Cook of the Week: We all need a little food and art in our lives

Vesna Boscovic believes art can transcend geographic boundaries.

Wanting to give artists an opportunity to exchange, promote and earn international recognition for their work across continents, she created an organization called La Citadelle Artistic Association.

“Art can trigger memories or feelings. Art doesn't need a passport; it transgresses borders,” Vesna of South Barrington said.

Food can accomplish the same thing, she said.

“With food you can also travel the world. … Food is universal and even though it emanates from a culture or a country, it doesn't fit into those boundaries because it can be appreciated by people worldwide.”

Those are lessons she has learned first hand.

Before coming to the U.S., Vesna made many memories exploring food through travel. Living in England, she said her husband's colleagues — representing many cultures such as Indian and German — would come into their home where they liked sharing her kitchen and cooking together.

“Whoever comes into our house, they always stop first in the kitchen. The conversation starts in the kitchen. I like when people hang out in the kitchen. Everyone gets to relax and enjoy the heart of the house,” she said.

Vesna also lived in France for eight years, which she recalls as her favorite culinary experience. While there, she took classes at Le Cordon Bleu and learned skills such as how to make foie gras.

“I've always been attracted to new cultures and different cuisines. When I try something new, I will often go home remembering that good meal and wonder if I can make it myself,” she said.

Vesna loves learning to cook whether it's browsing her immense collection of cookbooks or by sharing the kitchen with a group of Hungry Chefs. The eight-member group, started by herself and neighbor and Culinary Adventures columnist Penny Kazmier, meets monthly to cook menus designed by the host. Vesna said she enjoyed recently giving the guests a culinary and historic tour of Serbia.

“The history and the culture and the cuisine, everything goes together,” she said.

When cooking a meal for the family, Vesna is quick to point out she will try any cuisine. A favorite dish at the table is lasagna. She recalls a vegetarian version she tried that incorporated fried zucchini, chickpeas and quinoa. And they always enjoy fish, such as combining sardines with herbs and throwing them onto the grill.

“My grilled octopus is something special,” she added.

Another family favorite — Serbian Cornish hen soup that she shares today — is from her own childhood. Made with caramelized onions and other vegetables, the soup would cook for hours.

“When my daughter is not feeling well, she always calls me and asks, 'Mom can you make this magic soup?'” she said. “It is a soup made with lots of love.”

Vesna said art and food are her two big loves, and there are many similarities to creating art just as one creates a meal. She said one needs preparation, knowledge, practice, understanding, appreciation and conviction to create a meal similar to how an artist makes his art.

“I think everyone should have a bit of both in their lives,” she said.

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Marquise aux Framboises — Chocolate Cake with Raspberries

  Vesna BoscovicÂ’s Marquise aux Framboises. Bob Chwedyk/
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