Tag Archives: desserts

i8tonite with Salt Lake City’s Global Foodie Stormy Sweitzer & recipes for Out of the Box Mayan Brownies and Key Lime Coconut Bars

I8tonite with Salt Lake City's Global Foodie Stormy Sweitzer & recipes for Out of the Box Mayan Brownies and Key Lime Coconut Bars
Haul from Rancho Market, the pan-Latino market we visit on the tour

After Stormy Sweitzer developed a plethora of food sensitivites several years ago, she turned to her travel experience for recipe inspiration. Many international cuisines do not typically use the wheat and dairy products she needed to cut out of her diet, so she started shopping at the ethnic food markets in town.

There is a tremendous international community in Salt Lake City. (In part, due to the fact that SLC is a designated refugee-receiving area, has a large research university, and many foreign-born members of the LDS community immigrate to Utah, as families or new spouses.) As a result, there are a lot of interesting stores, restaurants, and artisan food products from around the globe to explore. And she wanted to introduce interested locals to them. Stormy has offered the tours for about four years now, just a few times each year, through the University of Utah’s Lifelong Learning Program, as well as through private tours.

She sees the class as a gateway to exploration. Her goals are to pique people’s curiosity, encourage them to play with incorporating foreign flavors into everyday cooking (as opposed to becoming expert at international cuisine), and learn how to navigate the shops and ingredients available in their community with confidence.

I8tonite with Salt Lake City's Global Foodie Stormy Sweitzer & recipes for Out of the Box Mayan Brownies and Key Lime Coconut Bars
Teaching before the tour

On the tour, Stormy notes, “We eat our way around town, snacking on Indian Samosas and Chinese BBQ pork buns, having lunch at the restaurant inside of the pan-Latino market, and ending with cardamom spiced tea and chocolate-covered date-covered almonds or samples of fresh dates if they are season. The owners of the shops love that each time I hold a tour, I am introducing new customers to their stores and their home cuisines.”

“Most of the people that join my tours are recently-retired folks who are bored with their cooking and want to shake things up a bit now that they have time to play in the kitchen, friends who want to spend the day exploring together, and young foodies who love to cook and want a guide for their culinary adventures. Many have driven by the shops we visit a million times, but did not feel comfortable going in because they didn’t know what to expect or what to do even if they saw something interesting. “

Stormy notes that she gets a lot of participants by word-of-mouth. They eat something amazing at a dinner party thrown by a past participant and then want to know where their host learned to make ginger and black sesame crusted tuna or cactus fruit syrup over ice cream or where they found the ingredients to pull off a green curry with fresh spring rolls and grilled bok choy. One past participant even wrote to tell her that after the tour, and her subsequent kitchen play, she was planning a trip to Mexico to take a week long cooking workshop.

Best of all, Stormy says, “I do not teach people how to cook. I just invite them to taste, smell, touch, and explore the foods we encounter and to eat together. It is a very sensory, community experience. And, I talk about everyday uses for (e.g., add curry powder to their tuna salad, or a little Thai basil and lime juice to fresh watermelon), storage of, and resources to guide the preparation of the ingredients they decide to try.”

Stormy is a professional problem-solver, everyday explorer, and co-author, with her husband/collaborator Will Swanepoel, of the YA environmental spy thriller The Drowning Shark (which I love!). You can learn about the book at SierraRouge.com and more about Stormy’s work and recipes at StormySweitzer.com.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):
What is your favorite food to cook at home?
My husband makes a killer biryani. I am happy to play a supporting role.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
A lebanese garlic, olive oil and lemon juice condiment called toum made by Salt Lake City producer Laziz. We cook with it like nothing else.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Curiosity. About anything. It makes for interesting conversation and enjoyment of the meal.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Cell phone use.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
I love a good cocktail, but what I drink really depends on the season.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Karen A. Page and Andrew Dornenburg, co-authors of my favorite cooking resource: The Flavor Bible.

I8tonite with Salt Lake City's Global Foodie Stormy Sweitzer & recipes for Out of the Box Mayan Brownies and Key Lime Coconut Bars
Coconut knife found at SouthEast Asian Market used for pitting a cherry (one of Stormy’s favorite kitchen tools)

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My lemon squeezer and a coconut knife I found at a local Asian market; I use it to pit cherries in the summer.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Indian and Mexican.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork, although I’ve been eating way less animal protein lately than I normally do.

Favorite vegetable?
Kabocha squash. I eat it a few times a week in different ways: smoothie, roasted, soup, etc.

Chef you most admire?
Honestly, I’m a hole-in-the-wall-restaurant kind of eater.

Food you like the most to eat?
My mom’s homemade refried beans and rice. It’s what I grew up eating.

