My toddler daughter and I were recently invited to an authentic Sri Lankan dinner party. We had a blast and the food and company were so delightful! I’ve teamed up with my friend Yasara who hosted us to bring you a delicious and super nutritious Sri Lankan dish. Not to mention this Sri Lankan beet curry looks like little ruby jewels of goodness. Thanks Yasara for a beautiful day of food and fun!

Also, Sri Lankans eat with their hands to blend the food and flavors which is just about a dream come true to me. It really brings a new experience to food adding the tactile experience with your hands. I think it makes fo a deeper level of appreciation for flavor and nourishment.

Dark-skinned woman's hand peeling a red onion. Sliced red onion and curry powder on dark handmade plate. Turmeric powder, peppercorns and fresh curry leaves in dark handmade bowl.Dark-skinned woman's hands slicing red beets.Turmeric, red onion, curry powder and peppercorn ingredient shot on dark handmade dishes.Dark-skinned woman's hand sprinkling turmeric over pan of beet curry.Sri Lankan vegan beet curry in metal panDark-skinned woman eating Sri Lankan beet curry with her hand.

  • 2-3 red beets with tops, peeled and sliced beets into slim chunks – chop leaves
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons coconut milk powder
  • 1/2+ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2+ teaspoon un-roasted curry powder
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 3-4 fresh curry leaves
  • coconut oil to sauté
~Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat.
~ Brown onions and garlic, then add beets.
~ Add coconut milk powder, turmeric, and curry powder and stir to combine.
~ Salt and pepper to taste then add curry leaves. Mix thoroughly.
~ Cover and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes until beets soften a bit. Feel free to add more curry powder and turmeric to suite your taste.
~ Once beets soften a bit, add beet leaves and cook them down.
~ Remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes before giving them a final stir and serving.
 Dark-skinned woman eating Sri Lankan beet curry with her hand.

Good grief it is soooo wickedly hot all I want is cold food that doesn’t require my oven to be turned on. What is the deal with this heat? 111 degrees today and it’s a struggle to do anything except be underwater in the pool!

For years I’ve been after Molly for this recipe! It goes without saying here that any barbecue or get together at my house goes with an unspoken request for this salad. The flavors are so perfectly balanced, the textures so crisp and fresh, that I’m still surprised by the simplicity of the recipe. It really is a quick, non-lettuce salad to bring anywhere as a respectable contribution to any meal. Now I have the recipe immortalized here and can never lose it again. Whew!

Here’s a bunch of pretty food and beautiful Molly images to get you in the recipe mood. Thanks Molly!!

Grilled corn cob in the husk

Woman's hand cutting grilled corn from the cob

Hands tossing summer Corn Salad with tomatoes and avocado

hands squeezing lemon into summer Corn Salad with tomatoes and avocado

  • 4 Ears of Corn
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 container of cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 large or 2 small avocados
  • 1 ball of fresh mozzarella
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
~ To grill the corn, heat grill on low and place the corn directly on the grill with the husks on. Turn occasionally.  After about ten minutes, remove husks and char 1-2 minutes each side. Let cool.
*** If you do not grill the corn, slice it off the cob first and sauté in EVOO until cooked through. Let stand to cool. If you sauté the corn, no need to add more olive oil when dressing the whole salad.
~ While the corn is cooling, dice the red onion, halve or quarter the tomatoes depending on size. Chop the avocado and mozzarella into bite size pieces. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
~ Once the corn has cooled to the touch break each ear in half to slice off the kernels. Toss the corn with the other ingredients and lightly drizzle EVOO and Balsamic vinegar.
**Variation: Use lime instead of lemon and add some fresh cilantro. Yum!
Summer Corn Salad with tomatoes and avocado

My life as a new mom has really taken a devastating toll on my veggie consumption. I took for granted all the time I used to spend on prepping and making veggie filled meals! Dang, that was a lot of chopping, slices, sautéing etc. Given my lack of spare time or hands to cook with these days, I set about ways to pre-prep a bunch of veggies for quick assembling and vegetable starved gobbling! This is one of those recipes. Spend a few minutes shaving asparagus and poaching a couple eggs and you have a crunchy but substantial power meal on your hands.

You can even shave the asparagus and store it in a covered bowl in the fridge with a damp paper towel over top so that you can quickly pull from it for last minute meals. A bunch of soft boiled eggs made in advance would also do the trick for a quick, thrown together lunch!

Salad, recipe, asparagus, prosciutto, egg, healthy, food photographer, food photography, crystal cartier


  • one bunch asparagus, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 4 ounces prosciutto di parma, cut into pieces
  • slivered almonds
  • hard aged goat cheese, finely shredded
  • one poached egg
  • salt and pepper

~ To poach the egg, bring water to a simmer in a short, wide pan. Add a splash of vinegar. One by one, crack the eggs into a small bowl and slowly place into pan. Turn off heat, cover pan, and let cook for 5 minutes without disturbing. Remove with a slotted spoon.

