Sloane Dominick got her dream job at Kansas City Bier Company in Kansas City, Missouri, on February 14, better known as Valentine’s Day. Less than four months later, she worried about how a major life change might affect her career.
Previously, Dominick worked as a beverage manager at World Market but sought a change.
“I wanted to be on the production side of brewing,” Dominick said. Even after Dominick landed the brewery job, she said, “I felt like I was missing something.”
Professionally, the job fulfilled Dominick’s goal. She was initially hired in 2017 to work as a bartender and server at Kansas City Bier Company. She worked on the brewery’s bottling line and volunteered for odd jobs as the brewery grew. As a draft technician, she cleaned lines and even devised a method that saved Kansas City Bier Company around $1,800 a year. Personally, Dominick had a long-buried secret hidden behind a wall of uncertainty.
Valentine’s Day is named after St. Valentine of third-century Rome. The name Valentinus is derived from the Latin word for worthy, strong, or powerful. Over time, Valentine has come to represent the patron saint of couples, marriages, and the romantic February holiday. For some, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with flowers, heart-filled greeting cards, chocolate, and expensive dinner. Others reject the day as a make-believe ritual of commercialized marketing or view it through the prism of heartbreak and longing.
After launching a brewing career on this day, Dominick faced a pending choice to be strong and powerful enough to disclose her secret, or she could maintain a make-believe way of life that had already taken a toll.
In June 2017, Dominick chose to come out as transgender with a new assumed name.
“I talked about it with a friend,” said Dominick. “We discussed it and decided that I would go forward with coming out. I came out with my name Sloane on Facebook. I was afraid.”
The announcement was a decision to finally and publicly part with her previous gender and step into her feminine identity. In a way, coming out was both a breakup and an embrace of a true self she always knew existed.
That same night, she also made the announcement to friends and brewery coworkers while attending a Dogfish Head Brewery event at Bier Station, a local craft beer taproom. However, she was unsure how her coworkers would respond.
“The next day I went into work and my new name was listed on the schedule. Everyone was accepting of me,” Dominick said. “I didn’t want to give up my dream job. I feel like I was Sloane since I began working at Kansas City Bier Company. They have been nothing but supportive.”
Dominick suffered from depression for years. After making the announcement and sharing her new name, Sloane, she felt relieved and knew it was the right decision.
“I’ve known my entire life. I’ve been working on this since I was a small child,” Dominick said. I tried to bury it and focus on other things. But it’s like putting the wrong fuel in the car. It won’t run right. For twenty years, I’ve known something wasn’t right.”
“I didn’t know that transgender was even a thing until I was 13 or 14,” Dominick said. “I had to find information on a computer and find out myself.”
Growing up, Dominick didn’t like to be made to play sports or placed into a male gender role.
“I just wanted to be me. I didn’t understand until I figured out the word for it,” Dominick said. “For ten years, I buried it. Bottled it up. Sometimes, something would trigger me and I would express it.”
Long before coming out as trans, Dominick saw a therapist to address her feelings.
“The therapist gave me bad advice,” Dominick said. “I went back in the closet. I kept it hidden as a teen. I felt guilty about what I was doing. I told my mom when I was around 22, but nothing came of it.”
Later, Dominick told her mother about being transgender a second time. “I told her that she knew. She did,” Dominick said. “She’s been accepting of me and uses my name and correct pronoun.”
Dominick explained that the pronouns “she” and “her” apply to her as a female. “I’ve never been anyone else.”
Dominick first took estrogen on September 8, 2017. Before taking the prescription, she was required to see a therapist. Then Dominick was referred to an endocrinologist.
“The whole process took three months,” Dominick said. “It was the hardest three months I’ve ever had.”
Initially, Dominick wasn’t sure how quickly the estrogen would affect her. She had planned to transition socially at first. The physical impact of the prescription would take time to manifest, but the psychological response was more sudden.
“Twenty years of depression were gone when I took estrogen,” Dominick said. “I thought, ‘This must be what normal people feel like.”
