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‘Cooking From the Heart’

America’s best-known chefs recall the dishes to help fight hunger.
/ Source: TODAY

America’s best-known chefs recall the dishes that warm their hearts in a collection benefiting one of the nation’s leading anti-hunger organizations. Check out the recipes from “Cooking From the Heart”:


Ann Cashion

When I was developing the brunch menu for a new Tex-Mex restaurant here in D.C., my mother came for a visit from our family home in Mississippi. It was a weekend, I was under so much pressure to design this new menu, and I neglected her the whole time. I felt awful about this. She planned to drop by the restaurant on Sunday morning before heading to the airport. And that morning I woke with a completely realized food vision in my head: how I could please my mother and also create the centerpiece for this brunch menu.

When my mother arrived, I served her a quesadilla filled with Canadian bacon, topped with two poached eggs, and covered with a hollandaise enlivened with chopped jalapeno and cilantro. She was the first person ever to eat what came to be the restaurant’s signature brunch item. She was just so pleased. It was a moment of resolution and peace, a still moment. And the dish has stayed and stayed on our menu.

When people ask how I created that dish, I tell them, “I dreamed it.” But there is more to the story.

When I was in high school, my mother took us to New York City to visit my Uncle Joe. This was a very big deal; I’d never been outside of the South really. And Manhattan was so much to take in. We ate out every night, and I saw a world of cuisine there that was so broad and deep. (I mean Jackson, Mississippi, didn’t have ethnic restaurants.) We went to Luchow’s, the first German food I’d ever had. Then a Japanese restaurant and an Armenian restaurant and a beautiful Middle Eastern restaurant. I went to the Metropolitan Museum and MOMA, and I was utterly blown away by the artwork; I took Polaroid snapshots of my favorite works of art. (I think I still have them.)

And then one evening I remember sitting in Uncle Joe’s apartment and seeing Neil Armstrong hop out of the spaceship and walk on the moon. A man was walking on the moon! That astonishing walk was the symbol of my own voyage to New York: I was walking on a whole new world. Our last meal in Manhattan was at the Edwardian Room in the Plaza Hotel. The room was so grand, we were dressed up, and it felt like a holiday, like Easter. I ordered Eggs Benedict for the first time. I was delirious with pleasure. Even the eggs were so dramatically poached, with a whorl of white at the peak from being lowered into the center of swirling, boiling water.

Back in Jackson, I insisted my mother learn to prepare Eggs Benedict (even without the fancy swirl). And she did just that: she was an accomplished cook, since we had all our meals at home. Hers was basic cooking, and sauces certainly weren’t her style. And yet she taught herself to make an excellent hollandaise for this dish. It didn’t take her long, and she got such a charge out of mastering the suspension of oil in the yolks. Then, for years after that, she made us Eggs Benedict after Sunday Church.

And so, twenty-five years later, in a quiet moment before opening the restaurant, I was able to return a little of the gift my mother had given me.


Serves 4

1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

1/4 cup sour cream

8 small flour tortillas

12 slices Canadian bacon

4 tablespoons (1/2) stick clarified butter

8 large eggs

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Pinch of salt

1 recipe Southwestern Hollandaise


Mix the cheese and sour cream together to form a paste. Spread a thin layer of the mixture on each tortilla. Place 3 slices of bacon on 4 of the tortillas and top with the other prepared tortillas.

Heat a heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon clarified butter. Slide 1 quesadilla into the skillet and cook each side for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Repeat the process with the remaining 3, placing them on a tray and setting in a warm oven.

Boil water in a large saucepan. Gently place the eggs (in the shells) in the boiling water for a count of 30 seconds. Remove the eggs from the water (this precooking helps the egg maintain the shape while being poached.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a deep 10-inch skillet. Lower the heat and bring to a simmer. Add the vinegar and salt. Crack each egg and gently release it into the pan. Spoon water over the eggs to keep them covered. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. (Alternately, cover the pot as soon as the eggs are placed in the simmering water and remove the pan from the heat, allowing the eggs to sit for 4 to 5 minutes before removing them with a slotted spoon.)

Arrange the quesadillas on warm plates. Place 2 eggs on top. Stir the jalapeno peppers and cilantro into the hollandaise and spoon over the eggs.


Makes about 1 cup


1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 large egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 jalapeno peppers, minced

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped


To make the sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan and keep warm. In a small saucepan, reduce the white wine to 1 tablespoon and combine with the lemon juice. Whisk the egg yolks and salt together. Add the wine and lemon juice and combine well.

Beat the egg mixture over low heat or in a double broiler until thickened. Gradually whisk in the melted butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Cover the top of the sauce with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Keep the sauce warm over a bath of hot water. Just before serving, add the jalapeno peppers and cilantro.

A 1976 graduate of Harvard University, Ann Cashion continued to pursue doctoral work in English literature at Stanford University before devoting herself to culinary work. For the past twenty-three years, Ann has worked in restaurants both here and abroad. She began her career in the San Francisco Bay Area before apprenticing at Francesco Ricchi’s trattoria near Florence, Italy. She has opened several restaurants, including Austin Grill, Jaleo, and Cashion’s Eat Place in Washington, D.C., where she serves as executive chef. With her partner John Fulchino, Ann opened Johnny’s Half Shell on Dupont Circle in 1999.


Makes twelve to fourteen doughnuts, about 21/4 inches in diameter


1/2 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for rolling

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 quarts peanut oil

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar


In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside. Combine 11/2 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Add the buttermilk mixture and melted butter and stir to combine. (The dough will be very sticky.) Allow 5 minutes for the dough to rise. Preheat the peanut oil to 365F in a heavy deep pot.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the remaining flour on the work surface and 2 tablespoons over the dough itself. Turn the dough onto the work surface and coat the outside of the dough with the flour. Flour your hands and gently press the dough into a 9 X 7-inch rectangle 3/4 inch thick. Cut the doughnuts with a 13/4-inch round cookie cutter. Open a hole in the middle of each doughnut with the tip of a knife. Dust your fingertip with flour and increase the opening of the hole. (Doughnuts may also be cut into small rectangles using a knife.)

Check the temperature of the oil and fry the doughnuts in small batches for 45 to 50 seconds. Turn the doughnuts when the dough expands and splits at the top, and cook for an additional 45 to 50 seconds. Transfer the cooked doughnuts to paper towels and cool slightly.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the confectioners’ sugar in a bowl. Toss the warm doughnuts in the sugar mixture one at a time.

The doughnuts are best eaten warm.


Substitute 1 cup thick sour cream for the 1/2 cup buttermilk.


Decrease the flour quantity to 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons and add 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder; sift to combine. Add 2 tablespoons cocoa to the sugar-coating mixture.


With the simple addition of lemon zest or fennel seeds, this recipe can create two distinct flavors. Divide the cooked polenta into two portions, adding one optional ingredient to each, creating both varieties.

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)

1 cup ricotta cheese

2 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for rolling

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or olive oil

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest or crushed fennel seeds, optional

2 quarts peanut oil

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar


Simmer the milk in a large heavy pot. Whisk in the polenta and mix well. Reduce the heat to low and stir until the mixture is very thick, 5 to 6 minutes. Scrape the polenta into a bowl and cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the ricotta, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until smooth.

Combine 11/2 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the polenta mixture, melted butter, and the lemon zest or fennel seeds if desired. Stir to combine. (The dough will be very sticky.) Allow 2 minutes for the dough to rise.

Follow steps 3 through 6 in the Buttermilk doughnut recipe.

Excerpted from “Cooking From the Heart” by Michael J. Rosen. Copyright© 2003 by Michael J. Rosen. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.