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

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

Recipe: Rack of Lamb



1 (7 bone) rack of lamb, trimmed and frenched

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F Move oven rack to the center position.
  2. In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss in 2 tablespoons olive oil to moisten mixture. Set aside.
  3. Season the rack all over with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy oven proof skillet over high heat. Sear rack of lamb for 1 to 2 minutes on all sides. Set aside for a few minutes. Brush rack of lamb with the mustard. Roll in the bread crumb mixture until evenly coated. Cover the ends of the bones with foil to prevent charring.
  4. Arrange the rack bone side down in the skillet. Roast the lamb in preheated oven for 12 to 18 minutes, depending on the degree of doneness you want. Let it rest for 5 to 7 minutes, loosely covered, before carving between the ribs.

Student Spotlight : Michael and His Recipe for Grilled Skirt Steak and Quinoa Pilaf with Kale & Bacon

Michael (right) before Tough Mudder race
Michael (right) before Tough Mudder race

I asked one of our former students, Michael, a few questions about his experiences in the kitchen. 

So I first knew I wanted to be a Chef after reading Kitchen Confidential (not a great reason, but it’s true,) I’d been working in the industry for about 4 years at that point. I’d always wanted my own restaurant, had been doing Hotel Restaurant Management at NAU, but I had more of a business view on the subject, without really knowing what professional cooking was actually like. When I read the book, it was an epiphany, that was what I wanted, to work the line, put out food, good food, every time, and be a part of the community that goes along with it.

My favorite meal? That’s a tough one. I guess it would be either a warm loaf of crusty bread and some homemade gumbo, food that I grew up with, or a really good handmade pasta, maybe a cavatelli, with a puttanesca sauce, with a nice cheese and cured meat plate, again with the warm bread.
 The most useful thing I learned in Culinary School was that cooking isn’t really about recipes and exact measurements (unless you’re talking pastry, a whole different animal), but knowing the food, knowing the general principle behind what you are doing, and then relying on experience and (if you’re lucky) innate ability to make something that will not only make the customer happy, but will be something you’re proud of.
The best advice I could give to a new culinary student would be to basically forget the entire English language except for three phrases: “Yes, Chef” “No, Chef” and “What else do we need, Chef?” Seriously, you stick to those, and you will be able to get by in a kitchen without too many issues. You don’t know anything starting out, even if you do, and there is always something that needs to be done, whether cleaning, prepping, organizing or fixing a leaky pipe.
My favorite aspect of working in a Kitchen… I can’t really pick one, so here are a few:
     1.The ability to do something I love and am proud of for a living. Not too many people get to say that.
     2. The community. Especially in a small kitchen, there is a sense of brotherhood. It’s almost relatable to the Military, in that you literally bleed and sweat with a couple of other people in an extremely fast paced, high stress environment for hours on end. It forces you to either do the job or get out, and if you can do it you get the respect and dedication of those around you. It’s a really strong bond, and one of the few that you have working in  this industry.
     3.The constant change. It’s rarely boring. Every night is another challenge, another chance for perfection, and it’s up to you to face it and make it.
Michael works at the Tinderbox Kitchen and Annex in Flagstaff.  If you are in the area, (and what better excuse to escape the Phoenix heat for a day trip) be sure to check it out!  Keep in mind that Tinderbox is only open evenings!
Quinoa Pilaf with Kale and Bacon, Grilled Skirt Steak
2 c Quinoa (rinsed, if necessary)
4 c water
1 Bunch Kale, diced
4-5 Strips bacon, diced (Niman Ranch uncured pepper bacon is AWESOME)
1/2 med sweet onion, diced
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 T. butter
Thyme (fresh)
1 Bay Leaf
1 t. Mustard Powder
1 Skirt Steak, best grade you can get
Preheat oven to 400.
Sweat the onion and garlic in the butter, until tender and translucent. Stir in the Quinoa, then add the water. Season with Salt and Pepper, bring to a boil, then place in oven for 17 minutes, or until water is gone and the quinoa seeds look like they all have tails. Should be al dente.
In the meantime, render the bacon in a saute pan over medium heat. After a few minutes, add the Kale, salt, pepper and mustard powder. Cook until the Kale is tender, taste for seasoning.
Stir into the finished quinoa.
For the Steak, I feel like less is more.
Season well with Salt and Pepper, toss it on the grill on high heat, cook to Medium Rare, any more and this cut gets chewy. Be sure to let it rest for a few minutes before thinly slicing and serving with the pilaf.

Adin’s Lemon Parmesan Kale Chips

One of the newest additions to our staff is Chef Instructor Adin Husu.  He made these kale chips for the CCA staff yesterday and we could not get enough!  We’ve all been hearing a lot about kale recently, and with good reason!  It is packed with Vitamin A, C, and K, and also has a good dose of calcium, B6, and magnesium.

Q & A with Chef Adin


When did you first know you wanted to be a Chef?
During my college years, I hated my major in Engineering, so I dropped out and asked myself what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I remembered as a young boy (1 of 9 children) I would help my mom with sponge cakes, butter-creams, icings and such.  She made wedding cakes for a living, and I was always so fascinated with what she could do w a few eggs, flour, sugar and butter.  I couldn’t wrap my head around the science.  Years later that memory immediately flooded my mind and I knew I wanted to become a great chef.

What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal would be a 12 oz cut of juicy prime rib served with a bold Red Wine Jus; the thought alone makes me hungry.  Or if you don’t want to cook me anything, give me some prime beef carpaccio drizzled with EVOO and Fleur de Sel, served with lemony Mizuna greens with chives, paper thin parmigiano reggiano and a grilled baguette.  I could live the rest of my life with this dish.
What do you do in your free time?
In my spare time I love to eat great food, lift weights, ride my bike or go fishing.  I love spending an evening with good friends, having a great coffee in a busy cafe and people watching.  If you think that last part is creepy, admit the fact that we all do it.
And now for the recipe… Happy eating!

Lemon Parmesan Kale Chips

Kale Chips w/ Parmesan & Lemon

2 bunches Kale (Green or Purple)
3 T Grated Parmesan
1 Lemon (juiced)
EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
S & P to taste

Trim leaves off the stalk; leave absolutely no stalk because it is very tough and fibrous.

Cut leaves into pieces, wash and dry completely. This is necessary to get a crisp texture.

Toss leaves in a bowl with Parmesan, lemon, salt and enough oil to cover the kale.   The kale needs to be covered well so that it doesn’t burn.

Place dressed kale on a wire rack on a sheet pan, or on a sheet pan with oil.  Bake at 275 degrees for 10-15 till crisp.  Try to avoid browning.

Let chips cool, and serve.

Bon appetit!

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