Tomato Cognac Soup

Visit our new website at!Break away from the can friends, this amazing soup is our #1 most requested recipe here at The Culinary Center of Kansas City.   It  is an absolutely irresistible soup… interesting enough to make for company but comforting and homey at the same time.

Tomato Cognac Soup


6 pounds canned whole tomatoes, with liquid

2 large onion

12 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoon dried basil

1 qt heavy cream

4 tablespoons brown sugar

¾ cup Cognac

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Chopped fresh parsley or chives or hot croutons, for garnish

Chop the onion and sauté in butter for 5 minutes, until soft but not brown.  Squash the tomatoes, then add them and their liquid to the onion. Add the basil, and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Set aside and let cool slightly. Puree in a food processor and reheat.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream with the sugar, whisking often. Pour into the tomatoes. Heat the soup but do not boil.

Add the Cognac and salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives or fresh hot croutons.


Strawberries in Red Wine and Black Peppercorn Sauce

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A jar of these strawberries makes a unique and  fantastic Christmas or hostess gift!

Strawberries in Red Wine and Black Peppercorn Sauce

2 quarts fresh strawberries

1 bottle dry red wine

2 cups sugar

1 T fresh lemon juice

Zest from 2 lemons

Zest from 2 oranges

2 cinnamon sticks, approximately 3” long

10 whole black peppercorns

Pinch of kosher salt

Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, for garnish

Clean strawberries and cut into desired size.  In a heavy saucepan combine wine, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, orange zest, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns and salt.  Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by at least one-half, about 15 minutes.  Strain and serve warm or at room temperature over the strawberries and garnish with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.  Makes 8 servings.

Leo’s Scalloped Potatoes

Visit our new website at!Here’s what our resident “Wine Guy” Leo Dickson prepared at the Farmers’ Market on Sat., 10/30.  Enjoy this rich, heart-warming side dish involving seasonal root vegetables and pears (yes, pears!) at your next family meal or holiday gathering. It’s DELISH!

Leo’s Scalloped Potatoes

2 Medium russet potatoes

1 Medium sweet potato

1 Medium pear

1/2 Cup heavy cream

4 tsp olive oil

1 Large clove garlic, diced

1 Cup marble jack cheese, shredded

1 tsp brown sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground sage

Salt and pepper, to taste

Keeping skins in tact, slice potatoes and pear thinly with mandolin (paper thin.)   Store in separate bowls, as you will be layering and seasoning later.  Toss sliced russets and sweet potato in olive oil (using equal amounts on each), completely coating each side.  Season sliced russets with salt, pepper, garlic and sage.  Season sliced sweet potato with brown sugar and cinnamon.  Pear requires no seasonings.

To assemble:

In 8” square baking dish, start with the layer of pears, followed by sweet potatoes, followed by russet potatoes, then sprinkle with cheese and cover in cream.  Gently press all ingredients so as to blend cream with all layers.  Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and cheese is golden brown and crispy.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Slice and serve.

Yield 4-6 servings

Planked Pears with Gorgonzola

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Check out the fruity cheesy goodness from the Educator of ‘Que Chef Richard McPeake!

Planked Pears with Gorgonzola

Enough for 6 people

3 Pears, ripe but firm, peeled, cut in half, cored

3 TB. Butter, unsalted

1/2 cup  Gorgonzola, crumbled

Special Tip: This is only one recipe for planked fruit. Seasonal fruits are excellent when planked and matched with cheeses.

Great served with an excellent port!

Peel and cut the pears in half and core the center. Thinly slice the pears to within about 1 inch of the top for a fanned appearance. (Pears can be pre-grilled if desired for a sweeter flavor.)

After soaking the planks, place on the hot fire and grill until the plank starts to crackle. Flip the plank over and place the fanned pears on the planks. Continue to grill until the plank starts to crackle again, then move from the direct fire to an indirect heat source. Add to the pears the crumbled Gorgonzola and allow to slowly melt on top of the pears. Close the lid of the grill, plank roast until pears are tender but not soft.

Approximated Grilling Time: 10-12 minutes

“Meatless Monday”

Visit our new website at!Coconut and Macadamia Tart with Chive Chevre

8 oz. sugar

1-pound butter, unsalted

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 egg

1 yolk

Pinch of salt

2 oz. coconut, grated

2 oz. Macadamia nuts

Tart pans

Pan spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place macadamia nuts on cookie sheet in oven for fifteen minutes until golden brown. Remove and cool. Coarsely chop nuts and set aside. Cream sugar and butter until smooth. Add remaining ingredients to creamed mixture until well incorporated. Wrap in plastic. Place in freezer for 30 minutes. Remove and roll out to a little less than ¼ inch. Spray tart pans and cut dough to fit tart pans. Dock (prick) and weight dough (prevents bubbles from forming in pan). Bake until golden brown edges 12 to 15 minutes. Remove and cool. Store in airtight container.

Chive Chevre

8 oz. log of Chevre cheese

2 tbsp. chives, minced

piping bag

Remove chevre from refrigerator and allow to soften. Mix in chives when chevre has softened and place in piping bag. Pipe in shell just before serving.

Plating/Serving Suggestions: Place filled tart shell on top of 2 ounces of baby greens. Serve with rocket greens and baby red arugula (which is a peppery green widely available in the herb section of finer markets.)