Dominick’s figure began to develop more curves. She said, “I began to see myself how I wanted to see myself. The depression was gone. I finally was allowed to be myself. My brain runs better on estrogen.”
To formalize the gender transition, she legally changed her name to Sloane Dominick.
Kansas City Bier Company continues to be the place where Dominick clocks into her dream job. She also works a second job as a draft technician at The Belfry taproom and helps owner Celina Tio with beer and spirit tastings, dinners, and events.
Naturally, she continues to be a fan of craft beer. “Beer is so interesting and enjoyable,” Dominick said. “It has so many flavors.”
Socially, Dominick feels at home within the craft beer community.
“The Kansas City community is cool and accepting,” Dominick said. “It’s good to feel part of it.”
Dominick actually didn’t drink until she was 23-years-old and started drinking vodka and whiskey.
“I caught onto craft beer about four years ago and got into it as a hobby,” Dominick said. “There’s so much to discover. It’s interesting. There’s a sense of community, where I can hang out. There’s always something going on.”
Now, Dominick favors saisons, wild ales, and sours. Lambics and brett.-based beers were some of the first she explored.
“Boulevard Brewing’s Spring Belle was a formative beer,” said Dominick, referring to a 2015 seasonal Belgian-style saison made with flowers.
Dominick continues to expand her role at Kansas City Bier Company. She proposed a collaboration beer with Bier Station dubbed Wrong Place Radler. The beer will feature two syrups made by Eric Jones of Bier Station that may be added to Kansas City Bier’s hefeweizen.
Dominick said, “I came up with the name and concept, then pitched the idea to John Couture at Bier Station.”
That’s the beauty and heart of craft beer. As one of mankind’s oldest beverages that predates even St. Valentine of Rome, beer is not trapped in traditional styles and roles. Craft beer continues to evolve and grow. The talent, creativity, and imagination of skilled brewers and collaborative partners defy limitations. Similarly, the community of craft beer grows stronger by resisting limits and being true to each other and to the social and inclusive nature of beer.
Dominick summed up her connection to craft brewing as a simple yet powerful statement.
“Craft beer is part of my life’s calling,” Dominick said. “I was meant to be in beer.”
Executive Chef Michael Corvino brought a starter of cauliflower-infused panna cotta accompanied by a spoonful of osetra caviar, carefully arranged into a tiny cluster of black pearls, to my table at The American Restaurant. Moments earlier, I watched him assemble this dish in the kitchen.
Corvino invited me for a visit after he had settled in at the restaurant. His July arrival marked a time of transition at The American. Corvino’s initial focus was to update the line-up of dishes with summer well under way while looking ahead to fall, the first full season when he could implement his ideas and create a cohesive menu. Gradually, summer tomatoes and delicate greens yielded to autumnal dishes such as Duroc pork served with persimmon mustard, Szechuan peppercorn, savoy cabbage and black garlic.
Cauliflower-infused panna cotta with osetra caviar.
As a whole, Corvino’s fine dining dishes were refined but accessible. His culinary approach reflected a keen emphasis on the interplay of ingredients as he juxtaposed texture, flavor, shape and color. The final dish maintained a sense of harmony, enticing me to explore without the need to pause and figure it out. He transformed the traditional presentation of a dish without veering into molecular wizardry.
For example, this caviar dish shunned the culinary canon of arranging portions of minced onion, egg and capers around spoonfuls of roe. Instead, the panna cotta and caviar appeared as an edible landscape. Golden dots of egg yolk, gently cooked at a precise temperature of 65 degrees, added richness and color. Pale amber shards of dashi – a kombu and bonito broth that forms the foundation of miso soup – fortified with gelatin here, added pleasing umami to the dish. Dark crumbs of pumpernickel bread, a nod to the traditional use of toasted bread served with caviar, contributed crunch as a counterpoint to delicate, silky textures. Slim stalks of chives and traces of pickled shallot invited a sharp bite of acidity. Creme fraiche, another standby served with caviar, was tempered with citrusy yuzu to offset the overall creaminess. Finally, slivers of cauliflower florets reinforced the earthy notes of the panna cotta and tied the dish together.
