Greg Gennuso makes Three-Bean Turkey Chili
Woodridge cook applies simple lessons to kitchen
The best things in life are simple.
Short cuts are not always best.
Don't rush it.
These are lessons Greg Gennuso learned from his big, foodcentric Italian family and they serve him well today.
"I started helping out in the kitchen at 5 or 6," says Greg, whose family moved back to Chicago from Racine when he was 12.
He soaked up a lot of "patient cooking techniques," Greg says, and his family emphasized fresh ingredients from the garden, "and at times, very little else.
"Americans tend to over-complicate Italian food and misconstrue it," he says. "It's much more than pasta."
Italian dishes from his childhood are still important in his kitchen, but Greg applies that family advice to a wide variety of foods, particularly American favorites.
"I spend 50 to 75 percent of my life traveling," says Greg. "I get to taste a lot of regional favorites."
He attempts to recreate those flavors, like pumpkin ravioli he tried in California and seafood gumbo from New Orleans, back home in Woodridge.
"I always ask the people I'm going to see if there's a regional cuisine that's representative of their area," he says. "I seek those places out above all; I don't care much for high-end dining experiences, I would rather try what the locals eat."
His favorite app on his iPhone is Urbanspoon. He just points the phone toward the horizon in the neighborhood where he wants to eat and it shows him nearby restaurants with reviews, directions and menus.
"It does everything but feed you," Greg says.
After all that time on the road Greg appreciates eating at home where he handles all the cooking, grocery shopping and meal planning. He entertains friends, sometimes two to three times a month.
"I keep it simple, with hors d'oeuvres and the family style dinner," he says. "I don't cook much differently for guests."
But then, Greg and his wife, Anita, eat rather well all week.
Greg works from home as a health care consultant, which gives him more flexibility for cooking. Between 5 and 6 o'clock he prepares dishes like today's homey recipes.
With just six ingredients, Lentil and Sausage Soup is one of those simple, "best things in life" dishes from his childhood.
Three-Bean Turkey Chili is his own take on this popular, much-tinkered-with dish. He likes the creamy butter beans and Northern beans with the ground turkey, with kidney beans "for that bite" and chipotle chile for a different kind of bite.
Greg gives trendy fish tacos a pure Southwest focus, with tilapia as the palate for traditional seasoning and a black bean and corn salsa. "These are a crowd pleaser," he promises, but nothing too complex.