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Q & A: Food Network’s Ted Allen

Ted Allen is host of Food Network's show "Chopped" and the author of a new cookbook "In My Kitchen." He'll be in Kansas City to discuss it May 20, which is his birthday.

In Allen's cookbook, he prepares "Bruschetta with Strawberry and Tomato Salad." Sound odd? "Consider: tomatoes and strawberries are both sweet, tangy, and juicy. They’re both fruits. They’re even both red. The more I think about it, the more I want to try this on top of pasta. . . . For now, though, the combo makes a perfect summer appetizer." For the recipe, go to KansasCity.com/home.

SEE TED ALLEN IN KANSAS CITY

What: A one-hour conversation and book-signing. Cameras are encouraged.

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th St.

Tickets: $35 includes a copy of Allen’s “In My Kitchen” and a guest ticket if needed.

For more: rainydaybooks.com/TedAllen; Rainy Day Books, 2706 W. 53rd St., Fairway, 913-384-3126

Bruschetta with Strawberry and Tomato Salad

Makes 10 to 15 hors d’oeuvres

Yep — strawberries and tomatoes. I love serving this to people who don’t know what’s coming. They scratch their heads, expecting bruschetta to be topped with tomatoes, but what’s that other familiar flavor? They always love it. Consider: tomatoes and strawberries are both sweet, tangy and juicy. They’re both fruits. They’re even both red. The more I think about it, the more I want to try this on top of pasta. … For now, though, the combo makes a perfect summer appetizer.

1 cup diced fresh ripe strawberries

1 cup diced grape tomatoes

1 small garlic clove, minced

3 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 baguette, sliced on the diagonal 1/2 inch thick

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries, tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Let rest for 30 minutes, stirring now and then.

  2. Heat an outdoor or indoor grill or grill pan to medium-high. Spread out the sliced bread on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Transfer to the grill, and toast the bread until golden all over, two or three minutes per side. Arrange on a platter.

  3. Cover the warm grilled bread slices with a generous layer of strawberry-tomato salad. Serve immediately.

Ink

Ted Allen is host of the Food Network show “Chopped.” TV audiences first saw him when he was the food and wine specialist on Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” This year, his second cookbook, “In My Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Discoveries for Passionate Cooks” (Clarkson Potter; $35), hit the shelves. See tedallen.net.

Tell us about your home.

It’s an 1879 brownstone, classic Brooklyn. Think “The Cosby Show.” Think “Sesame Street.” It was built in an era when brownstones were in vogue. They were weekend houses for wealthy New Yorkers. Ours is a Neo-Grec with Eastlake details, a mild mix. We’ve restored it and have designer furniture from the 1960s and 1970s.

Besides the kitchen, what’s your favorite room in your house?

My partner, Barry Rice, is an interior designer. He packed every room with amazing cool features, many of which weren’t expensive. One of the bedrooms was converted into a dressing room with an island. I finally have enough space to get dressed. We added a steam shower to the master bath. We have a backyard where we can grill and entertain.

So, what is the kitchen like?

Brownstones have these dark, rear rooms. We have a NanaWall system in ours that we open to the outdoors when it’s nice out. We have skylights in the roof. I absolutely love subway tile, so it has that. It has deep walnut cabinets and a stone island. We go into that kitchen, crack a bottle of wine, crank the stereo and cook.

What music do you like to listen to while you’re cooking?

I’m eclectic. I like the Dandy Warhols, the Talking Heads, Parliament, Oasis. Lately I’ve been listening to ’70s pop radio like Earth, Wind & Fire and the Doobie Brothers.

Speaking of eclectic, your new cookbook includes Thai curry mussels, turkey burgers, Mexican, Italian. What holds it together?

Many people approach cooking as drudgery and try to get out of the kitchen as fast as possible. But this cookbook is about loving the act of cooking. The cookbook is about the discoveries I came across. Each dish features an innovation, whether it’s an ingredient, a technique or a tool.

Such as?

Strawberry and tomato bruschetta. Yes, strawberries with tomatoes. And toasting, not just toasting bread, but toasting couscous to give it a nutty flavor and a gold color.

What are your favorite kitchen tools?

My Robot Coupe food processor. And my Vitamix blender. It’s made in America, strong as hell and loud as a jet. It’s a great tool. But cooking is not about the fancy tools. (Food writer) Mark Bittman said he developed his recipes on the same crummy gas range with 2 feet of counter space that most New Yorkers have. Some of the most memorable meals have been on vacation made with dull equipment. Once an oven was broken and Barry, who’s a great baker, improvised by cooking an apple pie in a Dutch oven on a Weber grill.

I love cooking. I love the chopping. I love the moment the onions hit the olive oil and I inhale because it’s the harbinger of possibilities to come. There are so many pleasures that are the cook’s alone.

Stacy Downs, sdowns@kcstar.com; Twitter @stacykc

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