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COOKS AT HOME: Michael & Coral Pleas

Michael and Coral Pleas


Michael Pleas met Coral Dunfee 12 years ago over espresso martinis at Fred’s, which has since become Libby’s, and Miss Dunfee has since become Mrs. Pleas. Michael was the charming bartender with the killer smile, Coral the independent businesswoman with the perfectly coiffed hair. The couple share a passion for food and fun, tending to “eat and drink our vacation budget,” laughs Coral.

Coral owns the wildly successful Cutting Loose hair salon, which recently opened a new location on Main Street, while Michael serves drinks and good humor as a bartender at the Ritz-Carlton. They adore travel but decry ‘touristy’ areas, preferring to stray from the beaten path and immerse themselves in the tastes of the region.

Both Coral and Michael are actively involved in the community, with Coral hosting such philanthropic events as the ‘Cuts Against Cancer Cut-A-Thon’ held on October 28th and Michael showcasing his culinary prowess at Sarasota’s annual ‘Men Who Cook’ event. Sarasota has a reputation as a foodie’s haven and Mr. and Mrs. Pleas like to step out downtown occasionally and frequent tasty locally owned bistros like Eat Here and Pomona, relying on the advice of local celebrity chef Jeremy Hammond-Chambers, owner of the boutique catering business Innovative Dining. Coral refers to him as “our go-to dining guide.”

I wonder aloud about when they could possibly find time to cook together and Coral assures me that they make the time. They enjoy entertaining at home and throw monthly dinner parties for the salon staff to celebrate various birthdays and anniversaries. Their home is filled with cookbooks, but Coral admits that these are mostly decorative souvenirs and she and Michael draw inspiration from and improvise the rest.

Neither of them is of Italian descent, but both are enchanted by the intensely flavorful cuisine of Tuscany (Coral attended cooking school there), and the couple lists their favorite ingredients as olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, truffles and, of course, garlic! We’re wrapping up our interview and Coral smiles warmly and invites me to dinner at the Pleas residence: Michael is making short ribs and Coral is planning to entice our Edible photographer into an impromptu dinner party. Though she has been on her feet since early this morning, Coral appears unruffled by her day, and energized at the thought of going home to relax in the kitchen with her ‘man who cooks,’ a glass of wine, and a few good friends.


Braised Short Ribs

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By Bambi Famous Kaine

apple pie

Serves 8

Choose Macintosh or Granny Smith apples. The Macintosh is sweeter and lends a pink color to the pie. Granny Smith will be tart and yield a greener pie.


  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 9-inch pastry shell
  • 7 medium apples, peeled, halved, and cored
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice


Preheat oven to 425o

Combine butter, sugar, and flour until crumbly. Sprinkle ½ of this mixture in the bottom of an unbaked pastry shell.

Place apple halves tightly together in crust with cut side down.

Cover with remainder of crumb mixture.

Mix water and lemon juice and pour over apples.

Bake at 425o for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 375o and continue baking for 35 minutes.

May be served with whipped cream.


Substitute 2/3 cup cream for the water and lemon juice. Sprinkle with cinnamon before baking.

rolling pin

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By Nik Wallenda

Serves 4


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 4 slices pepper jack cheese
  • 4 Kaiser rolls
  • Romaine lettuce, sliced into ribbons
  • 1–2 avocados, sliced
  • 1–2 tomatoes, sliced

For chicken seasoning mix

  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2½ tablespoons paprika
  • 2½ tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

For spicy red pepper mayonnaise

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 roasted red pepper, peeled and diced


Pound chicken breasts flat. Combine seasoning ingredients and generously season each breast. Cook chicken on the grill over medium heat.

While chicken is grilling, combine ingredients for spicy red pepper mayonnaise and spread on sliced Kaiser rolls.

Top chicken with cheese and remove from grill once cheese is melted and then place on Kaiser roll along with sliced lettuce, tomato, and avocado. Serve hot.

