Following her passion, Sharon Liapis became a teacher, gourmet school cook and personal chef
Sharon Liapis’ first food memories include traveling with her parents and dining at fancy restaurants where no kids’ menus were available. She recalls her father telling her, “You will love this chicken. It is sweet and delectable.” The “chicken” was actually lobster. That experience started her love of food and fancy restaurants.
At age 40, she returned to school to pursue a degree in culinary arts from the now-closed Art Institute in Salt Lake City. “It was the best thing I ever did for myself,” she says. “It was also the hardest thing, but I’ve never regretted it.” The expertise she acquired furthered her knowledge and love of cooking and increased her desire to teach cooking classes, which she began in 2000.
Today, her wide-ranging culinary career involves cooking at least five days a week. Once a month, she hosts “Cooking With Sharon in Pepperwood” in the Pepperwood home that she inherited from her parents and remodeled with the help of her husband, Matt Liapis. Class topics have included healthy and delicious offerings such as Asian fusion, tapas and wine pairings. She also teaches cookbook classes featuring recipes from chefs such as Julia Child and Marcus Samuelsson. “People of all cooking levels come to the class,” she says. “They have many questions, and my feeling is that no question is a dumb question.”
A mix of 50 students and staff from Blessed Sacrament School subscribe to her school lunch offerings such as teriyaki pineapple meatballs, chicken tetrazzini and shepherd’s pie. “It’s amazing that some kids actually love coleslaw,” she says.
On Monday nights, she offers a “reheat and eat” gourmet meal delivery of entrees such as Asian turkey meatballs with spicy slaw and Greek chicken pot roast with pilafi. “I’ve made as many as 165 meals on a Monday night. Even if I cook for the school, I still come home that night and cook for my husband.” She herself requires gluten-free food and adds, “I can prepare food gluten free and people don’t even know it.” Her secret dream is to someday open “a small café that serves breakfast and lunch—a small gathering spot.”
Quinoa Fritters with Smoked Salmon
Makes 12 2-ounce servings
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 cup grated feta
2 large eggs
¼ cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
¼ cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
½ small red onion, finely minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Vegetable oil for frying
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
½ to 1 teaspoon dill
½ teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon sliced green onion,
green tops only
6 ounces smoked salmon, thinly sliced
fresh squeeze of lemon, for garnish
For the fritters: Place the quinoa in a colander and rinse under running water until liquid runs clear. About 1 minute.
In a dry, medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add the quinoa and cook, stirring constantly until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Add the water. Using a wooden spoon to stir, increase the heat to high and bring liquid to a boil.
When liquid is boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
In a large bowl, whisk to combine cheese, eggs, flour, breadcrumbs, chili powder, shallot, salt and white pepper.
Using a silicone spatula, stir in quinoa, being careful not to over mix and make quinoa sticky.
Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, make into evenly sized patties, 2-3 ounces each. Wet your hands to keep the mixture from sticking as you shape them.
Place large nonstick skillet over medium high heat; add enough oil to generously cover the bottom of the pan about ½ inch deep. When oil is heated, carefully add the patties in batches being careful not to over crowd.
Fry on both sides until crispy, approximately 3 minutes per side. Transfer fritters to paper towel-lined plate and season with salt while still warm.
For the sauce: In a small bowl use whisk to combine lime zest, lime juice, and mayo. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
To serve: Place cooked fritters onto plate. Top with teaspoon of the lime mayo (or crema) and then arrange smoked salmon on top of fritters. Serve immediately.
Cooking With Sharon