Learn with the pros: Food styling workshop September 26, 2016

I'm excited to announce that Sheryl Julian and I are giving a food styling workshop for all levels on September 26. Come join us!

Join Sally Vargas and Sheryl Julian for a day-long food styling and photography workshop on Monday, Sept. 26 in Watertown.  

You'll style a three-course menu prepared on site and shoot it with your own camera – or camera phone -- with lots of close, one-on-one attention from Sheryl and Sally in a class limited to 12.  Best of all, you'll go home with beautiful photographs to share on your website or on social media and with a bagful of new talents, tips, tricks, and techniques that will elevate your skills as a stylist and photographer. The class is designed for all levels. You can come with some knowledge of food styling or none at all.  We'll get started at 10 a.m., break for lunch and discussion at noon, then go back to work until 4 p.m.  It's a full day of hands-on learning from two experienced pros.

Sally Vargas is an author, food stylist, and photographer who contributes to The Boston Globe and Simply Recipes. She is the author of “Food for Friends” and “The Tao of Cooking.” She has extensive experience as a restaurant chef and recipe developer. She is working on a new book about New England cranberries, scheduled to be published in the spring of 2017.

Sheryl Julian is the award-winning former food editor of The Boston Globe.  Her long-running column in the Boston Globe magazine was required reading for the city's best home cooks; she remains a regular contributor to the Globe's Food section.  Sheryl's work can also be found on Simply Recipes. She is the co-author of “The Way We Cook” and the editor of “The New Boston Globe Cookbook.”  Her Twitter stream (@sheryljulian) is a daily diet of wit, wisdom, and watercress.

The venue is Seta's Cafe at 271 Belmont St, Belmont, Massachusetts.  Tuition is $250 per person, which includes lunch.  CONTACT ME at sally.p.vargas@gmail.com to register. Deadline to register is Sept. 12, 2016.


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Posted on August 24, 2016 .

If you can't stand the heat 2.0: Recipe for chilled corn and avocado soup

I know. Two posts in the space of two weeks. A record.

Corn season is hitting its stride right now, and I don’t want you to miss out. Its sweet goodness needs to be savored as much and as often as possible. Now.

You can use leftover corn or just cook up some extra ears to make this cold and creamy soup. A jalapeno pepper adds a nice bit of spice. Note that the pepper’s heat is in the seeds, so add or subtract them as you see fit according to taste.

As a general rule, I don’t usually add cream to soups because, well, you know, ladies and gents. But rules are made to be broken. And when it’s just too damn hot, this is a whole meal and thereby justifies the indulgence.

Spicy chilled corn and avocado soup recipe
Serves 6

7 ears corn, shucked
Salt, to taste
6 cups chicken stock
2 avocadoes, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup lime juice
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced with or without seeds
Pepper, to taste
1 cup heavy cream
A few pinches of ancho chile powder (for garnish)
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish)
2 limes, cut into wedges (for garnish)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the corn, cover the pot, and return the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and let rest for 5 minutes. With tongs, transfer corn to a platter and let cool.

2. With a sharp knife, scrape the kernels from the cob. Set aside 1/3 cup kernels for the garnish and transfer the remaining kernels to a bowl. Add the chicken stock, avocadoes, lime juice, jalapeño pepper, salt, and pepper.

3. In a blender in 2-cup batches, puree the soup until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the cream and taste. Add more salt and pepper, if you like. Chill until cold.4. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle each with chili powder, cilantro leaves, and corn kernels. Serve a lime wedge with each bowl.


Tip #1: The sticky problem of scraping kernels off the cob without sending them to kingdom come in the process is solved with the use of a bundt pan or a smaller bowl set inside a larger one. Stand the base of the cob in the center hole of the bundt pan or upright in a small bowl set it in a larger one. Saw from top down. The kernels fall into the larger bowl without flying into every corner of your kitchen.

Tip #2 Warning! Hot soup! To puree hot liquid in a blender, only fill it 1/3 full. Cover the lid with a folded dishtowel and hold it down with your hand. Start on low speed, and increase the speed gradually.

I almost forgot! I have two more recipes to share. I recently started writing for Simply Recipes, a fantastic food blog  with at least 1600 recipes for you to choose from. More coming! and these two from me should round out your cooking for a hot summer weekend. (Copyright for photos and text belongs to Simply Recipes, all rights reserved 2016. Please respect.)

This BLT salad for a porch supper:

And a favorite easy pantry meal of mine: Spaghetti with poached eggs, tomatoes, and bacon

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Posted on August 19, 2016 .

If you can't stand the heat: Recipe for cold beet soup (Chlodnik)

The dog days of summer are upon us. It's too damn hot, but I'll take it.  I'd rather put on a pair of flip flops than a pair of boots any day. 

This soup with tangy buttermilk, crunchy cucumbers, and sweet and sour pickled beets hits the spot when you crave something refreshing and don’t feel like making much of an effort. The soup turns from pale pink to deep fuschia as the beets mingle with the buttermilk.

Serve it with a slice or two of buttered rye bread and some cold, roast chicken, or a hunk of cheese.  Stove not required.