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By Audrey Landers

Serves 8


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bag frozen vegetable crumbles
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cans diced, stewed tomatoes
  • 2 cups cooked (or canned) kidney beans
  • 2 cups cooked (or canned) black beans
  • 2 8.75-ounce cans corn


In a flat pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add vegetable crumbles and garlic, and sauté, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked and slightly browned. Place all other ingredients in a large pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cooked crumbles and simmer for 5 minutes on low heat. Garnish with shredded sharp cheddar cheese and chopped red onion. Serve with brown rice.

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Boursin chicken breasts

By Matthew McLendon

Serves 4


  • 4 medium chicken breasts
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Pepper
  • Rosemary and thyme, fresh or dried
  • 1 tub Boursin Light Garlic and Herbs spreadable cheese
  • 8–10 slices high-quality prosciutto crudo


Preheat oven to 350o

Place chicken breasts in a shallow baking dish close to one another, but not touching, then drizzle with a little olive oil and season fresh ground pepper, rosemary, and thyme to taste.

Place approximately 1 tablespoon Boursin at the widest part of each breast. Use 2–3 slices of prosciutto to completely wrap each breast, covering the Boursin. If the prosciutto tears, simply press together or overlap pieces where necessary.

Drizzle each breast with a little more olive oil and place in pre-heated oven, roasting for approximately 30 minutes, or until done.

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savory stuffed chicken

By Yara Shoemaker

Serves 4


  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 organic chicken (about 1½ pounds)
  • 4 cups cold water

For stuffing:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grape seed oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • ½ pound ground organic beef
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch salt
  • 1½ cups medium-grain rice
  • 1½ cups low-sodium, organic chicken stock
  • ½ cup toasted nuts (pine nuts, pistachios and slivered almonds)
  • ⅓ cup dried fruit (such as raisins, cranberries, currants, etc.)
  • Celtic sea salt to taste


Pour vinegar and water into a deep bowl with salt and stir. Wash chicken inside and out with cold water and then place into the bowl of acidulated water. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to soak.

Heat oils in a medium pot over medium high heat, and sauté onion until soft. Add ground beef and sauté until lightly browned (about 4 minutes). Mix spices and salt in a small bowl, reserving 1 teaspoon and adding the rest to the beef mixture. Add rice and toast for 3 minutes before adding chicken stock. Bring liquid to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. The rice should only cook until halfway done (about 10 minutes). Turn off heat and leave covered to cool. Mix in toasted nuts and dried fruit.

Preheat oven to 300o. Rinse the brine off the chicken and pat dry. Lightly salt the outside and inside cavities of the chicken. Massage chicken with a small amount of olive oil and reserved spices. Stuff the halfway-cooked rice mixture into the cavity, being careful not to pack it in too tightly. Tie chicken legs together with twine. Place in a roasting pan and bake for about 1 hour, depending on the size. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving.


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beef tenderloin

By John Scalzi

Serves 6–8

  • 1 beef tenderloin (4–5 pounds)
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt (or 1 clove fresh garlic pounded with ¼ teaspoon salt)


Salt the tenderloin and let sit half an hour. Brush with olive oil and sear on hot grill over direct heat until a nice crust forms. Remove from heat and brush with oil again and dust with finely chopped rosemary, thyme, and garlic salt. Smoke over high indirect heat until thoroughly cooked. Serve with the following sauce.

Tenderloin Sauce

  • 1 and 1/2 cups fruity wine, such as zinfandel or granache
  • 1 cup of low sodium beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf, lightly toasted
  • 3 dark roast coffee beans
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 handful chopped dried cherries
  • A pinch of sugar
  • 2 big splashes pomegranate juice


Combine all ingredients and simmer over medium heat until reduced. Strain and then slather over the beef tenderloin.

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Serves 4

  • 1 egg
  • 4 tablespoons honey mustard dressing
  • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 fresh hogfish filets
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For key lime aioli sauce

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Mirin rice wine
  • 1 key lime, juiced
  • Dash of Sriracha sauce


Place egg and honey-mustard dressing in a shallow bowl and beat together lightly with a fork. Place the breadcrumbs in another shallow dish.

