Friday, May 10, 2013

Faux Marcona Almonds and workshops recapped

Faux Marcona Almonds 

What a fun privilege it is to interact with people who share a common interest not just in food, but in the styling & photography of food as well.

Meet & Greet food  

Meet & Greet 

I was able to spend the latter portion of April doing just that sort of interacting as I revived my role of kitchen manager for two food photography workshops in Georgia and Alabama.

Held in Atlanta, the first workshop was taught by Helene Dujardin, photographer; Tami Hardeman, food stylist; and Mindi Shapiro, prop stylist.

So many lovely props! 

While I have worked with Helene and Tami before, this workshop was the first time that I met Mindi & was exposed to what exactly a prop stylist does.   She collaborates with the photographer & food stylist & ultimately determins not only what all the props should look like in the images (china, silverware, glassware, linens, name it) but where each piece should go within the frame.  

Mindi sets up the props 

Mindi discusses how to choose props for the sandwich shoot 

All three of these ladies are SERIOUSLY amazing at what they do individually, but they also come together as an awesome, collaborative team.  It was completely fascinating to watch how they worked together on several group demos.

Helene, Tami & Mindi working on the beef stew shot

The sandwich shoot demo

As with other workshops, their goal is to help the workshop participants develop their own styles (instead of just copying the style of the photographer).

Leslie shoots salad ingredients 

Helene assists Amelia

Tami assists Scott

Antipasto Shoot

My role in this workshop, aside from being the queen of the color coded label & making insanely long grocery & prep lists, is to manage the kitchen during the workshops.

lists & labels 

I organize, prepare & display the food options the participants have for shooting--we did 5 shoots over 2 days.  I also help coordinate & do some prep work on the lunches & snacks we served.  And wash dishes.  Lots of dishes.

Options for the antipasto shoot, including faux marcona almonds

But I do end up with a little bit of time to listen in on, or (if I’m lucky and ahead of my prep schedule) observe some of the sessions.  Even as someone who has worked at several food photography workshops, I still glean information at each one.

Tami demonstrates how to build the perfect sandwich

Helene photographs the beef stew

This workshop especially, with the demos & instruction of photographer, food stylist & prop stylist left me a bit jealous that I was not an attendee!  Such a wealth of knowledge.

We also had a workshop dinner at The Shed.

Fabulous meal, made very dangerous by the neverending glass of wine (i.e. our server continuously topping of everyones’ glasses).

I should mention also that we had a very special guest at this workshop.  Miss Lola, the sweetest chihuahua ever, graced us with her presence.  And stole everyone's hearts (including mine).....  


Not all of my time in Atlanta was spent in the studio space.  

Hello, Atlanta! 

I flew in a day before the workshop and Tami & her fiance Mike (and their pug, Mingus, and kitty,  Grizelda) graciously opened their home to me.

Mingus, who also doubles as a shark 

And Tami introduced me to the most magical food shopping location I have ever experienced!  Seriously, I wanted to move in or move to Atlanta, just to be closer to it.  Sadly, no pictures though because they do not allow photography inside their building :(

Following the Atlanta workshop, I traveled to Birmingham with Helene to prepare for workshop number two!

This second workshop was taught by Helene & Clare Barboza at a glorious beach house in Gulf Shores, AL.

The giant house where we stayed for the duration of the workshop was aptly named “Dream Big.”

And it even came equipped with an elevator, which proved especially useful considering the kitchens (yep, there were TWO of them) were on the third floor.

Utilizing the elevator to take out the trash

I did not think I would be able to find an assistant for the workshop (sadly, I did not have access to amazing CIC student volunteers like I did last time). Miraculously, the always hilarious, two-time-workshop-veteran Libby Stephens was able to join us as my kitchen assistant!  I do not know what I would have done without her...  Not only is she excellent in the kitchen & so hardworking, but she’s also constantly joking & laughing, which is totally welcome during some stressful, crazy-busy times in the kitchen where you are preparing all the meals AND all the shoot food.

For some of the meals, I was too busy with actual meal preparations to take pictures, but I did manage to get a few...  

Butterflied Roast Chicken with red onion & thyme 

Red Lentil Chili, possibly my new favorite soup, created by Tami Hardeman

Roasted Pineapple with Vanilla Ice Cream, Pineapple Butterscotch & Toasted Coconut 

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumbles, ready for the oven. 

Trout Provincale with Herb Roasted Potatoes & Green Salad

We had a great crop of participants, with people coming Washington, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Iowa, Texas, Florida, Virginia, even Canada & Germany!  

Tiffani & Marilyn during the dessert shoot

Helene assists students during a photo assignment 

Helene and Clare concocted several new photo assignment challenges for this workshop, but by far my favorite was final shoot: "The Can Challenge" also known as "how to take ugly canned soup and make it pretty".  

Literally, we got cans of soup from the grocery store and a plethora of garnishing items.   

Nancy styles the veggies for her beef stew shot

And it was absolutely amazing to see the beautiful photos that everyone created, especially knowing that they all started with canned soup.  

To read other recaps of the Gulf Shores Workshop, visit Clare's blog, Jerry's blog, Paola's blog, and Karen's blog

...and now back to the Faux Marcona Almonds!  

Traditional Marcona almonds are a particular variety of almond from Spain.  They're a little shorter than traditional almonds (almost so short that they're round) and a little more delicate & sweet in flavor.  Typically, they are found in more specialty stores (often in the deli section). Unfortunately, Marcona almonds are also quite a bit more expensive than their traditional almond siblings....  

But, have no fear!  You can make your own "faux" Marcona at home! In fact, I made these almonds twice at the workshops, both times for the antipasto photo shoot, and no one could even tell the difference. 

I just took regular blanched almonds (naked, as my sister would say), coated them with a little olive oil & salt, and roasted them briefly in the oven.  Super simple (and rather sneaky). 

Whether you fake your own marcona almonds or are fortunate enough to find the real thing, they make a wonderful addition to a cheese plate.  Or just in a bowl for snacking alongside a good cocktail.  

Faux Marcona Almonds

1 cup blanched whole almonds
1 tsp Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Sea Salt (or Kosher, if you have it.... I was out) + additional for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  2. In a small bowl, toss the almonds with the olive oil and salt until they are evenly coated
  3. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a parchment (or foil) lined baking pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the nuts are lightly toasted. 
  4. Cool & serve.  Sprinkle with additional salt, if desired.  


  1. These were wonderful; as was the strawberry/rhubarb crumbly, & the aioli (it is sooooo good). Will be making this recipe too. Love u Laura, thanks for sharing your wonderful recipes!

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