Food you dislike the most?
Gluten wreaks havoc on my system, but I would rather face the consequences of eating wheat bread occasionally or avoid bread altogether than eat a gluten-free substitute.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Read. Voraciously.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
I travel a lot, so any place recommended by locals that leaves me thankful for having tried it is great in my book.

What is your favorite restaurant?
La Cai Noodle House, our favorite Vietnamese spot.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Yes. None.

I8tonite with Salt Lake City's Global Foodie Stormy Sweitzer & recipes for Out of the Box Mayan Brownies and Key Lime Coconut Bars
Belize-inspired key lime bars and easy Mayan Brownies

Recipe: Out of the Box Mayan Brownies

This recipe makes the most of traditional Mayan flavors…cocoa, citrus, cinnamon, chile, and vanilla… with the ease of your favorite store-bought fudge brownie mix. If you would like to use your own homemade brownie recipe in place of a mix, simply follow your own recipe’s instructions for eggs and oil/butter, and then add the extra cocoa, cinnamon, habañero, vanilla, walnuts and orange zest in the amounts listed below.

1 package fudge brownie mix
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
2 eggs
8 Tbsp melted butter or 8 Tbsp walnut oil (adds richness)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp finely minced habañero chile pepper
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 8″x8″ pan.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together brownie mix, cocoa, and cinnamon. Add eggs, butter/oil, and vanilla and mix well. Fold in habañero, walnuts, and zest.
Pour batter into pan. Bake according to package instructions, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overcook or edges will harden.

Recipe: Key Lime Coconut Bars

These Belize-inspired treats are packed full of flavor and will transport you to the tropics. You can make them gluten-free by using rice flour instead of all-purpose baking flour made from wheat. For a bit of a kick, add the optional habañero to the filling. Makes ~15 bars.

For crust
• 1 cup shredded non-sweetened coconut
• 1 ½ cups flour (all-purpose or rice)
• ½ cup powdered sugar + more for dusting
• 10 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces (for dairy-free option, use vegan butter alternative)
For filling
• ¼ cup cups flour (all-purpose or rice)
• 2 Tbsp cornstarch
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 5 large eggs
• 2 cups sugar
• 2/3 cup key lime juice (~15 medium key limes)
• 2 teaspoons grated key lime zest
• ¼ tsp finely minced habañero chile pepper

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
• Heat sauté pan to medium heat. Pour in 1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds and pan toast it, stirring continuously to prevent it from burning.
• Prepare crust in a large mixing bowl, by first combining the flour, ½ cup of sugar and ½ cup of the toasted coconut. Cut the butter into the flour-coconut mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
• Pour flour-coconut mixture into a lightly-greased 9-by-13-inch pan, and press it into the bottom of the pan (not the sides). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven.
• While the crust is cooling, prepare the filling in a separate mixing bowl. Beating the eggs together well. Then, add in lime juice, lime zest, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and optional habañero. Mix well. Quick tips: wear gloves when handling the habañero; your eyes will thank you later. ¼ tsp habañero is just enough to add a tiny, occasional bite; add more or less to taste. If you squeeze your own lime juice, strain it before adding it to the mix – it will help remove unwanted pulp and seeds.
• Pour filling into cooled crust and sprinkle the remaining toasted coconut on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden.
• Cool completely and chill until ready to serve. Cut into 2-inch squares. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, before serving.


The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite’s Chef Questionnaire: Monica Glass, A Food & Wine’s Best Pastry Chef

Monica Glass via Eater Philly

It seems as if Monica Glass was always destined to become one of the best pastry chefs in the country given her oeuvre with some of the preeminent Northeast kitchens and chefs. After starting one career as a public relations executive, she transitioned into a more creative profession to become an award-winning pastry chef. Her first job was at the Gotham Bar & Grill, which has long been one of Manhattan’s top restaurants. She started off in an apprenticeship under Deborah Racicot and ultimately wound up working beside her.

10 Arts Lounge, Ritz Carlton. Courtesy of Ritz Carlton.

Her next station was under Executive Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis at Manhattan’s world-renowned and Michelin-starred Le Bernardin. Owned and operated by famed Chef Eric Ripert, Glass worked at perfecting her craft under these masters. Ripert seized the aspiring Glass to work directly with him at the opening of his restaurant 10 Arts at Philadelphia’s Ritz Carlton —   that’s icing on the cake for someone who deals in confectionaries.

Photo Courtesy of Clio.

