Chow Town

Even on Father’s Day, chef can’t resist offering cooking advice

Lisa Mirabile’s Limoncello Ice Box Pie
Lisa Mirabile’s Limoncello Ice Box Pie

Can you imagine what life might be like married to a chef?

This past weekend, this chef put myself on the other side and wondered what it is like when your whole life is surrounded by everything food and restaurants — 24 hours, 7 days a week.

I have been married to my wife Lisa for 26 years this July and we have known each other since high school. We travel together a lot and we eat dinner together three times a week. If we see each other during the week it is when she visits me at my restaurant.

Our conversation is usually about the restaurant. I wake up thinking about recipes or public relations and advertising. Other than watching our daughter grow up and following her activities and now her college life, our life revolves around the restaurants and food.

On Father’s Day, Lisa decided she would prepare the whole dinner for her father and me. I wasn’t allowed to do anything, not even toss the salad. She planned her menu, went to the grocery store, cleaned the house and when I awoke, there was nothing for me to do but relax and wait for my in-laws and my mama to show up. It was going to be a relaxing day indeed.

The story should’ve ended here. Not much was supposed to happened the rest of the day except dinner and a late swim. Perhaps I would catch the final NBA basketball championship game and enjoy the company of my family. But a funny thing happened midway through the day. Here’s the story and a recipe you may really like.

I was sitting on the sofa and Lisa was preparing dessert We had enjoyed a Lemon Ice Box Pie in New Orleans at our friends restaurant last month and Lisa wanted to duplicate it for Father’s Day. She had all of the ingredients on the counter and had her mixer out.

Unlike me, she measures everything meticulously and takes her time when cooking. I got up from my big “papa bear” chair and decided to see what Lisa was preparing and as usual, I had to add my two cents.

Lisa was squeezing a cup of fresh lemon juice and the light bulb went off. Why use lemons when you have limoncello in the freezer just crying out for someone to release it and enjoy? I grabbed the bottle and switched out the lemon juice with cello instead.

I looked over at my wife and she was not smiling. I got that look and usually that means it is time for me to leave the kitchen. Like I said, it was Father’s Day and Lisa was being extra nice, but I was in her kitchen now and treading water at that.

I guess it was my day and Lisa decided to use the limoncello over the lemon juice. The old saying “when life gives you lemons …“ came to mind. I knew it was the right decision but was just happy she switched the juice. Lisa finished the dessert and placed in the ice box per directions. Dinner would be served in a few hours and it was back to the chair for this chef.

Avocados tossed with hearts of palm, peppered tenderloin cooked to perfection, creamy mashed potatoes and buttery sweet corn on the cob … Dinner was absolutely delicious. I did get to make some French Press coffee, that was my contribution at the end of the meal but I was anxiously awaiting the Lemon Ice Box Pie. It’s that “sweet tooth” habit you know.

Lisa delivered the pie to the table and I immediately started cutting into it. I divided by six and placed the slices on the dessert plates. It was time to enjoy. I took one bite and I was in heaven!

Wow, what a great lemon flavor. I looked over at Lisa and winked at her. She was smiling. I know it’s not easy being married to a chef but it does have its rewards. I gave her the best compliment ever in front of my family. My wife was happy. I was content.

Life is sweet!

Lisa Mirabile’s Limoncello Ice Box Pie

For the lemon filling:

2 14-ounce cans condensed milk

8 ounces of Mascarpone or cream cheese

1 cup limoncello

1 teaspoon vanilla

Zest of 2 lemons

For the graham cracker crust:

1/4 pound melted butter

1 package graham crackers

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoon sugar

To prepare the lemon filling: Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth.

To prepare the crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a food processor. Place in a glass pie pan and form a crust. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Pour lemon filling over crust. Set. Cover with clear film. Refrigerate 4 to 6 hours before serving. Decorate with fresh lemon slices and fresh blueberries and serve.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s commands the helm of his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts many famous chefs on his weekly radio show Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM and sells a line of dressings and sauces.