Mixxing It Up
The Mixx's culinary creator talks life and shares vibrant and healthy recipes for the new year.
Jo Marie Scaglia, owner and operator of two The Mixx restaurant locations at The Plaza and at the Kansas City Power & Light District, has been mixing up brightly colored culinary creations for more than 10 years.
Inspired by fresh ingredients, the concept of eating for health, and a love for entertaining, she crafts flavorful soups, salads and sandwiches that Kansas Citians have come to crave.
Besides her seasonal specialty sandwiches like the Provence Melt (smoked ham, brie, cornichons and honey-Dijon aioli on focaccia bun) or salads like Thai Salmon or Rustic Beet, patrons can mix their own plate of custom greens, dressings and toppings from a menu with dozens of gourmet ingredients.
In the following pages, Scaglia discusses her culinary influences, her future Mixx location in Leawood, and why her brother nicknamed her “Italian Martha Stewart.”
Scaglia also shares three of her favorite recipes to warm, entertain and bring savory color to the season.
435: How did you end up in a culinary profession?
Jo Marie Scaglia: I’m 100 percent self-taught. I grew up in an Italian family and my parents had an Italian restaurant named Mario’s, which was very well known in Kansas City. I was constantly by my mom’s side cooking when I was younger; filling Cannoli shells, and when I used to ask my mom about making something, she’d say, “just a little bit of this and a little bit of that.” I was like, “No, Mom, I need a recipe.” But now I’ve become my mother. I am not classically trained, but when I lived in San Francisco as an adult, I had a really good rapport with the restaurant chefs there. My friends and I were all foodies. We would make all this money waiting tables and then we’d put our rent aside and spend everything else on wine and food and pure indulgence. The Bay Area, in general, has been a big inspiration.
435: What inspired you to source locally?
JMS: I would definitely say that the whole concept is inspired by how I never went to a grocery store when I lived in San Francisco. Wherever I lived, I always had a farmer’s market within a short bus ride or within walking distance. I still shop that way in Kansas City.
435: What are some of the sources for your products and ingredients?
JMS: Well, usually we try to get something in season or keep it on that seasonal realm but, for example, tomatoes are not in season in the winter, so we use a Roma tomato that might come from Mexico. And we have a local produce provider and they get things shipped in from California or Florida when it’s in season. We try to source as much locally as possible. Our fish is provided by Morey’s Seafood, we use bread from Farm to Market Bread, local coffee from the Roasterie, we use a local coffee roaster; we use Central Soy organic tofu out of Lawrence.
435: Is your daughter, Star, into cooking, too?
JMS: My child is interested in being a chef. She loves it. She asked me the other day, “Mama, when I come home from school, can we cook in the kitchen?” When she comes here [to Mixx], she wants to make her own salad and toss it in the bowl. She calls Romaine lettuce “crunchy lettuce” and if I call it Romaine she doesn’t want it. But if I call it “crunchy lettuce” she does. She’s a pretty healthy eater.
435: How does one balance being a chef and a parent?
JMS: A little bit of sleep, lots of patience and try to keep the creative brain going. It’s not easy. I don’t know if I can say that I have a sense of a balanced life, because it’s kind of crazy 24/7 and I also have three dogs in the mix of it all, too. It’s about managing and maintaining a sense of sanity. It’s also about having really great employees. Most of them have been with me upward of seven years, if not nine years at the Plaza store.
435: So I hear you are remodeling your Plaza location and opening a new location in Leawood. Can you tell us more about what’s in store?
The Plaza location is mid-century modern-inspired. We’re going in the direction of using recycled items. For example, the bar around the kitchen is going to be done with Ripple Glass, which is a recycled glass material. We’re going to change a few things to hopefully increase the flow and function of the restaurant as well as the aesthetics. We’re also moving toward a more organic feel with different shades of gray, green and oatmeal versus the current pops of white and bright colors. At the coming Hawthorne Plaza location in Leawood, the inspiration is mid-century modern meets farm-to-table. That location should open spring 2015. We’re going to have a separate juice and coffee bar and baked goods, so we’re going to be open early in the morning and we’ll probably do a few specialty breakfast items. The menu hasn’t been confirmed yet, but that’s the direction we’re moving in.
435: Is there a cookbook or a TV show in the works?
JMS: People always ask me, “Will you write a cookbook?” My time is kind of limited and it’s a little bit crazy, but I think that will happen in the next few years, or possibly when I get Hawthorne Plaza launched. I would like to do a cookbook of salads, sandwiches and soups and maybe a couple key entertaining things and dessert — a simple, fresh cookbook. I’ve been asked if I’m going to bottle my salad dressings. Most likely it’ll happen in the next year or two.
435: Any predictions for food trends in 2015?
JMS: I am predicting that the gourmet s’more is going to come up pretty heavy and strong, and that’s something we might be doing at Hawthorne Plaza with a housemade graham cracker and housemade marshmallows and chocolate for a dessert. And we are thinking of doing, not a cronut, but a doughnut-funnel cake. That or I think the fritters might make a bit of a comeback: savory and sweet. For salads, I think you’re going to continue to see healthy trends of anti-inflammation; and vitamin-packed with your bright red vegetables and fruits. Something else we’re working on is going in the direction of true health. I’ve developed some gluten-free truffles that are all raw and vegan. It’s using raw nuts, coconut oil and cocoa powder and all those delicious, rich, kind of anti-inflammatory ingredients.
435: What is a major faux pas when creating a salad?
