I'm a big fan of the cooking competition show "Master Chef" starring Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich. One withering stare from Bastianich can make a contestant shrivel. One compliment makes people soar.
The owner of 22 restaurants, a high-end Italian marketplace, three Italian vineyards and two retail wine shops, Bastianich cuts a dashing figure on the show. Hard to believe he was 50 pounds heavier only five years ago.
Bastianich has since changed his diet and is now an avid runner. He just ran the New York City Marathon in less than four hours. He's sharing low-cholesterol recipes as part of a campaign with Pfizer, which makes Lipitor.
His white bean stew with Swiss chard and tomatoes recipe, featured below, is part of his Tuscan cooking background. And yes, pasta is still part of his diet.
"Pasta gets a bad rap from all the stuff we put on it," he says. "The right portion size with the right sauce, and it is fine to eat."
Late beer cheese soup
Jackie Callaway of Tampa wrote last week to say she was "in a panic because today is my husband's birthday. He asked me to make beer cheese soup. I have always used an old recipe I found in your column years ago. But I have lost it and need to make this dish tonight."
I confess I saw Jackie's email about 12 hours too late. I'm so sorry, Jackie.
So that we don't have that problem in the future, here's another copy for anyone who enjoys that delicious soup. We last printed it in 1997. It was contributed by Nancy Munson of Tampa.
Mexican wedding cookies
Last week, we ran a response to a request for Mexican wedding cookies by Helen Zimmerman of Avon Park. The replies continue to arrive.
Kathy Leiste of Tampa sent her Wedding Cookies recipe. "This is a recipe that has been a favorite in our family for many years and may be the one your reader was looking for," Kathy writes. "I double the recipe because they don't last too long."
Sandra Giegerich of Sebring sent "an excellent recipe for Mexican Wedding Cakes. I make dozens at Christmas and give to family and friends. Everybody loves them."
Loves the Czarina
DeeAnn Kirby writes to say she wants to make the recipe for shrimp (or chicken) with Czarina sauce served by Circles restaurants in Tampa.
"It was my favorite at all of their locations. Now all three locations are gone, as is the wonderful dish," DeeAnn writes. "Can anyone help?"
Pepe's niece writes
For months, I've run a request from Roxanne Papia of Tampa for Stuffed Shrimp a la Pepe from the former Café Pepe's on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa.
Dorothy Kellogg, Pepe's niece, emailed recently to say that as long as Pepe owned the restaurant on Kennedy, he never had that item on the menu.
"He had Shrimp Suprema," Dorothy writes.
He sold the restaurant and they may have had an item by that name on it.
"You might ask for the recipe for Shrimp Suprema and see if that is the recipe that is requested," she says.
Great idea, Dorothy. Anyone have the Suprema recipe?
Ellen Scudiero of Holiday wants the recipe for fried almond shrimp served with orange sauce that was served at the Leverock's in New Port Richey
Bob Moore wrote recently asking for the recipe to make a steak sandwich like the one served at the former Mac and Ivey's on Henderson Boulevard in the '60s.
Connie Rott wants the fried beef tips recipe served with yellow rice at J.D.'s in Ybor City.
Beer Cheese Soup
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onions, chopped
2 teaspoons peanut oil
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
2 teaspoons flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 can (12 ounces) beer
Sauté carrots, celery and onions in oil. Bring chicken stock to a boil. Add vegetables and simmer 45 minutes.
Dredge cheese in flour and mix with soup until thick. Stir in the salt, pepper, mustard and remaining ingredients. Simmer. Serve hot.
Mexican Wedding Cakes
3/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped nuts
Cream shortening, butter, and sugar until fluffy. Add all other ingredients and blend thoroughly. Chill dough. Shape into 1-inch balls. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Let sit on cookie sheet for about a minute or so and then transfer to wire rack. While still warm, roll in powdered sugar. Makes about 4 to 5 dozen.
White Bean Stew with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes
2 pounds Swiss chard, large stems discarded and leaves cut crosswise into 2-inch strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup canned tomatoes, chopped
16-ounce can unsalted cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add the chard and simmer over moderate heat until tender, about 8 minutes.
Drain the greens and gently press out excess water.
In the saucepan, heat the olive oil.
Add the garlic and crushed red pepper to the olive oil and cook over moderate heat until the garlic is golden, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.
Add the beans and simmer over moderately high heat for 3 minutes.
Add the chard and simmer over moderate heat until the flavors meld, 5 minutes.
Season the stew with salt (to taste) and serve.
1/2 cup of butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1 1/4 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 1/4 cups cake flour
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
Cream butter, add sugar and flavorings, stir in flour and nuts.
Mold in to small balls (approximate size: 1 teaspoon).
Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 20 minutes.
While still warm roll in powdered sugar.