Ann Marie Nordby
Michael Lalagos
43, Arlington Heights
Former cook of the week.
Favorite cooking show: "Chopped"

Tilapia with Cherry Sage Red Wine Reduction, Cherry Pecan Rice and Butternut Squash Soup


  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup chopped raw pecans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage


  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 1/2 cup low sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 3/4 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon


  • 4 tilapia filets
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup reserved cherry water
  • 1 cup pinot noir
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 teaspoon gently cracked black peppercorns
  • 3-4 fresh sage leaves

For the rice: Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Rehydrate cherries in 3 cups of boiling water until plump; drain and reserve liquid.

Toss pecans in olive oil and cinnamon. Toast 5-7 minutes, or until you can smell them.

Using a pasta pot (with streamer/strainer insert to be used later), bring 2 cups reserved cherry water to a boil. Add brown rice and salt; reduce to a low simmer until liquid is absorbed, 50-55 minutes. When finished, stir in 3/4 cup rehydrated cherries, toasted pecans, and chopped sage.

For soup: Peel and chop butternut squash into 1- to 2-inch chunks; toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a cookie sheet and roast 20-30 minutes until fork tender.

Gently warm buttermilk over low heat and add sage leaves. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Combine squash and buttermilk in blender and puree until smooth. Add vegetable stock and heat through.

In a small bowl mix creme fraiche, maple syrup and cinnamon. Serve soup in a small bowl or ramekin topped with a swirl of crème fresh mix, a few dried cherries and pecans.

For the sauce: Combine remaining cherry water, wine, salt, sage and peppercorns in a small sauce pan; bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced by about half. Strain out sage and peppercorns.

For tilapia: Season fillets with salt and pepper. During the last 10-15 minutes of the rice cooking time, place fish in steamer/strainer insert and steam over cooking rice 10-15 minutes until fish is opaque and flaky.

To serve: lay tilapia over rice and drizzle reduction sauce over top. Serve bowl of butternut squash soup on the side.

Serves four.

32, Schaumburg
Favorite food personality: Anthony Bourdain

Oatmeal breaded pork chops stuffed with Canadian bacon and goat cheese with grapefruit reduction

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 10-12 slices Rose Packing Co Canadian bacon
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 2 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup Quaker oats Old-Fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 double thick cut pork chops, bone in or boneless
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 pound of fresh green beans
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Set a pan over medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Finely dice onion and add to pan. Add salt and pepper. Saute onions until they begin to caramelize, about 5 to 6 minutes. Dice Canadian bacon, and add to onion. Since bacon is already cooked, saute for only 1 to 2 additional minutes. Take half of onion-bacon mixture and spoon into bowl, put aside. Rough chop the baby spinach, return pan to heat and add spinach. Cook about 1 minute or until spinach wilts. Pour mixture into another bowl, and add the goat cheese. The cheese will melt in the hot mixture, but stir the mix to incorporate everything. Set mixture aside to cool.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, add whole oats and pulse until semi-fine. Add bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper. Pulse 2 to 3 times to incorporate ingredients. Pour oatmeal mixture onto flat plate. Beat the eggs until frothy and pour onto a second plate.

Take a paring knife, laying the chop horizontal and insert into the rounded portion of the chop until the knife hits the bone. Make a deep pocket to hold the onion-cheese-spinach stuffing. With a small spoon or your hands, take stuffing mixture and insert into the pocket. Be careful to not overstuff, but put a toothpick diagonal along the opening to close if desired. Season both sides with salt and pepper and place chops on plate with egg wash and coat entire chop. Then place each chop into oatmeal mixture. Cover entire chop with mixture.

Place a large pan at medium-high and add 1 teaspoon olive oil. Shake off excess oatmeal off chops and place each chop in pan and saute each side about 2 to 3 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Place chops on oven pan covered with foil and cook for 25-30 minutes.

While chops are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add pinch of salt. Add the green beans and boil for 3 minutes. Drain beans from pot, and pour into serving bowl. While beans are hot, add the bowl of reserved Canadian bacon and onion and stir to incorporate.

In a small saucepan, add grapefruit juice, balsamic vinegar and honey and bring to a simmer. Reduce by half or until thickens to syrup consistency.

Place cooked pork chop on plate (remove toothpick) and put a spoonful of green beans on side. Drizzle grapefruit reduction around pork chop and serve.

Serves two.

Contestant's Recipe from the First Round

Macadamia-Crusted Tilapia with Mango-Cherry Salsa with Black-Eyed Pea, Brown Rice and Butternut Squash Salad

  • 2 tilapia fillets
  • 1/4 cup raw macadamia nuts
  • 1/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro


  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted and finely diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 8-10 fresh cherries, pitted and diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced


  • 1 cup dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 cup cubed seeded butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad: Soak peas in a bowl of water overnight to rehydrate. Drain and boil peas and boil in 4 cups of water in for 50-60 minutes, until cooked; drain and add to large bowl with the cooked rice.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat squash in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast on baking sheet for 25-30 minutes or until cubes are soft and can be easily pierced with a toothpick. Add squash to bowl along with the onion, green pepper and basil. Whisk olive oil and lime juice in separate bowl, add salt and pepper to taste. Add dressing to mixture and stir. (Can be made 2 to 3 hours ahead, let stand at room temperature.)

For the salsa: Combine all ingredients and mix, can also be made ahead of time, refrigerate.

For tilapia: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Add nuts to a food processor and finely chop. Transfer nuts to a bowl with panko, parsley, salt and pepper. Take each fillet and coat in egg wash and then press into crust mixture.

In a saute pan, add olive oil over medium-high heat and saute fillet 3 minutes on each side, or until crust has become golden then transfer to prepared pan and finish in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until fillets are firm to the touch.

While the fish cooks, melt butter over medium-high heat; add shallots, cilantro, lime juice and lime zest and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve: Divide rice salad between to plates, top with fillet. Spoon salsa on top of fillet and drizzle lime butter around tilapia.

Serves two.