October 31, 2009 § 7 Comments
I’ve started regularly checking with my roommates before I buy something kitchen-related. Not because they might mind, but because I need someone to weigh in on the ‘crazy index’ of whatever I currently ABSOLUTELY NEED. Recently I managed to wander into a Williams-Sonoma unsupervised, and emerged with 30 tiny tart tins. I’ll use them all the time, I swear!
But honestly, usually my budget keeps me in check. If I had a million dollars, I’d be awash in stand mixers and high-end photography gear. Instead, I have a graduate stipend. So this post will be devoted to what you can achieve with that income level: the glories of my brand new $30 immersion blender, and some seriously DIY lighting equipment.
First, the blender: I love it! I’m going to make a lot of soup. I started with this carrot soup that I’d been eyeing for a while: the combination of lemon and ginger sounded good, and I liked that it didn’t have any cream. The soup ended up pretty tasty, and I would make it again with a couple adjustments. It was a little too lemony for my tastes, so I’d cut down on the lemon juice. Also, I’m kind of lazy about seasonings but halfway through I added extra pepper and this soup got worlds better. So do as I say not as I do: taste and adjust! Other than that, it was great – the texture was thick and smooth, and the carrot-ginger combination is simultaneously sweet and savory. And it’s extremely satisfying to stick a blender in a pot of chunky soup and watch it all puree.
Not only that, but it was pretty and orange! Taking photos of my food has actually been a bit problematic recently. Now that fall is into full swing, it gets dark far too early for me to photograph my dinner. So here are my first night-time photos with extra lighting, specifically the soup picture at the top of this post – it’s not daylight, but considering my limitations I think it came out well. I’ve coveted many of the lights selling for hundreds and hundreds of dollars, but practicality set in and instead I’m using a fantastic lightbox constructed by my roommate. The secret is to take a cardboard box, fold the lids in to a diagonal angle, and then cover them in tin foil (to reflect the light). Cut a hole in the back, stick a light through, and then cover the other side in bubble wrap (or tissue paper, or whatever happens to be lying around). Voila! Fancy softbox for $15.
The other piece is probably my favourite: a bounce made from a Raisin Bran box. Just tape white paper on one side and aluminum foil on the other, and then aim as you please wherever you need a bit of extra light. Plus the added bonus of nutritional information down the side. I don’t know how effective it is, but I do know that I love it.
Carrot Soup with Lemon and Ginger – adapted from Epicurious
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
- 2 small onions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 1/4 pounds medium carrots, peeled, chopped
- 2 tomatoes, seeded, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- 3 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (but next time I plan to only use 1)
- sour cream, for topping
- salt and pepper, to taste
Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add chopped carrots, tomatoes and lemon peel; sauté 1 minute. Add 3 cups stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly.
Puree soup in batches in blender (or use an immersion blender!). Return soup to pot. Mix in lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring soup to simmer, thinning with more stock, if desired. Ladle into bowls and top each with sour cream.
Note: I actually preferred this without sour cream – you might want to let people add it to their own tastes.
Carrot, lemon and ginger. Mmm sounds like a great combination, I would love to try it out. Thanks for the idea on diy softbox! I’m always dealing with such lighting problem. It does make the soup look homely and as though it was shot by the window at sunset.
Yes, lighting is tricky. The softbox gives off a nice glow – although I’ve been thinking of switching out the bubble wrap for white tissue paper to make the light a little less golden. I do like the sunset effect though!
Great thinking on the lighting. People use styrfoam blocks, white foamboard, mirrors, but this is the first time I’ve seen a light box constructed. Cool!
glad i stumbled across your site… a cheap softbox alternative is exactly what i need, especially now that we’ve “fallen back” an hour. made it today, and it works great. thanks!
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