If you have ever thought about trying something new, now is the time to try these foods! Tasting them at the peak of their season means maximum flavor. Not sure how to prepare them? That’s why you called us! 😉
What do you listen to while you are cooking? Heavy metal, soft rock, Boss Nova radio on Pandora? Maybe you don’t listen to music at all or, you prefer talk-radio or the news. We asked our chefs, and most of them said Pandora or podcasts. Here are some of their favorite foodie and food-adjacent podcasts. Share with us your favorites!
This month’s chef’s spotlight is dedicated to Tyler Wicezorek. He is a personal chef and Friend in Indianapolis
In his own words.
In 2006, I graduated Cum Laude from Sullivan University with an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts. When I started I could barely cook a grilled cheese sandwich or scrambled eggs, but I knew I didn’t want a normal “desk job”. I also knew I wanted to work with science. I figured at the very least I would never have to worry about going hungry being a chef (I was right!). However, it was a bit different than I expected and a whole lot harder.
Luckily, I made it through school with my raw determination and friends I had made along the way. I’ve been cooking professionally now for 13 years in kitchens throughout Louisville, including the ones at Churchill downs. Working on the riverboat, The American Queen, cruising the Ohio and Mississippi rivers was definitely my favorite job of the bunch. Before Friend That Cooks, I worked at the steakhouse in Hoosier Park.
When I’m not cooking, I’m the Vice President and co-owner of Wizard of Paws Wildlife Education Inc. along with my wife of 5 years. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit wildlife sanctuary that takes in domestic wildlife that can’t be released back into the wild. We use them to educate schools and the community about the delicate ecosystem all around us. Currently, we take-in foxes and New Guinea singing dogs, but are looking to expand and care for more animals with the help of donations from the community.
This month’s chef’s spotlight is dedicated to Krystal Vazquez. She is a personal chef and Friend in Kansas City.
In her own words.
If there is any universal language (apart from Math, ha) it is food. We all speak it. Food is memory, comfort, caring. Not just the thing that fuels us, but something that brings us together for all manner of celebration. The joy you can bring someone simply by fixing them a scratch-made meal is remarkable. Being a born people pleaser, I knew that in cooking I would find the perfect conduit to spread this joy to others.
Growing up I wasn’t much the Saturday morning cartoon type of kid – I would rather be watching Justin Wilson on PBS. We all remember him, that Cajun chef with his jolly catchphrase “I Guar-on-tee!”. Watching Mr. Wilson was like spending time with a beloved grandparent. I loved his gentle style of storytelling and learning about the food that moved him. With his help, I was about 10 years old when I decided that being a Chef is what I wanted to do with my life.
In high school I took every culinary, nutrition and home economics course offered. I was president of the FCCLA and traveled state wide to participate in cooking competitions. It was at this time I discovered Johnson & Wales University, alma mater of the likes of Emeril Lagasse and Tyler Florence. In 2004 I graduated Summa Cum Laude with my Associates in Culinary Arts from the Norfolk, VA campus. Several years later after marrying my high school sweetheart and starting my family, I graduated again from Johnson & Wales with my Bachelor’s in Food-Service Operations and Culinary Management.
My career has been spread across prestigious country clubs (The Country Club of Virginia and Pinehurst to name a few). I have been a sous chef in private catering establishments and at upscale senior living communities, which have given me experience not only in event work and fine dining but also therapeutic diets. Joining Friend that Cooks over a year ago has by far been the most gratifying career move I’ve made to date. I’m able to continue my dreams of sharing joy while being able to spend more time with my family. The best of both worlds!
In my free time I also spend time with my goofy bulldogs, I enjoy painting and interior decorating. I’m also fond of the music scene in Kansas City and am always game for a live show. Having the Royals and the Chiefs in the same town is fantastic and I love going to games when I get the chance.
You’ve meticulously studied the recipe. You’ve gone to specialty grocery stores and purchased every single obscure ingredient. You followed the directions exactly. You seasoned with salt and pepper, plated the exotic meal beautifully, put it on the table, and it tastes. . . ok.
To me, the most important skill a cook can master, in regards to savory cooking, is the ability to taste what you’ve made and then know what you can do to elevate it to perfection. No matter how closely you follow a recipe, there will always be variables in your kitchen and ingredients that differ from those of the author of the recipe. A skillful chef or even a good home cook knows how to combat these differences and fix a meal that needs just that little extra. Most recipes encourage you to season with salt and pepper. I would argue that seasoning with acid, sweetness, and fat are just as important. There’s a reason restaurants often garnish fish with citrus wedges to squeeze or top a steak with a pat of garlic-herb butter.
