Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles [an easy holiday appetizer!]

Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles

I brush the crumbs off my son’s shirt, grab paper towels to wipe his hands, and clean him up as best I can before he’s off to the next thing – running laps around the house, building towers with Magna-Tiles, or racing cars across the kitchen floor. I do the same with his twin sister, although it usually takes a while to convince her to let me help after she says, “Izzy do it!” four or five times.

They ate a decent lunch, but I see a few pieces of peanut butter and jelly left on their plates. Isabel didn’t touch her grapes and Elijah only took one small bite of his cheese stick. I hear Josiah start to fuss from his bouncy seat just as it dawns on me that I haven’t eaten yet. My mouth begins to water, but it’s time for the baby to nurse.

I grab the leftover PB&J and grapes, and the half-eaten cheese stick and scarf them down while I walk over to the baby. I guess that’s lunch for today. Maybe at naptime I can actually sit down.

****

We wander through the giant refrigerator at Costco. Josiah lays in his car seat and I try to keep the twins content in the cart. If I let them loose in the store, they inevitably wander in opposite directions, taking my sanity with them. I forgot my grocery list at home, so we’re going by memory on this trip. It’s never a wise idea to wander Costco without being tethered to a written plan, especially when you have to find all the things and make a thousand tiny decisions before someone begins to melt down. It’s a race against the clock. How soon will the baby wake up? How long will food samples keep my twins entertained? Will the twins fall asleep in the car on the way home mess up naps for the rest of the day?

I grab the giant bag of baby carrots – way more than we’ll ever need, but whatever. It’ll save me a trip to a second store just to buy baby carrots. I toss that, a package of salad greens, and a giant container of strawberries (that will be gone by tomorrow) into the cart. And oh! They have chanterelles! Of course I need chanterelles, right? Because why wouldn’t I need a pound or two of fancy mushrooms? I add them to the pile starting to overtake the car seat and gently rearrange the produce around my infant.

****

Chanterelles sound interesting and different and grown up – even though these mushrooms are relatively common. But sometimes I need something different. I need to eat more than a few toddler-sized squares of PB&J they didn’t finish. I need to eat like an adult.

This recipe for Crostini with Garlic Sautéed Chanterelles requires only a few ingredients and a simple preparation. The mushrooms have a rich, earthy, and almost fruity flavor. Add the crunch of toasted bread, brightness of thyme, and warmth of sautéed garlic for a grown-up dish that’s perfect as a holiday appetizer – or lunch on an ordinary Thursday. 

Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles

Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Yields about 20 appetizers

3-4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 sprigs of thyme, plus more for garnish
16 ounces chanterelle mushrooms, large ones cut in half lengthwise
1 baguette, cut into ¾ inch slices
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and and thyme and cook for about 30-60 seconds until the garlic is fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the mushrooms in a single layer and cook for about 3-4 minutes without stirring until the bottom side is golden and browned. Sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Reduce the heat to medium. Turn the mushrooms over and cook for about 5-7 more minutes, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are tender to your liking. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

While the chanterelles are cooking, set your oven rack as close to your oven’s broiler flame as possible. Preheat the broiler (to high if you have a high/low setting). Lay the baguette slices out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Broil the bread for 1-2 minutes until the edges are browned and slightly crisp. You may need to turn the pan once or twice to ensure even browning. Make sure to watch this very closely. It only take a few seconds for the bread to go from toasted to burned!

Remove the bread from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Top each slice with the sautéed mushrooms, and garnish with fresh thyme leaves. Serve and enjoy!

Note: The olive oil left in the pan has so much flavor. Use it on leftover bread for an extra treat for the cook!


This recipe was originally featured at Lark + Linen.


Behind the Scenes: Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary [Part 2]

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary

A couple weeks ago, I shared behind the scenes photos taken by Anna Guziak (if you missed that post, click here). Today’s post includes my photos, tips, and tricks I use when doing a food photoshoot, as well as the recipe for the dish you see in the pictures. (Scroll all the way to the bottom of this post to skip right to the recipe.)

To be honest, I've been hesitant to share photography advice on my blog because I am far from an expert. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. Offering advice in this area makes me want to crawl into a closet and hide from the imposter syndrome that lurks in every corner or my mind. 

That being said, I’ve had a handful of people ask me about my photography process. I’ve come to realize maybe hearing how I photograph without fancy lighting, a full photography studio, and a myriad of lenses could be helpful. So, I’m learning to push imposter syndrome to the side and talk about what I love, even if I still have a great deal to learn myself. 

