Something inspired me to get a little creative with photos today! Not sure what it was, but one moment I was getting ready for yoga & the next thing I knew I was in the kitchen plating these up & snapping away…
Maybe it was the lighting that called to me! I have learned that adequate natural lighting is one of the most important factors in food photography & it isn’t always easy to get optimal light in my apartment. I typically cook in the evenings after work & yoga, & by the time I am finished the sun has long been down. Oftentimes, if the dish turns out well & looks pretty enough, I’ll photograph it the next day when the lighting is prime. I did take this photo last night, before the cooking process, so I could showcase the beautiful veggies that went into this ragout!
This dish was inspired by a course that Chef Mickey Walker served at the Vegan Garden Dinner I attended a few weekends ago. She made a ragout of eggplant & peppers & served it with seitan sausage over a polenta cake. It’s “clean out my fridge to make room for the new CSA share” week &, in addition, my friend Shelly returned from vacation & brought me more veggies from her over-grown garden! I had two beautiful rosa bianca eggplants & summer squash from Suzie’s Farm & some juicy tomatoes & herbs from Shelly. My first thought was to make a ratatouille, but I’ve been there done that enough this summer! I had some of Bob’s Red Mill Corn Grits on hand & I remembered the dish that Chef Mickey served, so I decided to recreate a version of that. I began by making the polenta cakes, following this recipe, so they would have time to cool while I prepared the ragout.
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup cornmeal
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1-2 tbsp vegan margarine
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Bring vegetable broth to a slow simmer. Stir in cornmeal.
- Cook over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently & scraping the bottom to avoid burning. Cornmeal is done cooking when it is smooth & thick.
- Stir in remaining ingredients before removing from heat.
- Press into a lightly greased loaf pan and chill until firm for a thick polenta loaf.
- For the ragout, I used this recipe from the Food Network as my guide & make modifications where necessary!
- ⅛ cup grapeseed oil
- 1 onion, medium diced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 zucchini, medium dice
- 1 yellow squash, medium dice
- 2 small rosa bianca eggplant, medium dice
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- ¼ cup kalamata olives, cut in ½
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 fresh plum tomatoes, diced
- Heat oil in a saute pan. Saute onion, garlic, carrot, zucchini, yellow squash, & eggplant, until they begin to soften.
- Stir in tomato paste, chopped fresh parsley, thyme, and let cook until flavors integrate, about 10 more minutes. Add olives and heat through. Season with salt & pepper, as needed.
- Remove from heat and stir in fresh tomato. Let sit to rest.
I expected this dish to turn out a bit differently. When I think of a ragout I think of a softer, “saucier” dish. Perhaps I should’ve cooked the veggies longer, or added more tomato paste? I also did not make the red pepper coulis that the recipe called for, so perhaps that played a part? Regardless of a texture miss, the fresh summery flavor was there! The veggies were sweet & tender & melted into the warm polenta cake. I also loved the addition of kalamata olives here. They add a nice element of surprise with their briny burst of piquancy!
The polenta cake had a nice firm texture, while maintaining it’s creaminess. However, mine could’ve used more salt, & I’m not usually one to heavily salt my dishes. Typically polenta is made with Parmesan cheese, which gives it that salty, savory bite. The nutritional yeast did a nice job giving the polenta that savory flavor, but the saltiness was lacking, so salt it well & taste before letting the cakes cool & firm.
I must say, so far this has been my favorite dish to photograph! The colors & textures were just gorgeous! I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the photo stylings from some of my favorite blogs & taking mental notes. I had a lot of fun playing with angles & depth of field in some of these shots. I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I am headed in the right direction. My photos continue to improve & the camera confounds me less & less! Can’t wait for the photo workshop this weekend!