~ Make a nest on a plate with shaved asparagus (some people make like to dress the asparagus by first tossing it with some olive oil and lemon juice, I’m not one of those people but maybe you are;). Sprinkle generously with almonds and goat cheese. Top with as much prosciutto and lastly with one or two poached eggs.

~ Salt and pepper to taste.






This is the very definition of quick and hearty! I used to dislike smoked salmon unless it topped gobs of cream cheese. While it’s still super tasty with tons of cream cheese, which we used generously in this recipe, I love it all the time on almost anything now. This sandwich is piled high with all the good stuff, the crunch of veggies, the salty chew of smoked salmon, the cool creamy tartness of creme fraiche and cream cheese and the toasted goodness of a sourdough baguette. What else is there in life?!

This’ll fill ya up without taking you down! Not to mention how welcome a no-cook (toasting optional;) meal is in the summer heat!

radishes, sliced, food art, food photographer, food photography, crystal cartier

smoked salmon, sandwich, lunch, recipe, food photographer, food photography, crystal cartier

  • sourdough baguette, sliced lengthwise
  • cream cheese
  • creme fraiche
  • radishes, sliced into coins
  • smoked salmon
  • sunflower sprouts
  • avocado, sliced
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • capers, drained

~ Preheat oven to 350 degrees and toast baguette for about 5 minutes until slightly golden.

~ Whip together a 50/50 mix of creme fraiche and cream cheese. This is optional but so delicious. Feel free to use just cream cheese if it makes your life easier;)

~ Spread cream cheese/creme fraiche on toasted baguette and starting piling on the capers and radishes, followed by the salmon, tomatoes, sprouts and avocado.

~ Unhinge that jaw and take a giant, satisfying bite. Patting yourself on the back for a meal well-assembled is optional but encouraged.


At the farmers’ market this week I stumbled upon some gorgeous, perfectly crisp and sweet snap peas. Snap pea season is so short in our hot climate so I was amped to get a giant bag at their peak of perfection. When I got home I realized how over-zealous I was and that we’d have to eat snap peas every day to use up the obscene quantity I had bought. Darn;)

Anyway, sushi grade ahi tuna might be a bit tough to source but I always find it really fresh and vibrant at our local asian market. This recipe has a a great mix of contrasting textures and flavors. The crunch of the peas and radishes against the tender ahi flesh pairs wonderfully with the pepper radishes, sweet snap peas and spicy ginger vinaigrette. To die for! We like it heavy on the ginger over here so adjust for your personal taste:)

ahi tuna, snap pea, salad, radish, recipe, food photographer, los angeles, Crystal Cartier


  • ~1 pound fresh ahi tuna, salted and peppered, seared at high heat for 2 minutes each side, cut into chunks
  • ~1 pound sugar snap peas, strings and tops removed and chopped
  • 8 radishes, very thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon toasted black sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup ginger vinaigrette
  • salt and pepper


  • 1/2 cup macadamia nut oil
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon seedy whole grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

~Toss all salad ingredients together in a large bowl.

~ Toss all vinaigrette ingredients except macadamia nut oil into a blender and blitz until smooth. While blending, slowly add the macadamia nut oil until it emulsifies. Store leftover vinaigrette in fridge.

~Drizzle salad with desired amount of vinaigrette and toss to coat. Serve immediately if desired, but flavors gain depth from chilling for an hour then serving.


ahi tuna, snap pea, salad, radish, recipe, food photographer, los angeles, Crystal Cartier

I’ve become a bit obsessed with eggplant these days. Eggplant and mushrooms are enough to make me a mostly vegetarian because they are so dang meaty and amazing. This dish has both so you feel like you’ve eaten something heavy and sinful but, truly, this is packed full of healthy veggies and general awesome-ness. Full disclosure: The rolls are beautiful for food photography but time consuming so if you’re not looking to impress feel free to just slice the ingredients and layer them in the casserole dish instead. Same taste, different aesthetic, quicker process!

What are some our your favorite eggplant and mushroom dishes? Please share!!!

Eggplant Ratatouille Rolls - copyright Crystal Cartier

  • Olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablspoon dried thyme
  • 3 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 medium japanese or 3 small regular eggplant, sliced 1/4″ thick lengthwise
  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8″ thick lengthwise
  • 4 oz beech mushrooms
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into sticks
  • fresh basil, sliced

~ Heat olive oil in a skillet, add garlic, thyme and tomatoes. Bring to simmer and cook until liquid is a bit reduced. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour into the bottom of a casserole dish.

~ Heat more olive oil in same skillet, add bell pepper and flash saute at medium high heat for 3-5 minutes. Salt and pepper lightly.

