Chef Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen | Marin County Food Photography

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Last week, I had the pleasure of photographing the October 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 event featured acclaimed Chef Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen and B-Side BBQ in Oakland, California. People come to Oakland to eat her organic, sustainable, local and healthier California-ized soul food, but mainly they come for her famous Fried Chicken and Waffles! Although I was disappointed she didn’t share her famous chicken and waffles recipe at the event, her other menu items made up for it!

Chef Tanya Holland Dirty Rice

Besides working at her restaurant, Chef Holland has also demonstrated her delicious soulful on “The Talk” on CBS, “The Today Show” on NBC, and she was the host and soul food expert for the “Melting Pot” on Food Network. She studied at the University of Virginia (almost becoming an engineer) and later at La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Burgundy, France. She gave up her vegetarian ways while living in France and enjoying its food, which she claims she’ll eat all of, except for horse. Chef Holland is a repeat Chef to Fresh Starts and shared mouthwatering recipes from her new cookbook Brown Sugar Kitchen: New-Style, Down-Home Recipes from Sweet West Oakland, which she warmly calls, “Her love letter to Oakland.”

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

The evening began with a delicious plate of corn fritters, buttermilk cornbread and the most heavenly brown sugar butter for spreading. I probably could have eaten that entire bowl of butter if no one was looking — it was that good!

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Look at that yummy goodness!

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

The main dish on the menu was Blackened Catfish with Collard Greens and Vegetarian Dirty Rice

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

The fish was super flavourful and full of spice! Here is the fish right when it was placed in the skillet.

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

And here it is all nice and blackened!

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Chef Holland chiffonading the collard greens, which paired nicely with the spicy fish.

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

The chefs and students preparing the plates in the kitchen, while Chef Holland gave her demonstration in the front.

Fresh Starts Culinary Academy

Chef Tanya Holland Homeward Bound

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Chef Holland also shared her delicious Buttermilk Cornbread recipe made in a cast-iron skillet. For the past year, I’ve been saying that I need to try making cornbread in my cast-iron skillet after experimenting with various cast-iron skillet recipes like this blueberry dutch baby or this blueberry peach cobbler — now I have the perfect cornbread recipe!

Chef Tanya Holland

Buttermilk Cornbread Recipe

The evening was capped off with delicious Beignets with Jam. Truthfully, I will probably never try making beignets at home because a vat of hot oil is not something I prefer to mess around with, but you just can’t beat the taste of a fresh beignet right out of the fryer! Soft, warm sweet dough dipped in homemade jam — yum!

Neely Wang Marin County Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

One person from the audience asked if they could try one of the beignets she had just finished frying up, and by the end of the evening, the beignets slowly disappeared one-by-one as guests followed suit. I’ll admit I snuck one as well, and they were fantastic!

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Here are the students’ version of the beignets — they looked a little more like donut holes, but still very tasty!

Fresh Starts Cooking

Homeward Bound Cooking School

Check back next month for Chef Heidi Khraling, founder of Insalata’s and Marinitas in San Anselmo, California. She’ll be serving Turkish yogurt dip and spoon salad, warm flatbread, italian fennel salad, and swordfish with salmoriglio sauce.

In the meantime, grab your cast-iron skillets and try this delicious cornbread recipe! Don’t forget to mix-up your own brown sugar butter, too!

Buttermilk Cornbread

Ingredients:
1 egg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melter, plus 1 tablespoon for the pan
3/4 cup cooked fresh corn kernels
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Put a 12-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven to preheat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.
3. Add the flour mixture to the buttermilk mixture and mix with a wooden spoon; do not overmix. Stir in the melted butter. Gently fold the corn kernels into the batter until just combined.
4. Remove the skillet front the oven, and add 1 tablespoon butter to the hot pan. When the butter melts, brush it evenly over the bottom and sides of the skillet. Pour the batter into the skillet.
5. Bake until the cornbread is browned on the edges and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, 20-35 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve warm. Cornbread is best eaten fresh.

Macro Monday | Nature’s Christmas

Neely Wang Flower Photography

I was waiting at the front door of my friend’s house to pick up my son when I spotted this plant by their door. In a sea of green branches and leaves, this one little blossom was hanging by itself. It reminds me of an ornament hanging from a christmas tree — nature’s christmas :).

Food + Jazz with Chef David Lawrence | San Francisco Bay Area Food Photography

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

This past week, I had the pleasure of photographing the September 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 event featured Food and Jazz with Chef David Lawrence of 1300 on Fillmore in San Francisco. Chef David Lawrence is a favorite at Fresh Starts Chef Events and describes himself as English-born with Jamaican roots combined with French training and inspiration from the southern quarter of the US. He has worked at Le Gavroche in London and 231 Ellsworth in San Mateo before opening up his restaurant with his wife, Monetta, in 2007.

