Cooking and Chef Recipes

Divas take a slider

Go ahead; take a bite on the wild slide.

Bringing the world to an iddy-biddy bun, “sliders” are savvy little burgers piled high with a spice-of-life variety of toppings, handcrafted chutneys and vinaigrettes. Petite patties that celebrate all things ground-meaty from Mexico to Morocco, Greece to the grill next door.

Even better? They offer a bite or two of burger bliss without blowing your diet—and you can play the field, nibbling no-more-than-a-mouthful of classic American cheeseburger, a bite of bacon-bleu, before ending the night with a sweet, hot kiss of curry, perhaps an afterglow of well-paired wines or martinis.

Longing for light, warm, summer evenings, the divas dreamed a lean n’ gorgeous, Greek-inspired slider using ground chicken breast. To keep things juicy, we massaged the burgers with a lemony, mustard-garlic sauce infused with fruity kalamata extra-virgin olive oil. Topped with thinly sliced Roma tomatoes, seedless cukes, red onion and savory, kicked-up yogurt, our sliders rock on a soft, warm roll. Or you could skip the carbs altogether and serve on crisply cool, lettuce-be-skinny leaves of romaine.

Couscous on the go-go

Who doesn’t love a picnic? Like the proverbial “cake walk” or a “piece of pie,” the very idea of this well-packed basket of goodies to share on a blanket under a big, blue sky defines ease—a very lovely day, indeed. Add the love of your life and some chilled bubbly and the divas would be hard pressed to improve upon perfection. 
            We like to think of preparing and packing the edibles as foreplay. Contrasting textures and flavors, sweets and savories—something old, something new. And even if coleslaw, macaroni and ‘tater salad make your mother-in-law smile, every now and then, it’s fun to mix it up a little.
  couscous          If you can boil water, you’ve mastered couscous. Often confused as a grain, it’s actually teensy pasta, fabulous in do-ahead, take-along salads. Sans the mayo, this diva mélange is naturally light, and perfect for hot, summer days. Fluffy couscous, sweet corn, raisins and crunchy veggies come together to inspire the very best sort of lip smacking and finger licking. We’re free this weekend—are you?

Chilean sea bass ceviche

Tasty fish from the Divas of Dish

This South American star drips with style. Bejeweled in red chilies and flavorful herbs, pearl-white slivers of Chilean sea bass bathe in a fusion of lemon and lime juice. chilean sea bass

Summer-savvy divas beat the heat with ease as the citrus juice “cooks” this low-fat dish right in the fridge. This cool cooking is a whole scientific process, but all we need to know is that there is no hot stove as the lemons and limes do the trick without heat, firming the fish and turning it opaque. 

Divas of Dish: Not your average PTA moms

Meet the Divas of Dish

A note from Scott: After creating countless thank-you feasts for their children’s elementary school teachers, Anne-Marie Hodges and Pam Bandon began compiling recipes and tips, and in 2004 their cookbook, Culinary Confessions of the PTA Divas:  Stylish Recipes and Saucy Secrets for the Everyday Gourmet was born.  Along with delicious recipes, the book is a tale of food and friendship that began with a grass-roots crusade to uplift the status of dedicated teachers at Hillcrest Elementary in downtown Orlando. Divas of Dish

Their “Divas of Dish” column followed, and appears weekly in the Palm Beach Post. And now at Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide.

Since the debut of the cookbook, Anne-Marie has married and moved to Phoenix (now Anne-Marie Denicole), and Pam, a resident of Winter Park, has written two cookbooks for Disney Publishing (Delicious Disney and Delicious Disney Desserts) and has a third Disney cookbook that will be in bookstores in 2010.

The cookbook, which is a really fun read, is available for $15 (that includes shipping and handling) from Diva Pam, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Here's the first of the Divas' columns on the flog.

 Cob-smacked

No more rulers, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty—then again, there’s no reason to be unkind, it’s summer! Two magnificent months to pursue all things hedonistic: long, languid days at the beach, that juicy summer read, the ceremonial burning your to-do list, and the long-overdue absence of closed-toe shoes. 

Of course, it certainly wouldn’t be summer without great food to celebrate the season. The perfect time to entertain without a plan. Serendipitous backyard barbecues of burgers, dogs, and gooey mounds of ‘tater salad. And corn: sweet, juicy, munch-off-the-ever-lovin’ cob perfection. Oh sure, rolled in butter, with salt and cracked black pepper, it’s hard to top nature’s recipe, but the divas are here to say you can. With little effort, we are redefining the culinary bliss of the cob.

