The Bartlett Library goes rustic Italian

Roslyn Summerville
Updated 10/12/2018 10:29 AM
  • Patrons enjoy learning how to cook from Chef Susan Maddox at the Bartlett Public Library District.Roslyn Summerville

    Patrons enjoy learning how to cook from Chef Susan Maddox at the Bartlett Public Library District.Roslyn Summerville

On Monday, Oct. 8, Chef Susan Maddox demonstrated how to create a rustic Italian dinner to 37 patrons, and the recipes they learned were lentil soup, grilled eggplant with summer herb relish, vanilla & orange mascarpone panna cotta and creamy polenta.

The first recipe that Maddox walked everyone through was the lentil soup:


• Canola oil as needed

• 1 sweet Italian sausage link, cut into 1-inch pieces

• 1 large onion, small dice

• 1 medium carrot, small dice

• 1 celery ribs, small dice

• 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

• 1 tablespoon of dry oregano

• 1 tablespoon of dry basil

• ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes (as desired)

• 2 tablespoons of tomato paste

• 2 cups of canned diced tomatoes

• 1 2/3 cups of lentils (11 OZ), rinsed well

• 2 ½ quarts of chicken stock or broth

• 1 bay leaf

• ½ escarole, chopped (4 cup packed) or baby spinach or kale

• 1-2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

Cooking instructions:

1. Heat oil in a wide heavy 5- to 6-quart pot over medium-high heat until it simmers. Brown sausage, about seven minutes. Transfer sausage with a slotted spoon to a bowl.

2. Reduce heat to medium and cook onion, carrots and celery. After mirepoix has sweated add the garlic, herbs and red pepper flakes. Cooking for one minute to release flavors.

3. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, two minutes. Add sausage and lentils mixing gently until combined.

4. Add the chicken stock and cook until lentils are tender.

5. Stir in desired greens and cook until tender, about three minutes. Stir in vinegar to taste and season with salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf and serve.

The next recipe was the grilled eggplant with summer herb relish:


• Herb Relish:

o 2 cups packed fresh parsley leaves

o ½ cups packed fresh mint

o 3 green onions, chopped (1/4 cup)

o 1 ½ tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

o 2 tablespoons capers

o 3 tablespoons pine nuts

o 1 tablespoons red wine vinegar

o 2 tablespoons olive oil

• Eggplant:

o 2 medium eggplants

o 1 tablespoons olive oil

Cooking instructions:

1. To make Herb Relish: Purée ingredients with five tablespoons water in blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

2. To make Eggplant: Heat grill pan over medium heat. Brush eggplant slices with oil. Grill slices three minutes per side, or until tender. Spread ½ teaspoon of relish on each eggplant slice and serve.

The final recipe was the grilled eggplant with summer herb relish:


• 3 cups heavy cream

• 1/2 c sugar

• 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped, pod reserved (or vanilla syrup)

• orange, zested, and supreme then cut into 3 pieces each

• 2 1/4 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin

• 3 tablespoon water

• 1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temp

• 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

• 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

Cooking instructions:

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, vanilla bean pod, seeds and orange zest. Bring the mixture just to a simmer over moderate heat. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until it "blooms," or becomes evenly moistened, about four to five minutes.

3. Uncover the cream mixture and bring just to a simmer over moderately high heat. Remove from heat, add the gelatin and stir until completely dissolved. Add mascarpone, orange juice and salt whisking well until cream mixture is smooth. Remove the vanilla bean pod.

4. Strain the panna cotta mixture into a pitcher or large measuring cup with a spout. Pour the panna cotta mixture into eight (4-ounce) ramekins and let cool to room temperature. Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the panna cotta is set but still jiggles, at least three hours.

5. Serve panna cotta in the ramekins or run a knife around the edge and invert onto a plate to remove from the ramekin.

As a bonus, Maddox also taught everyone how to make Creamy Polenta (yields six servings):


• 2 cups whole milk

• 2 cups chicken stock

• 3 tablespoons butter

• 1 tablespoon of basil, finely chopped

• 1 cup yellow cornmeal or polenta

• ¼ cup of parmesan cheese

Cooking instructions:

1. Combine milk, stock, butter and basil in saucepan and bring to a boil.

2. Whisk in dried polenta and whisk continuously for eight to ten minutes or until mixture is tender.

3. Add cheese whisking, adjust consistency if needed. Season to taste. Hold in steam table until needed.

The program ended with everyone getting a taste of the food Maddox whipped up, to which they expressed their fondness over.

If you couldn't attend this event, an upcoming program at the Bartlett Library is "Prime Suspect Mystery Game - Hollywood Homicide" and takes place on Thursday, October 18 at 7 p.m. You're a producer, director, actress or actor. If your movie is a success, you can get many times the return on your investment, if not, oh well, that's show biz! You don't just watch this performance - you experience it, through total audience participation. One thing is certain - a murder has been committed and you're involved. Can you discover the PRIME SUSPECT? Registration required.

For more information and a complete listing of scheduled programs, call 630.837.2855 or visit

*Ingredients and instructions provided by Susan Maddox