I think the easiest way to practice the skill of tasting and adding salt, acid, sugar, or fat to perfection is to make a simple vinaigrette. This is the simplest balance of the four components. Whisk up your favorite vinaigrette recipe and then taste it. Does it taste bland? It probably needs more vinegar or salt. Is it too sour? Some added oil (fat) or honey should temper the acidity. Is it too salty? You can dilute the salinity by adding volume to the vinaigrette with vinegar and oil. Does it taste right, but somehow doesn’t feel rounded out? A dab of honey should round out any rough edges. Mastering this process to find the perfect balance is the key. Once you have this skill, you can easily apply it to almost any situation where dinner just seems to need a little pop.
Almost every ethnic cuisine incorporates ingredients that fill the need for each of these elements. Many ingredients bring multiple elements to the dish. The table below lists some basics, but the possibilities and combinations are endless once you become familiar with new ingredients and recognize which of these elements they add to your food.
Salt, Cotija Cheese
Lime, Hot Sauce, Pineapple
Avocado, Cheese, Crema,
Pineapple, Piloncillo, Honey
Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce, Miso
Yuzu, Rice Wine Vinegar, Lime
Coconut Milk, Silken Tofu, Sesame Oil
Mirin, Mango, Papaya
Parmesan, Anchovy, Prosciutto
Tomatoes, Balsamic, Lemon
Olive Oil, Cheese, Egg Yolk
Red Wine Vinegar, Lemon
Port Wine, Orange
Salt Cod, Iberico Ham, Manchego Cheese
Olive Oil, Almonds
-Mark Maybon has been a personal chef and Friend for three and a half years. He serves our Kansas City, St. Louis, Wichita and Twin City markets.
Artichokes are one of the more underutilized vegetables in the produce isle. They for sure do not scream “Eat me! I’m delicious!” with all of those thorns, tough, bitter, outer armor and hairy insides. But once you get down to the sweet delicious meat, we promise the effort will be worth it! Sure, you can buy a can of artichoke hearts for $4 a can. And that’s all fine and well for a seafood pasta or pizza topping. But nothing says summer like a stuffed artichoke and a cold can of beer (or a glass of rose, we’re not judging.)
Getting them ready, though, that takes some finesse. So, we broke it down for you in the handy step-by-step guide. The stuffing? That’s all you! Use whatever you want. But for the best combos, we recommend a little cheese, breadcrumbs and herbs. Crab, shrimp or even white beans would also taste delicious.
First: You gotta buy the artichokes. Look for ones that are heavy for their size with tight, green leaves. Some brown spots are ok.
Second: This is where the prep starts. Remember the 80/20 rule? This is definitely a situation where being prepared pays off in the end.
You will need: a large cutting board, kitchen sheers or scissors, a sturdy and SHARP chef’s knife, a large soup spoon, a large bowl for scraps, a parchment lined sheet pan (or a steamer basket on the stove top) and your stuffing.
Third: Tear off the bottom leaves from the stem of the artichokes. Next, using your sheers, cut just the tip off the leaves working in a circular pattern all the way around the artichoke, removing the thorns. It works well to hold the artichoke over the scrap bowl, so the leaves fall right in. Makes for easier clean-up. Then, turn the artichoke on it’s side and using your chef’s knife, slice off the top third of the choke, exposing the purple flower center. You can also remove the stem now. The leaves are tough, so be careful and use your knife in a sawing-like motion to make the cut. Don’t try to push straight down…that won’t do anything except bruise the leaves and hurt your shoulder!
Fourth: Take out the choke. The purple center is actually the flower of the plant. If left alone, the artichokes would bloom and drop its seeds. Underneath the soft purple leaves is the center, or the choke. It is full of fine, hair-like seed pods that float in the air after the plant blooms. They are not very tasty and do not have a good mouth-feel, so they gotta go. Plus, we need to make room for the stuffing! The easiest way is to use the side of a large soup spoon. Work the edge of the spoon under the little hairs and scrape them out, exposing the edible choke, aka “meat”, underneath. Again, work over a scrap bowl for easier clean-up.
