golden and deeply fragrant - add a pinch of chilis and sautée 30 seconds - add 2 x 28oz cans of diced tomatoes, 1 tsp sea salt and simmer 4 hours

- add to soups for extra flavour

- spread chopped garlic on the inside of a grilled cheese - cook grilled cheese in garlic oil instead of butter

- mix with a little dried oregano and basil, add a squeeze of lemon juice and use as a bread dip

-  in polenta

- add a spoonful to mac and cheese sauce before you add pasta, cheese, etc then bake

- use as a rub on a roast or a pork belly with some dried herbs

- as a condiment on a hotdog or sausage in a bun

- in meatballs or meatloaf

- my friend Kelly suggests portioning it into ice cube trays and freezing - brilliant!

I could keep going but I think you get the idea. Use just the garlic, just the oil, or both together, ANYWHERE YOU LIKE.

All you have to do is peel the cloves of one bulb of garlic, chop them up as coarse or as fine as you like (I like bigger chunks like the ones in the jar pictured above), and cover them in oil. When our garlic and oil starts to get low, we just chop up a new bulb, mix it with the stuff in the fridge and then make sure it's all completely submerged in fresh oil.

***** TWO VERY IMPORTANT THINGS - YOU MUST keep the garlic covered in oil and YOU MUST keep it in the fridge ***** 

From GARLIC Safe Methods to Store, Preserve, and Enjoy by LINDA J. HARRIS Food Safety/Microbiology Specialist, Department of Food Science and Technology University of California, Davis'Regardless of its flavor potency, garlic is a low- acid vegetable. The pH of a clove of garlic typi- cally ranges from 5.3 to 6.3. As with all low-acid vegetables, garlic will support the growth and subsequent toxin production of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum when given the right con- ditions. These conditions include improper home canning and improper preparation and storage of fresh herb and garlic-in-oil mixtures. Moisture, room temperature, lack of oxygen, and low-acid conditions all favor the growth of Clostridium botulinum. When growing, this bac- terium produces an extremely potent toxin that causes the illness botulism. If untreated, death can result within a few days of consuming the toxic food. It is important to follow the directions in this publication carefully to make sure your preserved garlic is safe.'