Glass took on new challenges in the fall of 2012 — professionally and personally — by moving to Boston to take on the role of Pastry Chef     at the award-winning Clio Restaurant. The flagship restaurant of Ken Oringer and his famed use of avant-garde ingredients, tools and instruments, gave Glass the opportunity and ability to grow her knowledge of the pastry arts. At Clio, Glass created desserts that told a story and that served as a seamless finishes started by Clio’s savory meals. In 2013, she was awarded, by Food & Wine Magazine editors as one of five Best New Pastry Chefs for her delicious endeavors.

Glass is now back in the City of Brotherly Love working as the Corporate Pastry Chef at Starr Catering. However, it’s a testament to her ongoing pursuit of culinary challenges and Glass’s own personal battle with a gluten allergy to create a broader menu of gluten-free morsels. Indeed,  it seems that catering to others with celiac disease, the youthful pastry queen can experiment with an indulgent assortment of non-wheat sweets. We don’t care just as long as she never stops creating edible indulgences.

Chef’s Questionnaire with Monica Glass: 

Photo by Monica Glass
Photo by Monica Glass

How long have you been cooking? 10 years professionally, a lifetime for fun.

What is your favorite food to cook? Ice cream.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Eggs, ketchup, cheese, yogurt or kefir, flax seeds, a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups

What do you cook at home? Not much for just myself — eggs, smoothies, cereal. But I love to entertain and have people over for a nice dinner and wine! However, the oven at my new apartment doesn’t even fit a half sheet pan!

Photo by Monica Glass.
Photo by Monica Glass.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? Glee! Giddiness over good food… excitement!

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Rude, short-patience, assuming, condescending.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Rye whiskey, rocks

Your favorite cookbook author? Hmmm….it’s too hard to pick one: Notes from a Kitchen (Jeff Scott.) Alain Ducasse’s Grand Livre de Cuisine Desserts and PastriesThe Secrets of Baking, Sherry Yard. The Flavor Bible, Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg. Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from La Brea Bakery

Your favorite kitchen tool? My hands. Baby offset.

Your favorite ingredient? Hmmmm…. so many! Probably cardamom, kaffir lime, finger limes.

Your least favorite ingredient? Blood.

Photo by Monica Glass.
Photo by Monica Glass.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Anything to do with fabricating meat; hence I’m in pastry.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Comfort American, nouvelle, Spanish, French.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Depends on what cut!

Favorite vegetable? Brussels sprouts. They have to be super crispy though.

Chef you most admire? Michael Laiskonis.

Food you like the most to eat? Ice cream, peanut butter, French fries, Doritos, Reese’s. Not all together though…that would be gross.

Food you dislike the most? I love foie when it’s seared properly but I can’t really do it creamy and cold, like foie torchon or even liver mousses.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Two tattoos. One is a whisk with the worlds “vis ta vie” wrapped around it. For my mother.

Apples by George Polychrones

Favorite Apple Crisp Recipe by Monica Glass.

You’ll want to make the  streusel topping first. I put gloves on and mix together 75g dark brown sugar, 75g white sugar, 150g flour, a pinch salt/cinnamon/cardamom. Add in 150g melted butter and mix to thoroughly coat.

Next, peel 3 each Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples. Slice each side into two pieces, moving around the pit and seeds. Dice each slice into small cubes. Toss the diced apples with about a half cup of sugar (more or less to your liking and the fruit’s natural sweetness), about two tablespoons of cornstarch, another pinch salt/cinnamon/cardamom and the juice of one lemon. Pile into a buttered ramekin and top with streusel. Preheat oven to 325 and bake until bubbly and browned, about 30-40 minutes. Devour with some ice cream!

The End. Go Eat. 


I8tonite: Food from “Kitchen Sense” by Mitchell Davis

I stopped writing on “i8tonite”. It wasn’t going anywhere and truthfully, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to take it. It started because I love cooking. We know that. Truthfully, the sheer act of it (and craft) saved my life. I’m forever indebted to the stove, the fridge, farmer’s markets, and washing dishes. It will have been almost four years since I took on the name of “i8tonite” and the whole thing was a lark. Really. I just needed something to occupy my mind while I gave up a business, a partnership, a dog and the home that I had for more than decade.

Writing out what I was cooking on social media gave me something to look forward to while I was crying about the state of my life as it became unhinged. Then came the requests for photos. Taking the images, a little food styling, along with the hazy images became an extension. My life, as a whole, began to come together again. Then, I started this blog which has had fits-and-starts. Partially, because I only wanted to cook and I wanted to show to prospective clients that I knew about the culinary world, from a sophisticated and well-traveled home cook.

Candidly, I’m not really that interested in creating my own recipes. There are so many great chefs and home cooks out there that I just don’t feel that creative need. However, I do love reading cookbooks. I like understanding the ingredients and how they going to be appealing. I can taste the ingredients before beginning the process. It’s also important to note whether each recipe is laborious or fun. Puff pastry is laborious, making a cake or pie is fun.

