Part two of photographing the
Listen To Your Vegetables cookbook
I’ve known Sarah Grueneberg for over a decade. I met her through my wife, Celeste, who worked as the Pastry Chef at Spiaggia when Sarah was the Executive Chef. Of course, I’ve always loved Sarah’s cooking, but I’ve always admired her for her tenacity and talent. She sees food in such a special way and because of my experiences with her over the years, I knew that the cookbook project would be rewarding.
Listen to Your Vegetables is a love letter to seasonality. The book is full of Italian-inspired vegetable-led recipes – yes, there is pasta, but vegetables are the star. The goal was to authentically capture seasonal produce and to sell the reader on the importance of cooking with the best ingredients at the right time of year.
Ricotta Ravioli with Confit Cherry Tomatoes and Marjoram ~ p.398
In our first meeting we plotted how we would get this done and we landed on 15 shoot days from May to October, ensuring that we’d have perfectly in-season vegetables. There was no food stylist, just Sarah and her team. This is atypical and it got me really excited about the project.
The Dream Green Team
Sarah was all about listening to the vegetables and I’m all about letting the food speak for itself, we were on the same page for sure. I knew that every dish would be authentic, loose, and beautifully flawed. There would be no styling tricks to make the food look good, everything would be styled as if we were about to sit down and eat it ourselves. We were able to partner with Lorrie J, who contributed her incredible perspective on propping, and we were ready to shoot.
Rigatoni with Pea Pesto, Pecorino, and Italian Sausage ~ p.81
We started with Asparagus, and I instantly saw Sarah’s POV for the book. She talked about the asparagus as if it was a person using descriptors like elegant, graceful, a vegetable with discerning and sophisticated taste – I mean it can’t be paired with just anything!
Fava Bean and Ricotta Bruschetta with Mint and Aged Peconino ~ p.67
What I can tell you is Sarah listened to every vegetable – tomatoes, versatile and generous because they enhance everything else, carrots, an under-the-radar cool kid that brings a certain something to every party. And I contemplated how to let them speak for themselves once they were on camera.
Lillian's Whole Stuffed Cabbage ~p.107
Double-Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Burrata and Black Pepper ~p.371
We started with the raw product, then Sarah incorporated it into beautiful, mouth-watering dishes. We’d shoot the dish and then sit down as a team to eat the food for lunch.
From asparagus and ramps to root vegetables and squash, we captured the story of season to season in the Midwest. Her dishes really do speak for themselves.