“Meatless Monday”

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Eggplant-Tomato Gratin


3 medium leeks, white and tender green only, thinly sliced and

thoroughly rinsed

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 fresh bay leaf, optional

salt & pepper

1 T. butter

2 T. olive oil

1 large globe eggplant (about 1 lb.)—see note below

3 tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs.)—see note below

2 to 3 T. roughly chopped fresh herbs (winter savory, thyme,

marjoram, and/or oregano)

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

2 to 4 T. Toasted breadcrumbs or grated Parmesan or Pecorino


In a large sauté pan set over medium heat, wilt the leeks in the butter and olive oil with the garlic and bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper.  When the leeks are tender and their liquid has evaporated (after 20 to 30 minutes), remove from the heat spread in an even layer in the bottom of an oiled gratin or 2 1/2 quart shallow baking dish (discard the bay leaf); set aside.  (Leeks may be wilted up to 24 hours ahead.  Bring to room temperature before building the gratin.)


Slice the eggplant and tomatoes into ¼-inch thick rounds.  Arrange the eggplant and tomatoes on top of the leeks in overlapping rows of alternating slices of eggplant and tomato.  Each slice should cover the previous slice by at least two-thirds.  Season generously with salt and pepper and scatter the herbs over all.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and cover with foil.


Bake in a preheated 400° oven until the eggplant is tender—about 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and, if using, cover the gratin with the toasted breadcrumbs.  Continue to bake until the juices are reduced and thickened—another 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  If using cheese instead of breadcrumbs, scatter over the gratin at this point.  Let the gratin rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes before serving.  Serve hot or tepid.


Serves 6



Try and select eggplant and tomatoes that are roughly the same circumference.  In some cases this may mean using 2 or 3 Japanese eggplant instead of the globe eggplant.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Visit our new website at!1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup cucumber, chopped
1/2 cup radish, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 tablespoons coriander / cilantro, chopped
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup spinach, chopped
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup black olives, sliced
salt and pepper, freshly ground to taste
1/2 cup feta cheese (optional)

1. Bring quinoa and water to boil, cover and simmer on a low heat for 20 mins. Let quinoa cool to room temperature, then transfer to a serving bowl.

2. Mix the garlic and scallions thoroughly with the quinoa and add the remaining chopped herbs and vegetables. Stir in the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Finally, mix in the olives and season with freshly ground salt and pepper.  Add feta cheese if desired.

3. Set aside for at least 30 mins before serving to allow the flavors to develop and blend.

Serves 4

“Meatless Monday”

Visit our new website at!Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls

(Makes 24 servings)


6 ounces thin rice stick noodles or vermicelli

24 round rice paper wrappers

1 ½ heads Boston lettuce

2 carrots, shredded or grated

¾ cup mint leaves, coarsely shredded

¾ cup cilantro leaves, coarsely shredded

Peanut sauce

1.  Bring 3 quarts of water to boil. Add noodles, swish around and cook 1 minute. Drain, refresh under cold running water and drain again.

2.  Remove core from lettuce. Separate leaves, rinse and drain well, then press each leaf to flatten. Spread out a cotton dishtowel on a work surface. Place noodles, lettuce leaves, carrots, mint and cilantro within easy reach.

3.  Fill a wide dish or pan with hot water. Dip one wrapper in hot water several seconds, until beginning to soften. (Wrapper may be stiff but will soften as you work.) Spread wrapper on towel. Place a lettuce leaf over the bottom third of the wrapper. Top with about 2 T. rice noodles and 1 T. carrots. Add mint leaves and cilantro. Arrange 2 or 3 shrimp halves, cut side down, in a row across the top of the folded section. Roll into a tight cylinder. Place on platter and cover with a moist towel.

Serve cold with Peanut Sauce.

Spicy Peanut Sauce

Makes ¾ cup

2 T. smooth peanut butter

1 ½ t. tomato paste

¼ cup hoisin sauce

1 t. sugar

1/3 c. water

1 t. safflower or corn oil

1 ½ t. minced garlic

1 t. crushed red pepper

In a small bowl, combine peanut butter, tomato paste, hoisin, sugar and water. Blend until smooth. Heat a small heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil, heat until hot and add garlic and red pepper. Fry 5 seconds. Add peanut butter mixture, stir to blend and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be covered and refrigerated for up to a week. Note: Chopped peanuts may be sprinkled on top.


CCKC Favorite Recipe

Grilled Asparagus Pesto

1 pound asparagus
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup hard tangy cheese (Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Regianno or similar)

Grill  asparagus until al dente. Combine the grilled asparagus, basil, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times to coarsely chop. With the motor running, slowly add the oil and process until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add cheese, pulsing only to barely mix. Spread on grilled bruschetta, crackers, pizza etc. or mix into your favorite pasta and top with additional cheese. Keep refrigerated.

“Meatless Monday” Recipe

“Main Dish” Laura O’Rourke took a group on a culinary tour of the Tuscany region of Italy. Their guide, Giacomo, was a “walking history book” as well as a fabulous cook. Laura got pretty talented at jotting down his verbally shared recipes on matchbooks, travel brochures and napkins. This one was written on a paper napkin in a little restaurant in the ancient town of San Gimignano. It’s simple and brings to mind many great memories when she prepares it.

Giacomo’s Baked Pasta Dish

3-4 onions, thinly sliced
6-8 ripe tomatoes (or 10-12 roma tomatoes), thinly sliced
½ to ¾ cup parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
4- 5 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
12 ounces bucatini pasta (or pasta of your choice), cooked al denté and drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a baking dish layer onions, then tomatoes. Sprinkle parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper over the top. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until dried but not burned, about 20 minutes. Remove from pan and chop coarsely. Transfer to a serving bowl and mix with the pasta. Serve cold, warm or hot.

You can easily vary the amount of ingredients to suit your tastes. The better the quality of tomatoes, the tastier the finished dish.