Think Pink Lemonade Bars

What’s the first fruit that comes to mind when you think of “summer”?

I think of lazy days on my grandma’s patio, and the taste of sour-sweet pink lemonade.  To me, strawberries and lemons blend to create a magical summer hybrid. This memory of lazy, fruity days contrasts drastically from my feelings right now of being very stuck indoors in New York, a sentiment that we’re all coping with in the United States.  It can be difficult to get into that summer spirit when we aren’t seeing friends or doing the fun things we think of when we want to connect during a balmy summer in the city. That being said, we need to stick to the rules so that we can pull ourselves out of this pandemic mess.

These Pink Lemonade Bars are full of tart lemon mingling with luscious strawberry. The bars are an alluring light pink, dusted with a pinch of powdered sugar, and garnished with strawberry slices and fresh flowers. They are the pure, polar opposite of the tumult we are experiencing this summer. Each bite transports you to a magical outdoor party, complete with your favorite tangy summer memories.

What else is inspiring me this month, besides anecdotes from summers past? 

This Dior Autumn-Winter 2020-2021 video captured my attention recently. Whether you are fashion-forward or comfy and content, Dior’s miniature clothes being prepared for mermaids and other mythical creatures and characters will fascinate and enchant you. Can you guess which stylish creature is my favorite? It will be interesting to see how other fashion brands showcase their designs as the pandemic wears on.

I’ve been enjoying the recipe and restaurant posts by Dom of Dom N’ The City. Her food photography makes me want to lick the computer screen. Check out her recent blog post for a list of some Black-owned businesses to support in Brooklyn.

The Qi floral tea is a beautiful whole flower tea that blossoms in your cup. It’s soothing just to watch the flowers unfurl in a glass mug. A cup of calm is exactly what you need sometimes, especially during months like these.   

The television show Devs captured our attention on Hulu, initially because we are fascinated with Nick Offerman in any role beyond Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation. This ominous show about a tech company in Silicon Valley had us contemplating the future of Big Tech, determinism, and the nature of life itself.

Enough chit-chat. Scroll down for this summery Think Pink Lemonade Bars recipe!

Ingredients:

(Makes about 12 bars)

For the Crust:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

For The Filling:
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3-4 tsp lemon zest
3/4 cup chopped strawberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
powdered sugar, to sprinkle on top (to taste)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a baking pan with parchment and spray with a nonstick cooking spray (I used a 9×13 inch pan). I like to leave some extra parchment along the edges, so that the bars are easier to pull out when they are done baking.
  3. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar for the crust together until light and fluffy. Then, incorporate the flour and salt. Your dough will be slightly crumbly.
  4. Line your prepared pan with your dough. Pack it into each corner so that the entire bottom of the pan is covered.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust begins to brown along the edges.
  6. Blend the strawberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and eggs in a food processor. Add in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pulse until smooth.
  7. Once smooth, pour the filling over your prepared crust.
  8. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the top of the bars begins to look slightly brown. Take out off the oven and let cool.
  9. Sift on a layer of powdered sugar. Cut and serve.

Recipe adapted from The Baker Upstairs.

Stay Sweet: Boss A** Bitches of the Food Styling World

Hey, it’s been a while!  In this blog post I want to talk about the women-helping-women (but also the women-who-don’t) in New York’s food styling/media world.  I’ve been styling long enough now to start fielding questions about breaking into the industry.  Before pursuing food styling full time, it’s good to be prepared and know the facts, and I’d love to share some tips.  Food styling is a predominantly female-dominated industry in New York.  It’s crucial to recognize the difference between the women who are truly inspiring boss a** bitches and the ones that are just plain trouble!

Food styling assistant work can be brutal, but it’s the place to start.  Every industry has positions where you need to prove yourself and earn your stripes, and food styling takes the cake in terms of grunt work.  For most shoots, the food styling assistant does the bulk of the food sourcing, shopping, and cooking.  The stylist does some cooking, but also focuses on the fine placement of finished foods in front of the camera, and collaborates with the art director and photographers.  I have been told that it’s the norm to assist for three years before pursuing a solo career as a food stylist.

As an assistant, you’re hired to cook and to support the stylist, not to chat.  Most of the time there won’t be opportunities to network with photographers or clients because you’ll be hunched over the stove, covered in various sauces and monitoring three things cooking at once.  How do you rise up in your career when connecting with potential collaborators is frowned upon?

Food styling jobs are paid per day, so you never really know when you’ll be finished unless there’s a hard out-time at a studio.  I’ve worked until 10 pm, and have heard stories from friends who have experienced even later wrap times.  To add another layer of consternation, I’ve waited six months for a paycheck.  Stylists often don’t pay their assistant until they themselves have been paid by the client.  This approval process may take months.

Food styling is 60% locating and obtaining obscure groceries and transporting them to the shoot site in one piece.  Some of my least favorite items to collect in NYC are Thai basil (so scarce when you need it!), coconuts (try Western Beef for the freshest ones), and stroopwafels (when Whole Foods is sold out).  I’ve grown very familiar with New York’s grocery circuit over the past year!  Most food stylists don’t use services like Amazon Fresh or Fresh Direct because they prefer the food items to be hand-picked for optimum beauty.  One particularly poignant memory is when I had to individually select bean sprouts from a self-serve produce vat.

Many of the stylists that I’ve run into who have had prickly personalities have a background in restaurant work.  There seems to be an unspoken rule that it’s okay to verbally abuse your protege.  After all, it will only toughen them up, right?  A fellow assistant shared with me that she was physically pushed by a food stylist while on a job.  It’s sad to hear stories like this, when food is truly something that makes me happy.  It’s the food that I want to immerse myself in, not the negative personalities.  Unfortunately, it’s often a two-for-one bargain.

As you delve into food styling, focus on the joy in brings yourself and others and don’t dwell on the detrimental encounters that might spook you away from the industry.  Food styling is an incredibly rewarding art, and developing a mental barrier to  undermining comments is essential.  The food world is still largely monopolized by men, and food styling is unique in its female domination.  Stylists have worked hard to get to where they are, and it is my opinion that some of them want your path to be treacherous as well, even if it doesn’t have to be.

While there are certainly challenges, I am eternally grateful for the women that have offered support and real instruction for improvement in their craft.  And they are out there.  They lift me up and inspire me to forge ahead in building a career that I love.  While I continue to style food, I’m excited to keep exploring other careers in the food business landscape that offer more room for personal growth.

It’s a wild (media) world… stay sweet!  These nectarine balsamic blondies will help.

Nectarine Balsamic Blondie Jumble

Ingredients:

For the Batter

  • 1 3/4 cups white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the Nectarine Topping

  • 2 cups slices nectarines (3-4 nectarines)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave until smooth.
  3. Lightly coat a baking pan with butter.  Line with parchment paper.
  4. Beat butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy.  Incorporate both sugars.
  5. Add in eggs, vanilla, and salt.  Beat until smooth.
  6. Add olive oil and melted white chocolate.  Incorporate well.
  7. Add flour and mix until just combined.
  8. Scrape batter into your prepared baking pan.
  9. Make your nectarine balsamic topping: Place nectarines and sugar in a saucepan and place over medium heat.
  10. In a separate container, stir cornstarch and water together.  Pour this mixture over the nectarines.
  11. Let the nectarines cook until the mixture begins to thicken into a jam.  Stir constantly.
  12. Stir in balsamic vinegar.
  13. Spread this nectarines mixture over you batter.
  14. Place your pan in the oven and bake for roughly 30 minutes.  Let pan cool completely before attempting to remove your blondies.  The nectarines have a high water content and will make the blondie have a softer consistency.