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Chefs’ tales in ‘From the Heart’ touch soul

Even if you never intend to make one recipe from this book — a fund-raiser for Share Our Strength, a national organization that fights hunger — it’s worth the price to be able to take a peek into the personal lives of 100 prominent American chefs, many of whom have greatly influenced the way we eat today.

At the least, pour a cup of coffee or brew some tea on a brisk autumn night so you can curl up with “Cooking From the Heart: 100 Great American Chefs Share Recipes They Cherish” and enjoy their reminiscences about memorable meals and the people who shared them.

The upscale recipes range from simple to quite challenging, but no matter. The stories behind them make them priceless as well as mouthwatering.

A good example of the fare here is the recipe from Chicago chef Charlie Trotter for Dylan’s Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ganache Tart, named after Trotter’s little boy, Dylan. The child is described as a “selective eater” who challenges Dad at dinnertime, but the chef can’t go wrong if he serves chocolate and peanut butter.

“Dylan loves it!,” Trotter writes. “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are the classic, of course, and this dessert captures the idea — and even the shape — of those little crimped-edge treats and produces one large, entirely decadent pie.”

Ming Tsai, whose mother owned a Chinese restaurant in Dayton, Ohio, offers Pork and Apple Potstickers with Dim Sum Dipper. The host of the Food Network’s “Ming’s Quest” and owner of Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Mass., shares memories of when his family would get together for entire meals based on dumplings, hand-rolled in their home kitchen.

Dean Fearing, chef at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, whips up Lobster Taco with Yellow Tomato Salsa and Jicama Slaw, a combo of his love for lobster and Mexican cuisine; cookbook author, television host and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich (including Lidia’s Pittsburgh) recalls Ricotta Gnocchi with Contessa Sauce, inspired by her Istrian grandmother; and Patrick O’Connell of the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va., makes Blueberry Vinegar-Marinated Squab on Creamy Polenta, based on a mountain of blueberries he unknowingly agreed to buy in the early years of his career.

Pennsylvania has its contributors, too, both from Philadelphia: Susanne Foo of Susanna Foo Chinese Cuisine, with Panko-Crusted Goat Cheese with Tomato and Asparagus Salad, based on her mother’s fondness for pungent Mongolian goat cheese; and Kevin Von Klause of the White Dog Cafe, offering Minnie Lee’s Butter Beans, an oldie but goodie from his grandmother in Texas.

Share Our Strength’s anti-hunger programs include Taste of the Nation and the Great American Bake Sale, a nationwide fund-raiser that targets children’s hunger. Since 1984, the organization has distributed more than $69 million to fight hunger worldwide.


Dylan’s Chocolate-Peanut
Butter Ganache Tart


Here’s Dylan Trotter’s favorite dessert. “We often make it together,” says his dad, Charlie, acclaimed restaurateur, cooking show host and cookbook author. “Dylan happens to be a master chocolate chopper — but I often catch him snacking on the chocolate pieces that are supposed to go in the filling.”

For the tart shell:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sifted Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the finished tart
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling

For the ganache:

  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

To prepare the tart shell, cream together the 6 tablespoons butter, granulated sugar, egg, vanilla and salt in a large bowl, either by hand or with a mixer. When smooth, add the 1/3 cup cocoa powder and mix well. Add the flour and mix again until just incorporated.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and press the dough into a flat disk. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

On the lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Line a 9-inch tart pan with the dough, trimming and discarding any excess. Prick the dough several times with a fork and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the crust is set around the edges. Remove from the oven, turn off the oven and let the shell cool completely.

To make the ganache: Place the chocolate and 1 tablespoon butter in a medium bowl. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat. Strain the cream through a fine-mesh strainer over the chocolate. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Let cool for 30 minutes.

Place the peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar in a mixing bowl and combine until the sugar is fully incorporated. Carefully spread the peanut butter in the bottom of the cooled tart shell.

Place the tart shell on a small baking sheet. Pour the chocolate mixture over the peanut butter to the very top of the tart. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until firm.

Dust the tart with cocoa powder.


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