Lansing foodie turns out winning recipes in Katie's Passion Kitchen

2013-02-28T00:00:00Z 2013-03-07T13:55:03Z Lansing foodie turns out winning recipes in Katie's Passion KitchenJane Ammeson Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Growing up in a family that took their love of food up more than a notch or two, Katie Fioretti always knew in the spring she and her father would go out to hunt for the wild asparagus as they first popped out of the ground.

In the fall they would make wine from the ripened grapes that hung on the vines and in the summer – as beautiful vegetables exploded in the garden, they’d can and freeze this precious bounty for when winter came.

“We always knew we were going to make wine in the fall, my mother made olives, what we ate was based on the seasons,” said Fioretti, who lives in Lansing, Ill. “It was basic, simple, Italian peasant food. And that’s what I cook now. The food I serve is the food I love.”

For 20 years, Fioretti worked in the automobile financing business but her passion for cooking never waned. Because she also liked to write, she started her blog, katiespassionkitchen.blogspot.com, for fun – writing about what she cooked and posting photos.

“About three years ago I went to the Chesterton European Market,” she said. “It was so beautiful, so nice and I remember thinking someone should be showcasing all these beautiful fruits and vegetables, something that people could eat on the spot.”

Inspired, Fioretti considered turning her avocation for cookery into a vocation.

“It was all part of what I believed,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to go to an expensive restaurant to enjoy fresh, well prepared food, the type of food we ate when I was growing up.”

And so Fioretti’s blog turned into a food business as well. Her husband, a cabinet maker who builds custom kitchens, used his skills to design a portable kitchen, taking a big pick-up truck and outfitting it so she could haul all of her necessary kitchen stuff to the Frankfort Farmers Market each weekend. There they set up a canopy, counter, grill and tables and Fioretti begins cooking what’s fresh, in season and available at the market.

“Everything is freshly prepared there,” said Fioretti. “There’s a family at the market who had five or six kinds of zucchini and we grilled all of them. We’ve done roasted beet salads, roasted tomatoes, I’ve grilled eggplants and serve them on grilled chiabbata bread.”

Her offerings include a Bruschetta Bar with toppings such as red and yellow grape tomatoes with basil in a lemony vinaigrette, marinated and sautéed baby bella mushrooms topped with crumbled gorgonzola cheese and a variety of sweet bell peppers.

“Enjoy my kitchen as I explore new recipes, savor old ones, obsess about anything food and wine, share my meal and party ideas and obsess a little more,” she writes on her brightly colored blog with its lush photographs of food and posts on her latest food passions. “I promise to keep you posted on my latest food finds, new experiences and delicious recipes plus my favorite best-loved wine and liquor picks. Always something new to experience along with the old tried and true favorites.”

Fioretti, who quit her day job to pursue the culinary arts full time, isn’t the only one in her family in the food biz. Her brother and sister started Fio’s Pizzeria in St. Charles, Ill. around the same time she started Katie’s Passion Kitchen.

“It was crazy times,” says Fioretti, “with all of us doing the same thing.”

She has also expanded her food role and now caters and works as a personal chef.

“I like the smaller, intimate events, that’s more my style,” said Fioretti. “I loved the researching and attention to details. We recently did a party I called Sunday in Paris with all French food and décor. It was so fun.”

Fioretti’a passion for food is very much in evidence when she talks about the subject and on her blog. She posts many of her recipes with photos highlighting the process of making it and adds not only ingredients and how she puts the dish together but also her own chatty and cheerful comments. The result is equivalent to spending time cooking with a friend. The following recipes are from Fioretti.

Roasted Tomatoes:

12 plum tomatoes

Olive oil

Dried oregano or dried thyme (can use fresh instead if available)

Kosher salt

Sugar

DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Carefully cut out the stems. Remove the liquid and the seeds from each tomato half (I do this with my thumbs but you can also use a spoon) and arrange cut-side up on a heavy, rimmed baking sheet. Try to keep the flesh intact as you remove the seeds and liquid. Drizzle the prepped tomato halves with olive oil. Sprinkle with your choice of herbs (oregano or thyme or both), rubbing the dried herbs as you sprinkle to release their flavor-carrying oils. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of sugar. Pop into the oven on the middle rack and roast for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The tomatoes will shrink as the liquid is reduced and the flavor will become really intense and amazing! Note: If you have a convection oven, set the indicator to “convection roast” at 300 degrees. This way, you can roast two pans at a time in about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Once they are nicely reduced (they will blacken just a bit around the edges --remember carmelization = flavor), remove them from the oven and allow them to cool in the pan. Then remove from the pan, stack them in a plastic container and keep them in the fridge until ready to use. When you’re ready to serve them, let them sit out for awhile to come down to room temperature.

For the Beans:

1 pound of French or any type of fresh or frozen green beans

2 cloves fresh garlic, cut in half or in thirds

Olive oil

White or golden balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS: Bring a small amount of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add a bit of kosher salt. Add the beans. Cover and cook until just tender. Drain in a colander. Toss into a large bowl and immediately add garlic, olive oil and vinegar. Carefully season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep tossing occasionally to marinate and blend flavors while they cool. Marinating the warm beans will nicely flavor the beans with the vinegar, oil and garlic without overpowering. They’re fabulous at room temperature.

For the Salad:

Mixed greens and/or arugula and/or fresh spinach

A few thin slices of sweet or red onion

12 slices of fresh mozzarella

12 fresh basil leaves

Olive oil

White or golden balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS: Gently toss the greens and onions with a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Arrange on a platter. Top with a mound of beans and then alternate the tomatoes, basil and cheese in rows as shown. For even more fun, arrange as you wish and make it your very own style! This recipe is your springboard!

For more information and recipes visit: wwww.katiespassionkitchen.blogspot.com

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