Polish beet and buttermilk soup (Chlodnik)
Serves 4

1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt if you want low-fat)
1 quart buttermilk
1 unpeeled English cucumber, cut into small cubes
2 (14 ounces each) cans sliced pickled beets, cut into small cubes
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 sprigs of fresh dill, snipped with scissors (for garnish)
Thinly sliced radishes (for garnish)

1. Into a large bowl, spoon the  sour cream. Gradually whisk in the buttermilk until the mixture is smooth.

2. Add the cucumber and beets to the bowl. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper, stir, and taste. Add more salt and pepper, if you like. Chill until cold in the refrigerator, or stir in a couple of ice cubes if you are in a hurry.

3. Ladle the cold soup into bowls. Sprinkle with the dill and radishes.

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Posted on August 12, 2016 .

Galette Bretonne for a light supper

In the United States, the popularity of the creperie—a restaurant serving only crepes in a multitude of ways—has gone out of style and more’s the pity. Luckily, the French are not so fickle. On the streets of Paris the creperie is very much alive and well.

The most famous crepes, made with buckwheat, come from Brittany, where buckwheat has been grown since the Middle Ages. In fact, there is no actual ‘wheat’ in buckwheat; it is not even a grain at all. Rather, the flour, both dark and light, is made from the seeds of an herb in the knotweed family that grows best in poor soil without pesticides or fertilizer. In addition to its clean cultivation formula, buckwheat is a treasure trove of nutrition. Recipe testing favored the lighter colored buckwheat over the dark gray flour for the home kitchen.

As you would expect from French traditionalists, the particulars can be, well, very particular. The preferred method is to use a bilic, a kind of heavy cast-iron griddle that can be heated to very high temperatures. A special t-shaped wooden tool is used to spread the batter evenly. Depending on locale (north versus south) wheat flour and egg may be added to the batter. Either way, the batter is earthy and nutty, and lends itself to numerous savory and sweet fillings. You could just as easily choose a strawberry, rhubarb and ice cream filling as the classic filling of ham, cheese, and egg.

Fear not. You won’t have to turn your kitchen into a creperie to enjoy this galette. All you will need are a large, non-stick skillet, a ladle, a long metal spatula, a rubber spatula, and a teensy bit of courage to make your first galette. If you don’t want to attempt spreading the egg white as described in step three, you can leave well enough alone and the egg will cook given a little more time at a lower temperature. Once you have made your first crepe there is no turning back. Bon appetit is firmly in your future.

Galette Bretonne with egg, ham, cheese, and asparagus
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups light buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups water
1 egg
1/3 cup sparkling water or beer
Additional sparkling water as needed

1. In a bowl, vigorously whisk the flour, salt, plain water, and egg together until smooth and a few bubbles appear on the surface. Whisk in the sparkling water or beer until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

2. Remove the batter and bring to room temperature. Add more sparkling water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the batter is the consistency of heavy cream.

16 thin asparagus spears
4 tablespoons lightly salted butter, melted
4 eggs
2 cups grated Comté cheese
4 slices of ham, each cut into 2 or 3 pieces
Finely chopped chives (for garnish)
Smoked paprika (for garnish)

1. In a large skillet, bring 1 inch of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 3 minutes, or until tender. Drain. Cut into 3-inch pieces.

2. Over high heat, heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet until hot. Add 2 teaspoons of the melted butter, and swirl to coat the pan.  Pour in 2/3 cup of the batter, and quickly tilt the pan to thinly cover the surface. Place on the burner and decrease the heat to medium.

3. Break one egg into the middle of the galette. With the fingertips of one hand, gently hold the yolk in place while you spread the white out over the crepe with a long metal spatula. Cook for 1 minute, or until the egg white starts to set. Sprinkle one-fourth of the cheese around the yolk. Arrange one fourth of the ham pieces on top of the cheese, and distribute one-fourth of the asparagus on top. Let cook for about 3 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the egg whites are cooked. The yolk will still be soft. Sprinkle the yolk with paprika and chives.

4. With a flexible rubber spatula, loosen the edges of the galette all around the pan. Fold four edges of the galette in toward the egg to make a square but do not cover the egg. Brush the edges with melted butter and serve. Repeat with remaining batter, eggs, ham, cheese and asparagus. 


Posted on July 7, 2016 .

Curried celery and apple soup

As we yearn for spring, the cold and drizzly days ahead are just a bit more tolerable with a bowl of homemade soup.

In most recipes celery hangs back like a timid wallflower, underpinning sauces and soups with its herbal minerality. But put it center stage, sweeten it with apples, and spike it with a little curry powder, and you will be rewarded with a delicate and soothing soup, made creamy by simmering it with a little rice in place of dairy.

Curried celery and apple soup
Serves 6

1/3 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 celery stalks, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 large leek, trimmed of green part, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
4 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 can (15 ounces) low-fat coconut milk
3 tablespoons rice
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped celery leaves (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 350°F. On a baking sheet, spread the almonds. Bake for 8 minutes, or until light brown. Cool.

2. In large soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the celery, leeks, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in the apples, curry powder, and turmeric. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk, rice, and stock. Bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.

3. In a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Return to the pot, and stir in the lime juice. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

4. Ladle the soup into bowls, and sprinkle the celery leaves and toasted almonds on top.

Posted on February 24, 2016 .