This was one of the first salads Convito Italiano carried. I invented it literally out of what was left in the refrigerator that day. Our first tiny shop in Wilmette had no walk-ins – just one little refrigerator. To this day, this salad is a customer favorite. —Nancy Brussat Barocci
For the vegetables
2 cups julienned carrots (2 inches long)
2 cups julienned zucchini
1 cup peapods, trimmed
1 cup peeled, seeded, julienned cucumbers
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2. For the vinaigrette, combine the oil, vinegar, salt, basil, oregano, and pepper in a medium bowl; whisk to combine.
I developed this recipe and brought it to several Les Dames functions, where it quickly became a favorite of two early members of our Chicago chapter, Katherine Smith and Marian Tripp. The salad is best made with the lovely goat cheese named for another member, Sofia Solomon: Capriole farm’s award-winning “Sofia.” — Karen Levin
3 medium red bell peppers
3 medium yellow bell peppers
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon-style, or hot Dijon-style, mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
4 ounces best quality goat cheese, crumbled
1. Preheat the broiler. Cut the peppers lengthwise into quarters; discard stems and seeds. Place the peppers, skin-side-up, on a foil-lined jelly roll pan or baking sheet. Broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat source until the skin is evenly blackened, 12 to 14 minutes. Wrap the peppers up in the foil from the pan and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine the oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, sugar, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together to make the dressing.
3. Unwrap the peppers. Working over the foil, peel off and discard the blackened skin. Pour any accumulated pepper juices from the foil into the dressing.
4. Arrange the peppers attractively in a shallow 1 1/2-quart oval or round serving dish. Whisk the dressing and drizzle over the peppers. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.
5. Before serving, bring to room temperature and top with the basil and goat cheese. Top with additional freshly ground black pepper if desired.
Angela Ortiz was awarded $2,500 and the scholarship committee was impressed by her drive and dedication to a future in the culinary community. She works at Sport Service and is part of the culinary team at Solider Field. She has great enthusiasm and organizational skills, allowing her to lead 12 cooks in the “Cold Suite Department”; which is responsible for the production of food for 133 executive suites during the Bears games, concerts and events at Soldiers Field. She also supervises 20 cooks making food for 2000 guests. A degree from Washburne will complement her diligence and work ethic.
Jennifer Melendez was also awarded $2,500. The committee learned that Jennifer has had a love of the culinary field since she was a girl scout in 5th grade, when she learned to bake. She excelled in school and earned her way to the University of Illinois. As she worked on her major there, she kept hearing a call to come home and go to Washburne and get a degree in baking. After several years she decided to follow that dream. She will be assisting in a summer pastry school for Chicago Public School students. She has many letters of recommendation from her chefs at school praising her on her dedication and ability. She would like to specialize in cake decorating and individual pastry production.
Shilly Maloyon was awarded $5,000, and she impressed the committee with her relentless work ethic and need for education. She has worked for Sheraton Hotel & Towers Convention Services Department, and, under her bosses supervision, has been transferred to work in the Food and Beverage department while attending school full time. She also is working on her Wine Specialist Certification in hopes of also becoming a sommelier. She would eventually like to teach culinary arts. She is exceptionally well spoken about her goals in the industry.
From Lexington College comes Maryjo Arienza, who is studying for her BA in Hospitality and is about to embark on her internship on one of the cruise boats on Lake Michigan. She is originally from Texas and has desires to eventually return. She was awarded a $5,000 scholarship toward her culinary studies. It will be awarded at the Les Dames d’Escoffier Annual Dinner.
Melissa Ewing from CHIC will begin her externship at a bed and breakfast in Naples, Italy. Originally from California, she has her bachelor’s degree in communications and wants to blend the culinary arts with the communication world for the perfect job. She has worked at the Peninsula, as a hostess and would like to return to Spiaggia for a job after Italy. The award of $5,000 will facilitate her future culinary training.
Gail Mitchell was raised by a single mother and started to cook for her three sisters as a teenager. Today she herself is also single parent of two children, one grown, and another in high school. She has worked as a security guard and presently is a hospice nurse and full time student with a 3.64 GPA. Both of Gail’s supporting recommendations recognized her drive and leadership ability. “I have been on a long journey, but I would not change a thing. I am where I always wanted to be.” Gail wrote in her application essay. “I am now striving towards my goal of becoming a great chef and owning my own catering and event planning business. It has definitely been a long time coming!” The scholarship committee was immediately impressed by Gail’s positive, high energy personality, and her plans for her catering business are firmly grounded.
