I’m still learning to use my new Lytro light field camera. It has several features that make it absolutely unique. Most importantly you can focus any part of the image while it is still in the viewfinder, and unbelievably you can focus again once you upload the image to your computer (As long as you have the provided software installed). You can make images of something very close to the lens and something in the background. Then you decide which you want to emphasize or bring everything into focus. The camera is especially useful for ultra-close-ups.
I decided to play around with the camera for images of a dish to go with the shrimp, mushroom and artichoke mac and cheese from my most recent post. Actually, I had some fresh asparagus in the fridge and some puff pastry I needed to use up. I added a little pesto from the freezer, and I wound up with something easy and a little different. The way I did things, I was only able to make three servings, but very easily – and undoubtedly better – you can make six servings by just cutting more of the stem off of the asparagus spears. The crowns are the better parts anyway.
When basil is in season and plentiful. you can make fresh pesto, but we often make extra and store it in the freezer for later use. It is also readily available in jars or frozen so that you don’t need to take the somewhat laborious extra step of making fresh pesto.
A Lytro view of asparagus heads
Three or four asparagus stems make a bundle
Asparagus, pesto, and pine nuts ready to be sealed up
Puff pastry bundles sealed and ready for the oven
Baked asparagus pesto puff pastry bundles
An accompaniment to shrimp, artichoke and mushroom mac and cheese
Asparagus and Pesto Bundles in Puff Pastry
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to directions
- 9-12 fresh asparagus spears, trimmed of the woody ends
- 1 cup fresh, frozen, or bottled pesto
- ¼ cup pine nuts, lightly browned in a dry skillet
- 1 whole egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water
- On a lightly floured surface, carefully unfold the thawed puff pastry and roll with a lightly floured rolling pin until it is about 1/16 inch thick
- Divide the rolled dough into three strips along the fold lines.
- Place 3 or 4 asparagus spears in the center of each strip ( If you wish, you can divide the dough into 6 strips and use only enough of the asparagus crowns to fit the strip.)
- Spread a generous tablespoon of pesto over each of the asparagus bundles.
- Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top of the pesto.
- Paint the edges of the dough strips with some of the egg and water mixture. Fold the dough over the asparagus and pesto. With your fingers, seal the edges of the envelope. Then finish sealing, using the tines of a dinner fork and gentle pressure.
- Arrange the bundles on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Paint the tops of the bundles with egg and water mixture, trying not to let the mixture run down onto the parchment where it is likely to burn and may stick the baked bundles to the parchment
- Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 400°F for 15 minutes or until the bundles are golden brown.
- Serve while still warm. A little Hollandaise couldn’t hurt if you like.
My son recently gave me an amazing new camera. It’s called a Lytro light field camera, and it operates on an entirely different principle than regular cameras. Peter is a techie who lives and works in Silicon Valley, so he is always up to date with the latest gadgets. This camera captures light in such a way that you can focus on any part of your image, and change the focus with the touch of a finger. You can also take close-up images from only a few centimeters away from the subject, so he thought that I would find it useful in making images of food. In spite of the instruction manual, using the camera is not intuitive – at least not for someone of my age. With practice, though, I think I have caught the hang of it. Also, you need a computer with a fairly recent operating system to take advantage of the focusing feature. Unfortunately, when you publish the images you have to convert them to jpegs so that the focusing is lost. Thus, you won’t be able to get a full appreciation of how unique the camera is, and how much fun it is to use. Except for the images of the Lytro camera, which I made with my iPhone, the images in this post are made with the Lytro. Let me know what you think of them.
The Lytro Light Field Camera
Lens-end of the Lytro camera
Screen where the focusing occurs
(Roll over image for legend, click to see gallery)
I know. I know. You are not supposed to mix fish and cheese. But I was looking for something to photograph with my new camera and decided to use what I was cooking, macaroni and cheese, as the test . But how can a person put plain old mac and cheese on a food blog? So I added a few twists to make me feel better. One of those twists is the use of Old Bay seasoning which adds just a little bit of pep to shellfish. Be careful, though, or you can over-do it. You can also omit the seasoning if you like. Here it is, then, shrimp, artichoke, and mushroom mac and cheese shot with a Lytro light field camera.
Shrimp, Artichoke and Mushroom Macaroni and Cheese
- In a medium saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.
- add the flour and stir in the flour cooking for a few minutes to remove the raw flour taste.
- Add the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to remove any lumps and to avoid scorching until thickened.
- Turn the heat to low and stir in the Cheddar, mozzarella, and Swiss cheeses. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add optional Old Bay seasoning. When the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth, remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a large pot, bring the salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook at the boil, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni is al dente. Drain.
- In the large pot, combine the cheese sauce and cooked macaroni.
- Stir in the shrimp, mushrooms, and artichokes
- Prepare the baking dish by heavily greasing the inside with butter. Then coat the butter layer with panko crumbs. Pour in the macaroni mixture.
- In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the remaining panko and brown it lightly, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Remove from the heat
- Combine the toasted panko and grated Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the macaroni mixture.
- Bake for 45 minutes in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 350°F. If the top becomes too brown, cover with aluminum foil and continue baking.
Three kinds of grated cheese
Mushrooms, scallions, parsley, artichoke hearts (clockwise from upper left corner)
Old Bay seasoning
Ready to go into the oven with the Parmesan and toasted panko topping
Out of the oven
A serving of shrimp, mushroom, artichoke mac and cheese
(Roll over image for legend, click to see gallery)