For Michael King, cooking is as much a love affair as it is a family affair. He and his wife of 18 years, Barbara, share a family that includes two children and two grandchildren. The couple cook and work together in their Overland Park home, running the business Great Getaways Travel.
Their lives are an amazing journey together, Barbara says. “We enjoy the time we spend together in the kitchen, both when we’re preparing meals and when we’re eating them,” she says. “Although I can be Michael’s sous chef, I am also a feisty cook on my own, and I’m not afraid to share my feelings, especially when it comes to food.”
Q: Is love always in the air when Barbara and you are in the kitchen?
A: With all the activities Barbara and I share, cooking is one of the ways we stay connected. I may bring a recipe I’ve read to her and ask her if she might like it. After we agree on a dish, we may then go shopping for ingredients and come home to make the dish together.
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Traveling with someone can be like cooking with a person. It is completely immersive, emotions can run high and things may not always go as planned, but at the end, you should still be able to enjoy it. I can count on Barbara to give me honest feedback, but she does it in a way that is kind, not critical. Fortunately, we share the same taste in food, and our shared experiences are all good at the end of the day.
Q: Yours is quite the love story. Would you care to share?
A: In 1997, six weeks after I moved to Kansas City with my family, my first wife died from breast cancer. Barbara and I met at a picnic, and I learned that she was single and that her son had died when he was 2. It was like our two puzzle pieces were meant to be interlocked.
When we got married, my young son told Barbara, “God put us all together. You needed another son and a husband, and we needed a mom and a wife.” Now, we are with each other 24/7, traveling the world three months out of the year, and we’ve never looked back.
Q: Does your cooking borrow inspiration from cultures the world over?
A: With all of the traveling we do around the world, we can’t help but cultivate a global view. We make contacts with people all over the world, so when we are helping others plan a trip, they can benefit from our personal network.
When you sit and break bread with someone, you can’t help but see the ties that unite us are far greater than those that divide. Barbara and I refer to ourselves as citizen diplomats, and in sharing our passion for travel and connection with others, we hope we are helping people experience the world in such a way that it brings peace. We encourage travelers to “be where their feet are.”
When we come home, I will make curries and soups and am learning to use my grill more. But really, when we come home, we just crave simple food, like pasta with good olive oil and fresh vegetables. And this is how most people eat all over the world: They go to the market to see what is fresh and build dishes from that.
Q: This cheesecake recipe evokes quite a few feelings, as well …
A: Barbara says this is the cheesecake that caused our first fight. It was before we were married, and she gave me the 1998 edition of “The New Professional Chef” by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a book full of recipes that are made for a commercial kitchen, with ingredients that are measured in large quantities. For example, how many eggs to be used in a recipe is not detailed in quantity, but rather by weight.
“Who puts heavy cream in a cheesecake?” was Barbara’s question in our first argument when I was trying out this recipe. Turns out that this cheesecake is wonderfully dense and creamy, and although I have a tendency to not follow a recipe exactly, it can lead to delicious results. It’s also the making up — especially if there’s cheesecake — that can also be sweet.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a cook.
A Cheesecake Worth Fighting For
Makes 16 servings
For the crust:
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg, separated, yolk reserved for filling
1/2 cup sugar
For the filling:
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 cups sugar
5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup, 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
To prepare crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with a 10-inch circle of parchment paper. Create a sleeve of parchment paper rimming the inner side of pan and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, stir graham cracker crumbs, butter, egg white and sugar until well combined. Press graham cracker crust onto the bottom and sides up to 1-inch high in prepared springform. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until crust is set. Remove from oven and allow crust to cool completely.
To prepare filling: In a small mixing bowl, whisk cornstarch and sugar together.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth, using an electric mixture set on medium speed. Gradually add sugar mixture and continue to beat until mixture becomes light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Beat in eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, lemon zest and whipping cream until smooth, stopping mixer occasionally to scrape down bottom and sides of bowl.
Wrap the outside of springform pan with 1 large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Pour cream cheese mixture into prepared crust.
Turn oven heat down to 300 degrees. Bake cheesecake until center is slightly set or about 1 hour.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, discard aluminum foil, cover cheesecake with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to chill.
To unmold: Unlatch pan and carefully remove springform pan collar and parchment along the sides. If desired, using a large spatula, lift cheesecake from bottom of springform pan and place it onto a serving plate or cake pedestal.
Cut cold cheesecake into 16 wedges using a sharp knife and serve immediately.
Per serving: 554 calories (59 percent from fat), 37 grams total fat (22 grams saturated), 159 milligrams cholesterol, 50 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 381 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.