Chef Angelo Loria's recipes to ring in the new year

As we look forward to the fresh start of a new year, here are some terrific recipes to help you transition from 2014 to 2015 from a guy who knows a little something about fresh starts.

Angelo Loria, executive chef at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial, grew up in a traditional Italian household in Metro Detroit, where he says he often got drafted to help his mother in the kitchen.

While growing up, the family traveled every couple of years to Sicily.

"My parents were born in Sicily and most of my immediate family lives there," he says.

The chef says his first food memory is of snorkeling in the Italian Mediterranean sea for octopus, then eating it.

"I remember thinking food seemed to taste better there because everything was so fresh," he says.

The chef also recalls helping his dad make ricotta cheese from fresh cow's milk when he was around 8 years old.

With his passion for food and his culinary heritage, a career as a chef might have seemed Loria's destiny. But, in fact, that did not happen for quite a while. Loria started working at Ford Motor Co. in 1997 as a manufacturing technician while also attending Oakland University, where he received a bachelor's in computer engineering.

"After getting that degree, I started culinary school at Macomb Community College as something fun to do and, ultimately, earned an associate's degree in culinary arts, pastry arts and restaurant management," he says.

At one point in time, this ambitious guy was simultaneously going to school, working in the kitchen at Oakland Hills Country Club and also working at Ford as a departmental coordinator from five to seven days a week. His days, he says, started at 6 a.m. and ended at 2 a.m.

"But even though Ford was a better paying job, whereas the Oakland Hills job was just above minimum wage, my passion was food, so I decided to take a buyout from Ford and accept a full-time position at the country club in 2007," Loria says.

And just three months ago, after stints as a sous chef at Oakland Hills and executive chef at the Fox Theatre, the Shelby Township resident was appointed executive chef of the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.

"I am in charge of everything to do with food and am also helping to build our new beer and wine program for the over 400 events that take place here each year," he says.

Loria says he drew his inspiration for the cranberry and ginger holiday mule from a crafted cocktail he had in Boston several years ago.

"It's a fizzy, fun and different drink," he says.

And he says he particularly likes the stuffed dates because they provide "a great way to capture a lot of flavors all in one bite."

As for the rack of lamb and couscous, the chef says: "Lamb has always been a luxurious, yet comforting food item for me and I like the fact that the seasoning for this recipe steps away from the traditional. And the couscous makes a good salad for any vegetarians who might be in the crowd."

Judith Harris Solomon is a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Contact her at

Cranberry and Ginger Holiday Mule

1 teaspoon cranberry compote (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon cranberry simple syrup (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon ginger simple syrup (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 ounces vodka (optional)

Ginger Beer (a splash if using vodka, 2 ounces if not)

Mix all components of drink together. Makes one cocktail.

Make-ahead tips: Both the cranberry elements and the ginger simple syrup (recipes below) can be made about 7 days ahead of time. The cocktail can be mixed ahead of time (individually, or if you multiply the components, in a large batch) without the vodka and the ginger beer. When ready to serve, add the vodka and/or the ginger beer.

Ginger Simple Syrup

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

1/3 cup of sliced ginger

2 tablespoons whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup molasses

Cook everything together until liquid is slightly reduced. Makes enough for approximately 40 cocktails (1 tablespoon per serving).

Cranberry Syrup and Compote

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

1 bag fresh cranberries

Cook cranberries in the sugar water until softened. Strain and reserve both cranberry compote and cranberry syrup. Makes enough for approximately 40 cocktails (1 tablespoon simple syrup, 1 teaspoon compote per serving).

Mule per serving (alcoholic version using one tablespoon of ginger beer): 230 calories; 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat; 0 percent calories from fat); 26 g carbohydrates; 22 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 3 mg sodium; trace protein; 0.5 g fiber.

Mule per serving (nonalcoholic version using 2 ounces ginger beer): 131 calories; 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat; 0 percent calories from fat); 31 g carbohydrates; 29 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 5 mg sodium; trace protein; 1 g fiber.

Chorizo and Cheese Stuffed Medjol Dates

For the stuffed dates

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 pound chorizo, bulk

4 ounces Marcona almonds, toasted and chopped

1 teaspoon sweet, smoked paprika

4 ounces Cabrales blue cheese (or domestic blue cheese crumbles, goat cheese, ricotta, etc.)

12-16 Medjol dates, pitted and sliced like a hot dog bun

8 slices raw applewood smoked bacon, sliced in half

For the balsamic glaze

2 cups balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon honey

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan for approximately 20 seconds. Then add chorizo. Cook the chorizo (trying not to make it crispy) and drain. Once cooled, mix the chorizo, almonds, paprika, and blue cheese in a bowl until combined. Stuff dates with this mixture, then wrap in bacon and skewer to hold the bacon in place. Place in 350 degree oven until the bacon is cooked, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Place all ingredients for the balsamic glaze in a small pot and reduce on low heat until syrupy in consistency (it should make about 1/3 cup).

Drizzle glaze over the cooked stuffed dates once they have cooled slightly. Makes 16 dates.

Per serving: 176 calories; 10 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 51 percent calories from fat); 15 g carbohydrates; 13 g sugar; 14 mg cholesterol; 241 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Tuna Tartare On Crostini

4 ounces Ahi tuna, diced

1 tablespoon diced pickled ginger

1 teaspoon chopped scallions

1 tablespoon wasabi paste

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons mayo

1 1/2 teaspoons sriracha sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons sweet chili sauce

1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

12 crostini

1 tablespoon bonito flakes (optional)

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl, except crostini, bonito flakes and cilantro. Place one tablespoon of the tuna mixture on crostini and then garnish with bonito flake and cilantro leaves. Makes 12 servings.

Per serving: 155 calories; 8 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 46 percent calories from fat); 16 g carbohydrates; 1 g sugar; 21 mg cholesterol; 614 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Herbes De Provence Rack Of Lamb

4 ounces Dijon Mustard

1 ounce white wine

2 racks of lamb, frenched

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper

2 tablespoons herbs de Provence, finely ground in either a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle

2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix Dijon mustard and white wine in a small bowl. Season lamb liberally with salt and pepper. Brush the mustard-wine mixture onto the lamb and cover with herbs de Provence. Heat the oil in a sauté pan until hot. Sear the lamb on all sides in the sauté pan until it is golden brown, then put it in until it is the desired rareness, about 5 to 8 minutes for medium rare. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes, then slice into chops. Serve on a bed of Jeweled Mediterranean Couscous (see separate recipe). Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 317 calories; 20 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 57 percent calories from fat); 3 g carbohydrates; 0 g sugar; 100 mg cholesterol; 896 mg sodium; 31 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Jeweled Mediterranean Couscous

1 1/4 cups couscous

1 1/2 cups water

3/4 cup garbanzo beans, cooked and drained

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon orange zest

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup dried fruit (either apricots, or yellow raisins or a combination thereof)

2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Put couscous in a stainless steel mixing bowl. Bring water to a boil and then pour over couscous, cover the bowl and let sit for 1 minute. Add garbanzo beans, lemon and orange zests and olive oil and allow to cool. Once cooled, add remaining ingredients and season to taste. Serve at room temperature. Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 184 calories; 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat; 20 percent calories from fat); 32 g carbohydrates; 4 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 126 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 3 g fiber.