Dust hogfish filets in flour, then dip in the egg mixture and immediately press into breadcrumbs.

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan and brown filets lightly on each side, and then remove to a paper-towel- lined plate.

Combine ingredients for key lime aioli sauce. Plate filets and drizzle each with aioli sauce.

Courtesy of Linda Heath

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Shrimp and Avocado

Serves 4

  • 1 tablespoon diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon ginger grated
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for cooking shrimp)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 radishes
  • 2 Brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed
  • 12 shrimp


To make the dressing, place diced onion, grated ginger, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a lidded jar.

Cut each avocado in half, peel carefully, and slice thinly. On a large plate or serving platter, arrange the slices in a fan to resemble peacock tail (see photo). Slice the radishes thinly into small petal-shape pieces, and arrange on platter as well.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a sauté pan and add the Brussels sprouts. Cook, stirring often until warmed through, then add shrimp and cook until pink. Season with salt and pepper, then arrange the sprouts and shrimp with the avocado and radishes on the plate. Whisk the dressing and then drizzle over the arranged pieces on the platter. Enjoy!

Courtesy of chef Jose Martinez of Maison Blanche;

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  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 ounce Sauvignon Blanc wine
  • 1 head lettuce, sliced
  • 4 ounces heavy cream
  • 4 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 16 sea scallops


Preheat oven to 400°

Coat squash chunks in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and spread out onto a cookie sheet. Season with salt and pepper and then roast for 30 minutes, or until soft. Remove from oven and purée in a food processor along with the butter. Set aside.

To make the lettuce cappuccino, place shallots in a saucepan with the wine and cook over medium high heat until wine has evaporated.

Add lettuce and heavy cream. Simmer for 20 minutes then purée with an immersion blender and strain. Set aside.

Heat remaining olive oil in a skillet and sauté Brussels sprouts until slightly browned. Remove from skillet and set aside, then add scallops along with some salt and pepper and sauté for 5 minutes.

To serve, place some squash purée on each plate and then top with scallops and Brussels sprouts. Drizzle lettuce cappuccino over top.

Courtesy of chef Jose Martinez of Maison Blanche;

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By Elizabeth Sniegocki


  • 2 ½ pints local strawberries
  • 2 medium local oranges
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 packet (1 ¾ ounces) powdered pectin
  • 7 cups organic cane sugar


Place pint jars in water to cover; boil for 10 minutes and keep in hot water. Place jar lids in small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and keep in hot water.

Wash and stem berries; cut in half, then mash. Measure 4 cups into large pot. Wash oranges; cut into chunks, discarding seeds, and chop finely in food processor. Add oranges, pectin, and lemon juice to berries. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to full boil; boil for 1 minute and remove from heat.

Remove jars from water and set on towel (return water to a boil). Use a clean spoon to skim foam off top of marmalade. Lade into jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars clean with damp towel. Place lids on jars and adjust ring bands firmly. Return jars to boiling water; process for 5 minutes. Remove and set on towel to cool. Once cool, remove ring bands and wipe jars. Store in cool, dark place.

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honey-vanilla spiced orange slices

By Elizabeth Sniegocki


  • 2 ½ pounds local oranges (about 4 large)
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups local honey
  • 1 local lemon, juiced
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons whole allspice
  • 1 vanilla bean, split


Place jars in hot water to heat; keep in hot water. Place jar lids in small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and keep in hot water.

Wash oranges. Slice crosswise about 1/2-inch thick, discarding ends and seeds. Cut orange slices in half. Place in saucepan, adding enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until peel is tender, about 10 minutes.

Drain. Combine sugar, honey, and lemon juice in a saucepan; bring to boil. Tie whole spices in a spice bag. Add orange slices, vanilla bean and spice bag to syrup. Simmer about 40 minutes, until orange slices are glazed. Remove spice bag and vanilla bean.

