Bracing...

It is old news now that Juno is here. But in New York we are not exactly hunkering down. The transit lines, or the blood lines of the city have been severed or blocked but the adults and children have decided it to game it on foot or skis! I always find it amusing that the cross country skis come out when we have any decent dump! I don't know whether that is adorable or silly or just simply urbanites wishfulness for the country.. :)

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, things have been moving. I have been experimenting the last couple of weeks with using tripods in my photo shoots. I am usually the minimal equipment kinda gal. So, my god-given-hands have been my tripod for the 6 years that I have been in this world.

In a bid to push the envelope a bit more this year and see how I can grow in my photography, I borrowed a light weight travel tripod from a friend and started playing with shots and compositions. Then I got to play with a full on pro Gitzo setup with a full range movable lateral arm for overhead shoots, rented from Adorama.

Long story short, I simply loved using a tripod.

First, and by far, the biggest value add for me, is that it is liberating in not having to worry about putting away the camera as I bend to make small changes in the styling. Usually, by the time I have fixed the plate, I have forgotten the spot where I viewed it from before and, hence, have to got through the camera settings again. For each iteration. With a tripod, I could make one less parameter variable. I became so much more efficient in my shoots and could get more done. I shot 5 times less number of photos for the same composition.

Second, it does improve quality of image, especially, when I was shooting later in the day because as I not jumping around so much between fixing the shot and capturing the shot, with the camera in hand or on the side. I have very steady hands but sometimes, when I am tired after a long day I do notice a slight tremor. Even, if I am not tired, sometimes the constant movement just add a minuscule shake. If I can remove one more shaky variable, then all the better.

Third, it gave me the advantage of making my process shots more real and much more flexible. I love showing bits of people in my shots. As long as I was holding the camera, I could not be the model as well. And, I had to schedule any such compositions for when I could get a willing model to stand in for me, patiently. That does not happen often. With this new arrangement, I was not dependent on anyone. Nor did I have to bribe anyone any more. So, I had the whole cake to myself! Ha

So, now, I am bracing myself for the big dent a tripod is going to make in my wallet. After scouring numerous articles and advice columns on what tripod to get, I have realized that I want to get something that gives me a range of motion and is fairly sturdy and will be an investments rather than a tactical fix. Whoever thought that accessories would be as expensive lenses! The Gitzo is out of reach. The hunt is still on. Meanwhile, I still have my borrowed simpler tripod to console myself with... until he remembers about it... :)

Anyway, on this snowy day, with so many people bracing for extreme weather, I am going to sit by the window,watch the snow flakes, have soup and think about new compositions with the new freedom I now have.

I leave you with a couple of simple and warming Winter recipes - Roasted {Kuri} squash and sweet potato soup with a hint of spice from aleppo peppers + Bok Choy Amandine, a warm sautéed botchy salad with fried garlic slivers and almond slivers.

Btw, when I say slivers here, please feel free to use crushed almonds. I always blanched at the price of almond slivers and after trying to make my own with a mandolin I realized you either pony up or go without. I vote for the latter. I love the nuts but, man, are they a tough customer to slice or sliver! Especially, as I am injury prone, making slivers are not the safest idea. 

Stay warm and wrapped in comfort!


Roast Kuri Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

This recipe makes a lot of soup. I recommend freezing part of it for those days when you wish food would magically appear! It will stay good for a week in the fridge and atleast 2 weeks in the freezer. The soup also thickens as you let it rest/chill, so simply add more stock or water when ready to serve again.

You can do the most time-consuming part, the roasting, ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. That brings the cooking time down to just 30 minutes.

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1 small Kuri squash (you can use any similar sized squash)

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 medium onion, sliced

3 cloves of garlic, smashed

6 cups of unsalted (preferably homemade) stock

tiny pinch of chili flakes

salt, pepper and olive oil as needed

Toasted coconut and chili flakes to serve

Pre heat oven to 400 F.

Slice the squash into two, remove seeds and place in a pan with about 1/2 inch of water in it, skin side up. Make a deep score into the sweet potatoes and wrap in foil.

Roast both in the oven for 35 minutes. The squash will need another 10 minutes. This part can be made up to 5 days ahead.

While the vegetables are cooling, sauté onions and garlic in a soup pan until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

When cooled, scrape the flesh from the squash and chop the potatoes into rough chunks.

Add the vegetables and sauté with chili flakes for a couple of minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Puree the soup into a smooth cream. Season with salt and pepper. If it is too thick, add more water to thin to right consistency.

Pour into bowls and top with toasted coconut or nuts and a sprinkle of chili for garnish.


Bok Choy Amandine

bunch of bok choy, ends chopped and leaves separated

2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin

2 T slivered, sliced or crushed almonds

salt, pepper and olive oil as needed

In a cold pan, pour olive oil and add the garlic slivers to it. 

Gently warm the oil to hot. This will infuse the oil with garlic flavor, eventually, crisping up the garlic for finish.

Add the bokchoy in and a tablespoon or two of water.

Cover the pan and cook on medium for 5-7 minutes until the leaves are wilted, the stalks softened but with a mild crunch.

Season with salt and pepper and transfer to serving plate. Garnish with the almonds and serve.