~ Lightly salt both the eggplant and zucchini and let drain in two colanders for 20 minutes or so.

~ Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

~ On a work surface, stack a slice of eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, mozzarella, mushroom, and a bit of basil and roll up. Arrange rolls upright in casserole dish.

~ Brush tops of rolls with olive oil and cover with foil. Bake for an hour or more or so until cheese is bubbling and veggies are tender, removing foil halfway through baking (30 minutes).

~ Let rest for 10 minutes then serve.


Eggplant Ratatouille Rolls - copyright Crystal Cartier

I had a realization that we simply don’t eat enough nachos in my house. It’s a food that gets a bad rap from all the plastic cheese product and mushy sauces we typically associate with nachos. Ick. In reality it is a quick and versatile food and can be a vehicle for all kinds of crunchy veggies and savory flavors. We put an egg on everything here. If we’re not sure what a dish is missing, we throw an egg on it and “viola!” perfection. Eggs make everything better, meats, veggies, soups…bliss. An egg on nachos was a natural next step and, boy, was it a brilliant one at that. The man and I made these for friends the other day and let’s just say they went over VERY well.

So go on, throw an egg on it! You know you want to…

Breakfast nachos with Egg by food photographer Crystal Cartier

  • Corn tortilla chips, enough to cover the bottom of the pan (I like baked)
  • Extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Dubliner cheese, shredded
  • Black beans
  • Fresh charred corn kernels  * place ear of corn directly on stove grate over a low flame, rotating periodically, until perfectly charred.
  • Tomato (chopped)
  • Jalapeño, seeded and diced
  • Avocado, sliced
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Egg over easy
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Srirachi

other options:

  • sauteed mushrooms
  • green onions
  • sauteed zucchini

~ Raise the top oven rack to 5-6″ below the broil flame. Turn on the broiler.

~ Spread chips on baking sheet or cast iron frying pan and sprinkle with cheese. Broil for 4-5 minutes, keep an eye on it.

~ Meanwhile, make over easy egg.

~ Once the cheese melted and bubbling (4-5 minutes), remove the pan from the oven. Top with all the veggies, beans, cilantro and egg. Then squirt some sriracha on there and go to town!


 Breakfast nachos with Egg by food photographer Crystal Cartier

We loooooooove brussel sprouts!!! It’s no secret, we’re a big brussel loving family here. My pups cry with more urgency for a treat of brussel sprouts than they do for red meat (yes, they’re veggie loving weirdies). This time around I came home from the market with a huge stalk of beautiful brussel sprouts, plop the bag on the floor and look away only to look back and see my youngest pup gnawing happily on the end of the stalk. Even I think that must taste pretty gross, ha! Anyway, I think most people hate these tiny cabbages because of the way they’re traditionally cooked. Why you would ever steam the life and crunchiness out of a brussel sprout to make a mealy, tasteless ball of “blah” is beyond me but, rest assured, that is not how we roll here. A quick saute in the pan is all these guys need to shine, though slow roasting is also a big hit;)

There’s no excuse not to eat your crunchy, delicious veggies when it’s this quick and easy to get a dose of the good stuff! Sometimes simple and easy really is best:)

I like using raw pecans and cooking them with the brussel sprouts because it’s gives them a fresh texture that pops a bit in your mouth. I think this will be one of this year’s lighter Thanksgiving dishes. I hope you find it a winner too!

all rights reserved Crystal Cartier 2012 copyright

  • 1 stalk or a few dozen brussel sprouts, thinly sliced (halved and halved again)
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup or more chicken broth
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • handful coarsely chopped raw pecans (or pine nuts)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • shaved parmesan or hard aged goat cheese (optional)

~ Heat large skillet and toast raw pecans over low heat until fragrant. Remove pecans from heat and set aside. In same large skillet, heat olive oil and saute garlic and shallot until lightly browned. Add brussel sprouts and toasted pecans and saute for a couple minutes.

~Add broth and cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the broth evaporates and the edges of the brussel sprouts begin to crisp. Salt, pepper and serve.

~ Top with parmesan or hard goat cheese if desired.


all rights reserved Crystal Cartier 2012 copyright

food photographer, food photography, los angeles, crystal cartier

  • 1 pound multi-colored baby carrots sliced into halves
  • 1 pound red beets cut into quarters
  • 1 pound rutabagas cut into chunks
  • 1 pound turnips cut into chunks
  • 1 pound yellow squash sliced and halved
  • 2 onions or leeks (not shown), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled

~ Coat all veggies with olive oil and put all but the garlic cloves in a baking dish (or two). Place herb sprigs on top, season with salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes, turning occassionally. Add garlic cloves and roast for 25 more minutes, turning occasionally until everything is golden brown and tender. Remove herb sprigs and enjoy!

What are your favorite veggies to roast? C’mon don’t leave us hanging!!

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