Consider your tender ears grilled a toasty, nutty brown, rolled in a spicy, smoky chipotle cream, then topped with grated fresh Parmesan cheese, scallions and minced fresh cilantro. What burgers? Suddenly, it’s all about the corn—and your backyard barbecue genius.

Local Flavor: Muhammara from Hungry Pants

Muhammara Sauce

This month’s edition of “Local Flavor,” my collaboration with The Community Paper, features a recipe from Hungry Pants, the SoDo restaurant that is “100 percent plant based 80 percent of the time,” according to its owners, Joey Conicella and Alex Marin.

Marin and Conicella are sharing Hungry Pants’ recipe for muhammara, a versatile and spicy dip popular in Lebanon, Syria and Turkey (the country, not the bird). “I am a big believer in having ‘back pocket’ options to use for quick options at home,” Marin said. “Muhammara is something that both Joey and I are obsessed with. We use it as a dipping sauce for crudité, spread it on toast in the morning with a runny egg for breakfast, and add it to sandwiches for a little extra flavor.”

Find the recipe at YourCommunityPaper.com and give it a try. You can even put it on turkey.

Local Flavor: Roasted Stuffed Mushrooms from Delaney's Tavern

Delaneys stuffedd mush

The latest issue of The Community Paper is out and my Local Flavor column this month features a recipe from Delaney’s Tavern.

Delaney’s Tavern in the SoDo District across from the Orlando Health complex is often compared to the bar on the television series “Cheers.” It has a neighborhood vibe and a friendly staff who may or may not know your name.

But the gang at Cheers had to leave the bar to eat; at Delaney’s there’s great food right there with a versatile menu from executive chef Anthony Albino.

Here Albino shares the recipe for a new Roasted Stuffed Mushrooms appetizer. As written, the recipe is vegetarian and gluten free. Albino says you can adapt it to include chopped crab, lobster or sausage.

At Delaney’s Tavern, Albino finishes the dish with two sauces, a Porcini Goat Cheese Mousse and a Piquillo Coulis, but he says: “I would recommend any kind of aioli, or a horseradish based sauce. Or if you want to kick it up, some kind of chipotle sauce.”

Click here to see the full recipe on the Community Paper’s website.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi from Soco Thornton Park

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

This month’s Local Flavor, the column I do in partnership with The Community Paper, features a recipe from a downtown favorite, Soco Thornton Park.

Soco has become a fixture of downtown dining, thanks to the cuisine of chef/partner Greg Richie. Here he shares the recipe for his Sweet Potato Gnocchi, which is a perfect example of the restaurant’s style of southern contemporary, from which the name Soco is derived.

Follow this link to see the full recipe at The Community Paper’s website.

Shrimp & Grits with Cornbread from the Pinery

Pinery shrimp and gritsPhoto: The Pinery

Shortly after it opened last summer, The Pinery, the very good lakeview restaurant in the Ivanhoe Village district, had a chef change. Steven Mattix took over the role of executive chef following the departure of opening chef Naomi Freeman. (You can read my review here.)

Mattix moved to Central Florida from the D.C. area where he was a sous chef for Jose Andrés and also opened restaurants for [Jeff] Black’s Restaurant Group.

So far he has maintained most of the opening menu, though there may be some changes to come. I asked Mattix if he could share the recipe for the restaurant’s Shrimp & Grits with Cornbread for my monthly Local Flavor column with Community Paper, and he was more than happy to oblige.

You can find the recipe on the Community Paper’s website. Mattix suggests you make the cornbread, which is essential to the recipe, first so that it’s ready as soon as you’ve cooked the shrimp.

Give it a try.

Blackened Double Lamb Chops with Garlic and Potato Gratin from Russell's On Lake Ivanhoe

Russells double lamb chop

Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe was recently voted 2021 Best New Restaurant in our Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants. Much of the restaurant’s popularity is due to chef/partner Emmanuel Clement’s French-influenced menu. In the February issue of the Community Paper, he shares his recipe for Blackened Double Lamb Chops with Garlic and Potato Gratin for my monthly Local Flavor column.

You’ll notice in the photo that Clement frenches the bones of the chops. That is, he scrapes off the gristle on the “handle” of the chop. It makes for a prettier presentation but is totally unnecessary.

The recipe calls for eight double chops — ask your grocer’s butcher for them — but you could easily make it with four or even two. (Make all the potatoes, though, because you’re going to want extras.) Click here to see the recipe.

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