Cooking all about a zest for life, fire in belly

Paul and Cathy Brustowicz like to cook in as well as eat out.

Looking ahead: In two weeks, much of the U.S. population will be fixated on Super Bowl XLVIII — rather, what’s they are eating for the 48th edition. It’s one of the biggest food days of the year.

Next Sunday, we would love to share your “winning” recipes for Super Bowl party appetizers. Hopefully, they will give everybody some new ideas and if they have a Lowcountry flair, all the better. Don’t hestitate. Please email one or two of your favorites by Thursday to

“Some people’s food always tastes better than others, even if they are cooking the same dish at the same dinner. Now I will tell you why — because one person has more life in them — more fire, more vitality, more guts — than others. A person without these things can never make food taste right, no matter what materials you give them, it is no use.”

— Rosa Lewis

I have a sense this quote is fitting for husband-and-wife Paul and Cathy Brustowicz of Summerville, good cooks recommended by Jane Orenstein, also of Summerville. Jane says the two of them put together quite a spread.

But you might be wondering, who is Rosa Lewis? A tidbit for lovers of culinary history: Lewis (1867–1952) was known as the “Queen of Cooks” in her time.

She was a British chef and owner of The Cavendish Hotel in London. Edward VII was certainly taken with her food if not the “queen” herself; the two were rumored to have had an affair in the 1890s.

I found her words in “The Quotable Feast” by Sarah Parvis, a delightful little book that came out in 2001 with the subtitle “Savory Sayings on Cooking, Eating, Drinking, and Entertaining.”

I asked the Brustowiczes some questions about themselves and their mutual love of cooking.

They are retired; he is 69 and she says she is “37 and holding.” (That quip certainly shows some “fire,” no?)

They are parents and grandparents, too. Their son, T.J., lives in New Jersey and they have two grandchildren, Jack, 9, and Abby, 8, “who heartily endorse grandma’s pancakes as the best.”

Here’s what Cathy and Paul have to say:

Q: Paul is the cook, Cathy is the baker. Please describe what makes you happiest about these hobbies.

Paul: I enjoy the planning, organizing and prepping for a meal, small or large. I feel good when Cathy or guests compliment my endeavors. I know the effort was worth it.

Cathy: I just seem to enjoy making appetizers and desserts over making a meal — and who doesn’t like dessert?

Q: Usually there’s a “spark” in one’s past that made you interested in food and cooking. What or who was that for you?

Paul: I did a little cooking when I was a kid and in college, mostly burgers or chops. Interest really started with Cathy’s French cooking classes in Ames, Iowa. We were in a newcomers’ dinner club in New Jersey where Cathy did all the cooking. We still have most of the recipes.

Cathy: I started taking cooking classes as a young mother. It gave me an opportunity to try new things that I knew my children would not eat!

Q: What is your style of cooking/baking, and what are a couple of your “specialties”?

Paul: My cooking is best called eclectic. My specialties would be split pea soup, chicken stock/soup, scallops, chili, osso buco (veal and pork) and Thanksgiving turkey dinner.

Cathy: I like to make pies; sour cream apple has always been a family favorite. Appetizers are also fun and easy.

Q: How often do you try new things? What makes you want to?

Paul: I’m adventurous and will try new things every month, if by new things you mean new recipes. Go to cookbooks are Ina Garten, Weight Watchers, Better Homes and Garden, Jacques Pepin and Lidia Bastianich.

Cathy: We get several food magazines each month: Bon Appetit, Cooks’ Illustrated, Food Network. I usually find something I think is interesting and ask Paul to make it.

Q: Do you cook as a couple?

Cathy: We haven’t cooked very often as a couple. When we did, one of us was the sous chef. Actually, we get in each other’s way and we each have to zip our lips as our preparation techniques are different. Paul is organized and I tend to use every mixing bowl and utensil at hand and clean up after I have finished the preparation.

Q: Do you enjoy outside cooking activities as a couple, such as classes, culinary vacations, trying new restaurants?

Cathy: We enjoy the cooking classes with Stephen Harman at Coastal Cupboard in Mount Pleasant. Paul enjoyed it so much, he now volunteers there for classes. We both enjoy trying new restaurants. Culinary vacations sound like a good idea. How about sending us to Tuscany so we can report back to The Post and Courier readers?

Q: What are a couple of your favorite restaurants in the Charleston area?