Only the taste of each spoonful surpassed the visual presentation. Corvino execution of the dish demonstrated forethought and mastery. By re-working a classic combination of ingredients, he challenged expectations of what a dish was supposed to be.
Chef Michael Corvino in The American Restaurant kitchen.
Originally from Walla Walla, Washington, Corvino worked at several restaurants before he landed a position at the Marcus Whitman Hotel in his hometown. Over his career spanning more than a decade, he graduated to successive stints in kitchens at the Peninsula Hotel, the Ritz Carlton Resorts and The Nines. Later, he was appointed Executive Sous Chef of the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, Texas prior to his present tenure at The American Restaurant.
While cooking at Urban Farmer, a steakhouse in Portland, Corvino gained a keen appreciation for distinct ingredients and their point of origin. He said, “They served beef sourced from seven different ranches specifically for prime, grass-fed and wagyu. Portland is one of the few places in the country where local, sustainable ingredients are pulled right there from the source.”
The chef cited the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast as two of the best areas in the U.S. for sourcing regional ingredients year-round; however, local origin wasn’t – and still isn’t – his primary criteria. He said, “Quality comes first. Then I try to get fun ingredients and work from there.”
For example, he recently ordered hidden rose apples from Dragonberry Produce in Clackamas, Oregon. At The American, he prepared the aromatic apples with sour apple sauce, shaved white truffle and a touch of olive oil and fleur de sel.
Corvino said, “I enjoy pulling ingredients from the Northwest. It speaks to my heart.”
He also shipped in sturgeon from Idaho and introduced it on the menu. “It is a meatier fish. Sturgeon is where our caviar comes from,” said Corvino, comparing the fish to salmon. The added explanation helps to increase the comfort level of diners and build trust.
“I don’t want the menu to be unapproachable for diners,” Corvino said. “A lot of it is in the delivery, describing food on the menu and providing server knowledge.”
Corvino is no fan of the term “farm to table,” especially as it applies to The American. He pointed out that a certain level of fine dining, it is a given that food is sourced from local farms, butchers and vendors when available. Again, quality still matters most.
Hidden rose apples, matsutake, or pine mushroom, and Australian perigord black truffles are examples of specialty foods found in his pantry that he carefully sources to obtain the best quality. He just received blocks of katsuobushi blocks and a shaver that he ordered from Japan eight weeks ago. Katsuobushi is dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna, or bonito in some cases, used with kombu, or dried kelp, to make dashi – the flavor-filled pieces found in Corvino’s caviar and panna cotta dish.
Corvino’s cuisine doesn’t depend on exotic fare. Homespun ingredients prepared with a twist also make appearances. Shaved wafers of the subtly earthy-smelling black truffle were paired with a soft-cooked egg, carrot marmalade, truffle salt and creamy grits. Carrot blossoms, dried carrot tops and raw shaved carrot evoked the anchor ingredient with a panoply of shapes, textures and concentrated aroma. The first forkful became an introduction to a carrot’s quintessential essence as it greeted the senses. The grits communicated a sense of being taken care of; it was comfort food with a pedigree.
Corvino delivered a third dish that underscored his practice of incorporating Asian flavors into dishes. A strip loin of Japanese Akaushi Kobe beef, ordered from Arrowhead Specialty Meats in North Kansas City, was seasoned with salt and pepper and seared. Served with a confit of potatoes and herbs, tomato jus and fermented Korean chili paste, each bite impressed with its depth of flavor. Smoked garlic Bearnaise, a reduction of white balsamic, sweet garlic blossoms, bits of dried okra slices and fried Swiss chard added complexity to the dish.
The meat entree didn’t pack a heavyweight punch to the gut. It delivered big, bold flavor, easily paired with a red wine or robust beer, without inducing a subsequent food coma.
