Cookbook inspiration: O.C. artists

Suzy Casey is a woman of formidable talents. Using her MBA and doctorate in management, she has worked for many years as an advocate and fundraiser for the arts. She is a licensed pilot, is passionate about food and is an inveterate cookbook collector (more than 400 to date). Blending all of her skills, she whipped up a cookbook to promote the artists of Orange County, showcasing their art along with their recipes.

It is in the form of a high-quality limited edition called "The Art Lovers' Cookbook." Twelve copies, signed by all the artists, will be donated to Orange County charities. Appropriately, it will also be available at the Festival of Arts, the Sawdust Art Festival and Art-A-Fair in Laguna Beach. You can purchase it at http://www.artloverscookbooks.com as well as the Cove, Artist Eye, Esther Wells and Townley galleries in Laguna Beach. The book was chosen to be showcased at Book Expo America in New York, the largest book show of the year.

Upon retirement, Suzy, this active lover of the arts, needed a project. She followed up on the idea of an artists' cookbook that she had previously proposed as a fundraiser to the Orange County Arts Council, which didn't have resources for it at the time. So she decided to self-publish it as a "for-profit" entity and enlisted the help of Karin Schnell, an arts educator and administrator, and Rita Goldberg, a columnist, editor and city arts commissioner who knew about publishing and "read every word backward."

Suzy researched self-publishing, and although the process can be simple, putting out a high-quality, beautifully illustrated book is another story. She used the artist's directory of the Arts Council as a starting point and sent out a large mailing to every artist in Orange County for whom she could find an address. Her criterion was that they had to have been award winners in a juried show. Of course, they also had to be enthusiastic about cooking. She then "wrangled" them to participate, and because many knew Suzy from the Arts Council and trusted her, they signed on. These artists loved the basic idea, which was to pair their recipe with a painting or other two-dimensional artwork of theirs that related to the recipe. For instance, Bruce Sanford Day's Hearty Autumn Pumpkin Soup is paired with his oil painting of "Autumn on El Toro Road" and Lorraine E'Drie's Daddy's Crab Gumbo accompanies her painting "The Crab Cooker."

A group of volunteer "chefs" tested the recipes, which were all deemed delicious and a bit unusual. Being the product of artists, each recipe has its own idiosyncratic format and style. Suzy says that she has cooked all of them herself. Two of her personal favorites, in addition to the one printed below, are Sherry's Ratatouille and Three Layer Dessert Bars A La Mode.

The success of her first foray into publishing has spurred this energetic lady to begin planning a Palm Springs edition, and who knows what will come next.

How To Make

N.C. Swan's Roasted Pistachio Pasta (Serves 4)

½ pound fusilli, rotini or penne rigata (any pasta with edges to catch sauce)

¾ cup roasted and shelled pistachio nuts

¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce

2 green onions, chopped in 1-inch segments

3 tablespoons olive oil

Fresh grated Parmesan cheese to taste

1. Cook pasta al dente.

2. Chop pistachios into a fine grind.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch frying pan and sauté half the pistachios until light brown.

4. Splash 2 tablespoons soy sauce into pan before nuts get too brown, stir lightly and reserve. Repeat procedure with remaining oil, nuts and soy.

5. Toss cooked pasta with remaining olive oil and add half the green onions. Place pasta mixture on plate and sprinkle with cooked nuts. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese and remainder of chopped green onions for color over all. Serve with a green vegetable for a complete meal.

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