Frequently Asked Questions: Part I
These are actual questions that people have asked me.
Do you really know how to cook?
Yes, I do. I enjoy good food and learned how to make it to taste the way I like. It's taken me many years to improve my cooking skills (mostly through trial and error) as well as venturing to trying new methods, like sous vide. More importantly, I've learned how to shop for ingredients and make a meal from them and by using what I have on hand in my fridge, deep freezer and pantry. Over the course of the pandemic, I really stretched myself to use what I had on hand to create good meals.
Homemade lasagna. I make a large casserole and portion individual servings for the freezer. Vacuum sealing and then freezing preserves that just baked flavor. This lasagna was made with homemade bolognese sauce, four cheeses: mozzarella, ricotta, Asiago and fontina, and cooked fresh spinach.
Here's my veggie lasagna that includes spinach, roasted mushrooms, sweet onions and radicchio in a béchamel sauce. It also freezes beautifully.
Who taught you how to cook?
My Mom and then friends. I know some fabulous cooks. Always learning new tips and techniques from them. I belong to a foodie cookbook club and have enjoyed some of the best meals with this group. Friends, food, laughs, hugs, wine and good memories. Can’t wait for us to be able to gather again.
What are SOME of your favorite foods?
Granola, ice cream, homemade marinara sauce and meatballs, salads, grits with gravy and banana pudding. In no particular order.
I use homegrown tomatoes from the garden or farmers market (some of these tomatoes came from Chefs Garden Farm Stand) to make sauce.
The tomatoes are cored and baked at 250 degrees for 2-3 hours, or until the fruit breaks down. They are baked with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, cracked black pepper, cloves of garlic, pinch of sugar and fresh basil. An immersion blender is then used to purée the tomatoes leaving the sauce chunky. Again, the sauce goes right into the freezer to enjoy at a later meal.
A bowl of organic stone-ground white grits from The Congaree Milling Company and turkey gravy is a favorite comfort meal. Not fancy but delicious. One of best benefits of roasting a turkey is to have the drippings to make gravy. I keep containers of gravy in the freezer just so we can enjoy grits and gravy.
Banana pudding made with a cooked custard. Layered between sliced bananas and vanilla wafers. Topped with a whipped sweetened egg white meringue topping. This has been one of my favorite desserts since childhood.
Biggest cooking flop?
A cheesecake that was cooling and I mistakenly removed the collar from the springform pan too soon. Hot cheesecake flowed everywhere. A disaster of a mess.
Do you read and follow recipes?
I read recipes for inspiration. I’m not a true recipe follower, except when it comes to baking. I follow those instructions pretty much to the letter. My kitchen is like a food laboratory where I’m experimenting and coming up with new dishes (or twists on favorites). And I share recipes constantly with my twin sister who is a very good cook as well as an excellent baker.
Chef's Garden, Jubilee. Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine, Cook Like a Local, The Last Course, The Charmed Kitchen, Salt Fat Acid Heat, Lost Kitchen, Silver Palate Cookbook
What foods are in your fridge right now?
Whole milk, butter, a wedge of parmesan cheese, wheel of brie, eggs, yogurt, fruit (red grapes, oranges, lemons, limes), salad greens, pickles (love the ones from Larder Delicatessen and Bakery here in Cleveland, collard greens, carrots, green onions, red cabbage, homemade BBQ sauce, vinaigrette dressing, white miso paste, Ritual Juicery green juices and soups. I make pots of soup and freeze it in serving portions, whenever possible. These cold winter days we're enjoying soup, including chicken noodle, minestrone, beef vegetable and New England Clam chowder.
A bowl of this reminds me of Cape Cod and Boston. Tom McIntyre, owner of Kate’s Fish in Clevelands iconic Westside Market shared that the best way to make really good clam chowder is with whole clams, not just a container of chopped clams. He’s right and although it’s a bit labor intensive to clean, shuck and chop the clams (taking care to save the precious liquid from the clams), it’s worth every spoonful for one fine chowder.
Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food and collaborative lifestyle brand. Pat's Granola is sold online at www.patsgranola.com and is also available at select Northeast Ohio businesses including:
Troubadour Coffee Roasters www.troubadourcoffeeroasters.com
Sports and Spine Physical Therapy www.sportspine.com
Locle Box www.loclebox.com
Made Cleveland www.madecleveland.com
Nature's Oasis Lakewood www.naturesoasis.com
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Sweet Bean Candies Sweet Bean Candies
The Bake Shop and Cafe The Roaming Biscuit
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