When asked about what fed his inspiration for dishes, Corvino identified two main sources. “I may have an ingredient that’s interesting. Then I ask myself, ‘What am I going to do with it?’ Or, an idea spins off of a technique that I want to use.”
For instance, Corvino mentioned Piedmontese chuck flap that appears on the current menu as a fun spin on beef and broccoli, a Chinese-American classic dish. Corvino braised the beef and prepared a version of oyster sauce that incorporated three types of soy sauce, citrus, ginger, lemongrass and other ingredients. He also whipped up XO sauce from dried shrimp, dried scallop, Chinese sausage, garlic, shallot, ginger, and, well, you get the idea. This goodness is served with salt water-poached Chinese broccoli, plus pickled shallot and crispy jasmine rice.
Chef Corvino’s knowledge of ingredients, coupled with his mastery of technique and creative instincts, results in an idiosyncratic style of food.
When we spoke over the phone this week, Corvino expressed this line of thought more directly. “I’m completely replaceable as a chef, but no chef can do exactly what I do,” he said. Other chefs can perform the same function and use the same technique, but there’s a human element to the craft as well. “The dish you do, no one else will come up with the same flavor and presentation.”
Fine dining at The American Restaurant isn’t merely the product of using the most expensive ingredients. Corvino excels at taking the best quality ingredients available and preparing a dish that elevates flavor and presentation above the mundane and expected. It’s making ho-hum beef and broccoli into a lively, interesting meal that appeals the senses and sidesteps perfunctory versions another restaurant might deliver.
With the first six months under his belt at The American, Corvino is preparing to introduce some exciting changes to the menu next year. He hints at development of a new menu format that, let’s say, will change how dishes are presented to guests.
Corvino said, “It’s still in development, but should be in place by the end of January. Combining ingredients into a dish is easy for chefs. Changing the menu format is the part that needs to be the most thought through. Considering the entire dining experience is the hard part.”
Next year promises to be an interesting adventure at The American, where Chef Michael Corvino produces bold, elevated food that reassures and rewards at the same time.
Craig Jones, Grill Mayor
Meet the Mayor
Craig Jones of Lee’s Summit, Missouri loves to smoke, no doubt about it. Not cigarettes, mind you. He’s a grill man that loves to smoke just about any food you can imagine. His dedication to grilling and smoking recently earned him notoriety. Jones has been named Grill Mayor of 2012 in a national online contest sponsored by McCormick’s and hosted on the Food Network lifestyle network.
The contest invited grill enthusiasts from around the country to give a key grilling tip accompanied by a photo. Jones’ “Master of the Grill” entry garnered over 7,777 views and more than 4,000 votes of online support during 20 days in August.
“I’m truly humbled by the generous support of friends, and friends of friends,” says Jones. “All of these wonderful people rallied around a cause and just wanted to help. I’m overwhelmed by the responses.”
As the new Grill Mayor of 2012, Jones will be flown to New York City for a private tour of the Food Network studios and have dinner at a Food Network chef’s restaurant, among other prizes.
A Man Who Loves the Grills
Jones has always liked grilling outside. At first, it was just the normal sort of grilling. A change in lifestyle and work schedule enabled Jones to pursue his interest in grilling year-round. He says, “I love using smoke as a spice. Every wood gives a slightly different flavor. For each dish I make, my first thought is, ‘How can or should I incorporate smoke into this dish?'”
Prior to 2005, he worked a very hectic retail lifestyle and traveled up to four days a week and worked 12-16 hours a day. “For a time, this also consisted of moving around the country quite a bit,” says Jones. His wife Gay also hopscotched across the country with him. “From 1993-2000, we lived in Kansas City, MO, Dale City, VA, Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, Albuquerque, NM, and then back to Kansas City in 2000.”
When he left retail and began working in the corporate offices of Sprint in the Kansas City area, Jones had a lot more time on his hands. “I decided that I needed a hobby, so I got it in my head that I was going to cook over live fire,” he says. His ambitions went beyond burgers and brats. “I thought I would try to do gourmet food over live fire, as well as adapt everything that people normally would cook inside to cook outside.”
