by Sean Keeley, culinary specialist, LLCC
I think almost anyone who enjoys eating also enjoys talking about food. It is quite often how I learn about new trends, new eateries or a new dish making its debut at an old location. I have been in the industry over three decades now and somehow I never grow tired of talking shop. I guess that explains my passion for cuisine; it never grows old to me.
There isn’t much food I don’t like, but there are things I find boring. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich was appealing to me as a child, but I can’t imagine making one for myself now – unless I put bacon in there and grilled it on buttered sourdough. I could sink my teeth into that! One thing a lot of young chefs experiment with is fusion cuisine. I am certainly guilty and will probably continue mixing up dishes from different countries. On occasion you find flavors that blend really well. Fusion and mashup are very similar: fusion is combing contrasting culinary traditions into one dish and mashup is serving food in a different style like a “pizza-taco” or a “cro-nut.” Both styles are very similar with mashup being the newer kid on the block.
There is a history of dishes that are national staples that happened to be influenced by another country. Bánh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich of pickled vegetables, pork pâté and cilantro on a French baguette. The French occupation of Vietnam spawned this mashup. New Orleans happens to have a large Vietnamese population and guess what you can find down there – Bánh mi Po’boys! A Po’boy is a sandwich of shrimp, oysters or chicken (usually fried) served on a baguette with lettuce, tomato, pickle (LTP) and some sort of aïoli or spicy mayo. Swap the LTP for Vietnamese pickled veggies and you now have a Bánh mi Po’boy.
I thought it would be interesting to “mashup” two of my favorite cuisines, Italian and Mexican. I have had a pretty busy summer and have yet to get to the Farmers’ Market, but my recipes reflect what should be available this time of year – or soon to be, weather permitting. Elote is a street food from Mexico. Grilled corn slathered in mayo with cotija cheese, lime and chili that has great flavor and texture. Caprese is an Italian combination of ripe tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil and is usually just a straight forward salad but can be a pizza topping or served on crostini.
4 ears of corn
2 balls of burrata cheese, diced 3/8”
8 fresh basil leaves, minced
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 pinches of crushed red pepper – or more as you like
You can cook the corn anyway you like, boiled, grilled – however it suits your taste. I use a microwave oven very little, maybe to warm coffee or steam green vegetables. It does a great job on ears of corn still in the husk. Microwave each ear on high for 4 minutes. Allow to cool a little cut through the cob near the base and then grabbing the silk end pull the cob from the husk. Might take a little wiggling at first, but once out you should have a perfectly cooked ear of corn with no silk or strings. I think it’s a neat trick. Then roll the cob over the grill to char it up a little. Cut corn from cob and place in a bowl with the other ingredients and mix together. Serve right away as a side, or chill the elote and put it on your favorite fish taco instead of salsa. Shazam!
Ingredients serves 4
2 large, vine-ripe tomatoes
2 balls of burrata cheese, cut in half***
8 sprigs of cilantro, or 12 Italian parsley leaves
1 or 2 pinches of Kosher salt
a few twist from a peppermill
4 tablespoons of olive oil
a handful of your favorite tortilla chips
a few pinches of chili powder
Core the tomatoes and slice about 3/8th inch thick and lay out over the cutting board then sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and some twists from the peppermill.
On four salad plates make a stack of tomato using half a tomato per plate – if using the tops and bottoms of the tomato be sure to stack these cut side up. Drizzle the tomatoes and plate with olive oil and then sprinkle the chili powder over the tomatoes and oil. Place a half a burrata cheese ball on each stack. Crumble tortilla chips over each stack then garnish with 2 sprigs of cilantro – if you don’t like cilantro use Italian parsley leaves.
***Burrata is an Italian cheese very similar to fresh buffalo mozzarella except the center is very creamy creating a nice texture contrast. I have been able to find it locally in stores with large cheese selections.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management, certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry and non-credit community classes through the Culinary Institute. For more information visit www.llcc.edu/culinary-institute.