(It’s worth noting that what I’ve shared below is simply what I do and the equipment I use - it’s not necessarily the way things need to be done or the equipment that has to be used. Do what works for you! This post also focuses mainly on my process of learning photography, so I haven’t included advice on styling, lighting, composition, how a camera works, etc. You can find much of that information by checking out the links I’ve included in the “Resources” section below.)

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary
Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary

Camera + Lenses

I currently use a Canon EOS 60d. My very first lens was a 50mm lens. It's often called the "nifty fifty" and is useful for a variety of types of photography. Even now, I use my 50mm about 85% of the time. 

Before talking about more equipment, though, let me say this. When you first start learning about camera equipment, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you need to spend thousands of dollars to create a decent image. You don’t. You can make very clean, crisp images with whatever equipment you have. I have professional photographer friends with tons of great equipment, and that equipment can absolutely enhance what you’re able to do. However, if you are just starting out, I would recommend first learning to use what you have, then upgrade equipment as you become proficient with what you currently own. If all you have right now is a smartphone, practice creating really awesome images on your smartphone. There is so much you can learn about styling, composition, lighting, etc. before even making a camera or lens purchase. 

When you learn first with what you have, I personally think you become a better photographer in the long run because you don't use equipment as a crutch. I also have a habit of wanting to dive into a hobby head first, then abandoning that hobby a few months or a year later. So, for the first year I started learning photography, I borrowed a camera from my sister. I wanted to learn how to use it and make sure this was a hobby I’d actually stick with before making any large purchases. 

Eventually, I bought a new and upgraded lens (my 50mm lens) to fit the borrowed camera, but I made sure what I purchased would also fit the camera I planned to eventually buy. As I got better and also felt confident this was a hobby that would stick around, I purchased a Canon EOS 60d (and made that purchase when newer Canon products were released, which meant the price of the 60d went down pretty significantly). 

About a year after purchasing my camera, I got the 24mm wide angle lens, and another year or so after that, purchased a 100mm macro lens. Since my photography is almost entirely focused on food, these lenses work for me, but if I was doing weddings, portraits, landscapes, etc., I'd change up or add to what I have.

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary

Lighting

Ninety-five percent of the time, I use natural lighting. I’ve taken photos in a number of locations around my house, and have concluded that most of the time the window in my dining room works best. I typically push the dining room table right up against the window and take my pictures there. You can see a few pictures of my setup in the previous “Behind the Scenes” post. 

Taking food photography pictures with 2-year-old toddlers running around brings its own set of challenges. They still take a decent nap, so most of the time I work on photo shoots while they’re asleep. If they don’t take a good nap that day or the weather doesn’t cooperate for me to get the right light I need, I hold off and shoot another day. I’m a planner, but in this area (and in many others) my kids have taught me to be more flexible. 

With baby number 3 on the way, the chances of all three kids sleeping at the same time during the day are slim, so I’m branching out into the world of artificial lighting. I bought the Lowel Ego Tabletop Light and love it so far. Shooting during the day in natural lighting is still my preference, but the tabletop light gives me the flexibility to schedule photo shoots at night when needed. 

Props

Most of the props I own are actual items we use as a family in regular life - utensils, dishes, linens, or the ingredients used to create the dish I’m photographing. At garage sales or on clearance racks, I’ve also collected a handful of items we don’t necessarily use regularly but help add a little more variety to the images. 

I love photographing on all white dishware because I think it makes the food really pop. I also have an assortment of glasses, since I love creating drink recipes (especially cocktails). I’ve learned, though, that if I do want to buy new glassware for a photoshoot, I don’t need a set of four. Usually, just one or two glasses are sufficient. (Also, we had soooo many glasses at one point that it was getting ridiculous, so I’ve pared down my stash a little.) 

I use a marble pastry board that I use as a backdrop for many of my shoots, as well as an olive wood cutting board, slate cheese board, flour sack towels (my favorite linen to use), and a handful of other odds and ends. I also made a wood backdrop out of a few pieces of plywood, screws, and a bit of paint. (Someday, I'd love to get my hands on a few of these backdrops from Erickson Wood Works.)

My philosophy is the same with props as it is with any other equipment. Use what you have first before making any big purchases. A white foam board and a kitchen towel can help you create a beautiful picture. As you dive into food photography more, keep an eye out for fun props at garage sales, second-hand stores, or the clearance section at stores such as Target or World Market. IKEA also has really inexpensive items that can work great for photo shoots. And when there’s a prop you really want to use in a photoshoot but don’t want to purchase, you can always ask around to see if someone near you is willing to lend you an item (I’ve done this several times before!). 