He began to refine his cooking over live fire as much as possible. Currently, he owns seven grills. He says, “I used to say that I cook over live fire over 340 days a year, but since starting Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts that has backed down to about 300+ days a year. Earlier on I was truly doing more gourmet-type meals such as rack of lamb.”
As he’s gotten busier, the meals have become less complicated without sacrificing flavor. His favorite dish to prepare on the grill is Chicken Provençal. He says, “It’s a great recipe from Chef Jamie Purviance. of chicken legs marinated in oil, garlic, and herbs de Provence then smoked until golden brown. I serve it with pea risotto and asparagus spears.”
A Savory Story
Jones’ grilling enthusiasm even includes nuts. He created a business based on a signature item that he created on the grill – Savory Addictions® Gourmet Nuts.
“With me, it really is all about flavor,” says Jones. “We season deluxe nuts by hand in small batches, and then smoke them over real wood. What you get is an explosion of sweet, savory and smoky flavor that’s really addicting.”
Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts are available online as well as in several Kansas City specialty retailers. The Kansas City Star Food Issue 2012 listed Savory Addictions #2 on a list of 35 “people, places and things that make us drool” and that make Kansas City a great food town.
Jones’ Super Savory Cheese Ball recipe appears in the cookbook Last Bite: 100 Simple Recipes from Kansas City’s Best Chefs and Cooks, due out in late October from Kansas City Star Books. The book was edited and written by Pete Dulin and features vivid color photographs by Roy Inman.
About Savory Addictions:
Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts (cashews, almonds, pecans, Brazils and macadamias) are small batch artisan nuts, seasoned and smoked over real wood for sophisticated palates. The flavor is an addictive blend of sweet, savory and smoky. Savory Addictions contains no food colorings, MSG, high fructose corn syrup or preservatives. They are proudly hand-crafted in the greater Kansas City area.
Between July 2011 and December 2012, I photographed 19 chefs and restaurant owners and wrote profiles about them for KC Originals. During that period, I also photographed numerous dishes with accompanying recipes for the web site.
The brief profiles explore the subject’s culinary background, training, influences, and philosophy. The purpose is to inform diners about chefs and local owners at these independent restaurants in the greater Kansas City area. The recipes and profiles assist diners when scouting out local places to eat or dishes to try.
What I loved about these assignments was meeting professionals in the restaurant industry and supporting Kansas City’s local businesses and culinary scene.
Pictured above: Chef Charles d’Ablaing, Chaz on the Plaza.
Chef Debbie Gold from The American Restaurant
Chris Carle, co-owner of Coach’s Bar & Grill
Phil Bourne, owner of Waldo Pizza
Chef Steven Cameron from Gaslight Grill
Chef Stefan Haney from Rumors Steakhouse
Chef Matthew Arnold, The Webster House
Chef Glenn Bindley, The Phoenix
Chef Tom Legg, La Bodega Leawood
Broadmoor Technical Center, Broadmoor Bistro
Chef Grant Wagner, JJ’s
Chef Kathy Fiorello from Carlo’s Copa Room
Chef Michael Smith, Extra Virgin
Chef Brian Aaron, Tannin Wine Bar and Kitchen
Owner Greg Hunsucker, V’s Italiano Ristorante
Chef Carl Thorne-Thomsen, Story
Chef Charles d’Ablaing, Chaz on the Plaza
Co-owner Victor Cascone, Cascone’s Restaurant
Chef Reed Plumb, Waldo Pizza
Sushi Chef Koji Sakata, Nara
Louisiana Crawfish Salad
by Chef Julio Juarez, Starker’s Restaurant
Buttermilk Poached Campo Lindo Chicken Breast and Spring Fiddlehead Ferns
by Chef Debbie Gold, The American
Fried Paella with Mixed Greens and Creme Fraiche
by Chef English Renshaw, La Bodega
BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos
by Kokopelli Mexican Cantina
Champagne Fish and Chips
by Chef Vito Tovar, The Phoenix
Sweet Potato and Leek Soup Recipe
by Chef Charles D’Ablaing, Chaz on the Plaza
Ancho Chili Coffee-Rubbed Steak with Grand Marnier Butter
by Executive Chef Patrick Williams, Pierpont’s at Union Station
Mussels and Pernod Cream
by Chef Robert Padilla, Trezo Mare
Ahi Tuna on Bruschetta
by Chef Amy Presson from Marina Grog & Galley
by Chef Victor Cascone of Cascone’s
Shrimp in Mustard Sauce Appetizer
by Chef DeDe Shields, Shields Manor Bistro
by Anthony Spino, Anthony’s Restaurant and Lounge
Raquel Pelzel is an award-winning food writer and has written and collaborated on more than a dozen cookbooks. Her work has appeared in Saveur, The Wall Street Journal, Cook’s Illustrated, Fine Cooking, and many others. At the time of the inteview, she was senior food editor for Tasting Table. She writes the blog raqinthekitchen.com.