Fifth: Stuff it, bake it and eat it! Or don’t stuff it. Either way, it’s delicious! They can be baked on a sheet pan in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or steamed on the stovetop. Use the tip of a paring knife thru the stem end to check for doneness. When it inserts easily, they are cooked thru. To eat, pull off a leaf and scrape it against your teeth to remove the meat. Don’t eat the green leaf. No amount of cheese could ever make those tasty! (If you are not stuffing them, dip the choke end of the leaf in clarified butter for extra deliciousness.) When the leaves have all been picked, the tasty sweet choke heart is left behind and up for grabs!
You can keep the choke centers and use them for other recipes or eat them plain. To clean the artichoke all the way down to the choke center, have a bowl of acidulated water off to the side and then follow steps one thru three above, but keep the stem attached as there is good meat inside. Remove the outer leaves using a chef’s knife, working in a circular pattern around the artichoke.
Leave the hairy choke attached while you do this to keep the center from oxidizing. Once the outer leaves have been removed, rub the choke center with ½ a lemon to stop the oxidation process.
Next, follow step four to remove the hairy choke and drop immediately into the acidulated water while you work on the others. Work quickly as they will brown quickly from the air. The now clean artichoke hearts can be steamed, fried, roasted, sautéed or grilled and used in hundreds of different recipes! Click the link below to get some recipe ideas from delish.com!
Looking for a fun and easy recipe to bake with the kids this Easter weekend? Check out these “Empty Tomb” rolls. You can’t go wrong with marshmallows, butter and cinnamon and sugar! Just be sure to seal them tight so the gooey goodness doesn’t escape from the “tomb”.
Meet our March Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Jacob Gordon Wright!
Chef Jacob Gordon Wright was born and raised in the rural town of Lawson, Missouri, forty miles north of Downtown Kansas City. In high school, his focus was chemistry and playing tuba with no set career goals. After high school, he was introduced to the culinary program at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, KS. Since day one, he fell in love with the culinary arts and soon realized his passion for preparing really great food.
Jacob has always felt strongly that he wanted to experience everything the hospitality industry has to offer. He has worked in many different types of food service operations, from hospitals and hotels to catering and country clubs, absorbing all he can at every location. In fall of 2013, Jacob earned his chef certification through the American Culinary Federation, and two Associate Degrees in Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts with an emphasis in dietary management.
Creating food is his art, but Jacob wanted to do more for others too. Teaching soon became his next goal. Just over one year ago, Jacob joined the Friend That Cooks family of personal chefs. It has been an incredible stepping stone for him to move from behind the line in restaurants to helping families improve their quality of life and educate them on basic nutrition that the general public lacks. At the end of the day, Jacob does not cook only to fill stomachs and nourish minds; he cooks to bring happiness into everyone’s life. Being able to connect with his clients and their families, and to see first-hand how the food he prepares directly improves their lives, is such an important part to loving what he does.
When he is not cooking, Jacob enjoys spending his free time with family and friends, wood working and being outdoors. He especially likes foraging and camping in the spring. In the winter months, when he is stuck indoors, he likes playing video games and experimenting with new recipes.
Kosher for Passover, and gluten-free, these cookies work all year round! Start early, or the day before, because this dough needs some time to chill. Check out the recipe for these delicious almond cookies from Epicurious below!
During Pesach/Passover many Jewish people use hard-boiled eggs as part of the celebration. However, Jews from the Sephardi/Mizrachi tradition use oven-roasted or braised eggs. Beitza. This can be tricky because eggs will explode if they are just put into the oven and roasted at high temperatures. So, here are some traditional methods for roasting an egg:
The traditional method from Jews who lived in Transylvania/Turkey and the Balkan countries (Bulgaria/Romania, Croatia/Serbia, Macedonia, etc.) is to rub the egg with oil, and partially submerge it into the braising liquid with the meat and vegetables being prepared in the oven for the Seder meal.
The Mizrachi tradition (from Iran/Persia, Iraq/Syria, etc.) is to rub oil on the egg and wrap strips of meat around it, or stuff the eggs into the cavity of a hen or create a pocket in the meat to put the egg so the meat is holding/covering it. This acts as an insulation and causes the eggs to heat slower and cook evenly, so there’s less chance that the egg will explode
Another interesting method is the Yemenite-Jewish tradition of soft-boiling the egg for two to four minutes in coffee, and then placing the egg into or under the roasting meat in the oven. Whichever way you try, roasting an egg makes it really flavorful because the juices, broth, the flavors from spices, and the meat permeate the egg while roasting to create a wonderful treat!
At the conclusion of the Seder, it is customary to wish everyone Shalom/Peace and a return to the homeland by saying “Next year in Jerusalem!
-Written by Rabbi Yehonatan Levy (Chef Jonathon Levy)