cookbooks
The Stories Behind the Shots: Vegetables Illustrated Edition
Two members of our design team share behind-the-scenes secrets about their favorite photos from our new vegetables cookbook.
02-28-2019
Mari Levine

Once our book team test cooks put the final touches on a cookbook’s collection of recipes, the design team’s job is just beginning. With finalized recipes, they can start planning out how they’ll shoot certain dishes to work with page layout, recipe lineup, and kitchen time. Then, on the day of a shoot, they work in concert with food stylists, photographers, and photo team test cooks (the ones who actually prepare the food in the photos you see in our cookbooks) to make these recipes come to life.

I spoke with two members of the design team, art director Lindsey Chandler and deputy art director Allison Boales, about their favorite shots from our new cookbook full of stunning photography (and inspired recipes), Vegetables Illustrated. Read on for some behind-the-scenes intel on the thinking behind each of the photos (some of which didn’t even end up making it into the book!) and what made each of them so special.

Bookstore

A MODERN GUIDE WITH 700+ RECIPES Vegetables Illustrated

An exciting guide with stunning photos and inspired recipes for everything from your favorite everyday vegetables to more adventurous farmers’ market choices.

 

Baguette with Radishes, Butter, and Herbs

Lindsey Chandler: This shot just lets the radish be the star of the dish, which was really fun because the radish doesn’t always get to be the star. It’s an “in process” shot, so we haven’t cut it yet, and you can still see all the other elements of the dish, like the chopped parsley and flaky salt. We carefully thought about which radishes we were going to show, and we chose the most beautiful ones. We went for a variety—all different colors and sizes—and just let them do the work. It was the same idea as the book, really—the vegetable does the work. They’re so beautiful, don’t cover them up. Plus, it was just really delicious to eat.

Purslane and Watermelon Salad

Allison Boales: This is just a really happy dish. We tried a couple different angles—the one that we ultimately chose for the book is at a lower angle—but this would have been the full-page photo. It’s really playful and has some movement, the way the stylist removed some of the salad. But you can still see all the different components. The watermelon is so bright against the light blue plate and the green of the purslane. It’s also nice to see the tiny droplets of oil—it’s not too much, so it doesn’t feel greasy; it still feels fresh and inviting and delicious. You can really feel the seasonality of this one.

Shishitos

LC: I love how this shot is so graphic and bold. It has really great food appeal but also feels like a piece of art. Shishitos are just so interesting to look at, with their varying shapes and blistered browning.

We went into this shoot knowing that we didn't want to plate the food. We wanted to have it be more of a conceptual shot. The food stylist organized the peppers in a perfectly imperfect manner to get that "organized chaos" sort of feel. The shot ended up in a gallery of photos on the cover, but for a while, we considered using it as the only image on the cover—you can see the space we left for the book's title. It’s just really striking.

Roasted Radishes with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce

AB: We shot this as a potential cover. We didn’t end up using it there but it made it pretty far along. Stylistically, it was so different for us—so modern. It was a fun one to shoot because [Deputy Food Editor] Steph Pixley had worked on this recipe in the kitchen, but it wasn’t fully finalized until we were taking photos of it since it's such a visual dish. So she was making adjustments as we were shooting until we had this really beautiful, fully realized dish.

The food stylist took her time to carefully smear the yogurt—that careful attention makes it so beautiful. The pepper flakes on the sauce add that textural element. They’re so appealing to me, those flecks of pepper. The stylist also picked through to get a variety of radish colors and leaves, to make sure they were all represented in the dish. All the colors of the dish add up to just a super appealing shot.

Braised Parsnips with Cranberries

AB: We shot another parsnip recipe the same day we shot this one, and I’ll admit we weren’t super excited to shoot another one. But this one was really appealing. We weren’t expecting it to be so pretty, but with the dried cranberries and parsley garnish, it ended up being a surprisingly simple but pretty shot that day.

Fresh Chiles

AB: We have a section in the book where we talk about different types of fresh and dried chiles, and we had to think of a new way to illustrate it since it’s different than, say, a styled photograph of a recipe. This shot of the fresh chiles was fun because it had to be a certain crop to fit on a printed page, so we were ever-so-carefully moving each of these chiles just so, just a tiny bit at a time. And all of the different sizes and colors of the different chiles makes it a really vibrant shot.

Fresh Corn Salad

AB: When we first saw this recipe, we were like, “How do we shoot this?” The recipe makes a large quantity, so you run the risk of everything starting to blend together. First, we chose a colorful dish to allow the other colors to pop. It’s a nice play on primary colors—the blue against the red and the yellow is really pretty here. Then the photographer, once we were happy with it, got in really close, which helped focus on what you’re actually looking at. You can see the charring on the corn that way, and the little details in the parsley, but there’s still that scale there so you still get the sense that it’s a big salad that serves a lot of people.

Nori-Crusted Salmon

AB: This recipe is so good, and it really shows how a vegetable can transform a dish, but when the finished dish first came to us, all we saw was how dark it was. So we had to come up with some ways to brighten it up. In the end, you can really see the sesame seeds, and the colors of the chiles and scallions really pop against the dark nori. Also, the angle of the shot is important. We got low, so you can see the texture and color of the salmon.

Crispy Pan-Seared Sea Bass with Ramp Pesto

LC: The second I saw this fish on set, I knew we were going with an overhead shot. It’s so pretty, with its scales and browning, that we almost didn’t want to touch it, but we needed to incorporate the two components—the fish and the sauce—and make it feel like one meal. So breaking into the fish and scooping it into the sauce made it beautiful without taking too much away from the fish. We also wanted to make sure the pesto was as important as the fish, so we made sure to give that even more space than the fish to give it equal balance.

Roasted King Trumpet Mushrooms

LC: This shot is a good example of our plan changing when we see the food. Originally we thought we’d shoot it on the cooking surface, but they cook in a sheet pan scored-side down, and once we saw the mushrooms, we knew we had to show off the scoring. So we decided to move away from a plate and shoot the mushrooms on a flat surface—it makes the food feel more like a piece of art because the shape and texture of the mushrooms are so striking, especially with a drizzle of the bold Red Wine-Miso Sauce. So we figured we’d let the food do the work and go with another “organized chaos” layout, with the mushrooms just spread out over the surface.

Roasted Carrots and Shallots with Chermoula

LC: We ended up going with a composed platter for the shot in the book, but I love what the vegetables are doing on their own here. They just look so appealing with that browning. It’s that graphic nature of just wanting the vegetables to shine. The shot we ended up putting in the book is beautiful, but doesn’t this make you hungry? Can’t you just taste the caramelization?

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