Mark Canzonetta grew up around plenty of good cooks who influenced him.
Some of his earliest food memories involve eating fried zucchini blossoms at his great-grandmother Razzano's house or watching his Grandmother Canzonetta making homemade ravioli. Then there are his father's hot peppers, which were made for family and friends when he was growing up and now are jarred and sold regionally.
In addition to those Italian delicacies, Canzonetta grew up on stuffed cabbage and haluski from his Hungarian grandfather, and everybody had a vegetable garden.
Mark Canzonetta shows off a few of his family’s favorite dishes at his home in Poland.
''I didn't know what it was like to buy vegetables growing up,'' he said. ''They could take something small and make something significant out of it.''
But it was an outside influence that made him want to be a chef.
Canzonetta was 11 years old and stuck inside on a rainy afternoon and channel surfing. Of course, in those pre-cable days in the Mahoning Valley, channel surfing meant channels 21, 27 or 33.
2 ripe tomatoes
2 quarts water
1 quart ice
4 fresh mozzarella balls
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
8 fresh basil leaves
Fresh ground pepper
Take tomato and score an ''X'' into the bottom of the tomato with a paring knife. Remove the core at the stem end.
Bring water to a boil and add a pinch of sea salt. Place the tomatoes into the boiling water, cook 45 seconds to 1 minute or until the skin of the tomato starts to pull away from the X. Remove the tomatoes and place them into a bowl of ice water to shock them.
Take the tomatoes and peel them from the X back to the core end of the tomatoes and discard the skin.
Take the skinned tomatoes and slice into 3/8 inch thick slices. Do the same to the mozzarella.
Take the basil leaves and roll them into little cigarettes, slice into thin slices (chiffonade)
Arrange 3 slices of tomato and mozzarella on the plate and drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and basil.
Chicken with Herbs de Provence
Tribute to Julia Child
4 8-ounce chicken breasts, airline cut
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
Herbs de Provence
Take the airline chicken breast and rub first with extra virgin olive oil and season to taste with sea salt, black pepper and Herbs de Provence.
Place the seasoned chicken breast on a baking tray atop of a wire rack and roast the chicken breast at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until just cooked. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
Take the chicken breasts and place them under the broiler until the skin of the chicken browns and crisps up.
Serve the chicken breast with some of the natural juice that comes from the baking process. On the side serve creamy, buttery mashed potatoes.
''I clicked it one more to Channel 45 (PBS) and there was this crazy woman cooking,'' Canzonetta said. ''What is this she's making? She was making a chocolate bombe.''
Canzonetta told his mother he wanted to make that dessert. They bought the ingredients and he made it that night.
''Of course, that crazy woman was Julia Child,'' he said.
From that point on, Canzonetta cooked dinner for the family whenever he could. When he graduated from Warren Western Reserve High School in 1984, he went to New York to study at the Culinary Institute of America, earning his degree in 1988.
After owning his own restaurant (Pesto's in Howland) for several years and working at and shaping the menus at others (including Sunrise Inn), Canzonetta now shares his skills as executive chef at the Culinary Arts Center in Boardman, where guests get a cooking lesson along with their dinner. He also develops food products for the Boardman-based Zidian Group. And he spends many weekends traveling the country as a sous chef for Food Network star Guy Fieri when he is doing cooking demonstrations at food shows.
But he also still cooks for his two grown daughters, Amy and Gina.
Not only does this roasted chicken recipe pay tribute to the chef that inspired his career choice, it also is one of his daughters' favorite dishes.
''My kids love chicken,'' he said.
The recipe Canzonetta provided calls for using four chicken breasts prepared in an airline cut, but he also makes it using a whole bird.
Regardless, cooks should take the chicken from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature before placing it in the oven, he said. And for a whole bird, Canzonetta said to make sure it is tightly trussed. In addition to the Herbs de Provence (about a tablespoon), Canzonetta likes to add about a half teaspoon of smoked sweet paprika to the seasonings. And cooks should be generous with the sea salt and pepper, about a teaspoon of each, to help the skin on the bird crisp up.
For a whole chicken, Canzonetta said the oven temperature should be 400 degrees, and the bird will need to cook for about 30 to 40 minutes until reaching an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
The recipe says to serve the chicken with buttery, creamy mashed potatoes. But like many of us, Canzonetta is trying to avoid fat and carbs, so he prepared his chicken with a saute of fresh squash, red onion and asparagus to serve on the side.
Canzonetta, 46, also likes to pair the dish with a fresh tomato salad.
Caprese salad is a traditional Italian dish, and with Ohio tomatoes in season, now is the perfect time to serve it. Because tomato skins are indigestible, Canzonetta prefers to shock his tomatoes in boiling water just long enough to make it possible to peel the skin from the fruit.
The recipe calls for alternating slices of fresh mozzarella with the tomato, but for those who want to cut calories and fat, summer tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper and topped with fresh basil can be just as satisfying. That's the way Canzonetta prepared it in the accompanying photo.