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Penny De Los Santos, Trout, Hands

Do you ever think about someone’s hands? The creases between their fingers and their palms, the shape of their fingernails, the way they hold a watch, or the indentation that a ring makes in their fingers? The hands of the people we love are particularly fascinating because we know them so well. This past weekend, the amazing photographer, Penny De Los Santos, hosted a 3 day food photography course that was live-streamed, free, on the web. Every spare minute I had over the weekend, I voraciously ate up her teachings (I even had my laptop on the kitchen counter while making dinner).

Of the ridiculous amount of useful tips and guidance that Penny provided, I walked away with a few very important lessons: to shoot food with feeling, and to capture it from above, or at the 3/4 angle. This was, people, a serious breakthrough for me. I always try to shoot food with feeling. But I’m never quite sure if what I see is what you see. You see? So this weekend, I had a dinner party and I cooked a lot. And then Matt and I had a simple, tasty meal. And I photographed a lot, trying to channel a little bit of Penny. I realized that the photos I share here don’t have to be flawless. They don’t need to zoom into every detail. They don’t need to be perfect because, let’s face it, when are things ever perfect?

So, I focused on hands. And not just the food but our MEAL. The act of us sitting down at our dinky little Ikea table, laying out forks and knives, moving our fruit bowl to make room for a bowl of sauteed greens. Brightening things up with a few sprigs of mint in a mason jar. When I look at these photos, they speak a little differently to me than some of the other photos I’ve shared here on the site. And I’m hoping to continue exploring.

Do any of you have any tips for photographing life, food and stills? I’d love to hear them in the comments. Anyone else tune into Penny’s seminar and have other tips?

And now, trout. This is the second trout recipe I’ve featured recently which is funny because it might only be the second time I’ve ever cooked trout at home. But I see it everywhere, it’s local and fresh and I think it’s quite tasty. This is the simplest preparation of it and this recipe is hardly one you have to follow exactly. It’s the perfect simple weekend meal for two.

Simple Whole Trout with Green Garlic, Lemon and Pea Tendrils
serves 2

2 whole trout, cleaned and de-boned
1/4 of one green garlic bulb + stem
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 whole organic lemon
bunch of pea tendrils
kosher salt
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon of butter
olive oil

1. Rub the trout with a generous amount of kosher salt and pepper both inside and out. Thinly slice the green garlic bulb and about a tablespoon’s-worth of the green garlic stem.
2. Slice the lemon in half and then cut four slices from one half (set the rest aside).
3. Fill each fish cavity with two lemon slices, two sprigs of thyme and half of the green garlic.
4. Melt the butter in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Once it’s melted, add the fish, whole, into the skillet, gently placing it on one side. Cook for several minutes on one side (make sure to crisp up that skin nicely) before using a pair of tongs to carefully flip it to its other side. Continue cooking for several minutes. You may need to flip the fish again to make sure the inside is completely cooked (it should not be transparent and should flake easily with a fork).
5. Remove the fish from the skillet and keep warm on a plate.
6. Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large skillet. Toss in the pea tendrils (I recommend cutting off the tougher stems). Season with sea salt, pepper and a teaspoon of freshly-grated lemon zest (from the lemon you used earlier).
7. Saute briefly before evenly dividing between two plates.
8. Chop the head and tail off of the trout before placing it on top of the sauteed pea sprouts. Season to taste.

Musical Pairings: Port O’Brien – Threadbare +Β Simple Whole Trout with Green Garlic, Lemon and Pea Tendrils

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Posted by Kasey

Kasey is the food editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. She loves dark chocolate, warm crusty bread, and traveling to new places. She speaks Russian, but does not like vodka.

  • Chez Us

    Yummy looking trout. Trout is one of those fish, I always forget about, and when I see a recipe, I am gently reminded. I have a romantic idea of sitting on a grassy bank, throwing out a line, reeling one in, and frying it up in a pan. Yummy!

