Oakland Food Photographer | Eco-Chef Bryant Terry

Neely Wang Oakland Food Photographer

This past month, I had the pleasure of photographing the April event hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County, California, providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. This month’s Marin County Cooking Class event featured Eco-Chef Bryant Terry of Oakland, California. Chef Terry is an activist, chef and author of “Afro-Vegan,” named one of Amazon.com’s best cookbooks of 2014. Chef Terry’s food philosophy is based on “food justice” — the idea that healthy, affordable food should be accessible to everyone regardless of race, income or geography and that food is an everyday right, not a privilege. As an educator, Chef Terry teaches people to be more mindful in their food choices, focusing on a plant-centered diet to address the current health crisis, as well as empowering the community to find solutions to their health and diet issues. Bryant graduated from the Chef’s Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City. He was named by the US State Department as one of 80 chefs in the new American Chef Corps in 2012, and appeared on Ebony Magazine’s list of the “Power 100″ in 2011. His food is described as “farm-fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern flavors remixed.” I tried following a vegan diet for a few months a couple of years ago and had a tough time thinking of new things to cook, so I was eager to try Chef Terry’s creations! 

Neely Wang Oakland Food Photographer

The dinner began with a delicious appetizer of Texas Caviar on Grilled Rustic Bread. These toasts tasted liked an Italian Bruschetta, but African style!

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

The Texas Caviar included sun-dried tomatoes, black-eyed peas, lots of fried garlic — yum!, heirloom tomatoes, green and yellow bell peppers, red onion, and chiles (plus some vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and cilantro). Chef Terry shared that the older your dried beans are, the longer they’ll take to cook. He suggested that dried beans should be soaked to neutralize the phytic acid in beans, so that they’ll ultimately be easier to digest. One should discard the soaking water and then add salt to the beans. Salt should not be a added at the very beginning of cooking as it will inhibit cooking time. I’ll admit that I’m super lazy when it comes to beans and would much rather open up a can of cooked beans and dump ’em into a pot, but if I was ever to get in a bean-cooking mood, all these tips would be really helpful :).

Neely Wang Bay Area Food Photographer

These tasty toasts were followed by a delicious and hearty Dandelion Salad with Pecan Dressing. I’m a huge fan of pecans, so this salad was right up my alley. My husband, however, who doesn’t care for nuts much but loves creamy dressings, loved the pecan dressing and asked me to make it at home. What a great idea to add ground-up nuts to a dressing to give it more body and add an extra dose of healthy fats.

Neely Wang Bay Area Food Photographer

Neely Wang Bay Area Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Chef Terry added supremed sweet oranges to counterbalance the bitterness of the greens.

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

The dandelion leaves tasted similar to kale. Hmm…I wonder if I could eat the dandelion leaves growing all over my lawn.

Neely Wang Oakland Food Photographer

The main dish of the evening was Tofu Curry with Smoky Mustard Greens and Brown Basmati Rice. This dish was nice and homey — vegan comfort food!

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Chef Terry shared that a good curry has cardamon and that it’s best to make your own curry, which he does by grinding spices with a mortar and pestle. Chef Terry said that he collects mortar and pestles from around the world and has acquired approximately 30 of them by now.

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Chef Terry shared that some people may shy away from tofu, but that tofu soaks up the flavors of many dishes and that finding artisan tofu, like his recommended Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland, makes a huge difference. He also taught that mustard greens can sometimes be bitter, but if you blanch them, the bitterness subsides.

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

The dinner ended with a delicious Cocoa-Spice Cake with Crystallized Ginger and Coconut-Chocolate Ganache.

Neely Wang San Francisco Food Photographer

The secret ingredient of this delicious cake was avocado, which gave it a deep creamy flavor. Of course, I’m sure the addition of dark Jamaican rum to the recipe didn’t hurt either!

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

It was a great evening, and the things he shared made me really think about food justice and equality. Plus, he showed us that each of his recipes in his cookbook is paired with a selected song and that evening he rapped for us, so what’s not to like! ;)

Check back in June for the next Marin Cooking Class Event featuring Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu Resturant in Santa Rosa, CA with Dave the Butcher who will be butchering an entire pig! In the meantime, here’s a great salad recipe to try courtesy of Chef Bryant Terry. See you next month!

Dandelion Salad with Pecan Dressing

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

For the dressing:
6 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:
7 large tangerines
6 cups torn stemmed dandelion greens
3/4 cup chopped sugared pecans
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
1. To make dressing, combine pecans, orange juice, lemon juice, mustard, cilantro and salt in a blender and process until smooth.
2. With the motor running, slowly pour in oil and process until creamy. Taste and season with more salt if desired.
3. To make salad, use a sharp knife to remove rind and bitter white pith from tangerine. Holding fruit over large bowl to catch juices and sections, cut just inside membrane of each section and loosen until it falls into bowl. Discard any seeds.
4. Add dandelion greens and pecans. Pour enough dressing to lightly coat salad, saving any remaining dressing for another use, and gently toss. Season each serving with few grinds of black pepper.

Sugared Pecans

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:
4 cups pecans
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/4 cup raw cane sugar

Directions:
1. Put pecans in large bowl and drizzle with oil and stir until coated. Sprinkle with sugar and stir until coated.
2. Warm a large, dry cast-iron skillet over med-high heat until hot. Add pecans and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and most of liquid has evaporated, about 1 1/2 minutes.
3. Transfer pecans to parchment paper and quickly spread out and separate with forks. Let cool to room temperature, stored in sealed container at room temp for a few weeks.

