Tricks of the Trade from a Food Stylist

June 22, 2011 | By | Comments (1)

Grilled Ancho-Rubbed Pork With Tomato Salsa

As a professional cook who works with other cooks, food photographers and stylists every day, I have picked up tons of handy tips and tricks, things like shocking the life and crisp back into wan carrots and celery by plunging them in an ice water bath, cooking bacon in the oven on a rimmed baking sheet to avoid oily splashes on my stove and baking whole unpeeled potatoes and beets on a bed of kosher salt.

During some down time on a recent food photo shoot, I asked the amazing food stylist Cyd McDowell and her assistant John Bjostad to share their favorite tricks of the trade. Here are their great ideas:

-When a recipe calls for only one tablespoon of tomato paste, open the narrow can on both ends and push out the whole lot in one piece. Use what you need then freeze the rest in a plastic bag.

-For whole, pretty cloves of garlic (instead of smashed or chopped) cut off the root end of the clove and rub it between your hands. The papery skin will slide off.

-To make pasta for a crowd, fully cook your spaghetti or penne ahead of time, drain it then toss it with the tiniest touch of olive oil. Hold the pasta at room temperature on a sheet pan and re-heat by tossing in a pan on the stove with your sauce.

-Toss red onions, radicchio and other deep purple veggies with a splash of white vinegar before cooking to keep their bright and vibrant color in tact.

What are your favorite tricks for preparing a photo-worthy meal?

(shown: Grilled Ancho-Rubbed Pork with Tomato Salsa)