Hey, guess what!
I love to cook.
No, really… I love to cook.
You’re likely reading this thinking, “Ok, Jen… Good for you.” Or, perhaps, you’re even thinking, “It’s a good thing you like to cook, Jen… You’re a food blogger.”
Yup, I am. And, that’s why I’m finding it so amazing that I love to cook.
Here’s the thing. I’ve been doing this food blog gig for close to 6 years. I’ve had my ups and downs. And, the one thing I can tell you about food blogging is that it can take the joy out of cooking. And taking photographs. Particularly food photographs.
I can’t tell you how many times I spent the afternoon in the kitchen working on something for the blog only to end up getting takeout for dinner. Yes, I order takeout sometimes. I’m not proud of it, but it happens. After making a recipe for the 3rd, 4th, or even 5th time (yes, that often happens, particularly with new baking recipes…), I often have no desire to make anything. A burger and fries in a greasy paper bag sounds all too appealing.
This is something I’ve struggled with. I love developing recipes and taking photos of beautiful food. But, it can be exhausting. And, when you’re left with nothing but ice cream and cupcakes for dinner at the end of the day, it can lead to some less-than-nutritious dinner options. Yes, we’ve had cupcakes for dinner. There was also a night we had bacon wrapped jalapeños stuffed with guacamole for dinner. Again, I’m not proud.
Lately, I’ve pulled back on the blogging a bit. You haven’t seen many cupcakes here on the site, and I’ve been trying to take a step back and re-focus. During that time, I’ve realized that I really love to cook. When I have a free afternoon to just whip something up in the kitchen without having to measure meticulously or style a plate for the perfect picture, I am in my element. I can work with what I have on hand, tasting as I go, and pull together something spectacular for dinner. Some of the best meals I make are the ones that never make it on the blog because I wasn’t writing down what I did.
A few weeks ago, I was whipping up dinner after a busy weekend. My recipe notebook and camera were nowhere to be seen, and I had no intentions of ever sharing what I was making for dinner. I was happy, and I was cooking. I looked down at the food on my messy kitchen counter, and I just loved the way the late afternoon light was pouring over it.
That’s when it hit me.
Those are the photographs I need to be taking – the candid, un-staged photographs that show how I really cook.
Instead of stressing over perfect props and arranging food, I am determined to get back to showing the beauty in being in the kitchen, mess and all.
I’ve decided to self-assign a new project for myself, a candid kitchen project that will depict how I cook. It won’t be about how I develop recipes, how to take the perfect food photograph, or even how to plan the perfect menu. It will be all about picking up the camera when the mood strikes. It will be about capturing the little bit of late afternoon light that trickles in my kitchen window. It will be about cooking without a recipe, flying by the seat of your pants, and getting dinner on the table.
It might be messy and a bit unconventional… But it will be real, and it will be un-staged.
Balsamic Cider Glazed Salmon with Rosemary
This simple salmon dish is easy enough to make on a weeknight, but it has that something extra that makes it feel just a bit fancy. Add your favorite sides, and you have a dinner the family will love. I opted to make roasted gold potatoes and asparagus.
While you can use any salmon for this recipe, I usually opt for wild Alaskan sockeye or king salmon. I like the taste, and they are also top picks from Seafood Watch.
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar (the good stuff)
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary (plus additional for garnish, if desired)
- 2 salmon fillets
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the apple cider, Balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and a generous pinch of salt in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the mixture reduces considerably and gets somewhat syrupy. I let mine reduce to about 1/4 cup.
Remove from the heat and pour the syrup through a mesh strainer and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Lightly grease a baking dish and place the salmon fillets in the dish. (Either place them skin side down or remove the skin, if you prefer.) Season the salmon generously with salt and pepper. Pour the syrup over the salmon and garnish each fillet with a sprig of rosemary.
Bake the salmon for about 8 minutes, or until done (it should be flakey, but not dry). Baste the salmon with some of the remaining syrup in the dish before serving.