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Zoom In: Mozzarella’s Moment

Mozzarella-Stuffed Arepas with Sherry-Mango Slaw

Last month, we took a peek behind the pages—and photos—of our Cheese+ pairings issue. We’ll return to it soon (since pairings know no expiration date), but I’d like to direct our attention right now to the hot-pink, caciocavallo-graced beauty that is our Summer issue. Obviously, I’m biased, but I think this edition is an embarrassment in artistic riches. Highlights include the “In Rare Company” photo essay of rare and endangered heritage livestock breeds at Rhode Island’s SVF Foundation, created exclusively for the magazine by Pulitzer-winning photographer Cheryl Senter dreamy (and beguilingly drippy!) shots of High Road Craft Ice Cream & Sorbet chef Keith Shroeder’s cheesy ice cream recipes taken by Emily B. Hall and styled by Catie Adams; and, of course, those lovely glamour shots of caciocavallo cheeses for Alexis Adams’ “Curious Caciocavallo” story, photographed by Vincenzo Spione (many of them shot on-location in Italy).

One of my favorite features in this issue is Leslie Orlandini’s “Mozz to the Max” recipe spread, which was photographed by the masterful Mark Ferri. These no-oven-required recipes using fresh and meltable mozzarella are the perfect mealtime solution for balmy summer days when you can’t bring yourself to turn on the oven (ahem, Boston in August). Leslie is a food stylist who’s worked on many of our recent issues (check out our archive of photos she’s styled here), so when I asked her to step into the shoes of a recipe creator and develop mozzarella recipes for us, I had a hunch she’d deliver some dazzling-looking dishes—and be able to style them well, to boot. Definitely the case. I love the bright pops of color and novel mix of flavors in her Bocconcini and Pickled Cherry Skewers.

Just for fun, take a look at the photo of this dish that Leslie snapped while developing her recipe, below.

tapas skewer 1

Not half bad, right? (The woman IS a food stylist, after all.) But when she teamed up with Mark in the studio this spring, that’s when the real magic was made. With some serious care and attention while prepping the dish in a studio kitchen, plus proper lighting and artful staging, Leslie and Mark (along with the help of our art director Carol) produced two mouthwatering images (below, viewed instantly on Mark’s computer). 

photo (4)

In the end, we decided to go with a cropped shot of the plated skewers, due to its strong focus on the food itself and its vibrant colors. 

Creamy bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls), pickled sour cherries, herbacious basil, and salty prosciutto alternated on bamboo skewers

What’s it like styling recipes for culture? Slightly different than working on other projects, Leslie says: “For obvious reasons, the focus is all about the cheese.” In cooked recipes such as her Mozzarella-Stuffed Arepas with Sherry-Mango Slaw (top), “I do find that the hot food should come directly from the oven to the camera as swiftly as possible. The cheese doesn’t generally reheat well or have the same stretch or drip to it.” Aspiring cheese photographers and stylists, take note!

As for Leslie’s philosophy behind food styling in general, she says it’s simply “to bring out the most tempting parts of a recipe, without changing it. People have heard about all the tricks that stylists did in the old days… the old painted turkey story… These days it’s much more direct: You make the real thing. [Then] decide how it’s best presented: Whole or cut? In a group or on its own? Will it benefit from placing [certain] elements/components up front, where they can be seen? Find what will tell the story best.” 

Katie Aberbach

Always hungry for a good story, editor Katie Aberbach brings an extensive journalism background to the culture team. Formerly a food writer and editor for the Washington Post Express, Katie works to ensure that culture’s print coverage is timely, accurate, and – of course – appetizing.

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