Sonoma Food Photographer | Zazu Kitchen & Marina Meats

Zazu Kitchen | Neely Wang Photography

First of all, I want to ask, “How is it almost the end of July already?!?” Time has passed so quickly these past few months with the kids being off from school and a slew of exciting new photography work. I realize I haven’t been showing much attention to my little blog lately. I’m glad to be back to share with you a new cooking class, this one being one of my favorites! This past month, I had the pleasure of photographing the June 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 John Stewart and Duskie Estes of Zazu Kitchen + Farm in Sebastapol, California, and Dave the Butcher of Marina Meats in San Francisco at an event to “Celebrate the Pig.”

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

Now this post is not for the squeamish as it involves lots of raw meat and cutting of things. But I’m Chinese and growing up walking around Chinatown with my mom and seeing whole barbecued ducks hanging from their necks and a plethora of odd sea creatures swimming in tanks was quite commonplace, so a little raw meat doesn’t bother me. And after seeing a butcher prepare a turtle for turtle soup by chopping off its shell with a cleaver, not much has phased me since then. I do feel that butchery is very much a craft, and as a painter has different brushes for different purposes, butchers have different knives and tools that are designed for their work. Look at at that holster full of knives!

Neely Wang San Francisco Food Photographer

John Stewart and Duskie Estes are the couple behind the Sonoma County Restaurant, Zazu Kitchen + Farm, an authentic farm-to-table restaurant that uses everything from the tail to the snout. They are also owners of Black Pig Meat Co., where heritage pigs are raised and everything bacon is sold. Their delicious bacon is dry cured with brown sugar for approximately 21 days and then smoked with applewood for about 12 hours. In 2011, Stewart and Estes were crowned the King and Queen of Porc at the Grand Cochon cooking contest, although Chef Estes claims to have been a vegetarian for 23 years. 

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Dave the Butcher is the owner of Marina Meats, a butcher shop in the Marina district of San Francisco, which provides cuts of the world’s best producers of organic, all-natural, grass feed meat. He and his associate, Darren King, butchered half a pig provided by Biagio Artisan Meats, and used its parts for the chefs’ demonstrations for the evening. Part of me wishes I wasn’t taken pictures that night, so that I could write down everything they were saying — so much to learn about the different cuts of the animal as well as their uses and how to best cook them. 

Neely Wang San Francisco Food Photographer

Both the chefs and butchers emphasized the great taste imparted from slow-cooking “lesser” cuts of meat, like the shoulders, shanks, and legs, which makes the meat very tender and flavorful.

Neely Wang San Francisco Food Photographer

They also stressed the importance of knowing and asking where your food is coming from and how it is produced, as well as the need to avoid factory farming as much as possible. The pork they used for the demonstration was so fresh and free of antibiotics that Dave the Butcher even took a bite of the raw meat to demonstrate how different pork raised on a farm is compared to factory-raised pork. You could never do that with the pork you get at your local grocery store!

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

The dinner began with a Hot Smoked Bacon “BLT” Salad filled with tomatoes, avocado, little gem lettuce, bacon and drizzled with a sherry vinaigrette.

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Chef Stewart explained that the star of the salad was actually a “creative accident,” the result of the smoker being set at a temperature too high for bacon. I have to say that this might have been some of the best bacon I’ve ever tasted! It was a cross between bacon and pork belly that was both sweet and savory — so good! Here is Chef Stewart seasoning the pork belly.

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

Rows and rows of bacon…

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

The main dish of the evening was Kimchi Jigae, a korean-style pork stew with kimchi. Having lots of Korean friends and having eaten at many Korean restaurants, I would say this is more of a creative take on kimchi jagae rather than a traditional version, but still delicious nonetheless! And who would have guessed there could be a Korean version of wine country farm-to-table cooking?

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

The pork is slow cooked for approximately 3 hours and is infused with a mix of ginger, garlic, shoaxing wine, Korean chili paste, and soy sauce. The savory pork paired very well with the crunchy sour kimchi (again more of a rendition of traditional kimchi), and as most Koreans say, kimchi goes with everything!

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

The final course of the evening was a delectable S’more in a Jar, made with red wine, sugar, chocolate, egg yolks, milk, cream and butter, and then topped with a decadent meringue. A crispy espresso shortbread cookie accompanied the little jars of heaven.

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

I must have eaten my cookie too soon because I forgot to take a picture of it!

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

Chef Estes adds in the red wine to the chocolate and mixes together the cream, chocolate and butter.

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

And finally torches each meringue.

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

As if we didn’t have enough pork for the night, I couldn’t leave without purchasing some Chicharrone Peanut Butter Cups (peanut butter cups with fried pork rinds mixed in it) and Bacon Caramel Popcorn — just a little treat for the road, which you can also buy at their shop, Black Pig Meat Co. The leftover pork cuts were auctioned off and given to guests to take home.

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

It was such a fun and delicious evening! So much to learn… and eat! I’m always stuffed at these events. Come back next month for Chef Tony Gemignami, World Pizza Cup Champion and owner of Tony’s of North Beach.

In the meantime, enjoy Zazu Restaurant’s recipe for Kimchi Jigae.

Kimchi Jigae – Korean-Style Pork Stew with Kimchi

Serves 10

Ingredients:
1 pork shoulder, approx. 8 lbs.
4 red onions, peeled and sliced
2 cups kimchi, cut in wide chiffonade, plus its liquid
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 quart water
1 cup shoaxing wine (or mirin)
2 tablespoons gochujang (korean chili paste)
2 tablespoons dengjang (or white miso)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
silken tofu (optional)

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
1 bunch cilantro, cut in chiffonade, for garnish
1 bunch radishes, sliced, for garnish
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Season the pork with salt and pepper.
2. Sear until browned, about 5 minutes per side.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and cover. Roast in a 350F oven until fork-tender, about 3 hours.
4. Serve with aromatic rice (cooked with a sachet of kaffir lime leaf, star anise and coriander seed) and top with garnish.

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!