The Shabbat Table: Picture-perfect food!

(Marco Verch/CC BY 2.0)

Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom! Have you ever wondered why your recipe didn’t turn out like the beautiful food pictures in cookbooks or magazines? If you’re interested in food presentation, discover the fascinating secrets of making picture-perfect food in The Food Stylist’s Handbook: Hundreds of Media Styling Tips, Tricks, and Secrets for Chefs, Artists, Bloggers, and Food Lovers by Denise Vivaldo and Cindie Flannigan.

After 30 years of working as a food stylist, Vivaldo, along with Flannigan, her creative partner and food stylist, have written the book about every important aspect of food styling that they’ve learned along the way. I was totally fascinated by the wealth of information provided in this excellent resource.

The Food Stylist’s Handbook (second edition), is an award-winning finalist in the 2018 International Book Awards. The multi-talented, Los Angeles-based co-authors specialize in food styling for photography (print, web, packaging), video (Internet, television, satellite media tours), recipe developers (cookbook authors, publishers, corporations, product boards, professionally trained chefs and writers (cookbooks, entertaining books, articles), and guest lecturers. Their food-styling workshops are for people in all areas of the culinary profession – from photographers, to food bloggers and writers, to personal chefs, to caterers and students. For upcoming classes, visit

The Food Stylist’s Handbook will give you an excellent overview of the rewards and pitfalls of the food-styling industry. Vivaldo and Flannigan go over the tools to get organized, information on how to get started, how to create your portfolio, the evolution of food styling, food preparation tricks, food photography and tips – even how to market yourself. The authors provide resources for stocking your own styling kit, a dictionary of culinary terms and helpful suggestions on how to create a diversified and exciting-food styling career.

Here are some simply scrumptious dishes that are perfect for Shabbat and a warm, sunny weekend, courtesy of Vivaldo and Flannigan.

Pineapple Honeydew Gazpacho

  • 1/2 fresh pineapple
  • 1 hothouse, or 3 Persian, cucumbers
  • 1/2 honeydew melon
  • 1 jalapeno, more or less to taste
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) red onion
  • salt to taste
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) mint, chopped, for garnish

Peel and core and chop pineapple. Peel and chop cucumber. Peel, seed and chop honeydew melon. Dice jalapeno. Chop red onion.

Working in batches if necessary, place pineapple, cucumber, honeydew, jalapeno and red onion in a blender and blend until nearly smooth. Add salt to taste.

Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with mint before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Roasted Pesto Cauliflower

  • 2 heads cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) pine nuts
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) Italian parsley, loosely packed
  • 250 ml (1 cup) basil, loosely packed
  • 75 ml (1/3 cup) Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese, grated
  • 150 ml (2/3 cup) olive oil
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Cover 2 baking sheets with foil and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine pine nuts, garlic, parsley, basil, lemon juice and oil in the work bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend until mixture becomes a thin paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in lemon zest.

Place cauliflower in a large bowl and toss with pesto until coated. Spread in a single layer on prepared baking sheets and roast until cauliflower is golden brown, about 16 minutes. Remove from heat and serve hot. Makes 6-8 servings.

Crunchy Quinoa with Peppers

  • 250 ml (1 cup) red quinoa
  • 500 ml (2 cups) water
  • 75 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) lime juice
  • 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) ground cumin
  • 375 ml (1½ cups) red, orange and yellow bell peppers, finely diced
  • 250 ml (1 cup) red onion, finely diced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) cilantro, finely chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place quinoa and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes or until just done.

Place oil, lime juice and cumin in a medium bowl, whisking to combine.

Add quinoa to oil mixture, tossing to combine.

Add peppers, onion, cilantro and stir to combine.

Season with salt and pepper before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Avocado, Coconut and Lime Sorbet

  • 250 ml (1 cup) water
  • 250 ml (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) lime zest
  • 175 ml (3/4 cup) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1 (240 g) can cream of coconut
  • 1 tsp salt
  • shredded coconut for garnish

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice. Refrigerate until cool to the touch.

Cut avocados in half, remove pit and peel.

Place lime juice, avocados, and cream of coconut into the work bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add syrup, pulsing to combine.

Pour into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the freezer.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 160 C (325 F). Spread coconut on a cookie sheet and bake until lightly golden, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Garnish with shredded coconut before serving. Makes 6 servings.