Cook has it her way

12-year-old develops a taste for cooking and creates her own dishes

12-year-old develops a taste for cooking and creates her own dishes

August 02, 2005|by FEDORA COPLEY

Stephanie Merrill, 12, a home-schooler living in Frederick, Md., has been cooking for about six months on her own, mainly making Italian dishes, but she always has helped her mother with meals.

"I really like being able to try new things. I love Italian cooking," Stephanie says. "I mostly invent my own recipes. I have my own basil plant and I like to chop that up and put it in pasta."

Cooking by herself is only part of Stephanie's culinary life.

"Recently I've had lessons with my grandmother. That's been fun," Stephanie said. She has learned to make chicken dumplings with her grandmother.

One aspect of cooking for Stephanie that is fun is chopping up fresh herbs and garlic. Her favorite recipe is pasta with red sauce, chopped garlic and herbs. She often makes homemade tomato-based sauces but has not yet made her own pasta.


One cookbook writer Stephanie says she loves is Mario Batali, executive chef at Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, a restaurant in New York City.

Stephanie was fortunate enough to see Rachel Ray, chef-host of the Food Network's "30 Minute Meals" and writer of many cookbooks, at a book signing in Washington, D.C.

Stephanie herself is thinking about writing.

"I love to write stories," she said. "When people hear I like to write and I like to cook, they always say I should write a cookbook."

She has written down some of her own concoctions and thinks that when she has enough, she might think about compiling them.

One relatively simple recipe is for a cheese bread appetizer.

For now, Stephanie's future in cooking is unclear.

"I'm not sure if I want to be a chef, but it would be fun," she said.

Stephanie said she has discovered that cooking for herself and her family and friends is fun and fulfilling, even if she is never as famous as Rachel Ray.

Cheese Bread Appetizer

French baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

About 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated

3/4 of a red bell pepper, cut into very thin strips

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 leaves chopped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Spread olive oil on bottom of a flat-bottomed 9-inch-by-9-inch baking dish. Arrange the peppers into a single layer in the dish, sprinkle the basil to cover them. Roast in oven for about 20 minutes.

Finely chop or press the garlic cloves. Cover each slice of bread with the garlic. Sprinkle each slice with a generous amount of Parmesan.

Place on a baking pan and put in the 300-degree oven or about 3 or 4 minutes.

Place 3 to 4 basil-flecked pepper strips on each bread slice and serve warm.

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