Penny Kazmier
Bob Conidi
47, South Barrington
Former cook of the week.
Favorite cooking show: "Top Chef"

Apple and Cheese-Crusted Vanilla Pork Chops with Roasted Beet and Cheese Stacks with Chive Oil


  • 6 bone-in pork chops, 1 1/2 inches thick
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for cooking
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 cup grated yellow delicious apple, drained on paper towel
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons garlic chives, minced
  • 1 cup prepared seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wilted Beet Greens

  • 6 slices bacon, sliced in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 12 cups sliced beet greens (described below)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoons chive oil (see below)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Beet stacks

  • 6 medium beets, washed and trimmed (various varieties, preferred)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup garlic chives
  • 4 ounces soft herbed goat cheese
  • 2 ounces ricotta
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon garlic chives, minced
  • Salt and pepper

Pumpkin and Apple Puree

  • 10-12 small sugar pumpkins, or two cups pumpkin puree1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 large yellow delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Salt and pepper

For the pork: Rinse and thoroughly dry pork chops. Combine 6 tablespoons olive oil, honey and vanilla in a small bowl and rub on pork chops. Place in glass dish or zip lock bag and allow refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Combine ricotta cheese, grated apple, vanilla and chives in small bowl, season with salt and pepper; refrigerate.

In a separate bowl, combine bread crumbs and olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Oil, or treat with cooking spray, a 9-by-13-inch glass dish.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy skillet. Remove pork chops from marinade and add to skillet, cooking in batches and adding more oil as necessary. Sear pork chops about 3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Using tongs, hold pork chop and sear sides as well. Place in prepared pan.

Carefully mound about 1/4-inch of cheese mixture atop each chop; top with bread crumbs and press gently. Bake 20 minutes depending on thickness, checking with meat thermometer. Remove from oven and serve.

For the beet stacks: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap whole beets in tightly in aluminum foil. Place on baking sheet in preheated oven and bake one hour, or until knife easily pierces largest beet. Remove from oven and cool until lukewarm. Using paring knife, carefully remove skin from beets. Slice about 1/4 inch thick and refrigerate. (If using different varieties of beets, do not store together as colors will bleed.)

In food processor combine 1/4 cup chives and olive oil; process until oil takes on a green color and chives are finely minced. Strain through fine mesh strainer and place oil in jar. Discard solids.

Combine ricotta, goat cheese, vanilla and 1 tablespoon garlic chives. Dry beet slices and paper towels. Cut beet slices into shapes, if desired, and layer cheese between beet slices, using 5 slices of beets and 4 layers of cheese. Feel free to use a toothpick to help stabilize the stacks and garnish with extra chives. (These cannot be made too far ahead of time, as the beet color will bleed into the cheese.) Garnish with chive oil.

For the beet greens: Wash beet greens and cut into 1/2-inch strips. In large, skillet fry bacon until cooked, but not crisp. Add greens and remaining ingredients. Stir to thoroughly coat greens. Cover pan and cook to desired texture. Remove lid and cook until liquid evaporates. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the pumpin puree: Place pumpkins upside down on baking dish with 1/2 inch water, balance "lids" on the pumpkins, but do not submerge in water. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. Pumpkins are done when you can pierce them with a fork; the flesh should still be firm, but not hard. Turn pumpkins right side up, and place dish back in oven for 10 minutes, uncovered, until flesh is soft, but shell still holds its shape. Scoop out flesh, leaving enough to maintain the integrity of the shell, sort of like a twice baked potato.

In the meantime, rinse pumpkin seeds in water and dry on paper towels. Mix seeds with olive oil and place in small baking dish, sprinkle with a little salt and bake about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside for garnish.

In a medium bowl, combine apples with honey. Place in oiled baking dish and roast uncovered 15 minutes. Combine apples and pan juice with pumpkin in food processor; add cheese, vanilla and puree. Adjust seasoning.

Divide pumpkin/apple puree mixture between six pumpkin shells (discard the other shells or save for another use). At this point you may refrigerate or return to the oven until warm and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Top with toasted pumpkin seeds and serve with "lid" on the side.

Serves six.

Contestant's Recipe from the First Round

Smoked Polish Sausage and Sweet Potato Egg Noodles — Halushki Style with Grilled Plum, Blue Cheese, and Arugula Salad

  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 tablespoons apple juice, separated
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, separated
  • 1 pound smoked Polish sausage, cut into diagonal slices
  • 4 large cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 small to medium head of cabbage, thinly sliced or a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix (see note)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 pound sweet potato egg noodles, cooked and drained (recipe follows)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 large firm black or red plums, sliced
  • 4 ounces mild crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/3 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 8-10 cups arugula, washed and dried

In large pot fry bacon until cooked, but not crunchy. Add butter and onions, cooking until lightly caramelized. Add stock, 2 tablespoons apple juice and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar. Carefully scrape up all the little bits in the bottom of the pan from the bacon and onions.