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary
Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary

Editing

For editing, I currently use Lightroom, which does all that I need. Maybe someday I'll learn to use Photoshop, but Lightroom is a fantastic product. That being said, for a couple years, I just used iPhoto (gasp!) on my computer and didn't purchase Lightroom until I had grown out of what iPhoto could do. Again, this has forced me to learn how to better take a photo initially, rather than relying too heavily on post-production to fix all my mistakes. Editing software can be incredibly powerful, but your end result will be much better if you use editing software as a tool to enhance an already good photo rather than a band-aid to fix a poorly shot photo. 

When it came to learning Lightroom, I read blog posts, watched YouTube tutorials, and Googled “how to do _______________ in Lightroom” more times than I care to admit. Not exactly glamorous, but it’s a process that’s worked for me. There are also affordable online classes and workshops that teach how to use Lightroom or Photoshop (check out Skillshare for starters).

My Learning Process

As far as actually learning how to photograph, you can find a ton of information available for free or at a very low cost to help you get started. Sometimes, though, the benefit of having someone personally answer questions or walk you through how your camera works can make the learning process much less overwhelming. The very first year I started, I took a photography class through my local park district and video chatted a couple professional photographer friends who were willing to teach me what they know. Those video chats were invaluable. I also watched YouTube videos, took a Skillshare class, purchased a food photography book and an ebook, and read a lot of blog posts. 

Over the course of four and a half years, I’ve spent about $75 on learning photography. Again, you don’t have to drain your savings account in order to improve. That being said, if you’re able to participate in workshops or classes and invest in other resources right away, go for it! Those opportunities provide a learning experience that self-teaching simply can’t replicate. Hopefully, at some point in the near future, I’ll take more in-person classes and participate in workshops or retreats. But for my family and me right now, despite my impatience and desire to race ahead to learn everything I possibly can as soon as I can, I’ve realized that taking things slowly has been a better, more realistic pace. 

Oh, and most importantly? Take photos. Lots of photos. Reading and research will only get you so far. You’ve got to keep shooting. 

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary

Resources

There is no shortage of information available about photography. This is an extremely abbreviated list, and I could spend hour after hour adding to it. I've included a handful of links and resources to help you get started. 

Blog Posts

"Food Photography Tips for Food Bloggers" from Cookie + Kate
"How I Instagram" from The Fauxmartha
"Fauxtography 101" from The Fauxmartha
"One Pot Butternut Squash Soup shot with an iPhone" from The Fauxmartha
Photography tips and tutorials from White on Rice Couple
"Artificial Lighting Tips for Food Photography" from Pinch of Yum
Additional photography tips and tutorials from Pinch of Yum

Books/eBooks

Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Nicole S. Young
Tasty Food Photography by Pinch of Yum (This is one of the first food photography resources I ever used, and it's extremely helpful for beginners.)

YouTube

"Food Photography Tips with Andrew Scrivani"
"Food Photography: Lighting and Compositional Basics" from Andrew Scrivani (Pretty much anything from Andrew Scrivani will be extremely helpful.)
"Tips for Stunning Food Photography with Top With Cinnamon"

Online Classes

Check out Skillshare or Craftsy.com for a variety of affordable online classes.

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary
Yields about 20-25 appetizers

2 medium apples
4-5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 whole sprig of rosemary, plus 1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 baguette*
8 ounces Fontina cheese**

Prepare the apples by cutting each apple in half, removing the core and seeds, and then slicing each apple into ¼-inch thick slices.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 whole sprig of rosemary to the skillet. Heat for a couple minutes until the butter is melted and starts bubbling.

Reduce heat to medium, and add the apple slices to the skillet. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, turning and stirring occasionally. The apples are done when they are browned and tender.

While the apples are cooking, move an oven rack to the position closest to your oven’s broiler flame.

Preheat your oven to broil (to high if you have a high/low setting). Slice the baguette into ½-inch thick pieces (you’ll need about 20-25 slices total), and lay them out on a baking sheet. Lightly butter all the slices using the remaining 1-2 tablespoons of butter.

Thinly slice the Fontina, and top each piece of buttered bread with 1-2 pieces of cheese. Place the cheese-topped bread in the oven under the broiler flame, and broil for 2-3 minutes until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. (Keep a very close eye on the baking sheet so you don’t burn the bread and cheese! You may also want to rotate the baking sheet halfway through to ensure even cooking.)

Remove the bread from the oven. When the apples are done cooking, top each piece of bread with 1-2 apple slices, and sprinkle with fresh rosemary. Serve and enjoy!

*Note that this recipe may not use an entire loaf. That just means more bread to snack on while you cook!

**Fontina is an Italian cow’s milk cheese that melts really well. I’ve been able to find it at both Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and most other grocery stores. You can, however, substitute another cheese such as Gruyere or Gouda.


