Cooking Up Some Project 52 Assignments

Monday, Memorial Day, I scheduled myself to produce some photography assignments for Don Giannetti’s Project 52 Pro workshop. I needed a hand model for one of the assignments, so I teamed up with my photography partner and close friend, Brady Wolf of Brady Wolf Photography and Gray Wolf Construction. Since I don’t get to cook for people very often, I cooked and photographed the meal in Brady’s lovely kitchen at his house.

The first assignment theme was “Expressed by Hand”. It’s my mission this year to photograph as many assignments as possible involving food, so my idea was to photograph hands cutting some vegetables. Making food from scratch is as much a craft as knitting or sculpture.

I have a well used brown composite cutting board we used for the base, and a nice, shiny, good quality small chef knife.  I lit the scene from above with a light fixture in the kitchen. There was some light coming from behind Brady from the kitchen windows so I used some white and black cards to get the light just where I wanted it. All post processing was done in Lightroom.

The second assignment theme was “Ingredients for a local recipe for an inflight magazine”. I chose to make a recipe from Tom Douglas’ Seattle Kitchen  (Tom Douglas with Denis Kelly, Shelley Lance, and Duskie Estes; 2001, William Morrow - available at Amazon via the link on the right → ). Tom Douglas is a local Seattle “celebrity” chef, and he makes some darn fine food at his several restaurant ventures around town. “Sake-Steamed Sockeye Salmon with Sake Butter” sounded wonderful for the beginning of summer. I paired the Copper River Sockeye with some Japanese rice and sauteed asparagus. The rice was cooked with a cheesecloth packet of the same flavors in the Steamed Salmon. 

Brady set up his studio with white seamless paper on a tabletop and two strobes with reflective umbrellas, one left and one right. I styled the ingredients around the dish and climbed up on a ladder to photograph the set up from directly above. That was my least favorite part of the afternoon - I am afraid of heights. All post processing was done in Lightroom.

We also goofed around and shot some of the ingredients and cooking processes.

Beautiful, pink Copper River Sockeye salmon. Thanks to Brady for taking this image with my camera. 

asparagus, waiting for the hand model, "George" (aka Brady). 

cooking the ginger and shallots for the butter.

Shallots and ginger for the butter.

Steamed with the fish.

sautéed with butter and garlic, this is my favorite way to cook asparagus. 

Oh, and we ate the salmon for dinner when we were finished. It was very good. Steaming the fish is not something I’ve done before, and I highly recommend it. It’s simple and and the fish is moist and flavorful.

Thanks again to Brady for his assistance and the use of his kitchen. Be sure to check out his photography and contracting work!

Here’s the recipe: Enjoy dinner!

Sake-Steamed Sockeye Salmon with Sake Butter

Sake-Steamed Sockeye Salmon

  • 1 stalk lemongrass, split lengthwise
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sake
  • 10 fresh ginger coins, sliced ⅓ inch thick
  • 2 star anise pods
  • Peel of 1 orange
  • 1 ½ pounds salmon fillet, cut into 4 portions
  • Sake Butter
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

Bruise the lemongrass with the back of a knife to help release the aromatics. Set up your steamer: a large saucepan with a Chinese bamboo steamer set over it works great. Place the lemon grass, water, sake ginger star anise, and orange peel in the bottom of the steamer. Bring to a boil. Lay the salmon fillets in the steamer basket and cover with the steamer lid. Steam until the salmon is just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes.

Sake Butter

  • 2 tablespoons peeled and julienned fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup plus 1 teaspoon quality sake
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into large dice
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, sweat the ginger and shallots in the 1 tablespoon butter for 2 to 3 minutes. Add ½ cup sake, bring to a boil, and reduce by two thirds, about 3 minutes. Add the heavy cream, bring to a boil, and reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Add the pieces of cold butter to the sauce, bit by bit, whisking constantly over medium-high heat. Once all the butter has been incorporated, remove the  pan from the heat. Whisk in the remaining 1 teaspoon sake and the lime juice. Season to taste with salt.

Place a salmon fillet on a plate. Spoon some sake butter over each portion of fish. Garnish with a lime wedge.