This time last year, in early Spring, photographer Grant Cornett and myself, and his artist girlfriend Janine Iversen, were in Kentucky to work on Edward Lee's first cookbook, "Smoke & Pickles. Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen."
The budget was tight, there was no money for props, let alone a prop stylist, so for surfaces we ripped down an old wooden fence, flipped over the bottom side of the backyard BBQ grill, stole the perfect blackened lid off a large soy sauce barrel (thanks Matt Jamie!), used the under side of a few stained cookie sheet pans, and propped up an old bourbon box as a backdrop. For plates, cups and cutlery, Edward literally went door-to-door and stole dinnerware items from his kindly friends. (Thank you good ladies of Louisville!)
The adventure began and it was incredible. We visited Edward's pig supplier; a wonderful couple at Red Dirt Farm in Kentucky, we visited a Bourbon Distillery, a garden in outer Louisville, bars, restaurants, including Fried Bologna sandwiches at Wagners. (See my link here.) the city club, and of course his wine studio where we shot 22 shots a day. It was hard work but fun and when we needed a break we would go out the back door, and lay in the garden and stare at the Fedex planes flying, in 10 minute intervals, over our heads, to places far beyond.
The food was put together by Edward, and his team; Nick Sullivan and Kevin Ashworth at restaurant 610 Magnolia who also made our daily lunches. (See what we ate here.)
Edward Lee is one of those rare gems; a chef, a cook, a writer, and a true creative. He has an incredible work ethic, and he's the real deal. I'm so proud to call Ed a friend. We met about 13 years ago when I was hanging out at his restaurant "Clay" on Mott Street, New York. It was a pleasure to work on his book, and I thank him for allowing me to be part of it.
To purchase it, go ahead and click here.
SUMMER SQUASH SOUP AND CURED STRAWBERRIES
As summer is right around the corner this soup is delicious. I love this pic because it was one of the first shots we did, and it was the surface I loved the best, (the ripped down wooden fence). From Edward: This is s refreshing soup that tastes like Summer in a bowl. The curing process here both intensifies the flavor of the strawberries and cuts the tartness. It gives the berries an almost meaty texture. Pair this with a classic French Sancerre. Serves 8. Recipe © Edward Lee, Smoke & Pickles, Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen.
2 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 cup chopped onion 2 pounds yellow squash, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves 2 cups vegetable stock 1/2 cup sour cream 2 teaspoons salt Freshly cracked black pepper
Strawberries: 1 lb fresh strawberries, washed and hulled 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1) To make the soup: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the yellow squash and thyme and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until the squash is soft all the way through. Take off the heat and let cool fro a few minutes.
2) Transfer the soup to a blender, add the sour cream and salt, and puree on high unitl very smooth, about 2 minutes. Check the consistency; if the soup is a little gritty, strain it through a fine mesh sieve. Chill in the refiigerator for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.
3) About 1 hour before serving, make the strawberries. Slice the strawberries into 1/2 inch slices and place them in a glass bowl. Sprinkle the salt and sugar over the strawberries and gently toss them with your fingers—making sure not to crush them. Let them cure for about an hour at room temperature; no longer; or they will get too soft.
4) To serve, ladle the chilled soup into bowls. Top each one with a few cured strawberries. Crack some fresh black pepper over the top and serve immediately.
Note: Try the cured strawberries on your next cheese plate, or as an accompaniment to a cured meat platter. Cure only what you need at the time, since they do not hold for very long.
To get the Smoke & Pickles Cookbook by Edward Lee, click here.
(Art Direction: Dimity Jones)