This Girard man learned the culinary basics from his mother ... just in case.
By SARAH A. CART
On a recent summer evening thick with humidity, this week's Good Cook, Dale Lisko of Girard, sat at the heavy wooden kitchen table that once belonged to his grandmother and recalled how his mother taught him some of the basics about cooking.
"She'd take me grocery shopping and show me how to select meat, for example," he said. He then laughed as he admitted that she'd often conclude such learning opportunities with the explanation, "Just in case you don't get married and find yourself living on your own."
His mother needn't have worried. In fact, Lisko's nomination as a Good Cook came from his wife of 18 years, Cheryl, who credits him with doing much of the cooking whenever they entertain. The two have an unspoken but oft-employed approach to throwing a party, she explained: "I do the cleaning and Dale puts together the grocery list, does the shopping and then makes the appetizers, and if we're having dinner, the meal as well."
A graduate of Youngstown State University with a degree in electrical engineering, Lisko works at Rapid Design Service Inc. in Warren, contracted out to Delphi Packard. His wife speculated that it's "the engineer in him that first got him truly interested in cooking. For example, when he first baked a pie, it was because he wanted to understand how it worked and then did it just to prove that he could."
Lisko grew up on Youngstown's South Side with two sisters -- one older, the other, his twin. Having learned the culinary basics from his mom, he gained a little more culinary education working as a busboy at Antone's in Youngstown while he was a student at Woodrow Wilson High School.
"The chef was always having me taste-test things and teaching me the proper way to eat different dishes, like using only salt and pepper on a tender beef filet," Lisko said.
Other culinary lessons over the years have come from experimentation, watching cooking shows on television, and from co-workers who have passed along various tips, he added.
Thanks to one of those tips, Lisko barely touches the dough when he makes a pie crust, even going so far as to roll it between pieces of plastic wrap.
For years he has provided the pies for Thanksgiving with the in-laws. "My mother-in-law always said I should open a bakery," he said. "Of course, my own mother thinks my pie crusts are too flaky!"
Lisko devotes his spare time to family and the couple's two sons, 10th-grader Jason and sixth-grader Josh. Thus he's done everything from coaching and helping administrate youth soccer in Girard to chaperoning the high school band to helping out in the kitchen at fund-raising suppers and church breakfasts.
An avid angler, he also enjoys hunting rabbit and pheasant and shooting skeet, as well as tending his vegetable garden, so he can make salsa using a recipe passed to him by longtime friend Marc Coffman, a former assistant basketball coach at YSU who now lives in Alabama.
He's happy to share that recipe here, ideal for summertime snacking, as well as a few that look to the months ahead.
As he passed along the recipe for shrimp in wine sauce over linguine that the family traditionally enjoys on Christmas eve, he included the tip, "I always soak raw seafood like shrimp or scallops in milk before cooking; that helps take the fishy taste out of it."
6 tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 medium onion, diced
Salt to taste
Jalapeno peppers, chopped, to taste
Blend together the tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, onion, salt and jalapeno. Chill until ready to serve.
Serve cold with taco chips.
DALE'S DAMN CRAB CAKES
1 pound crabmeat
2 cups soft breadcrumbs
1/2 cup minced celery
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon crushed or finely minced garlic (1 clove)
1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
3 dashes hot pepper sauce
2 to 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
Drain crabmeat, removing cartilage. In a bowl combine breadcrumbs, celery, onion, mayonnaise, egg whites, lemon juice, Worcestershire, garlic, salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce and mix well. Gently fold in crabmeat and shape into small appetizer-sized patties.
Heat two tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Cook patties in butter over low heat, turning to brown both sides, about eight to 10 minutes, adding more butter as necessary.
Makes 1 1/2 to 2 dozen appetizers.
BUTTERFLIED SHRIMP IN WINE SAUCE OVER LINGUINE
1 cup water
2/3 cup dry vermouth
1 teaspoon instant chicken flavored bouillon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 pound large shrimp
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons salad oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
Lemon slices for garnish
1 pound linguine, prepared according to package directions and kept hot
About 45 minutes before serving mix together in a large cup the water, vermouth, bouillon, salt and pepper; set aside.
To butterfly the shrimp, remove shells. Rinse under running cold water to remove vein. With a knife, cut each shrimp three-fourths of the way through, along center back; spread each shrimp open. Drain shrimp.
In a bowl, beat egg with a fork. Measure flour onto waxed paper. Mix shrimp with egg in the bowl, then coat with flour.
In a 12" skillet over medium heat, heat butter or margarine and salad oil until hot. Cook shrimp, half at a time, until lightly browned on both sides (about one to two minutes on each side), removing shrimp to plate as they brown.
Return shrimp to skillet; stir in vermouth mixture. Over medium-high heat, heat to boiling; cook for one minute to blend flavors. Place cooked linguine on a serving platter and spoon shrimp and sauce over. Sprinkle with parsley and garnish with lemon slices and serve immediately.
Makes four servings.
BEEF (OR VENISON) STEW
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 to 3 1/2 pounds beef or venison, cut into 1" cubes
1/3 cup oil
1 1/2 cups water
1 10 1/2-ounce can condensed beef broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 small bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
2 cups slices celery
4 medium-sized potatoes, cubed
1 1/2 cups each sliced carrots and onions
1 cup frozen peas
Combine flour and pepper in a plastic bag. Add meat a few pieces at a time, coating evenly. Brown in oil in a large Dutch oven. Add water, beef broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and let simmer for 40 minutes. Add celery, potatoes, carrots and onions. Simmer, covered, for 35 more minutes, or until tender. Add peas and cook, covered, for five additional minutes. Makes eight to 10 servings.
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup Crisco
1/4 cup ice water
3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3 gala apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 generous pats butter
To make crust, place flour in a bowl and use two knives to cut Crisco into the flour until mixture is crumbly. Add water and continue to use the knives (NOT your hands) to mix the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
To make filling, mix together granny smith, golden delicious and gala apple pieces with sugar and cinnamon.
When crust dough has chilled through, divide in half. Place each piece of dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and roll out to form top and bottom crusts for a 9" pie.
Line a 9" pie plate with one piece of rolled pastry. Spoon in filling and cover with second piece of rolled pastry. Fold overhang under bottom crust, pressing to seal, and flute edges. Add decorative pie crust cut outs on top if desired. Cut steam vents in top crust.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until crust is golden, about 50 to 60 minutes. Place pie on a wire rack to cool.