In a separate skillet heat 2 tablespoons apple juice and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar. Add sliced Polish sausage, stirring often until liquid is reduced and sausage browns nicely. Add sausage along with any pan juices, garlic and cabbage to the onion mixture; cook covered until cabbage is softened; stirring often and adding extra stock if needed. Add peas. Remove cover and continue cooking until any remaining liquid to evaporate. Add cooked sweet potato noodles. Add parsley, adjust seasoning and serve immediately.

For the salad: Make the dressing. In small bowl combine vinegar, shallots, honey and olive oil; mix well, adjust seasoning, and set aside.

Heat grill, or grill pan, to High. Coat sliced plums in a little dressing and place cut side down on grill and cook about 3 minutes, or until warmed through and evenly marked.

Toss arugula in dressing and place a handful on each of six plates. Top with plum slices and sprinkle with blue cheese and pecans. Serves along side sausage and noodles.

Serves six.

Sweet potato noodles

  • 1/3 cup egg yolks
  • 1 large sweet potato, baked, peeled, and pureed
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3-3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine egg yolks and sweet potato in with mixer until thoroughly combined. In separate bowl combine paprika, 3 cups of flour, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to egg and sweet potato, adding as much of the additional flour, up to 1/2 cup, as necessary to make a still dough. Remove from mixer and knead on floured surface about 2 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest 30 minutes.

Divide dough into 8-10 pieces. On a well floured surface, roll each piece out until very thin. (I used a pasta machine and rolled to the fourth setting.) Using a pizza cutter, or sharp knife, cut dough into approximately 3/4 inch strips. Sprinkle with flour to ensure the noodles don’t stick together and allow to dry on flat surface. Remove excess flour before cooking in boiling water until tender; time will depend on the thickness of noodles, drain immediately.

Makes about 1 1/2 pound of noodles.

49, Itasca
Favorite cooking show: classic Julia Child

Late Summer Evening Pizza

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sweet potato puree (see note)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 packet (.25 ounces) quick rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


  • 4 links smoked Polish sausage
  • 1 large Spanish onion
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup Holland House Red Wine Vinegar
  • 8-10 Italian prune plums
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil

For the dough: Add 1 cup of hot tap water into a mixing bowl. Gently sprinkle the package of yeast on top of the water to allow it to float. After a while it will begin to foam, then add flour, sweet potato puree, sea salt and olive oil. Mix by hand until all ingredients are incorporated or place in a professional type mixer with a dough hook attachment. Knead dough until pliable. Add extra flour as needed until it is no longer sticky.

Form a ball and place in a bowl lightly covered with a cloth and set in a warm spot in order for it to rise, (about 1 hour).

For the toppings: Slice onion into thin rings and add to a non-stick frying pan along with 2 tablespoons butter. Cook with medium heat until transparent, add sugar then lower heat to low and cover. Stir occasionally and continue to cook for 20-30 minutes until onions turn a light brown color. Add 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, stir and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes or until all liquid disappears, and onions are a dark reddish brown color. Set aside.

Slice prune plums in half lengthwise and remove pits. Slice again lengthwise and then crosswise to make eight triangular pieces. Toss in a bowl with honey. Set aside.

Slice smoked polish sausage into quarter-sized wheels and set aside.

To assemble: Heat oven to 500 degrees and place a pizza stone on the bottom rack.

Return to the pizza dough which should be double in size. Cut ball in half and roll one portion out on a floured noodle board or clean table. Use a rolling pin to shape dough into a circle about 1/4-inch thick. If you like thicker pizza, make dough about 3/8-inch thick.

Brush top with olive oil and begin to scatter half the toppings across evenly. Add the cheese last. Repeat with remaining dough and toppings.

Slide one pizza onto the hot pizza stone and cook for about 5 minutes. Check for desired crispiness, you may need to rotate in order for pizza to cook evenly, depending on your oven.

Remove pizza to a platter and let cook slightly before slicing. Cook the other pizza the same way.

Makes two 16-inch pizzas.

Cook’s note: For sweet potato puree: Heat oven or gas grill to 400 degrees. Place sweet potatoes between ridges of the rack, close cover and cook for 10 minutes, rotate 1 quarter turn and close cover and continue until skins are charred all the way around. remove to a pan and set aside. When cool, scoop out the flesh and mash until smooth. Refrigerate leftovers.