Food Photography and Styling Challenge | April | Pasta

Welcome to "The Inspired Plate". We are a collective gathering of 14 food enthusiast photographers. Each month we post final photographic images of a styled dish that we have been working on throughout the month. Some of us.. like me, procrastinate the actual styling and photography and shoot at the last minute.. on the last day.. before posting! Come on gals.. I know I'm not the only one! :) Instead during our month, we spend much of our time sharing and gleaning from each other's styles, like that of the talented and oh so current artist Jenn, from Localette or the crisp and beautiful food photo's from Stacey at Stacey Siegal Photography, really.. please pass what's on that plate.. it's GORGEOUS Girl!! We are learning the business aspect of photography from amazing artists and professionals like Jennifer Grant and marketing strategies from Tiffany Dahle. The use of Photographic light.. and shooting with love from Allison Jacobs. And using the gift of word's from the very VERY talented freelance food writer, Kim Kelly from Liv Life  food blog. But for me, finding the key to living a balanced life as a mom_photographer with a mom_full_time_schedule is something I'm learning from the amazing Carey Pace who writes about it with such humor and inspiration on her blog.  She "IS" a Story Teller.. and I Love her! :) All these gals bring sooo much to the table! I appreciate them all - and look forward each month to the challenges that come our way. Believe me.. many of them have nothing to do with photography, but they're still there, with open arms and a hug to share. I didn't mention them all by name.. but I glean from them all, the stories that come through them, the heart in their "day in and day out" lives. A mom with 5 kids.. and on crutches, a wife mending to her husband barely out of the hospital, a husband wife team ready to build their dream home, a gal sharing her gorgeous floral photographs in a gallery opening, or the vacationing gals who still find time to spend with their families and hold down a business. They are all amazing!!!! So.. to you my readers, who are regular visitors.. and to you who just happened by, be sure you visit  all the gals in " The Inspired Plate" blog circle. Next up is me dear friend Tiffany Dahle from Develop.   Be sure you leave her some love.  And check out this girls Pinterest page.. You'll know why I mentioned her under marketing!! Have a wonderful month.. till we meet again for our Food Photography and Styling Challenge!

"Risotto” with Roasted Beets and Petite French Beans

If there’s ever a dish that I dream about, constantly, it would have to be risotto. As I sit here typing I’m thinking to myself, “Oh how I would love a hot steamy dish of rich and creamy risotto”, my dilemma, how can I possibly live off of risotto without it going to my hips. That’s it! The ONLY reason I don’t eat risotto for every meal. Those darn Italians.. Have THEE MOST AMAZING food.. Pasta’s, pizza, polenta and risotto! What’s a girl to do!!
So.. I’d like to tell you that this recipe post is an answer to my, and your, carbohydrate dilemma.. But it’s not! It’s just another epicurean temptation for something so out of this world that, you too my friend will be dreaming and drooling for risotto!
I very rarely use beets in my casserole type dishes. I like them roasted with other vegetables and I LOVE them drenched in a thick balsamic and olive oil dressing for a cold salad. But over the fall and winter season I just seemed to crave this beautiful raspberry colored root vegetable too often not to try to create a risotto dish recipe for them.
The trick to this dish was “when” to add the beets into the cooking process. I wanted my risotto to keep it’s creamy pale color while all the other vegetables took there featured place. Although a pink risotto might look pretty to some.. I wasn’t to keen on taking photo’s of pink rice. Rice my friends, in my opinion is one of the toughest food subjects to photograph.

You’ll LOVE this recipe.. Please read on for all the yummy details!

Prepare and roast your vegetables.
With a potato peeler, peel beets under running cold water. Cut them into 1/2 inch by 2 inch strips. Clean a 1/2 pound or so of petite french beans.
Put vegetables in pan, drizzle olive oil on top, add fresh cracked black pepper, salt, 1 thinly sliced garlic clove and rosemary sprigs. Toss to mix well.

Roast in 400° preheated oven for approximately 45-50 minutes.
Keep checking on them.  Oven temperatures vary as well as desired softness or firmness.

This beautiful salt is called; 'Sel Gris De Gue'rande' sea salt(Grey Sea Salt). It's a coarse sea salt from the 
Mediterranean waters off the coast of France. It has beautiful flavor and I love using it when roasting vegetables. I picked this batch up from the Spice Merchant in Old Town Temecula. I LOVE perusing their jars of tea's and spices. If you ever get to Temecula, you'll want to make sure to pay them a visit as well as browse our famed Old Town Temecula Farmers Market and the beautiful Old Town outdoor mall shops on Front Street.

In a very large pan on medium heat melt butter and 2-3 tablespoons olive oil. Sauté sweet onion and garlic  just till they start to become translucent and soft. Pour in all of the Arborio rice and stir, coating all sides of the rice. Continue cooking and turning the rice so it doesn't darken, but cook long enough so the rice kernels evenly turn golden on all sides. Add 1/2 cup finely minced parsley. Stir. Add dry white wine, approximately 3/4 cups. This will sizzle vehemently. Cook rice stirring constantly till wine has dissipated.
Have 8 cups of chicken stock ready. You will most likely use all of this.. give a 1/4 cup or two.
Add a ladle full of the hot chicken stock. At this point season rice with freshly ground black pepper. Don't add salt yet! The chicken stock has plenty of flavor. At the final stage of cooking is when you will be able to tell if you want to add seasonings. Continue stirring. Keep heat at a temperature so that there will be a constant simmer (medium low should do it).

Let cook stirring constantly till rice again is dry. Repeat this process of ladling in broth and drying out rice until risotto is swelled and creamy but still has a bite (it should take around 30 minutes).

When risotto is ready fold in approximately  1/2 - 1 cup cheese. I used Sartori's Bella Vitano Merlot Cheese. You can also use a Gruyere or Parmesano Reggiano Cheese.

And the pièce de résistance.. roasted beets and petite french beans!
When the risotto is ready, gently fold in the roasted vegetables without over stirring to maintain a uniform cream color. Once you move them around a bit, the beautiful raspberry color 'will' start to bleed into the rice, but that's ok.. it still tastes FABULOUS!!!

Serve immediately on a platter.
At the table I like to have extra parmesan cheese to top the risotto and a small drizzle of dry white wine to splash over each individual serving. It adds such a beautiful aroma flavor.