    I, too, was glued to Penny’s workshop. She is my girl-crush; love her teaching style, and passion for photography. I have her to thank for stoking the fire that had been waiting to be rekindled, when I took a workshop with her – took away so much important information. I love the overhead as well, and the funny thing is, you can start to tell her took her workshops by all the overheads! HA!

    We missed you at dinner this week – another time!!

  • nicole

    I love these pictures, Kasey! The vibrant colors really come through. I had a particularly busy weekend and only caught one hour of Penny’s seminar, but I purchased it because I was hooked πŸ™‚

  • Denise, I have to agree with you about Penny – I am in love with her teaching style and her approach to photography! I really hope to take an in-person class with her. And, sorry I miss you guys at dinner – I was really looking forward to it! I’m going to try to plan something up in the city soon (maybe a picnic?!)

  • Thanks, Nicole! I have been debating whether to purchase. I know it’s silly because it’s so worth it – I should just do it! I am sure I missed a lot!

  • I’m sure Penny would be proud to see your pictures! While I was busy entertaining my visiting dad this weekend, I stole away when I could to watch/listen to Penny’s workshop. I actually listened to the stream on my phone when cooking, then rewatched what I could in the evening. LOL. I’ve always found overhead shots more daunting, and it’s true, there seem to be more of them up on the blogosphere this week πŸ™‚

    The dinner looks perfect – it’s been a while since I’ve had a whole trout, it takes me back to the days when we would camp and fish and fry the fish whole over a campfire! But yours is more elegant, of course πŸ™‚

  • I am obsessed with hands, especially old, weathered ones that tell stories! Penny *is* inspiring isn’t she? My mantra for photography in general is to pay attention – to your environment, what’s in front of you, how you feel – and let the emotions (joy, surprise, sadness) shape what you focus on when you hit the shutter.

    Lovely seeing you today – looking forward to more meet-ups this summer!

  • That’s funny- I bet 95% of the food blogging world was tuned in in some way and I feel like we all kinda got swept up in Penny…but if that means more overheard shots that are appetizing, then I ‘m all for it πŸ™‚ I didn’t even think to stream on my phone! You know – funny – I have never been fishing, but this meal very much makes me think of camping! One of these days…

  • Ahhh! Totally! I find that weathered hands are particularly fascinating when they’re in black and white photos. I actually would love to see a black and white food photo blog – I feel like, if done well, it could be really captivating. I really appreciate your tips, Danielle! Always happy to learn from you! Lunch was brilliant. More summer meetups for sure!

  • It’s so true that the photos we make and share don’t have to be perfect. And, yes, when is a photo perfect anyway? I’ve been struggling with my photography lately but Penny’s workshop taught me to persue my dream…

  • That’s so cool! It’s definitely great when you can be inspired to pursue your dreams πŸ™‚

  • Kasey, these photos are stunning. Seriously, so good.

  • Blushing – thanks, Jess.

  • Great photos! I loved Penny’s workshop as well. She was so passionate. I almost cried. Twice.

    I am thinking of hosting a party so I can get my setting the scene shots, moments and portraits.

  • Wonderful post, Kasey! I too, was utterly captivated by Penny’s workshop and wisdom that carried well beyond the lens…

    And YES, love hands…so expressive, so many stories behind them. I also have a weird thing for feet πŸ™‚ although, not so much old, weathered ones (beautiful weathered feet are pretty hard to come by)

  • Thank you, Stephanie! Sounds like a lot of people were. I love feet but gotta agree – weathered feet…not so pretty πŸ˜‰

  • She is just saw…raw. Love her! I totally want to stand on a chair above my friends at my next party! In fact, I did just that when I took these photos of Matt’s hands πŸ™‚

  • Josiah Tam

    Hi Kasey!

    First of all, I absolutely love your site. Being a musician, photographer, and chef it’s like all my passions combined into one! I just had one question: Where did you get your placemats?!?! I love them! A friend of mine and I have been trying to find similar ones but we can’t!


    P.S. Please never stop this site πŸ™‚

  • Hi Josiah, wow, thank you! I bought these at a small little shop in Glen Park (San Francisco) – a homewares store. I know it’s not that helpful, but I think you could probably find something similar online!

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