At home with Chef Adam Polisei

Judith Harris Solomon
Special to The Detroit News

Adam Polisei's mother is not surprised her son became a chef.

"While he was sitting in the cart at the grocery store when he was just about 2 years old, I would ask him what he wanted for dinner and he would point to cod and then to pasta. He could even say the word 'cod,' " Jill Jackman says. "He was always a foodie."

Polisei, the executive chef at Ocean Prime Restaurant in Troy, grew up in Clinton Township. After graduating from high school, he spent his freshman and sophomore years at Oberlin College in Ohio where he played on the football team. Then he transferred to MSU to major in food industry management. At the same time, he worked at Harper's Brew Pub in East Lansing to pay his way through school.

"While working at the pub, I got more serious about cooking due to the influence of their executive chef, Neal Reeves," said Polisei, 32. "He taught me a lot of technical things I had never been exposed to before. I actually considered leaving MSU to go to culinary school, but Neal convinced me it was better to just learn on the job."

Then, after stints first at Mitchell's Fish Market in Lansing, later at their restaurants in Tampa and Jacksonville in Florida, Poliesi became the sous chef at Ocean Prime in Tampa. "I love this company and was very pleased to be offered the position of executive chef at the Ocean Prime in Troy in 2012. It worked out great to move here because this is where I grew up," he says.

Polisei says he has fond memories of watching his grandmother cook fresh pasta and meatballs. "She was actually Polish, but my grandpa was Italian," he says. "The craft and love I observed in my grandma's kitchen kind of stuck with me."

The chef says he cooks at home two or three days a week for himself and his wife, Heather, whom he met while both were working at Mitchell's Fish Market in Tampa. And their daughter, Sloane, was born less than three months ago.

Adam says he particularly loves this caponata recipe because "it's both sweet and sour and has a little crunch from both the pine nuts and the skin of the eggplant. It goes really well with the bread and the burrata cheese and can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. And the flavors actually get better the second day," he says.

Adds Polisei: "We first had the Elvis Pizza at a restaurant in Jacksonville at a restaurant called Urban Flats. We loved it and have been making it ever since."

Eggplant Caponata with Burrata

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1 large eggplant diced (1 1/2 pounds)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup good quality olive oil divided (1 cup for eggplant; 2 tablespoons for onion and fennel)

1 diced yellow onion, diced

1 bulb of fennel, diced

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic (3 cloves)

1 roasted red pepper, diced

1 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons parsley, minced

3 tablespoons basil, chopped

2 tablespoons capers, drained

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 sourdough bread boule, sliced

1 4-ounce ball of burrata cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toast pine nuts until golden brown. Toss eggplant in 1 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Place eggplant on cookie sheet and roast until golden brown. In a large saute pan, saute onion and fennel in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until carmelized. Add garlic and saute until golden, but don't add too early so that it doesn't burn. Add roasted red peppers, tomatoes, vinegar, parsley, basil, capers and sugar. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Add toasted pine nuts. Garnish with fresh basil.

Brush sliced sourdough bread with olive oil and grill or toast under broil until slightly charred.

Serve caponata hot or at room temperature.

Place caponata on half of a large platter with buratta cheese in center. Garnish the cheese with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place grilled sourdough bread on the other half of the large platter and serve. Serves 4.

Per serving (with bread and 1/2 cup total olive oil): 643 calories; 39 g fat (8 g saturated fat; 55 percent calories from fat); 62 g carbohydrates; 19 g sugar; 20 mg cholesterol; 2,456 mg sodium; 16 g protein; 11 g fiber.

Tuscan Veal and Pasta with Truffle Cream Sauce

For the veal

4 3- to 4-ounce pieces of veal scallopini

1 egg (for ricotta cheese mixture)

1/4 cup of fresh basil, chopped

1/2 pound of ricotta cheese

4 slices of prosciutto

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup whole milk

3 eggs (for the egg wash)

2 cups of finely ground bread crumbs

8 slices of fresh mozzarella

For the pasta and pasta sauce

1 pound fresh linguine or spaghetti noodles

1 tablespoon olive oil

/ red pepper, julienned

/ yellow pepper, julienned

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup dry white wine

4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

4 ounces butter

1 shallot, chopped

1/2 lemon, juiced

2 tablespoons truffle oil

Parmigiano-Reggiano to top

Preparation for the Veal:

In a small mixing bowl, combine 1 egg, ricotta cheese and chopped basil.

Season veal with salt and spread a thin layer of the ricotta cheese mixture over one side of veal.

Wrap each slice of veal with one slice of prosciutto

Set up your breading station by placing the seasoned flour in one bowl, egg wash consisting of 3 eggs beaten and the whole milk in another bowl and 2 cups of finely ground breadcrumbs in a separate bowl.

Bread the veal by dredging in the flour, then dipping it in egg wash and lastly dredging it in the breadcrumbs.

Fill a pot with water, season with salt and olive oil and bring to a boil. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large saute pan, saute sliced garlic, shallots and peppers.

Deglaze pan with white wine and add chicken stock.

Reduce sauce about 3/4 or less depending on how thick you like your sauce and stir butter into your sauce.

Season sauce with salt, truffle oil and lemon juice

In a saute pan on medium, heat oil and place breaded veal filets in pan. Cook veal until golden brown and flip.

Place two slices of fresh mozzarella on each piece of veal, place in 400 degree oven and cook approximately 3 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. (The veal should already be cooked through)

Preparation for the Pasta and Pasta Sauce:

Fill a pot with water, season with salt and olive oil and bring to a boil. In a large saute pan, sauté sliced garlic, shallots and peppers. Deglaze the pan with white wine and add chicken stock. Reduce sauce about 3/4 or less depending on how thick you like your sauce. Stir butter into the sauce. Season with salt, truffle oil and lemon juice. Reserve. Drop pasta in boiling water and cook until al dente. Then drain pasta and add to the sauce.

To Serve: Place pasta in the center of a large dinner plate, lean one piece of veal on the pasta. Spoon a bit more sauce over the pasta and top with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serves 4.

Per serving: 1,481 calories; 61 g fat (28 g saturated fat; 37 percent calories from fat); 145 g carbohydrates; 11 g sugar; 453 mg cholesterol; 2,676 mg sodium; 81 g protein; 5 g fiber.

Elvis Pizza

8 ounces pizza dough (either homemade or store bought)

2/3 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 banana sliced

1/4 cup chocolate syrup

1/4 cup marshmallows (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Brush a cookie sheet with melted butter. Roll the dough out to an 8- or 9-inch circle (depending on desired thickness). Bake dough for 15-20 minutes, or until pizza crust is baked through.

Remove the pizza crust from the oven and spread the peanut butter evenly, leaving a 1 inch border along the edge of the crust. Sprinkle on the chocolate chips and sliced bananas.

Put the oven in broil mode. Broil the pizza for just a couple of minutes. Drizzle chocolate sauce over top. Slice and serve. Serves 4.

Per serving: 565 calories; 29 g fat (8 g saturated fat; 46 percent calories from fat); 70 g carbohydrates; 35 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 461 mg sodium; 16 g protein; 7 g fiber.