Food Connection

Classic Cooking Academy's blog and podcast

Rhubard-Strawberry Tart

Tart Shell

1 1/4 cups          All Purpose Flour
1/4    cup            Sugar
1/2    cup            Butter
4-6    tbls             Ice Water
Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl.
Cut the butter into 8 pieces and then cut them into the flour until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
Add the water, a little at a time, until a dough forms and can be gathered into a ball.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.


1 1/2  lbs      Rhubarb, trimmed and
                       cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3     cup     Sugar
8                     Large Strawberries,
3                     Eggs, separated
1/4   cup       Whipping Cream
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Place the rhubarb in a bowl and sprinkle it with half of the sugar.
Let sit for 30 minutes to draw out the juice.
In the meantime, roll out pastry and fit it into a 10-inch tart pan.
Prick the tart shell bottom and sides with a fork and line the tart pan with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and with pie weights or beans.  Bake in a preheated 375° oven for 10 minutes.
Remove the pie weights and foil.  Then bake for another 7 minutes.
Drain the rhubarb, reserving the juice, and arrange the rhubarb along with the strawberries in the tart shell. Sprinkle with half of the remaining sugar and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven.
Just before the baking time has elapsed, beat the egg yolks with remaining sugar and mix in the rhubarb juice, cream and lemon zest.  Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the egg yolk mixture.  Pour the custard over the rhubarb/strawberries and return the tart to the oven.  Bake for another 20 minutes until the custard is set and  the top is brown.  Serve warm or cold.
Serves 8


I was astonished to read an article lately on America’s obesity epidemic. Who would have thought that our country has fueled a boom in expensive weight-loss surgery, extra-wide hospital beds and super-sized grave plots?   

I am not an expert on the subject but feel the need to share my thoughts on the obesity crisis.  As an owner of a cooking school I firmly believe in our motto: We Are What We Eat.   Evidentially, there is need to make healthier choices with our diets.

One subject I have wanted to share as it is now in the spotlight – Sugar is the New Food Villain. For years fat and cholesterol were believed to be the culprits. Now a number of nutritionists are pointing their fingers at sugar as the problem. Just look at the consumption of sugar in America’s diets at overwhelming rates. Sugar is everywhere and most concerning, sugar becomes addictive.

My recommendation for a healthier life is to limit your sugar intake and avoid processed foods.

Donna Dionot

Eggplant Gratin

Here’s a great eggplant dish to compliment your springtime lamb and it’s easy to make

Eggplant Gratin

3 small eggplants, sliced in 1/4 inch rounds

4 medium tomatoes, sliced in 1/4 inch rounds

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil, divided

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled

1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

  • Preheat oven to 400.  In a large bowl, gently toss eggplant rounds, tomatoes, lemon zest, thyme, garlic, and 1/4 cup olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • In a 9 inch gratin dish, arrange vegetables in shingled layers while tucking crumbled goat cheese underneath each round.  Drizzle with 2 tbsp oil and sprinkle panko on top.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • Bake gratin until tender and golden brown, 50 minutes to 1 hour.  Serve hot directly out of the baking dish.

Makes 4 to 5 servings

Ode to Brie and Camembert

Ode to Brie and Camembert

Brie and Camembert, what a formidable pair
Without which we would quite despair!

You are as royal sisters, sharing a similar story;
One illustrious and proud, and quite deserving of great glory.

Within the vast world of cheese
Your delightful duo aims to please.

And please us you certainly have, for hundreds of years,
The mere mention of your names being music to our ears.

We are in good company, as you have been favored by French Kings and other royalty,
Charlemagne, Napoleon, among the many seduced by your texture so velvety.

Yes, you have long had regal fans, though your roots trace back to the farm,
Where dairymen have long toiled to make you, under the spell of your charms.

We have the French cows to thank for their beautiful milk
Which produces a fromage of unsurpassable ilk.

But the French are not alone in their loyal appreciation of your worth,
No, the fame has crossed all national boundaries and you are now found in any situation of great mirth.

If celebrating some occasion, we would no doubt rejoice with some Brie or Camembert,
Along with champagne perhaps, and so we find you at the swankiest of affairs.

You offer innumerable varieties – beware not to overwhelm us!
We sometimes feel that we need to take a head count and conduct our very own census!

Do we buy Brie de Melun, de Meaux, de Montereau or de Coulommiers?
Or do we purchase Brie not all, but rather a milder, more subtle Camembert?

Still we are faced with an abundance of choices, and narrowing it down is not so easy,
Though we can rest assured we will get top-notch quality when choosing Camembert de Normandie.

We may enjoy you with a selection of wine or an array of fresh fruit after dinner.
Yes, you enthrall our picky palates, but with your high fat content you do not help make us thinner!

But we can forgive you the calories since we dare not overindulge and risk taking you two for granted
For in our minds, Brie and Camembert, in first place will you forever be firmly planted.

Written by Sarah Schuler
Former student of Pascal Dionot

Visit our website for more information

Healthy Blender Soups


Creamy blender soups are now the rage.  Soups can be modified in so many ways and remain healthy for every diet.


