Thursday, January 6, 2011


I’ve been writing about Spanish food for 40 years and counting! Food from every angle—recipes, restaurants, trends, ingredients, seasonal produce, holidays. Articles and cookbooks. The writing is easy. Recipe testing is not easy, but I’ve gotten better at it over the years. People tell me my recipes really work.

But, a food blog, I’ve discovered, is much more than just writing or good recipes. It’s really about the visual impact—pictures of the food or the place or the event are what entice readers in the blogosphere. And, that’s where I am still completely a newbie, a beginner. My files are packed with great recipes, some from cookbooks I’ve written, others that I’ve developed. I have lots of  ideas for blog posts on all kinds of exciting topics. But, I still have to shoot them. I need the pics.

My usual method when starting a blog post is to cook something, carry the food out into bright sunlight and shoot it. (Or take the camera out to my huerta, vegetable garden, and shoot.) But, that doesn’t work inside dim tapa bars or at dinner time, with no natural light. Do I need a new camera with low-light aperture ? A studio set-up with good lighting?

I recently met an accomplished professional food photographer, Nancy Bundt,, an American who lives in Norway. She was visiting friends in the Spanish village where I live. Nancy’s photos appear in a gorgeous book about the food of Norway, En Smak Av Norge (which means "A Taste of Norway") published by Schibsted Forlag, Oslo, and she’s working on a book about American food. Nancy and her friends, also photographers, gave me a few tips (“indirect light,” “bounce the light,” “use white cardboard to reflect light back onto the food”). That’s what I did on this photo of glowing oranges and lemons—such a bright spot on a winter’s day.

Any suggestions? What are you looking for in food pictures on a blog?

What am I going to do with all those oranges? What we don’t eat right away, I’ll use to make this intensely orange syrup. You can spoon it over puddings, sponge cake, ice cream or breakfast toast or use it in mixing cocktails. Combined with bubbly cava, it is sensational.

Intensely Orange Syrup
Jarabe de Naranjas

Makes 1 ½ cups.

Zest from 1 orange
3 cups fresh orange juice (from 8 to 10 oranges)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar

Cut the orange zest into fine julienne slivers. Blanch the zest in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain. Blanch again for 2 minutes and drain. Reserve the zest.

Combine the orange juice, lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and skim off the froth. Finely chop the orange zest and add it to the pan. Lower the heat so the orange juice bubbles gently. Cook until thickened and reduced by half, about 40 minutes.

Cool the syrup. Store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Two more recipes with oranges appear here.
And my beginner's photos aren't so bad.