I’m also not interested in reviewing restaurants. If I did, I would want to pay for my own meals and try the experience several times over. That would be a costly endeavor and I don’t think many restaurants are worthy of going to 3 or 4 times in a year, much less in a single month. (I’ve been called by friends “extremely picky” in my restaurant choices.) No, I leave that to the food bloggers and newspapers.

Therefore, I’m beginning this endeavor with a new verve with a fresher eye about food and cookbooks. My plan is over a calendar month to attempt at least 4 recipes from one single book. The idea is really to try cooking them. It’s not to review them so much as to just cook from them and then maybe add something with my own thoughts. I do own quite a few cookbooks and I’ve never used one recipe from about three dozen. I’ve read them…but never cooked from them. This will give me the impetus to execute something. Selfishly, I also want to expand my food repertoire and hopefully to whoever reads this blog…if anyone does.

For the first book, I’ve chosen Mitchell Davis’ “Kitchen Sense: More Than 600 Recipes to Make You a Great Home Cook.” Davis is also the executive vice-president and director of communications for The James Beard Foundation along with being an adjunct professor of Food Studies at the venerable New York University. His pedigree about food is astounding. It’s not a new book as it was originally published in 2006 by Random House.

It’s a vast collection around such culinary pantheons as Chinese, American, Italian and Greek and so on. Mr. Davis provides also great tips such as how to make a compound butter or “flavored butter” in a small area on various pages called “kitchen sense” or “basics”, small guidelines for executing simple home cooked gastronomic pleasures like roasted garlic or a compound butter. If you are a professional or have worked in a kitchen, you know some of these recommendations but if you haven’t, some of them are very handy to have.

There also aren’t any photos so I have to think with my tastebuds in order to pick the recipes. I want all my senses to be used as each recipe is made. Can I smell that it might need more seasoning? How does it look? Should I have used the richer Dutch processed chocolate or no? These are the things that I hope to learn as well as a little bit about myself.


Devil’s Food Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from “Kitchen Sense” by Mitchell Davis, 2006, Clarkson Potter).

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting (NOTE: I had to double the recipe to cover the two layer cake. Although delicious and rich, the caramel flavor was very subtle. Next time, I make it I will double the caramel portion. Regardless, is was still delicious and I’m now running four miles every other day to remove it from my body.)

½ cup cold water

1 ½ cups sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups (24 ounces) cream cheese (room temperature)

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)

Place water and sugar into a medium sauce pan. Using a medium high heat, melt sugar by stirring constantly. As the syrup develops, it will thicken into a sauce and begin to darken. This will take roughly 8 – 10 minutes. (You will notice of the water to begin to darken as the sugar stiffens.) Watch carefully as the sugar can become burnt quickly. Swirl until the color of caramel. Remove from heat.

Slowly add the heavy cream and stir constantly. Replace saucepan on very low flame until all the cream has been incorporated. Add the salt.  Keep stirring with a spoon or wooden spatula (do not use a whisk) until a beautiful, rich caramel sauce has developed. (You can always use this for ice cream or pour over cakes.)

In another bowl, mix the butter and cream cheese until frothy. Making sure you scrape the sides of the bowl, slowly add the caramel sauce until completely merged and, viola, you have made your frosting.

You can chill but bring to room temperature before frosting the cake. It will make spreading so much easier. It’s still delicious even though it’s a subtle caramel flavor. I think I wanted it to be overpowering like a caramel latte from Starbucks but it’s more like a European subtle instead of an American-beat-me-until-I’m-black-and-blue.


Devil’s Food Cake

Honestly, this maybe the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made.  It was densely, moist with a very light crumb and an intense lovely chocolate flavor. (Will make two 9-inch layer cakes).

Unsalted butter for greasing the pan

Parchment paper

1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Use the good stuff. I like Dutch-processed as it creates a darker, fudgier cake)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup sugar

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup strong coffee

½ cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. (We do this first so the oven pre-heats while we gather our wits.) Butter the pans and then line with parchment. Butter the parchment. (We do this so we keep our gathered wits about us instead of the cakes sticking to the pans. Trust me on this step….it’s a life-saver.) Once we remove the cakes from the pans, they aren’t that pretty… yet. We will do a little trimming of rough edges using a LOT of frosting to cover up the wrinkles left by the parchment indentations.

In a large mixing bowl, we will sift all the dry ingredients together (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, both sugars and salt).

In another bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together (coffee, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla). Mix with a whisk.

Using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer on low, merge the wet with the dry.

Pour into your buttered cake pans. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Remove from oven once a toothpick comes out cleanly.

Take cakes out and cool on a wire rack. Frost. J