If Jane Scarlett of Wyandotte has a “signature” dish, it has to be her chocolate cheesecake cupcakes.
She pulled a batch out of the oven and the aroma wafted through the house. The deep, dark chocolate cupcakes are filled with gooey, creamy cheesecake filling. And she doesn’t share the recipe.
Otherwise, everyone will make them and she won’t be invited places anymore, she said with a smile.
But she shares other tips willingly, and this cook makes a lot of different dishes.
The kitchen is the heart of the home she shares with her husband, Jim. It’s a friendly room that beckons guests. She doesn’t have a lot of counter space, so she creates it when needed by pulling out drawers and putting cookie sheets on top. Jane, who works for the , is a master of fixing situations that need fixing.
She is, by and large, a self-taught cook
“I worked in restaurants when I was young,” she said.
Her interest in cooking was piqued then.
“And I worked for a couple of years in the pastry shop at the Hyatt Regency,” she said. “They taught me a great deal. They did things that I didn’t know existed.”
The pastry chefs there worked with spun sugar, for example, and with other intricate techniques.
Somewhere along the way, Jane “realized that cooking is art and science.”
She approaches food preparation as a scientist, she said, but loves that you can be artful with it, as well.
The chemistry of baking in particular is pure science, she said.
“You cannot be creative in your proportions when it comes to baking,” Jane said.
But you can use art as well as science in baking to take dishes from good to amazing. It’s just trickier than with other types of less exacting cooking, she said.
She cans her own tomato sauce every year, stretching the job out over a long weekend.
Jane showed off this year’s jars, which are lined up on a high open shelf with pride.
When she’s done with the canning job, she arranges the jars on the kitchen table and stares at them for a while, she said.
“They’re so beautiful,” she said.
And when winter winds are howling, she can open a jar of sauce and create a dish—spaghetti or chili, for instance—that sings with summer flavor and reminds diners of lush August warmth.
“I love having it in February or March,” she said.
She shared a simple dish she created to be made with the late summer season’s glut of zucchini, a savory side to accompany almost any entrée.
Jane shredded four small zucchini in her processor, then salted the veggies well with kosher salt. She let them stand, then rinsed them and pressed out the excess liquid.
The salt removes any bitterness the squash might have, and helps rid the shreds of moisture so they’ll sauté with ease.
She minced a small onion to go with the zucchini, and sautéed them together in a little olive oil, liberally seasoning the dish with dill, salt and pepper.
A few minutes on the stovetop is all the dish requires. When the earthy odor of dill floated through the kitchen, she sprinkled the hot veggies with crumbled feta cheese, stirred it in and—voila—a beautiful green side ready to serve.
“Everybody has to eat,” Jane said. “Why on earth not make it as special as possible?”