JMS: I would say a salad that’s overdressed is worse than a salad that’s underdressed. So, the perfect amount of dressing coating each lettuce leaf is ideal, but you never want to overdress a salad in my opinion.
435: Do you have a chef icon?
JMS: People ask me, “How do you get your recipes?” And I’m just like, “Well, I just make them up.” I get an idea in my head of what I want to use and sometimes I’ll research four or five different recipes and then take them apart and then put them back together to get my recipe. I’ve been told that I’m similar in style to Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. Just in my style and that sort of thing. My brother calls me “the I.M.S. — Italian Martha Stewart.” That’s a nickname that he gave me about nine years ago. He said, “You need to go apply for the Martha Stewart Show.”
Asian Tuna Tartare Cups
The Mixx’s Jo Marie Scaglia says that the tuna tartar is “a great entertaining idea that can be made in advance and assembled at the last minute to wow your friends. It’s an easy dish with a lot of depth and provides strong bold flavors.”
Servings: 24 (2 ounces each)
3 pounds fresh Ahi tuna, small dice
1 English cucumber, small dice
1 cup olive oil
½ cup lime juice
Zest of 3 limes (save some for garnish)
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2-inch piece of ginger
3 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
4 teaspoons black and white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon Sriracha
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup cilantro
Dice the Ahi tuna and English cucumber into ¼-inch pieces. Place in mixing bowl and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a food processor and pour over tuna and cucumber mixture and toss until combined. Fill container with Ahi tuna and top with sesame seeds and lime zest. This dish can be served in many ways; as an appetizer in martini glasses, in individual small cups for entertaining.
Butternut Squash & Coconut Bisque
“Using seasonal ingredients (yams, carrots, squash) seemed like the perfect way to warm up on a cold January day,” says Scaglia. It is also easy to prepare this colorful soup in advance and then heat it up for the first course of a dinner party or as a casual supper with your friends. This healthy soup is incredibly rich but created without the use of any dairy products. It is also packed with vitamins, minerals and beta carotene, while the addition of coconut adds a whiff of the exotic.
Yields 16 Cups
Butternut Squash Preparation:
2 butternut squash (approx. 4 pounds)
2 cups yams
3 large carrots
¼ cup honey
½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Quarter squash and remove seeds but leave skin on. Drizzle squash with honey and olive oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400-degree oven for 25 minutes or until fork-tender. Peel and dice yams and carrots. Toss sweet potatoes and carrots with olive oil and pinch of salt and pepper. Roast in oven 12 minutes or until fork-tender. Set aside.
½ cup olive oil
2 medium shallots (diced)
½ cup celery (diced)
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
8 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
30 ounces coconut milk
Fresh Chopped Scallions
In saucepan, on medium high heat, cook olive oil, shallots, celery and ginger until wilted. Remove skin from squash and add prepared roasted squash to saucepan. Add sweet potatoes and carrots to saucepan. Add vegetable stock, salt and pepper and bring to a light boil. Remove from heat and add brown sugar, cinnamon and coconut milk. Puree soup in a blender or food processor or with a blending stick. Garnish with toasted coconut and chives.
Winter Root Salad
“This salad highlights the winter root vegetable season,” explains Scaglia. And then celery root is one of my favorite root vegetables. I enjoy eating a deconstructed salad, but it’s also great to serve family-style so your guests can pick and choose what they like off the plate.”
4 cups Brussels sprouts
2 Belgian endive bulbs
1 large celery root
2 fennel bulbs
4 beets, red or golden
10 ounces Maytag blue cheese
1 cup pecans
½ cup olive oil, (see recipe for measurements)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt, (see recipe for measurements)
1 ½ teaspoons dried parsley, (see recipe for measurements)
Black pepper to taste
Honey-Sage Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Brussels sprouts and Belgian endive:
Step 1: Wash sprouts and endive. Julienne both vegetables.
Prepare roasted celery root:
Step 2: Trim all outside skin of celery root and dice in ½-inch pieces. Drizzle with olive oil (4 tablespoons), sea salt (1 teaspoon), black pepper (to taste), and dried parsley (1 teaspoon). Roast in oven at 375 for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Prepare roasted fennel:
Step 3: Clean and shave fennel bulb and dice into ½-inch pieces. Drizzle with olive oil (2 tablespoons), sea salt (1 teaspoon), black pepper (to taste), and dried parsley (½ teaspoon) and roast in oven for 10 minutes or until slightly wilted.
Prepare toasted pecans:
Step 4: Drizzle pecans with olive oil (2 tablespoons), salt (½ teaspoon) and brown sugar and toast in oven for 5 minutes.
Prepare raw beets:
Step 5: Use potato peeler to remove skin from beets and dice beets into ½-inch pieces.
Prepare orange segments:
Step 6: Cut top and bottom part of orange off. Use paring knife to remove orange rind and white flesh. Use paring knife to segment orange.
Toss Brussels sprouts, Belgian endive and toasted pecans with Honey Sage Vinaigrette.
On large serving platter, create a segmented salad by placing Brussels sprouts mixture on one end and individual servings of celery root, fennel, beets, orange segments and Maytag blue cheese throughout the plate. Drizzle with Honey-Sage Vinaigrette. Garnish with fresh sage sprig.
⅓ cup fresh sage
⅓ cup orange juice
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cup dried sage
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Mix all above ingredients. Then:
1 cup olive oil
1 cup canola oil
Add oils to mixture. Chill and serve.
For more information about Jo Marie Scaglia and The Mixx’s three Kansas City area locations, visit mixxingitup.com.