Sofia Perez, editor-at-large for Saveur, recommended that I contact Raquel for the next installment of my series where I ask food writers, “What is Good Food Writing?” Sofia wrote the first thoughtful response. Stay tuned for more to come.
Since Raquel’s expertise and experience lies in cookbook writing and recipe development, she proposed discussing that area of food writing as an alternative to examining my central question. I gladly accepted her offer.
Food + Writing
Turns out that Raquel’s food writing career began in her hometown of Chicago with a few twists and turns.
“In college, I became a vegetarian. I didn’t know how to cook,” she says. “I had a college internship at an advertising agency for food-based businesses, but I spent more time talking to the house chef than writing copy.”
Following her instincts, she decided to attend culinary school and headed to the School of Natural Cookery in Boulder, Colorado. She learned about cooking healthful whole foods to sustain a vegetarian diet. Afterward, she returned to Chicago to finish college and then landed a job in publishing as an assistant editor at Consumers’ Digest Magazine where she wrote about health and travel. She met her future husband and they moved to Boston, his hometown on the East Coast.
While working for a healthcare newsletter, Raquel nursed second thoughts about a baking career. She worried about earning enough money to make a living, but decided to go for it anyway.
“I kept having a romantic vision of being a baker or pastry chef. I quit my job in publishing and started pastry school at Johnson & Wales University in Providence. I worked as a baker in a kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts from six in the morning until noon, then drove an hour to Rhode Island where I was in school until seven at night. I’d drive home, eat a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich and pass out from exhaustion!”
She left Johson & Wales to take a job at a small artisanal bakery in Brookline and then moved on to work in pastry at Barbara Lynch’s No. 9 Park. “It was hard and the pay was dismal, and soon enough I began to miss my old life as a writer with semi-sane hours, vacation time and holidays off. While I loved cooking and working with food, I missed writing.”
Raquel wanted to marry her interest in food with writing. Opportunity knocked when she saw a job opening at Cook’s Illustrated. She wrote a story and made multiple versions of a dish for the interview. Tuna noodle casserole, no less. She got the job and began her career as a professional home cook, developing and testing original recipes and cross-testing and vetting recipes from some of the best chefs in the world.
The process of writing recipes and developing a cookbook is complicated and involves several areas of expertise. Raquel offers several pieces of advice for aspiring cookbook writers or anyone writing a recipe for publication.
• Consider the audience. “Speak to the audience and lifestyle. Is it urban, hobby, cooking for a family, working parents, or casual?” she asks. “The audience and lifestyle affects the ingredients, writing tone, and cooking techniques.”
• Have the recipe(s) tested. “At Tasting Table [where Pelzel currently works], we prepare recipes from chefs and cookbooks constantly. It’s pretty amazing how many recipes don’t work—it’s my job not just to fix them, but to make them an accurate representation of the chef and the food he or she serves,” says Raquel.
• Have a keen eye. “Hire a copywriter. Small typos and details can destroy a lot of hard work. Watch the process during the book’s layout and pay attention so instructions don’t drop off the page.”