Paul: We moved here in 2012 and are still exploring restaurants in Charleston. We’ve had great dinners at Oak Steakhouse, McCrady’s and SNOB. Wanted to go back to La Fourchette, but they closed. We live in Summerville and can recommend Oscar’s and Palmetto Flats.

Q: Your go-to cookbook on your shelf and why.

Paul: There two go-to cookbooks for me: “Better Homes and Gardens” has good basic recipes with handy tips and directions; the other is our collection of recipes from classes and cooking magazines.

Cathy: I love Ina Garten’s cookbooks. Her recipes are simple and delicious. I use recipes from my cooking classes and our newcomers dinner group.


Unbaked 9-inch pie shell

For the filling:

2 eggs

1½ cups sour cream

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

11/3 cups sugar, divided use

1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons flour, divided use

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 to 4 cups sliced Granny Smith apples (or other tart apple)

For topping:

Remaining 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

½ stick unsalted butter cut into ½-inch cubes


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk together eggs, sour cream vanilla, 1 cup of the sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, nutmeg, salt until smooth.

Peel and slice apples slightly less than ¼-inch thick. Line apples in shell and pour sour cream mixture evenly over. Bake for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 45 to 50 minutes longer.

For the topping: Stir together remaining 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, cinnamon and pinch of salt. Blend in butter until clumps form.

Remove pie from oven. Increase temperature to 400 degrees. Crumble topping over top and bake until the sugar melts, about 10 minutes. Cool on rack for at least 45 minutes.


4 pork shanks

Kitchen twine


Salt and pepper

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 carrot (2 if they’re small), finely diced

1 celery rib (2 if they’re small), finely diced

2 shallots, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, finely diced

1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 sprigs thyme

1 bay leaf

1 sprig rosemary

2 cups chicken stock

Gremolata (recipe follows)


Rinse the pork shanks and pat dry with paper towels. (If you buy shanks with skin, you’ll have to remove it.) Secure the shanks with the twine.

Make a mixture of salt (2 teaspoons), pepper (1/2 teaspoon), and flour (1/2 cup). Dredge the shanks in flour mixture, shake off excess and set on a rack.

Heat half the oil in large Dutch over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering/and or almost smoking, add the shanks. Brown the shanks about 3 to 4 minutes per side, moving them around to achieve even browning. You may have to brown 2 shanks at a time. Move browned shanks to a plate.

Lower the heat to medium. Add the remaining oil to a Dutch oven and saute the carrots, celery and shallots. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

When the vegetables are almost soft, 5 to 7 minutes, add the garlic and continuing cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and reduce it by half. Add the tomatoes with juice and tomato paste. Stir the whole pot and cook for 5 minutes. Add the herbs and stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes with the lid off.

Meanwhile, set an oven rack to the lower third and preheat oven to 325 degrees. When the oven is ready, return shanks to pot, cover with aluminum foil and the lid. Transfer pot to the middle of oven. Total cooking time is about 11/2 to 2 hours. Check the meat every 30 minutes, making sure the shanks are about 3/4 into the sauce. If sauce is 1/2 or less, add more stock. At 1 hour, turn the shanks over.

Check the shanks at 2 hours. If the meat is falling off the bone, it is done. Move the pot from the oven to the stove top and transfer shanks to plate, remove the string if used and cover with foil. Remove the herbs. Use immersion blender to thicken the sauce. (If no blender, use cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.) Add the gremolata and cook about 5 more minutes. Return shanks to pot to reheat. Transfer shanks to serving dish along with sauce.

Serve extra sauce on the side.

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon lemon/orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

Mix all ingredients together.

Kathy Plair writes, “I was recently looking for an old recipe for what I recall as ‘butter mints’ to serve at a baby shower. I remember my grandmother serving these pastel colored mints that melted in your mouth. I found a substitute called cream cheese mints consisting of that and powdered sugar, with a hint of mint flavoring, but these were not the same as the butter mints that I recall. They were not made of cream cheese and didn’t tend to soften up so much as these did. Someone suggested that I may find a recipe in an old church cookbook, but I’ve not had any luck yet. Anyone have this recipe?”

Still looking: Pat Frey for years has enjoyed a Green Tomato Chutney put out under the Rockland Plantation label. “I have not been able to find it for a few years now, and the last of my hoarded supply is almost gone. This is a very tasty, salt-free sauce for bland meats, such pork and chicken. I’d be very happy if any of your readers could come up with a recipe.”