behind the blog: A Brown Table

recipes + photos by Nik Sharma

A Brown Table

In the next installment of our new series, we introduce you to Nik Sharma, whose award-winning blog A Brown Table has captivated people all over the world. We love his style of photography as well as his interesting flavor profiles. You can also find his weekly column in the Sunday home and food section of the San Francisco Chronicle.

1. What inspired you to start A Brown Table
I’ve always loved to cook but I didn’t want to just share recipes on my blog—I wanted to talk about food from an immigrant’s perspective. 

2. How have you seen the food world change since you started your blog? 
My blog is a little over five years old so much has changed since then. There are a lot more food blogs than they were then and there is a lot more emphasis on the visual aspect of food.  

3. Did you grow up around food, did your parents cook? 
My dad likes to cook more than my mom even though she works in the hospitality industry. Growing up in an Indian household, we were constantly surrounded by spices and ingredients as well as a variety of different fruits and vegetables. 

4. Do you have a favorite childhood memory around food? 
My favorite memories are those when we traveled and I got to taste and sample street food whenever possible. Every city has some kind of unique food that people love to eat and street food usually best captures and represents the people from a region.

5. We love how you capture a specific moment in your recipe photos. Is that the most interesting part of the photography process for you? 
When I worked in the back of the kitchen as a cook, it was an eye opening experience. Not only do you get to see all the activity but you also get to meet people from all walks of life. My style is a way for me to share and draw attention to that colorful palette that represents the people cooking food. Often that gets lost in translation since we usually experience the front-end of most restaurants. I love motion and when I started to photograph for the blog, photographing hands was deemed unacceptable by most food photography curating sites, but for me it was a way for me to tell a story. My story and my love for not only about the food but the process of creating it.

6. What’s one tip you would offer people when photographing? 
Rules were meant to be broken, practice and make mistakes, and learn from them. At the end of the day, photography is a tool to provide people a glimpse of the world and tell a story and only the ones with a unique perspective tend to stand out. 

7. What inspires you when creating a recipe? 
I look for technique and flavors when it comes to creating a recipe. Most of my recipes usually stem from some sort of experience that I’ve encountered and so I attempt to create something that reflects just that.

8. Savory or sweet? 
Sweet. I have a terrible sweet tooth especially when it comes to ice cream. 

9. Favorite beach or coastal destination? 
Before I moved to the West Coast, we’d travel often to the beaches up on the East Coast, like Martha’s Vineyard and Fire Island, but as I’ve explored more of the West Coast, Pacifica and the many little strips and hidden spots along the Lost Coast are some of the most beautiful spots in the country. Outside the United States, I would have to go with Goa in India, where my mom’s family is originally from. 

10. If you were planning a beach picnic, what would you pack? 
Lots of champagne for sure, bread with some good butter, honey, and cheese. 

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tea and ginger-infused lemon tart

tea and ginger-infused lemon tart

You can use this recipe for a nut-based crust, or your own favorite recipe.

  • Lemon curd
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 4 darjeeling tea bags
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I used meyer lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Crust
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
  • 14 ounces whole walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup oat flour
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
  1. Pour boiling water over tea bags in a cup and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Squeeze bags and discard. Place extracted tea liquid in a small saucepan and reduce to 2 tablespoons. It will be very dark and concentrated. Allow to cool completely. Once cooled, whisk in cornstarch to form a slurry. Set aside.
  2. Prepare a pot of boiling water. Place a large glass bowl over pot, making sure level of water is an inch below base of bowl (this allows steam to heat eggs evenly). Place eggs and sugar in bowl and using a hand whisk or handheld electric whisk, whisk at high speed for about 5 minutes until eggs become pale yellow and light and fluffy. Whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest, ginger, butter, and tea-cornstarch slurry. Whisk continuously, until mixture transforms into a thick custard. Remove from heat and transfer to container. Set aside until ready to use. Lemon curd can be prepared a day ahead in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.
  3. Make crust. Preheat to 325°F. Place a wire rack in middle of oven. Lightly grease a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a little butter. Cut a piece of parchment paper same size as base of pan and place on top of buttered bottom of pan. Place pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.
  4. In a food processor, add walnuts and sugar and pulse for a few seconds to grind together to form a coarse powder. Remove mixture and transfer to a medium bowl. Add oat flour and butter and using your hands, mix to form a dough. Transfer dough to prepared pan and spread out to cover pan and edges in an even layer, using your fingers. Bake tart for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven and pour lemon curd into tart shell. Level filling using a small offset spatula. Return tart to oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes, until edges of filling start to get firm while center jiggles slightly when gently shaken. Remove tart pan and allow to cool completely at room temperature. Once cooled, release tart carefully from pan. Refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours before serving. Dust with confectioner's sugar if desired. 

Makes 1 9-inch tart.


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