Christina Nieves is a wife and mother finishing her Washburne degree this summer. She plans to continue on to Dominican University to work on a BS in nutrition in the fall. Christina has overcome the major obstacles of having a limited food background and cancer treatment for a tumor on her vocal chord, a condition that is now in remission. Although her academic record is not strong due to her illness, Christina received a very impressive three-page recommendation from long-time staff member Rhonda Purwin, who described her as “motivated, focused, personable and intelligent.” She also commented that unlike most culinary graduates, Christina has the realistic professional goal of working as a nutritionist in a school or hospital. Nancy Rodriguez helped interview Christina and has offered to mentor her at Dominican where she is a trustee. The committee felt that the benefit of the Les Dames scholarship was extremely important in Christina’s case.
Following the goals of last year’s scholarship committee to expand the program to other qualified professional culinary schools, the committee this year has also offered two scholarships of $5,000 to:
Luminita M. Cirstea arrived in Chicago seven years ago as a green card lottery winner from Romania, speaking no English and without friends, family or connections. Today this slim, articulate woman is an American citizen and outstanding student with a 3.5 GPA at Kendall College. In her essay she wrote, “I was very lucky. I discovered that my passion was for making desserts.” What set Luminita apart from all the other candidates we interviewed is the intensity of her drive to learn and experience the most demanding pastry techniques. She has already spent a day in several of Chicago’s most sophisticated restaurants. And the weekend before our interview with her, Luminita’s dessert had helped Kendall win a “Cook with the Chefs” competition in Baltimore. The Les Dames Scholarship will relieve Luminita’s tuition costs at Kendall. After graduation this spring, she will spend the summer in Europe at several stages arranged through faculty connections and underwritten by her brother. The committee felt that Luminita is a scholarship recipient we can continue to nurture when she returns to Chicago and whose future success will enhance Les Dames’ reputation in Chicago’s hospitality industry.
Ebru Basaydin is a green card lottery winner from her native Turkey. She arrived here just after 9/11 and had to deal with job discrimination in addition to the usual hurdles of a foreign resident. She is mid-way through her degree at the Illinois Institute of Art as a full-time student with a 3.8 GPA and works part-time at an Italian restaurant. Three recommendations accompanied Ebru’s application. J. Mark Stanley, Chef Instructor at IIA summed up their appraisal of Ebru best, “Ebru brings a perfect balance of skill, intellect and personality to bear.” The committee would add that Ebru is extremely articulate, and resourceful. She alone contacted Les Dames for a scholarship application before we got the process underway this spring. Because Ebru is strongly connected to her family, she wants to return to Turkey and write a cookbook featuring healthy versions of traditional dishes. “As diabetes and heart disease run in my family, my goal is to create appealing healthy dishes with desirable nutritional values,” she wrote. Her view of food is also nuanced: “I see food as not only a material to stimulate growth and maintain life, but also a form of art.” And she thinks globally: “As a prospective chef, I understand that my responsibility is …. to support sustainable agriculture and organic products for ourselves and future generation’s sake.” The Scholarship Committee felt that Ebru can work on an international level to advance Les Dames goals and the role of women in Turkey.
Savory, satisfying, scrumptious. That’s a great alliteration to describe these crab cakes. A nice balance of crab and cake deliver a satisfying dish with the rémoulade rounding out the flavors.
On an educational note: We are most familiar with pure vanilla extract but it is good to know the equivalents if you’re in a pinch: 1 whole vanilla bean equals 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla bean paste, 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract, or 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla powder.
For the rémoulade
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract
For the polenta
3 cups (or more) organic vegetable stock or chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup polenta
White pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
For the crab cakes
12 ounces canned or frozen lump crab meat
1 cup plain dry bread crumbs, divided
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 finely chopped green onion
3 tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract
Nonstick cooking oil spray, for frying
Make the polenta
1. Combine 3 cups stock, butter, and polenta in a large saucepan and stir to combine. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until thick and creamy, adding additional stock if the polenta becomes too thick. Season with white pepper and salt.
Make the crab cakes
1. Rinse and drain the crab meat, discarding any shell fragments.
2. Place 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Combine the crab meat, mayonnaise, egg, the remaining 1/2 cup bread crumbs, the green onion, bell pepper, parsley, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and vanilla extract in a large bowl and mix well. Shape into patties. Dredge in the dish of bread crumbs to coat.
3. Spray a nonstick skillet with oil and heat over medium-high heat. Place the crab cakes in the hot skillet and cook until crispy and golden brown.
4. Serve the crab cakes with the polenta and Vanilla Rémoulade.
Recipe © 2008 by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc. All rights reserved.