Macro Monday | Red + Pink Ranunculus

Neely Wang Macro Flower Photography

“Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.” ~Gerard de Nerval

Neely Wang Macro Flower Photography

Whenever I have flowers around the house or growing in the garden, I can’t help but talk to them.

Neely Wang Macro Flower Photography

Just a simple greeting of hello.

Neely Wang Macro Flower Photography

Or a simple question of how they are doing today.

Neely Wang Macro Flower Photography

My husband looks at me a bit like I’m crazy when I do this,

Neely Wang Macro Flower Photography

but when I look at them, they’re each so different, with their own personalities…

Neely Wang Macro Flower Photography

…each like a little soul…

Neely Wang Macro Flower Photography

Some shy, some showy…

Neely Wang Macro Flower Photography

…but each beautiful in their own way.

Neely Wang Macro Flower Photography

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Sonoma County Food Photographer | Della Fattoria

Neely Wang Sonoma County Food Photographer

This past week, I had the pleasure of photographing the March event hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County, California, providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. This month’s Marin County Cooking Class event featured the team of James Beard nominated, Della Fattoria, a bakery and cafe located in Petaluma, California. Della Fattoria was named one of “America’s 10 Best Bread Bakeries” by Bon Appetit magazine in 2011, and their book, Della Fattoria Bread, written by founder and baker, Kathleen Weber, was recently nominated for a James Beard award. Kathleen Weber is a self-described “obsessive baker” whose bread has graced the tables of renowned wine county destinations, including The French Laundry and Sonoma Mission Inn. For the event, Chef Weber brought a team of chefs, including her son, Chef Aaron Weber.

Neely Wang Bay Area Food Photographer

The evening was sponsored by local favorite, The Republic of Tea, who also provided this refreshing lemon chiffon tea. So good!

Neely Wang Bay Area Food Photographer

The menu for the evening began with a Green Salad with Citronette. I normally make all my salads at home with romaine or mixed spring greens, but this bib/butter lettuce was really delicious and mild. Anyone know the nutritional content of bib lettuce compared to romaine? I’d love to try using bib lettuce instead of romaine.

Neely Wang Bay Area Food Photographer

Avocado was incorporated into the lemon juice vinaigrette, producing a wonderfully creamy dressing. I usually add slices or chunks of avocado into my salads, but breaking it down into the dressing sounds like a great idea — a sort of healthy creaminess! The sprinkled goat cheese on top added an extra bit of creaminess.

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

The main course was a Lamb Tagine with Dried Apricots, Golden Raisins and Pomegranate. Lamb is one of my favorite meats (I almost order it whenever I see it on a restaurant menu), and I love it when a bit of sweet is mixed with savory. 

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

This tagine was super flavorful with all the dried fruits and spices, like saffron, turmeric, ginger, cumin and paprika.

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

In case you don’t have a tagine (I wonder how many people actually do), the Webers shared that a dutch oven could be used instead.

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

I snuck this cute picture of the Della Fattoria staff eating the lamb tagine that the students made. It’s one of my favorite pictures of the evening because it not only shows them as a family eating together (which is very much in line with the values of their bakery), but also in their natural, unguarded state when everyone else was eating. Plus, I love the irony of them eating their own recipes that someone else prepared!

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

And finally, Lemon Cream Tarts for dessert. Although I was stuffed to the brim, I could always find room for some lemony goodness! These were buttery, tangy, and absolutely delicious!

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

The preparation of the crust…

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

…followed by the making of the lemon cream…

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

…the addition of the meringue….

Neely Wang Bay Area Food Photographer

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

And finally, the torching of the meringue.

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

At the end of the evening, Chef Aaron Weber shared how they roll out their dough for their delicious bread. He made it look so simple, but it obviously took years and years of practice.

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

He demonstrated the rolling out of baguettes, 

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

and boules.

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Kathleen shared throughout the evening about their “bread starter” and how it is on a tight schedule. They feed it twice a day “like a kid or a dog”, so that it doesn’t get too sour and remains the consistency of biscuit dough, which allows it to require no refrigeration. Their starter is less wet, which makes it less fragile and makes the bread nuttier tasting. She added that if the starter has too much liquid, the sugar gets eaten too fast, which would normally require it to be refrigerated.

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

I already have 2 kids to worry about feeding, so I’ll just continue to enjoy eating the bread instead of making my own.

It was such a fun evening, and the food was so tasty! Check back for April’s event with Eco-Chef Bryant Terry, the author of Afro-Vegan, which was named by Amazon.com as one of the best cookbooks of 2014. Plus vegan soul food?? Very intriguing!

Since I’ve been in quite the salad mood lately, here is Della Fattoria’s Green Salad with Citronette recipe to try. Enjoy!

Green Salad with Citronette

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 lemon, cut in half
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
2 heads bibb or butter lettuce, any rough outer leaves removed and discarded
1/2 ripe avocado
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Coarsely cut or torn basil, mint or oregano leaves
1/4 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese

Directions:
1. Squeeze the lemon into a large salad bowl. Add the salt, mustard and shallot.
2. Separate the heads of lettuce into individual leaves and wash and dry well.
3. Add the avocado to the lemon juice mixture and use a whisk to break it up. Give everything a turn with the whisk to combine, then slowly whisk in the olive oil until you have an emulsified mixture; the amount of oil you add will depend on the tartness of the lemon. The dressing will be thick, but should be loose enough to toss with and coat the lettuce leaves.
4. Season with additional salt to taste, then add the herbs, if using, and add the greens, tossing to coat.
5. Scatter the cheese over the top, if using, and serve the salad with the sliced bread on the side.