Outside of coastal Louisiana, where he owns and operates several restaurants, John Besh is perhaps best known as a competitor on Food Network’s “The Next Iron Chef” and as a guest judge on “Top Chef.”
What many might not have known — including me — was that he spent his early years cooking through Germany and France. He covers those years in his new book, “Cooking From The Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way” (Andrews-McMeel, $40).
Unlike his previous books, which have focused on bayou cooking, this one offers a glimpse at the classic European dishes that shaped his training. It’s warmly told and offers a fascinating tour of his cooking discoveries.
Many recipes in the book are beyond the skill of most home cooks, but his recipe for Fried Kale Salad is something anyone could tackle.
“This is hardly a traditional salad,” he writes. “What I’m doing is frying kale leaves in oil, which for me makes a more satisfying dish than raw kale leaves. Shavings of Parmesan lend a salty tang to every bite.”
Wants nut bread
Lorraine E. Taylor of Tampa asks for a helping hand.
“I have lost my recipe for Date Nut Bread,” she writes.
I’ve got your back, Lorraine. Here’s a recipe from my friends at AllRecipes.com.
For a different flavor, try throwing a slice in the toaster.
Marie Pound of Brandon wants a recipe for homemade bread using stone-ground whole wheat flour and a little bit of bran.
A. Domingo of Tampa wants to make date and walnut bars. The recipe she wants includes orange juice while cooking the dates for 10 to 15 minutes.
Beth Mainello of Tampa wants to make the salad dressing that was made tableside at Tio Pepe’s restaurant in Clearwater. She also wants to know what type of lettuce was used.
Susan Stevens wants to make the spaghetti sauce and salad dressing recipes served at the now-closed Gus’ Italian restaurants in Tampa.
Eva Ebert wants the recipe for the mixed greens salad with vinaigrette and grilled chicken from the now-closed El Pilon Restaurant in South Tampa.
Fried Kale Salad
Makes 6 servings
1 bunch Iacinto or Tuscan kale, stems and ribs removed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Heat 3 inches of oil in a medium heavy bottomed pot to 350 degrees on a candy thermometer. Fry the kale in batches until the edges of each leaf curl up, 1 to 2 minutes.
Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. In a large bowl, toss the fried kale with the lemon zest and juice, then top with shavings of Parmesan cheese.
Source: “Cooking From The Heart,” by John Besh.
Date Nut Bread
11/2 cups dates, pitted and chopped
2» cups boiling water
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups white sugar
3 tablespoons margarine
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
41/2 cups all-purpose flour
Combine baking soda with the boiling water. Soak the dates in the water and baking soda solution for 30 minutes.
Cream sugar and butter together. Add eggs, vanilla, dates, nuts, flour, and salt.
Divide batter equally between two 9-by-5-inch (or 8½-by-4½) greased loaf pans. Bake 1 hour at 300 degrees, or until loaf tests done. Can be frozen when cool.
Recipes Lost & Found runs every other Sunday in Baylife. Seeking a recipe? E-mail email@example.com, or write to Jeff Houck, The Tampa Tribune, P.O. Box 191, Tampa, FL 33601. For more fun with cooking, watch Jeff chat each week with celebrity chefs and cookbook authors on the “Kitchen Party” video hangout on Google+.