Cooks Corner

Celebrate birthdays and National Pasta Month with these recipes

Ravioli Caprese Lasagna
Ravioli Caprese Lasagna Buitoni

Reader Jane P. of Miami Shores writes:

“Help, help, help! My daughter’s birthday is coming up and I’ve misplaced the recipe I’ve made for each of her 22 years on the planet, a banana cake I think was called Becky’s Birthday Cake.

“I should know the ingredients, but I’m afraid I’ll leave something out. I know I clipped it from your column when she was a baby, because my daughter’s name is Rebekah and she loved bananas, so I thought it so fitting.”

I remember this well, because someone long ago wrote for the recipe and I couldn’t find it in our files, and dozens of readers mailed me yellowed newspaper clippings or handwritten recipe cards in the days before email and home fax machines.

It appeared in a Herald story by Eleanor Hart in 1979 and was attributed to Becky Margolies. I am reprinting it here.

Q. Last week I was on one of my many business-related trips to Charleston, South Carolina. While there, I ate at one of my usual spots, Sticky Fingers BBQ. It’s a chain, mostly in Georgia and South Carolina.

This time they had something new on their menu, fried corn on the cob. It wasn’t breaded, but the outside was a bit crunchy and caramelized. The server wasn’t able to give the cooking method. It was delicious — sweet, yet still soft on the inside. Any idea how I might duplicate the dish?

Gwin Tate III

A. I was unable to get the method from the restaurant, but I have an old ring binder I’ve compiled over a lifetime of road trips called “state fairs and street food.”

There is a reference to deep fried corn there: a volunteer firefighter company in Maryland served corn on the cob that was picked and fried right on the spot at a roadside field, in a huge metal drum, as part of a barbecue fundraiser. The corn came out just as you described, with the kernels slightly caramelized from the natural sugar.

“Get enough oil to cover the whole shucked ear of corn. Keep it at a steady 375 degrees. Carefully plunge the corn in, and let it cook just till golden brown, about 3 minutes. Drain and serve with melted butter, salt and pepper.”

Tried and New

Kalettes are a cross between kale and brussels sprouts, bite-size power punches of fiber and vitamin A that actually are new to the planet, and not just a rediscovery of an ancient food like quinoa or acai. They look like tiny heads of cabbage with frilly leaves and have a sweet yet nutty flavor, and came about through crossbreeding and not genetic modification.

Eat them raw, throw in stir-fries and sautés, roast or grill them. The package I tried out had already been trimmed and triple washed, so mark them up as convenient to use as well.

Kalettes are actually trademarked, the product of the British company Tozer Seeds (in the United Kingdom, where kale is not as trendy as it is here, they are known as Flower Sprouts, and have been marketed for a couple of seasons now). Miami-based urban farm Rock Garden has been growing what it calls BrusselKale for a few years, too.

They are the first new vegetable since broccolini was introduced by Sakata Seed in Japan in 1993. (That’s a cross between broccoli and kai-lan, with smaller florets and longer, thin stalks.)

Kalettes are just rolling into supermarkets — find them at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. I did a quick roast with olive oil and cracked peppercorns and sea salt. In 4 minutes at 400 degrees the lacy leaves got almost burnished while the hearts maintained their crunch. You can find recipes at

Buitoni’s new line of vegetable-infused fresh pastas are vividly colored by pureed spinach, artichokes, asparagus or sweet red peppers that are rolled into the dough. There are a variety of flavors, such as asparagus ravioli stuffed with ricotta, Grana Padano cheese and parmesan, and red bell pepper dough wrapped around roasted red and yellow peppers, seasoned chicken and a combination of parmesan and asiago cheeses.

They cook fast and make attractive plates. I tried this clever, quick and flavorful no-bake caprese-style lasagna, made with the spinach dough ravioli filled with artichoke hearts, ricotta and parmesan. The pastas are available at Publix in the refrigerated section. Find more stores and lots of recipes at

Pasta holiday

As if we needed an excuse to eat pasta, October is National Pasta Month. To celebrate, Brio restaurants in South Florida are offering three-course prix fixe meals for $19.95 Sunday through Thursday, featuring pasta dishes by chefs at Brio locations across the country, including the unusual chicken and sweet potato campanelle here.

Linda Cicero:, @TasteMemories. Write to Cook’s Corner at Food, Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

No-Bake Ravioli Caprese Lasagna

Recipe by Buitoni.

2 medium vine-ripened firm tomatoes, sliced into 3/4-inch-thick slices (need 8 slices total)

1 large yellow summer squash, ends trimmed, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (need 4 slices total)

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Kosher or sea salt for seasoning

1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated spinach and artichoke ravioli

8 thin slices fresh mozzarella cheese (total about 2.2 ounces)

8 teaspoons refrigerated pesto

4 tablespoons (1 ounce) crumbled goat cheese

4 teaspoons toasted pine nuts

Heat grill or grill pan. Brush tomato and squash slices with oil; season with salt. Grill on each side for about 2 minutes or until warm and grill marks start to appear. Transfer to plate. Cut each squash slice in half; set aside. Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain.

Place three ravioli on each of four plates; top with a slice of tomato and a slice of cheese. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon pesto; top with two pieces of squash, a slice of tomato and a slice of cheese. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon pesto. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon goat cheese and 1 teaspoon pine nuts. Drizzle with a little oil, if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings.

Brio Chicken, Sweet Potato & Brown Butter Campanelle

Adapted by Linda Cicero from a recipe by chef Joseph Milbert of Brio in Scottsdale, Arizona.

1 1/2 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter

1 pound crimini mushrooms

2 teaspoons snipped fresh thyme

4 ounces pancetta, cooked, drained and chopped

12 ounces boneless grilled chicken breast pieces

2 small roasted sweet potatoes, cubed

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup chicken stock

1 1/4 cups Alfredo sauce

4 tablespoons pesto

4 ounces spinach

8 ounces (dry weight) campanelle pasta, cooked al dente (see note)

4 tablespoons toasted bread crumbs

4 tablespoons grated reggiano, asiago or parmesan cheese

In a sauté pan heat 1 stick of butter over medium-high heat and allow to brown.

Add crimini mushrooms and sear halfway, then add pancetta and keep stirring until crisp. Add the chicken, sweet potatoes and thyme and cook until thyme is fragrant and ingredients are warmed through, stirring gently from time to time, about 2 minutes. Add the white wine and scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan.

Stir in chicken stock, Alfredo sauce and pesto. Finally, finish with remaining butter, swirling in a tablespoon at a time. Pour over hot pasta. Add spinach and toss well. Garnish with toasted bread crumbs and cheese. Makes 4 generous servings.

Note: Campanelle (it means bellflower in Italian) is a small pasta with fluted petal edges and a hollow center for holding sauce. I found it made by Barilla. In a pinch use a small rigatoni or ziti.

Yield: 4 servings.

Becky’s Banana Cake

Recipe from Cook’s Corner archives.

2 ripe bananas

1 box yellow cake mix

1 (4-serving size) package instant banana cream or vanilla pudding

4 eggs

1 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Slice bananas into large electric mixer bowl and beat until well mashed. Add remaining ingredients to blend, then beat at medium speed 2 minutes. Pour into well-greased, floured pan, 10-inch Bundt or 9-by-13-inch oblong pan. Bake in 350-degree oven 60 to 70 minutes in the Bundt pan, 50 to 55 minutes in the oblong pan.

Yield: 16 servings.