Together even in the kitchen

Cooking as a team can be rewarding

February 09, 2005|By Christianna McCausland | Christianna McCausland,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The scent of sauteing onions wafts from the home of Sunny and Laurie Glassner. Laurie prepares a salad of toasted almonds, Israeli feta cheese and ripe cherry tomatoes while Sunny puts the finishing touches on sea bass served on a bed of spinach, mushrooms, onions, pears and mango.

There is no table of guests to receive the gourmet feast; it's a blustery midwinter Monday night, an average dinnertime in a home belonging to a couple who cooks together.

While some couples may draw territorial lines around the kitchen based on gender or skill, others enjoy a peaceful coexistence in the culinary realm. They say creating a meal together requires many of the same skills as holding together a relationship: communication, compromise and a sweet reward at the end.

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, we talked with three couples who have found love, spice and adventure in the kitchen.

The Glassners, co-owners of Louis Mazor Inc., which includes Pacific Collection Asian Antiques, began cooking together soon after they married. They negotiate around their small kitchen in Homeland with the practiced ease that comes from cooking together more than 30 years.

"Compared to virtually every other woman I knew, very few knew how to cook," says Sunny. "Laurie is artistic and she appreciates food almost like another art form."

Laurie learned her skills from her mother, who became a gourmand late in life, while Sunny picked up the basics in the Navy. As a young married couple, they began experimenting with flavors, herbs in particular. Sunny recalls that, "She'd make scrambled eggs with so many herbs, I finally said, `Next time, no thyme!'"

Over the years, the Glassners honed their skills and emerged with individual expertise. "Cooking is Sunny's favorite thing in the world," says Laurie. "I do appetizers, salads and desserts; Sunny does the main course. That's how we do it. It's a question of what we like to do."

According to Laurie, dessert appeals to her creative sensibility and she enjoys the presentation as well as the process, even though she is diabetic. Plus, the Glassners believe that a dessert is an essential end to a good meal. "You don't think I'm going to let people just ooh and ahh over his main course," says Laurie with a smile.

When the Glassners cook at home for themselves, they tend to prepare simple fish and chicken dishes, however, they get more elaborate with guests. Sunny enjoys cooking unusual meats such as venison and duck.

"When Laurie and I cook, we totally transpose," says Sunny. "In every other part of my life, I'm totally disciplined and Laurie is very loose and artistic. We look at things very differently. When it comes to cooking, Laurie has to be strict with respect to the recipe whereas I can taste my way through."

Their status as entertainers is renowned and their skills in the kitchen were recently auctioned off at a fund-raiser where they were commissioned to make a four-course meal complete with appetizers.

Sunny describes one of his most elaborate meals, borrowed from a cookbook of the Inn at Little Washington. The meal featured game hens served with grilled portobello mushrooms topped with garlic sweet potato, surrounded by roasted garlic, shallots and vegetables. It was topped with a red wine reduction sauce of his own creation and seared foie gras, a last-minute addition that he nearly forgot until Laurie pointed it out.

"We had $300 worth of foie gras in the refrigerator and I had to say, `Aren't you forgetting something?'" she recalls. "Sometimes Sunny gets really fancy and the fancier he gets, the more he forgets." The plates weighed nearly 5 pounds each when they made it to the table, she jokes.

The Glassners' kitchen is comfortable, but hardly a set from the Food Network; nevertheless, they've learned how to cook together through years of practice. They know when to share the kitchen and when to get out of each other's way.

"If I can make something ahead of time I will, or I'll start in the morning and find out when he needs the kitchen," says Laurie.

"I think I know how he does things," says Laurie. "He's a perfectionist and he needs time ... but I've never seen anyone who loves something like he loves cooking."

Opposites attract

Diane Bukatman and Bert Rankin make an unlikely pair in the kitchen. She is a professionally trained chef and the owner of For the Love of Food, a boutique catering company in Reisterstown that also offers cooking courses. Rankin was a meat-and-potatoes guy who says salt and pepper were the only spices in his house when he was a child. They met at a cooking class for singles where Rankin was a student and Bukatman was teaching. He took her course on chocolate truffles and seven years later they are still cooking.

"I always had an affinity toward good food, but I never had the skills or the training," says Rankin, who is in corporate development at Maryland Public Television.

Bukatman changed all of that.

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