One of Raquel’s first cookbooks was a project for Williams-Sonoma, Williams Sonoma: New Flavors for Dessert (Oxmoor House, 2008). She was hired to develop the recipes and write the book. The publisher was very involved as were the executives at Williams-Sonoma, and before going into the kitchen, Raquel had to have all of the ingredients and techniques for her recipes approved. She learned to be flexible with recipe development.
• Always be flexible. “”There’s always something new to learn and consider. Be adaptable and nimble to requests,” she advises. “I was pushed to come up with more interesting ideas and learned a lot that way. Plus, as a freelancer, it’s a good thing to be easy to work with if you want to get hired again!”
• Originality. “”To truly develop an original recipe, you have to start at ground zero with an idea. ”Think about possibilities and flavor combinations and sketch out a recipe. I consult other recipe sources, take notes on interesting details and techniques. It’s a lot of research, and not just switching out an ingredient here or there.”
• Test and experiment. Raquel sketches out a framework for the recipe. She cooks it and changes out ingredients while testing at the counter. “Then I put the ingredients and method aside and just cook. Paper can tie you down,” she says. “Cooking is unique to you. What makes it interesting is that it speaks to your style.”
• Cite sources and inspiration. “Give credit where credit is due. I know people spend lots of time developing recipes,” she says. “If inspired by something someone else has done, say so as an acknowledgement.”
• Keep trying. “If you have an idea, go for it. You will have failures. Cook through all of the possibilities.”
Check out Pelzel’s other work including Masala Farm, a collaboration with Chef Suvir Saran (Chronicle, 2011), and Preserving Wild Foods with Chef Matthew Weingarten (Storey, 2012).
Self-titled BBQ Queens and prolific cookbook authors Judith Fertig and Karen Adler will release The Gardener and the Grill for publication (Running Press) in late April 2012. In this interview, they discuss their latest cookbook and share recipes such as Grilled Peach Halves with Lemon Balm Gremolata.
The Gardener and the Grill is a grilling guide for gardeners, seasonal eaters, and anyone eager to learn how to grill vegetables and even fruit–not just during the summer months but all year long. In addition to seasonal recipes, the book offers tips on grilling for preserving, a burgeoning “griller’s pantry” of rubs and versatile sauces, and more than 100 vegetarian recipes.
The authors are experts on grilling and barbecuing as demonstrated by their numerous cookbooks such as BBQ Bash, 300 Big & Bold Barbecue Recipes, and Weeknight Grilling. The duo has appeared on the Food Network and Better Homes & Gardens TV, and they both share their skills in grilling classes that have reached over 75,000 students.
Pete: What’s behind the premise of your latest cookbook, The Gardener and The Grill?
Judith: Both of us love to garden and both of us love to grill, so putting the two together in a book was a natural.
Pete: What inspired the idea for this book?
Judith: As women in barbecue, we think about what we like to eat that is beyond the parameters of meat and potatoes. Our Fish and Shellfish, Grilled and Smoked; 25 Essential Techniques: Grilling Fish; and 25 Essential Techniques: Planking feature more “finesse” barbecue. We love fresh flavors and colors, so grilling from the garden became our current project.
Pete: What recipes do you suggest for the grill in fall, winter, and spring as produce availability changes with the season?
Karen: In fall, it’s wonderful to grill apples and pears as well as root vegetables, winter squash, and hearty greens like Swiss chard and kale. There’s a way to grill just about everything. In winter, it’s more closing the lid on the grill or smoker and smoking potato dishes, grilling brussels sprouts (which are fabulous) or grilling greens to serve with a warm cranberry vinaigrette. In spring, it’s all the wonderful asparagus, leeks, snow peas and edamame in the pod, green onions, and fingerling potatoes.
Pete: What are some items in the “griller’s pantry” that you recommend having on hand?
Karen: The essential ingredients are olive oil, salt and pepper. Beyond those, you can stock Dijon mustard, bottled hot sauce, wine vinegars, dried herbs and spices.
