Kitchen Spotlight: 'Book of Mormon' actress cooks from the soul

2013-02-28T00:00:00Z 2013-03-07T13:54:04Z Kitchen Spotlight: 'Book of Mormon' actress cooks from the soulEloise Marie Valadez, (219) 933-3365

Syesha Mercado's love for Southern cuisine and Soul Food was ignited by her mother's talents with those styles of cooking.

"My mother's favorite food to cook is Soul Food - macaroni and cheese, collard greens with ham hocks, fried catfish, and a lot of Southern dishes. Oh and I can't forget her delicious sweet potato pie," Mercado said.

Mercado is currently starring as Nabalungi in the popular Broadway in Chicago production of "The Book of Mormon,"  which has been extended to Sept. 8 at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago. (FYI: (800) 775-200 or visit The singer/actress was a finalist on season seven of "American Idol." She'll also perform a solo concert March 18 at City Winery in Chicago. (FYI:

While Mercado said she's a fan of her mother's recipes, she said she never indulged too greatly in her cooking as a youngster.

"Growing up, I was a vegetarian and what everyone in my family called a picky eater," she said.

'I had a lot of food allergies and environmental allergies," she said. And because she's now very conscious of her vocal health and nutrition, in general, Mercado watches what she eats.

Mercado pretty much follows a vegan diet and concentrates greatly on raw vegetables.

The singer said she recently started a raw foods diet which totally cleanses the body which she said she'd probably be on for a month. While in Chicago, Mercado enjoys frequenting Karyn's Fresh Corner and other restaurants run by raw food and holistic expert Karyn Calabrese.

When Mercado steps into the kitchen, she said she enjoys making a sauteed halibut dish.

"I top that off with mushrooms, spinach and garlic," she said. Other dishes she likes to make are scallops or shrimp with red potatoes. Among her favorite drinks are teas.

Performing in "The Book of Mormon," Mercado said, is a "unique experience and really enjoyable."

The following recipe for Sauteed Halibut is from Mercado.

Says the singer: "One thing my mother and I share when it comes to cooking is we believe cooking is from the soul. So we rarely use measuring cups."

Sauteed Halibut

Ingredients: (All to taste) Halibut, lemon, orange, mushrooms, garlic clove, packaged spinach, coconut oil, olive oil, and mushrooms

Spices; rosemary, dill weed, garlic salt, turmeric, ground pepper

DIRECTIONS: In a separate pan, rinse the halibut with water, drain it and squeeze half a lemon and orange over the halibut. Make sure to poke holes in the fish with a knife or fork so the juices can penetrate (this helps add flavor and moisture). Then, use the above spices to your liking to flavor the fisH in any order you choose. In the pan you will use to sauté the fish, add olive oil, coconut oil, one squeeze of lemon and orange and any spice from the ingredients you desire. Sauté and cover. Add the Halibut to the pan with spinach. Place the fish directly on top of the spinach and let it simmer for 8 minutes. While fish is sautéing in pan, put some olive oil and coconut oil in another pan and add mushrooms and spice for desired taste. Let it simmer until soft. Then cut fresh garlic over the fish, take it out of pot and pour the sautéed mushrooms on top. This usually takes me 10 minutes to prepare.

Source: Syesha Mercado

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