Is there a full moon? Really weird stuff happens when the moon's face is in full bloom. Last week, we were out of eggs. Shawn was probably relieved, because that meant that I could not bake. But, my yearning for sweets soon had me baking an eggless vegan cake, not my usual gig. This week, I have no cornmeal, which is normally not a big deal, because, ordinarily, I do not have a use for it. But something I saw a couple of days ago got embedded so deeply into my mind that getting my hands on a box of that stuff suddenly became a state of emergency.
The funniest thing is that our pantry is bursting with cans, jars, bags and boxes. Jams, we have got - Cherry, blackberry, strawberry, apricot, even pumpkin, but not a single box of cornmeal. So I had the crazy idea of making my own. There just was no time to waste going to the market for polenta and that bag of popcorn was not going anywhere. It might as well go to some good use. I only needed a cup of cornmeal. So I put my handy, dandy little coffee grinder to work. That did not do a great job. So my resident engineer (aka my hubby) suggested upgrading to the juice bullet thingy. I really wanted to make a specific Lemon Polenta Cake with Blueberries. This reaction is quite a normal response after seeing photos of food on billyparisi.com. Go, see for yourself, if you do not believe me.
Billy Parisi is an accomplished chef and family man. His drool-inducing creations pop off of the vibrant pages of his site, but are elegantly simple enough for busy home cooks like me. Here is a man who wears many hats: Food and Content Creator, Sometimes TV Host, Picture Taker, Coffee Drinker, Daddy, Husband, College Sports Enthusiast, Fashionisto, Film and Music Lover. With a culinary degree paired with one in communications and videography, he has both the technical training and an eye for design.
Billy is an approachable, friendly, grounded man with a positive disposition, an all-around likable fellow. With a character ideal for the role of an educator, Billy's enthusiasm for food as an attainable art is clear in the beautiful composition of dishes and the uncomplicated techniques of his recipes. He intends to wow you with a gorgeous plate of food, but is also willing to share his secrets to replicating it at home for yourself. In this vein, he was also willing to answer some (very nosy) questions I had for him.
C: Where were you born/raised?
B: I was born in Detroit and actually moved around quite a bit as a kid. We moved twice while in Detroit and then we moved to Cleveland when I was 8, St. Louis when I was 11, and then I was off to Phoenix for Culinary School after graduation in St. Louis. I'm now in Chicago, but I'm not sure if there is a place I could call home. Detroit or St. Louis maybe?
C: What do you like to do on vacation? You do take vacations, right?
B: We are able to sneak a few vacations in there where we can. Although Cliche, I love the Caribbean. I would sit on the beach all day, eat food and do nothing. I just love starring into the Ocean and feeling that strong breeze roll in, nothing like it.
C: Where would you love to live?
B: I am a sucker for the South. I love the hospitality, I love the weather and I love the people. I'd probably want to live in Charleston, NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) or Atlanta, if my wife would let me of course. I'm pretty sure though that I'll be in Chicago for the long haul.
C: How did you land in the cooking industry?
B: You know, I always say it started before I was born. My grandparents were from Italy and my dad met my mom in a restaurant, he was a cook and she was a waitress. Food has always really been in my life but I actually didn't start loving to cook until I was 13. When we were in St. Louis, my dad's buddy owned a restaurant so I started washing dishes there when I was 13. I kind of had a Kitchen Confidential restaurant upbringing where I literally idolized the chefs at this restaurant. Heck I was only 13 and watching them make insanely beautiful food just caught my attention and really the rest is history.
B: I love that I can be at home with my family and just make awesome food all day and take pictures of it. Seeing the smiles on my wife and daughter's faces is irreplaceable. I love creating memories with food, whether it's through a picture or a night at the dinner table with my family.
C: If you had an endless budget, what would you do?
B: I'd build an awesome house with an insane kitchen, cook food, take pictures of it and eat with my family :-)
C: What do you cook at home?
B: It changes so much on a weekly basis. Some weeks I'm baking pies and other weeks I'm making Spring Rolls, literally whatever sparks my interest that week, I'm cooking it.
C: What's in your freezer?
B: I have some leftover frozen pizza sauce, bolognese, chili and a whole bunch of frozen vegetables.
C: Which do you prefer to make: Sweet or savory?
B: Savory all the way, but I love combining them together.
C: Which do you prefer to eat: Sweet or savory
B: Savory. sweet.... savory!
C: Your Soigne dishes are stunning. Do you force yourself to compose new recipes or
are you naturally inspired?
B: It kind of goes back to what I'm in the mood to do and then I just make'em. I have learned through making those videos, since I am the producer, shooter, editor, food stylist and chef, that they need to not be a long recipe. Short and sweet is better and more engaging.
C: What's your favorite junk food indulgence?
B: Sour patch kids and cool ranch Doritos!
C: What do you absolutely refuse to eat?
This gorgeous cake is one of Chef Billy Parisi's signature creations. The lemons and polenta give it an Italian accent. The blueberries give it American flair. Most importantly, it is elegantly simple to prepare by design.
This cake is also gluten-free as the almond and corn flours stand in place of traditional all-purpose wheat flour. And don't worry about those lemons as they won't go to waste. The zest is needed for the cake batter, but the juice goes into the homemade blueberry sauce. Get the original recipe here.
I have never really been good at following instructions. It is usually a challenge for me to remain faithful to a recipe. To me, recipes are merely just suggestions, even in baking where disobeying the print is sacrilege, punishable by flopped results. This lemon cake is one case, however, in which I followed every step like a model student. It was so easy to make and so beautiful with the fluffy white clouds of whipped cream and rich purple drizzle of blueberries on top. The cake turned out so yummy that Daisy could not wait for me to take a few photos to show it to you. That is why a big slice is missing. She then asked for seconds.