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

Chef Lawrence’s menu for the evening began with Grilled Red Stark Crimson Pears with House Cured Duck Pastrami, Sonoma Goat Cheese and Honey-Pomegranate Vinaigrette.

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

This starter was a favorite of mine, as I’m a big-time salad girl (my dish of choice to share whenever we have a get-together with family or friends — if you invite me, you’ll almost always get a salad to come with!) The duck pastrami was made with cured duck breasts, and the saltiness of the duck combined with the sweetness of the pear, the tang of the pomegranate vinaigrette and the bitterness of the greens was a knockout!

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

The main dish of the evening was Pan-Roasted Bronzino Bass, Roasted Celeriac, Anise-Cherry Tomato Broth and Butter Beans.

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

Chef Lawrence made a delicious tomato bean sauce to accompany the fish. I’d love to try that instead of rice or pasta with my proteins (trying to reduce my carb intake). He included roasted sunchokes, otherwise known as jerusalem artichokes, to the dish. I’m not sure if I’ve ever tried them before, but they added a nice texture to the soft beans. Chef Lawrence shared that he uses a cloth and salt to not only clean the sunchokes, but also to impart flavour. 

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

The bronzino bass was pan-roasted until the skin became crisped to a light golden brown. Chef Lawrence provided insider chef and restaurant tips, like cutting slits into the fish so that the it doesn’t curl while cooking, and pressing down on the fish to encourage browning, as well as shaking the pan so that the delicate fish doesn’t stick. 

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

Here is a peek at how it was prepared in the kitchen by the students. The beans are plated first…

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

…followed by the fish,

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

a sprinkle of micro greens,

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

and the addition of a few roasted sunchokes.

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

The plates are then skillfully carried out by the waiters to a hungry crowd.

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

Pictured below is Chef Lawrence’s finished dish, which he normally prepares to be shared — love that! What better way to eat than together with someone you love!

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

I was already stuffed, but of course I had a little room left for Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust!

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

Chef Lawrence said he usually makes this cheesecake at the restaurant with goat cheese instead of cream cheese — I’d love to try that! Look at that cream cheese — two whole pounds!

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

A water bath was prepared for the cheesecake, and a piece of parchment paper was pressed on top so that a skin would not form on the cheesecake.

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

This was reeeealllly good, and the gingersnap crust paired perfectly with the pumpkin! Chef Lawrence shared wonderful stories of how he and his brother used to experiment with Sara Lee boxed cheesecake as kids and eat two entire cheesecakes by themselves under the table every Saturday! I’d love to have been part of their family — yum! 

Neely Wang Food Photography | Chef David Lawrence 1300 Fillmore

Stop by next month for another great Marin County Cooking Class with Chef Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland! Catfish, cornbread and beignets — can’t wait! 

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust Recipe

Makes a 9-inch pie

Ingredients:

For the crust:
About 40 gingersnap wafers (to yield 2 cups cookie crumbs)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
2 lb. (four 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon table salt
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
One 15-ounce can pure solid-pack pumpkin

Directions:

For the crust:
1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350F.
2. Pulse the cookies and brown sugar in a food processor until well combined, and crumbs are uniform.
3. Transfer to a medium bowl; add the melted butter. Combine thoroughly, first with a spoon and then with your fingers, until the mixture is evenly moist, crumbly and holds together whey you squeeze a handful.
4. Press the mixture evenly over bottom and partly up sides of 9-inch springform pan. Chill for 5 minutes, and then bake for 10 minutes. Let cool.

For the filling:
1. Heat a kettle of water.
2. Beat cream cheese until smooth.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and salt.
4. Add this mixture to cream cheese. Beat until well blended, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl as needed.
5. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, making sure each is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next, scraping down bowl after each. Blend in vanilla and pumpkin.

For the pie:
1. Scrape the batter into cooled crust. The batter will come up past the crust and will fill the pan to rim. Tap pan gently on counter to release air bubbles.
2. Set pan in larger baking dish and add enough hot water from kettle to come halfway up side of pan. Bake until top of cake looks deep golden and center is se t(barely begins to crack) about 1 hour 35 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. Cake will jiggle a bit when tapped and top may rise a bit, but will settle as it cools.
3. Remove cheesecake from oven and run thin-bladed knife between crust and pan sides. Let cheesecake cool to room temperature in pan on wire rack.

Enjoy!