Remove jars from water and set on towel (return water to a boil). Pack hot oranges into hot jars. Ladle hot syrup over oranges, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims of jars clean with damp towel. Place lids on jars and adjust ring bands firmly. Return jars to boiling water; process for 10 minutes. Remove and set on towel to cool. Once cool, remove ring bands and wipe jars. Store in cool, dark place.


Try this on a salad with candied nuts; over ice cream or granola; on pork roast with fresh rosemary; over pound cake; or stirred into hot or iced tea.

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Braised Short Ribs

By Michael & Coral Pleas


  • 4 pounds short ribs
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon each rosemary, thyme, oregano, black peppercorns, fresh herbs if available
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cups full-bodied red wine, cabernet sauvignon or similar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Beurre Manie “kneaded butter”
  • 1 stick (¼ pound) butter, softened
  • 1 cup flour


Preheat oven to 300o.

Season the ribs with salt and pepper ribs. In a large ovenproof Dutch oven or large roasting pan, heat olive oil until hot but not smoking and sauté the ribs on all sides until brown. Remove ribs to a plate.

Add vegetables and herbs to the Dutch oven then place ribs on top. Add stock and wine to cover the ribs and cook at 300o for 4 hours covered with aluminum foil.

Remove ribs from Dutch oven, then strain veggies and save liquid, returning it to the Dutch oven to reduce and thicken. I use a Beurre Manie to thicken the sauce by incorporating the butter into the flour and then adding it to the sauce gradually until desired thickness is achieved. Return ribs to the pot to reheat before serving.


These ribs are even better if made the day before and refrigerated overnight. Also, it is easier to remove fat that solidifies on the surface before making the sauce. Once sauce is made add ribs, cover and return to oven for 1 hour at 300o

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tomato soup

By Darren McGrady

Serves 6

  • 2–4 cloves garlic
  • 1 ½ pounds vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1 ounce butter
  • 4 slices smoked bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 small leek, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 ounces flour
  • 2 ounces tomato paste
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup malt vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream (optional)
  • ¼ cup crispy bacon, chopped
  • ½ cup mature cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup sour cream


Roast garlic cloves in a 350o oven until they are soft. (You can roast them in their skins, but be sure to remove sins before use.)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Immerse tomatoes in the water and cook until the skins split (about 30 seconds). Remove tomatoes and place in ice water, and then slip off and discard the skins. Chop roughly and set aside.

Melt butter in a large, heavy-bottom saucepan (one that has a lid) and add bacon, frying gently. Add onion, carrot, celery, leek, roasted garlic, bay, and thyme, and sauté until golden brown. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir. Add chopped tomatoes and tomato paste and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in a 350o oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and with an immersion blender, puree´ mixture and then strain, discarding the vegetables, for a fine, delicate soup.

Bring vinegar and sugar to a boil, and reduce by half. Add to the tomato soup to taste, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in cream (optional). Pour into bowls and garnish with bacon, cheese and sour cream.

Courtesy of chef Darren McGrady;

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Chocolate Mint Cheesecake

By Darren McGrady

Serves 8

  • 1 packet McVitie’s chocolate digestive biscuits (200 grams)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted, melted butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons crème de menthe
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 packets unflavored, powdered gelatin
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 peppermint chocolate Aero bar (or ⅓ cup grated chocolate)


Pulse biscuits in a food processor until they become fine crumbs. Place crumbs in a large bowl and stir in melted butter. Pack firmly into the bottom of a tart 9-inch pan and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Place egg yolks, crème de menthe, and sugar in a large mixing bowl over a pan of boiling water and whisk for 2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk until the mixture is cold. Soften the gelatin in 1 tablespoon water in a small pan and place over low heat to warm and dissolve the gelatin. Whisk gelatin into the egg mixture. Whip egg whites until stiff and fold into the egg mixture, then spoon onto the biscuit base. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Whip the heavy cream in a large bowl until stiff and spread it on top of the set egg mix. Decorate with chopped mint Aero bar or grated chocolate.

Courtesy of chef Darren McGrady;

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