Mary Parlanti's mother always encouraged her first attempts at cooking by saying: "It's OK; go make it again and it'll turn out just fine."
By the time she was 12, Parlanti was baking cakes for church picnics. "I was always asked if my mother made the cakes, and I became indignant when people didn't believe I'd made them," she said.
Parlanti's love of cooking led her to become one of Lexington's best-known caterers. Now she is retired and is sharing her best recipes in From the Kitchen of Mary Parlanti — With Love (McClanahan Publishing, $21.95).
Before opening her catering business, The Kitchen at Chevy Chase, Parlanti ran the kitchen at a well-known Lexington restaurant, Amato's, during the early 1990s. Now she cooks for church dinners and charity organizations, and she occasionally appears as a guest chef at restaurants.
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"Almost every time I have made something for a party, dinner, lunch or get-together, I am always asked for the recipe. People want to know if the food is homemade or where I got the recipe," Parlanti said.
Her chicken salad and other family recipes are no longer a secret. They're all in the cookbook, which is available at book stores. Or you can e-mail Parlanti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parlanti will sign books from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Mulberry & Lime, 216 North Limestone. She will serve samples of cranberry-orange bread, sausage and peppers with Parmesan cheese grits, and Slavic nut bread. Call (859) 231-0800.
Here's Parlanti's recipe for chicken salad.
Mary's famous chicken salad
6 to 8 chicken breasts, skin on and bone in
1 rib celery
Salt and pepper
2 cups diced celery
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
½ cup lemon juice
2 to 3 cups mayonnaise
Place chicken in a large stockpot and cover with water. Add carrot, celery rib and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Add parsley and basil.
When the chicken is completely cooked, remove to a baking sheet and allow to cool to room temperature. When it is cool enough to handle, remove skin and bones and discard. Chop chicken and place in a large bowl. Add diced celery, toasted almonds, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Add mayonnaise and mix completely by hand, using plastic gloves to mix. Add more mayonnaise if needed. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Now, that's Italian
Mozz, Louisville's modern Italian supper club, is having a wine dinner that includes a lesson on Italian wines.
On Jan. 13, David DuBou of Vintner Select and Tim Stratman of Vanguard will speak about the wines being paired with the dinner prepared by chef/co-owner Mathew Antonovich.
The evening begins at 6:30 p.m. with an antipasto reception, and guests may discuss the menu with Antonovich throughout the event. The cost is $59. Call (502) 690-6699 or go to Mozzlouisville.com. Mozz is at 445 East Market Street.
The menu includes Hungarian paprika-dusted ahi tuna (paired with Colli di Lapio 2008 Aglianico Irpinia "Donna Chiara," Campania), and smoked paprika- encrusted hanger steak with charred eggplant, rocket lettuce and Gorgonzola cheese (with Masserie Pisari 2008 Primitivo, Puglia).
A real-food campaign
Annie's, the maker of all-natural and organic snacks and cereals, is teaming with the National Farm to School Network to launch the "Root 4 Kids" campaign. They are asking parents and teachers nationwide to help kids "dig" or learn about and plant new vegetables in spring.
The Farm to School Network connects more than 10,000 schools in the United States with local farms to provide healthful food in cafeterias, nutrition education in classrooms and hands-on learning through school gardens.
To join the Root 4 Kids movement, parents, teachers and students can go to Root4Kids.com. Here are some of the Web site's features:
■ "Eat" shares fun veggie recipes, resources to locate veggies and information about real food, farmers markets and why veggies are good for us.
■ "Dig" is a hub for finding seeds, garden resources and information about organic gardening.
■ "Love" has resources and tools for teachers and parents looking to teach kids about the benefits of growing and eating healthy foods.
■ "Play" offers educational games, coloring pages and veggie quizzes for kids.