Pete: Can you share some background about how you develop, test, and refine recipes?
Judith: We both save recipes that we come across and keep a stash of them. We’ve also written quite a few books, so we have a body of work on which to draw. We both seem to like the same flavors and the idea of maximum return for ease of preparation, so we’re on the same page with that. We sit down and make a list of ingredients or recipe concepts we want to feature in a book, then create or tweak a recipe, then test it. With The Gardener and the Grill, we wanted to make sure we included as many herbs, vegetables, and fruits from the garden as we possibly could in ways that made sense and tasted great.
Pete: What does this book offer for the novice gardener and/or griller or someone completely inexperienced in either/both areas? Is this book a good entry point or do you suggest another title in your catalog?
Karen: The Gardener and the Grill is for the novice as well as the experienced gardener or griller. If you only have a pot of cherry tomatoes on your patio and have only threaded them on a skewer to grill, you can use this book. If you have a big garden, you can extend your gardening repertoire by growing and grilling new varieties.
Pete: Favorite recipe in the book?
Judith: That’s hard to choose. I have a new one every day. Today, it’s Grilled Summer Slaw with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette. But I also have a hankering for Warm Honeyed Blackberries with Grilled Pound Cake.
Pete: Where can the book be ordered and purchased besides Amazon, locally and nationally? Is it available as an eBook?
Karen: The Gardener and the Grill is at Pryde’s, A Thyme for Everything, The Kansas City Store, Kitchen Thyme, Webster House, Williams-Sonoma, Anthropologie, Barnes and Noble. It is available in ebook format.
From The Gardener and the Grill by Karen Adler & Judith Fertig
Running Press, 2012
Photo credit: Steve Legato
Charred Green Beans with Lemon Verbena Pesto
If you grow pole beans, you know that at first glance, you have only a few beans, and then suddenly there is an onslaught. That’s when bean varieties like the green Blue Lake or the yellow wax beans can be stir-grilled with a bit of olive oil for a very simple yet satisfying dish to use the surplus of beans. When you’re in the mood for a more robust sauce, try this lemony pesto tossed with the grilled beans right before serving. Serves 2 to 4.
1 1/2 pounds slender green beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
Lemon Verbena Pesto
1 cup fresh lemon verbena leaves (substitute fresh lemon balm leaves)
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts or English walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
Fine kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Prepare a hot fire in your grill.
Toss the beans with olive oil and place in a perforated grill basket or wok set on a baking sheet.
For the Lemon Verbena Pesto, combine the lemon verbena, garlic, cheese, and nuts in a food processor and pulse to puree. Slowly add the olive oil with the processor running until the mixture thickens and emulsifies, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The pesto will keep in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days or it may be frozen for up to 3 months.
Place the grill wok or basket directly over the fire and stir-grill tossing the beans with wooden paddles or grill spatulas until crisp-tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the grilled beans to a large bowl and toss with about 1/4 cup of the Lemon Verbena Pesto or to taste.
Grilled Peach Halves with Lemon Balm Gremolata
This recipe is very simple, yet full of flavor. A traditional gremolata has parsley, lemon zest, and garlic, but this is a sweeter version, delicious with fruit. If you don’t have lemon balm in your garden, substitute mint and add more lemon zest. If you use a Microplane grater, you get the flavorful yellow part of the lemon rind without the bitter white pith. By chopping the herbs with the lemon zest, the flavors blend together better. Serves 4.
1/4 cup packed lemon balm leaves
1 tablespoon packed mint leaves
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinch kosher or sea salt
4 peaches, halved and pitted
Prepare a medium-hot fire in your grill. Chop the lemon balm, mint, and lemon zest together until very fine. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the leaves and chop again. Set aside in a small bowl.
Place the peach halves cut side down on the grill. Grill for 4 to 6 minutes, turning once, until the peaches are tender and blistered. To serve, place 2 peach halves in each bowl and sprinkle the Lemon Balm Gremolata over all.