8 slices of bacon are coming to a crisp in Maria Isabella’s west side Cleveland kitchen.
She says the beauty of this particular appetizer is that it is sweet and salty.
“So many different textures as well. In the end you’ll see that the French bread is crispy. You’ve got the creaminess of the brie, the saltiness of the bacon, and the sweetness in the preserves.”
This recipe comes from Nolan Konkoski of SOHO Kitchen and bar. It’s something quick and easy that she watched him make at home.
That’s the concept of her book published by Kent State University Press, entitled “In the Kitchen with Cleveland’s Favorite Chefs.”
She wanted to learn how they entertain their own last-minute guests at home in one hour or less.”
Maria Isabella is a personal friend of Cleveland’s most famous chef, and Michael Symon provided entrée to the homes of many others.
She persuaded 35, including Zach Bruell, Jonathon Sawyer and Loretta Paganini, to let her watch them whip up something quickly for themselves and their families.
Like Pete Joyce of Crop Bistro.
“When I asked him what he would prepare for his own last-minute guests in an hour or less he went to his refrigerator, saw what he had in there and came up with his own dish. It does not necessarily have to be anything technically difficult. It’s what their family enjoys. Perhaps what they enjoyed as a child. Not necessarily haute cuisine.”
A copywriter who always wanted to write her own book, Isabella grew up on ethnic cuisine.
“My mother came here from Italy and my father from Serbia. Cooking from scratch was always important in my family.”
She hopes reading recipes and tips from their favorite chefs will inspire her target audience: foodies …pressed for time, and money:
“They are watching food shows. They are improving their own skills. They used to eat out much more often so they expect a higher level of meal.”
In at least one case she was amazed by how quickly a gourmet meal came together.
“John D’Amico from Chez Francois in Vermillion did a very elaborate dinner which is very much in line with what he serves at the restaurant and yet this is what his family enjoys and this is how he loves to entertain his own guests.”
It’s cream of butternut squash and roasted red pepper soup; seared Mediterranean bronzini with verges butter sauce and sautéed fennel; roast duck breast with cherry glace de viande; and potato mousseline; and then madeleines.
Isabella says D’Amico worked non-stop and got it done in less than an hour.
That was her only requirement for the chefs, and her friend Michael Symon almost gave her a hard time about it.
“His is a roasted pork on a bed of pumpkin puree with a cilantro salad. Pumpkin puree? That sounds like it would take a while. Well that was interesting because Michael, originally his recipe was to slow roast it in the oven. And I wrote back to him and I said, ‘Would you allow that we cut it up in chunks and boil it? And he said that would be fine. So we did have to work with some of the chefs to cut down the time.”
Isabella chose her 35 chefs with care. Most who contributed to “In the Kitchen with Cleveland’s Favorite Chefs” have won either the Zagat Award or Cleveland Magazine’s Silver Spoon award .
And that’s this week’s Quick Bite. Next week we’ll re-visit Breakneck Acres to see what’s new for small farmers in the new year.
Bacon, Brie,& Peach Toasts from "In the Kitchen with Cleveland’s Favorite Chefs" by Maria Isabella
Recipe by Nolan Konkoski, chef/owner of SOHO Kitchen & Bar4
Servings (2 per person)
8 slices center-cut bacon½ cup peach preserves
8 (¼-inch-thick) slices French baguette, cut crosswise5 ounces mild Brie cheese (such as D’Affinois), cut into 8 thin pieces, rind removed if desired
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Sauté the bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat until just beginning to crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
3. Spread 1 tablespoon of the preserves over one of the baguette slices. Top with a piece of bacon, add a piece of Brie, and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the baguette slices.
4. Bake for about 4 minutes, or until the Brie begins to melt and the bread is just toasted. Serve warm.