Cary cook loves to put a spin on recipes from around the world

 
By Sally Eyre
Daily Herald correspondent
Posted2/27/2018 6:00 AM
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  • Cook of the Week Tayli Sullivan of Cary, with a whole mess of roasted vegetables for her Chicken Piccata.

      Cook of the Week Tayli Sullivan of Cary, with a whole mess of roasted vegetables for her Chicken Piccata. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Cook of the Week Tayli Sullivan of Cary, with her chicken and mixed vegetables.

      Cook of the Week Tayli Sullivan of Cary, with her chicken and mixed vegetables. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Cook of the Week Tayli Sullivan of Cary, shares her recipe for Chicken Piccata and her grandmother's Spanish rice.

      Cook of the Week Tayli Sullivan of Cary, shares her recipe for Chicken Piccata and her grandmother's Spanish rice. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Cook of the Week Tayli Sullivan of Cary says she pays close attention to nutrition labels. "It's kind of a hassle. I am one of those annoying people in the grocery store who is standing there reading all the labels."

      Cook of the Week Tayli Sullivan of Cary says she pays close attention to nutrition labels. "It's kind of a hassle. I am one of those annoying people in the grocery store who is standing there reading all the labels." John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Tayli Sullivan of Cary is our Cook of the Week.

      Tayli Sullivan of Cary is our Cook of the Week. John Starks | Staff Photographer

Like many Americans, when it comes to cooking ethnic foods Tayli Sullivan, our Cook of the Week from Cary, finds plenty of inspiration within her own family. For example, her Italian Grandpa Frank was a firefighter in the city and the fire station cook. Grandpa Frank cooked weekly family dinners, and Tayli loved helping him in the kitchen. She credits him with teaching her how to cook, and she has his written recipes. Tayli is the mother of two teenage sons (who will not, by the way, let her share Grandpa Frank's Italian sauce recipe with us.) Grandpa Frank always cooked the family Thanksgiving dinner, a tradition that Tayli has taken over, preparing the meal exactly as Grandpa Frank would have done. Christmas is a different story. She likes to change the menu every year. "This year I did lasagna and a Sicilian Olive salad that is spicy and garlicky, oh and garlic bread of course," she said.

On the other hand, one of her favorite dishes to make is her Mexican grandmother's rice, comfort food made with onions, garlic and tomatoes. Recently, Tayli and her sons made tamales, a time-consuming task, but worth the effort. They smoked the meat, assembled the filling, rolled them into the corn husks and steamed them for two hours.

"It does take a long time," admits Tayli, "but the filling is so much more flavorful than the ones you can buy -- those just have corn, lard and salt -- if you're lucky!"

Tayli confesses that she is a picky shopper.

"It's kind of a hassle. I am one of those annoying people in the grocery store who is standing there reading all the labels. I've always been interested in nutrition. I like using real food, not packaged. Originally, I succumbed to that working-mother syndrome where I looked for quick dinners, but now the boys like to help me cook, and their tastes have really expanded." Tayli buys organic ingredients where it's important, "fruit and vegetables where you eat the skin," and grass-fed beef if it is an option.

"We also make our own bread a couple of times a month," she says.

The ethnic food influence continues with her Swedish mother and Tayli's Norwegian boyfriend. She has attempted rye dumplings, enjoyed cured lamb chops and has used an iron press to create Norwegian pancakes. Lately, she's cooking using sous vide (French for under-vacuum) technique -- a precision tool that attaches to a pot of water and cooks vacuum-sealed food to the perfect 'doneness.'

"It's great, you just remove {the food} from the pot, sear it, and it's done."

Leaving no ethnic cuisine untried, Tayli also makes a Greek Lemon chicken soup and a slow-cooker Asian dish with beef and kimchee that her sons love.

"A slow-cooker is not my favorite tool, but I do use it a lot." And there are all those Italian dishes, like the Chicken Piccata recipe she shares with us today.

Never one to be able "to look in the pantry and be able to create dinner with three ingredients," Tayli says she needs the inspiration of recipes.

"I don't think I ever follow a recipe fully; I always add more garlic," she laughs. Tayli looks for recipes on Pinterest, and she and her boys like to watch Bobby Flay on Food Network.

It isn't a surprise to learn that Tayli and her family love to entertain.

"We like to just have everybody over here -- with kids all over the place -- but I think I need a bigger table!" she laughs. And no, not everything is an ethnic dish.

"I have been known to check in with Martha Stewart," she smiles.

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