If you missed Part 1 of my "Behind the Scenes" posts, make sure to click here! You'll get to see photos (taken by Anna Guziak) of me making this recipe and setting up to photograph it.


Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper - Sarah J. Hauser

I’ve changed up the way I cook since having kids. Between trying to eat more whole foods and the two munchkins clawing at my legs while I’m standing the kitchen, what ends up on my table looks a little different than it did pre-babies. 

Thirty-minute meals that I used to make required that I stand over the stove uninterrupted for a half hour. Ummnm, the only time I have uninterrupted at 5:30 in the evening is when family is over to entertain the kiddos. Anything that requires more than a few minutes of uninterrupted time has to be able to be done either during nap time in the morning, or the night before. 

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper - Sarah J. Hauser

I used to be able to spend time prepping lots of ingredients, or experimenting with various cooking techniques. Now, when I read recipes, the first question I ask is, “Can I do that with fewer ingredients?” The second question is, “Can the cooking process/technique be simplified?” (In other words, “Can I throw it in the oven and not worry about it until the timer goes off?”) 

I’m learning to simplify without sacrificing flavor. Olive oil, salt and pepper can work wonders on almost anything. And if I can make something using only one dish? Glorious.

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper - Sarah J. Hauser
Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper - Sarah J. Hauser

Sometimes, none of that is possible. Sometimes, you need lots of ingredients and several cooking techniques to really make a meal shine. I don’t often do those recipes anymore unless it’s a special occasion or I can set aside time on the weekend to geek out in the kitchen. Mostly, if I can throw it in the oven, assemble it at the last minute, prep it during naptime or make it the night before, that recipe is a keeper. 

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper - Sarah J. Hauser

This Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper hits all those points, and you can make it even more simple than what I’ve written below. Skip the broiling part and just eat it without crisping up the prosciutto. It is still soooo good! Have fresh basil in your garden? Use that instead of the sage. Try cutting large slices of melon and then wrap those in sage and prosciutto for an easy summer side dish. 

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper - Sarah J. Hauser

My favorite way to serve this is the version below with crispy prosciutto and finished off with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. It’s the perfect combination of spice and herb, sweet and savory, crisp and soft. But the best part? It’s simple enough to make with toddler twins in tow. 

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper - Sarah J. Hauser

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Sage + Black Pepper
Yields 16 pieces

8 slices prosciutto
16 cubes of ripe cantaloupe
16 fresh sage leaves
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the broiler (to high if you have a high/low option). Cut the prosciutto slices in half width-wise, so you have 16 pieces. Hold a cube of cantaloupe and a sage leaf together, and wrap a piece of prosciutto around them. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat until the prosciutto, cantaloupe, and sage are used up. 

Right before you're read to serve, place the baking sheet under the preheated broiler for about 1-2 minutes, or until prosciutto gets slightly crisp. Remove from the oven and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. 


This recipe has been featured in the "15 Gorgeous Party Appetizers" roundup on BuzzFeed and The Kitchen Addiction!

Spinach Bites

Spinach Bites

When it comes to food, I often get bored easily. I like trying new recipes and using ingredients I’ve never cooked with before. Even when we go to a familiar restaurant, I typically choose whatever I haven’t tasted yet (with a few exceptions to that rule). There’s so much variety in the food world, and I think I have this subconscious goal of trying it all – maybe minus a few super weird foods. 

But then there are those dishes that beg to be repeated. They’re too tasty, too simple or too crowd-pleasing to let that recipe card or cookbook collect dust. There are splatters and grease marks on the pages that make the print hard to read, but it doesn’t matter…because you’ve made that dish so many times that you wonder why you need the instructions at all anymore. 

These Spinach Bites are one of those recipes. I think I first had them when my sister-in-law made them years ago for a family gathering, and they’ve made their appearance at almost every celebration since then. They were even requested by my 16-year-old niece for her birthday a couple months ago. 

The concept for this appetizer is by no means original to me; there are a myriad of variations on this same theme. But below, you’ll find the version that I’ve made over and over again, making my own little adjustments along the way.

It’s definitely a recipe worth repeating.

Spinach Bites
Spinach Bites
Spinach Bites

Spinach Bites
Yields about 30 Spinach Bites

2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cups butter, melted and slightly cooled
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix (such as Pepperidge Farm)*

Add all the ingredients to a large bowl. Stir together until everything is fully incorporated.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Shape the mixture into 1-inch sized balls and place on a cookie sheet. 

Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until warm through and slightly browned. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Re-warm in a low-temperature oven. 

*Make sure to use the crumb-style stuffing mix, not cubes.