Tasty Cooking Begins with Herbs
by Pat Nowak
Do you smell that wonderful aroma? Taste the delicious difference? Many chefs agree that cooking with fresh herbs divine enhances the cuisine we eat. Chef Jason Peeler from Ciao Restaurant is certainly a believer. He is so sure of it that for the last three years an herb garden has been grown, specifically for cooking, at Ciao, on Monroe St. in Sylvania. People like to see the fresh ingredients that are being used and many restaurant visitors stop to admire the area and enjoy the wonderful scent.
Designed by his wife, Jennifer, the garden features basil, oregano, tarragon, rosemary, lavender, thyme, chives and tomatoes. They also have an extensive garden at their Elmore, Ohio home and love growing fresh ingredients and cooking authentic food. His favorite – the fresh vegetable pizza, made by his wife, using the garden fresh abundance.
Jason is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Institute for Culinary Arts, and began his twenty-five year career at Mon Ami Restaurant in Port Clinton. He arrived at Ciao Restaurant with a penchant for cooking with quality. His motto “high quality is the most important ingredient in maintaining a restaurant’s high standards.”
His favorite chef is outspoken television personality Gordon Ramsay, for his exacting cooking standards and Peeler maintains that, for Ciao to continue its success, it has to stay on top of its game. He believes that with the many restaurants in Toledo there is good competition, pushing him to maintain high standards and to work harder. Staying on top of his game includes creating fabulous food made with top of the line fresh ingredients; a recipe for success.
Ciao, 6064 Monroe St.
Chef Jason’s Lemon Lavender Cake with Berry Chianti Topping
2 – cups Flour
1 – tsp baking powder
1/8 – tsp salt
½ – tsp almond extract
6 – oz unsalted butter – (room temperature)
1 – cup sugar – mixed with dry lavender buds
2 – eggs – (room temperature)
1 – grated orange zest
1 – grated lemon zest
2/3 – cup sour cream
2 – tsp lavender buds – mixed with sugar
Allow the sugar and lavender to sit together for 24 hours. Butter and flour the inside of a 9 inch cake pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. With an electric beater, beat at high speed the butter, and lavender sugar mixture until light in color (about 2 minutes). Beat in the eggs, one at a time then add the zests and almond extracts. Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients – mix in sour cream until well blended. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until tops springs back when pressed. Let cool. Invert cake on a cake circle and turn the cake right side up. Slice into twelve slices and serve with chianti berry compote and whipped cream.
Chianti Berry Compote
4 – oz. raspberry sauce
2 – oz chianti
3 – oz. raspberries
3 – oz. strawberries
3 – oz. blueberries
In a small pot, bring chianti and raspberry sauce to a boil. Stir in fresh berries and let cool.