  1. Saute 1 chopped small onion and 2 minced garlic gloves in 1 tablespoon oil in saucepan until tender.
  2. Add ½ cup raw cashews and 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth; simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add Veggies (See below) and enough broth to cover. Simmer until tender.
  4. Blend with Add-Ins (See below) until super smooth, about 5 minutes. Reheat and season to taste with salt and pepper.  If too thick, add more broth.  Serve with optional toppings.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Veggies:  4 cups of roasted red peppers, 1 Yukon Gold potato and 1 carrot (each pealed and chopped)

Add-Ins:  ¼ cup pomegranate juice


Veggies:  1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and chopped

Add-Ins:¼ peeled, pitted avocado, juice of ½ lemon, 2-3 teaspoons chopped fresh dill or parsley


Veggies:  1 head cauliflower, broken into florets, 1 Yukon Gold potato, peeled and chopped; 1 celery stalk chopped

Add-Ins:  Juice of ½ lime and 1 tablespoon white miso



Even our Young Ones are Master’s in the Kitchen

One of our students brought in a recipe that was created by his young son.  Too precious!


1 teaspoon vinegar

2 teaspoons baking soda

I think 1 teaspoon powder

Put the bread in and mix it around with the bread “dougher”.  You have to cook it and put it on the stove.  Let it sit on a plate for a minute, then you cook it and put it on the stove again.  (I like syrup on it.)

Drew Hansen

Drew was 3 years old when he described his idea for Raisin Bread.


Lemon Dessert Recipe



This is a great bread pudding recipe we use often at our school.  The recipe is from Roland Mesnier’s Dessert University book.  Chef Mesnier is the former Executive Pastry Chef of the White House.  It has been an honor to be friends and colleagues of Roland Mesnier.

Pascal Dionot
Executive Director/Classic Cooking Academy
Scottsdale, AZ


Serves 10

One 8 x 4 inch Brioche Loaf (Store bought is okay)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups dried blueberries (Fresh blueberries won’t work here; their juice would make the pudding too watery)
6 large eggs
Pinch of salt
¾ cup sugar
1 quart whole milk
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise, or ½ tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups Light Lemon Sauce (recipe below)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cut the ends off the brioche loaf and discard them.  Slice the brioche into ten ¾ inch thick slices.  Trim the crusts from each slice and cut each slice in half.  Butter one side of each piece of brioche.
  2. Butter a 7×12 inch baking dish and arrange the blueberries in an even layer on the bottom of the dish. Arrange the brioche slices, buttered side up, overlapping them slightly, over the blueberries.
  3. Whisk the eggs, salt, and sugar together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. Place the milk in a medium saucepan. Use a sharp paring knife to scrape the seeds from the inside of the split vanilla beans.  Add the seeds and the beans (or the extract) to the milk.  Very slowly bring the milk to a boil over medium-low heat.  Remove the pan from the heat and let rest 5 minutes to extract all of the flavor from the vanilla pods and seeds.
  5. Slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh strainer over the bread.  Press the bread down with the back of a large spoon so that it is completely soaked.
  6. Line a roasting pan with a few sheets of brown paper or newspaper. Place the dish in the pan, and carefully transfer the pan to the oven.  Add enough hot tap water to the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the dish.  Bake until the custard is set around the edges but still a little wobbly in the center when gently shaken, 30 to 40 minutes.
  7. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the brioche pudding cool in the water for 15 minutes. Then remove the baking dish from the roasting pan and let it stand another 10 to 15 minutes.  Serve warm with Light Lemon Sauce.



Makes 1 ½ cups

1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Mix the cornstarch and sugar together in a small saucepan.  Whisk in the boiling water.  Place the pan on the stove and bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter.  Transfer the sauce to a bowl, and cool to room temperature

Ep. 9: Remembering Jean Louis Palladin & Interview with Carla Hall

Today we chat with The Chew’s Carla Hall (who happens to be one of Pascal’s former students.) Pascal also recalls some of his favorite memories of the innovative Chef Jean Louis Palladin.

Food Connection is brought to you by Classic Cooking Academy



Poems: Ode to Asparagus


Ode to Asparagus

Asparagus, asparagus, let me sing thy praise.
Your reign as “Food of Kings” will endure to the end of days.

That Louis Quatorze of France, he loved you so dear
That he had greenhouse built especially to grow you throughout the year.

Yes, he was but one of many in a long line of fans,
Dating back to the Greeks, The Romans, even the ancient Egyptians.

You delight us in springtime, when all is anew,
Pleasing our palates as only you can do.

In your generosity you offer us a choice of green or white.
But we cannot declare one superior to the other, for that would not be right.

It has come to be that we Yanks favor your bright green spears,
While those on the continent have preferred white through the years.

We can certainly all agree that in the kitchen none can compare
To all that you have to offer, all that with us you do share.

For on any menu of worth we find you filling many roles, gracefully omnipresent –
As an appetizer, a refreshing salad, or perchance, as an accompaniment to pheasant.

You allow our culinary creativity to take flight and flourish,
As we ponder just exactly how best to prepare you for that unique and stellar dish.

Will we blanch you?  Steam you?  Saute you?  Or will we cook you not at all?
Since in your natural, raw state you also offer much and do us ever enthrall.

To peel, or not to peel, there are those who would debate the merits,
Since it is not as straightforward a matter as it would be with, say, some carrots.

However, that debate may be settled, we vow to cook you with the greatest finesse,
Mindful of not overcooking your spears or gentle tips, leaving you a mushy mess!

No, we would never disgrace you in such fashion, behaving with reckless abandon.
We would first get out of the kitchen and deservedly hang up our apron.

In gratitude for your many gifts to us, we make you this solemn vow,
And may our words ring true each spring, as they do in the here and now.

Written by Sarah Schuler
Former student of Pascal Dionot

Learn the best preparation for your asparagus at Classic Cooking Academy where cooking techniques are taught.        Visit our website

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