McKensie Curnow’s love of cooking started before she entered kindergarten.
The Jermyn resident spent lots of time in the kitchen with both of her grandmothers: “Noni,” Jill Symanski, and “Gunk,” the late Judy Curnow. When she wasn’t learning their secrets, she was with her cousin, Tyler, pretending to host their own cooking show.
“We had a setup with a pretend camera and everything,” the 24-year-old said with a laugh on a recent afternoon. “It was my dream to be a talk show host, and cooking went with that.”
Curnow still has fun with food including her festive Fall Flatbread recipe, which earned her a $50 grocery gift card. The dish brings together autumnal flavors like fig jam (Curnow gets hers at Ritter’s Cider Mill), goat cheese, prosciutto, candied walnuts, arugula and honey on a homemade dough.
Patience is the key to this recipe, Curnow said, and bakers should keep an eye on the dough. If they intend to re-bake flatbreads with toppings later on, bakers should make sure dough doesn’t overbrown. The dough freezes well, she said, and the recipe is versatile. Any toppings can be used from fruits, veggies and nuts or different spreads and drizzles.
“It’s really simple and you can make it however you like it,” she said. “Buy a pre-made dough, switch up the toppings, get crazy. It’s totally up to you.”
The flatbread was a welcome celebration of fall flavors, with a perfect salty-and-sweet combination. The dough tasted buttery and light and had the perfect consistency. Sometimes flatbread dough can be too hard or too chewy, but Curnow’s was just right. Fall Flatbread was arranged and plated impeccably, too.
“I’m an artist so I feel like it should look as good as it tastes,” Curnow said, adding that she also loves to paint and draw. “It’s all about the plating.”
Curnow’s other favorite kitchen creations are inspired by family recipes. Her dad, Harry, also loves to cook and encourages her to try bolder recipes. Mom, Terri’s, dinner staples also hold a place in her heart. One of four kids, Curnow and her siblings — Harry, Jordan and Jacob — each had their own extracurricular schedules growing up and their mom was a master at delicious, fast meals that everyone would like.
With almost all the siblings grown up, Curnow said they get together at least once a month for dinner, each trading off as the cook. Though not all of her siblings have her adventurous palette, Curnow finds middle ground by sticking to foods everyone likes, including tacos, quesadillas or Cowboy Caviar, which is a mixture of beans, corn, avocado, jalapeño and cilantro all mixed with a garlic dressing.
If she’s cooking for herself, however, she’s always looking to make something adventurous and ways to let her imagination take over.
“Whenever I’m creating, that’s when I’m at my happiest,” she said.
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon dry active or instant yeast (Curnow uses instant)
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup olive oil
In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flour and salt. In a two-cup glass measure, combine warm water, yeast and honey. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Add proofed yeast mixture and olive oil to bowl with flour and salt. Stir into a smooth dough, adding a few more tablespoons of flour, if necessary to make a smooth, moist (but not sticky) dough. Place into a greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Pre-heat oven to 4000 with racks in upper third and lower third of oven. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove risen dough to a well-floured surface. Cut dough into four equal portions. Roll each portion on a floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness, any size or shape. Somewhere around 5-inches wide to 14-inches long works well. Place two slices of dough side-by-side onto each baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes to rest. Bake in pre-heated oven for 5 minutes, then switch baking sheets top to bottom and front to back. If there are large bubbles, poke them several times with a sharp knife. Remove dough to a cooling rack to cool. (If topping flatbreads immediately, let dough cool a bit but leave oven on and set to 4000, and keep baking sheets with parchment handy to re-use.)
For each flatbread:
1 teaspoon olive oil
approximately 2 teaspoons fig jam
1-1/2 ounces goat cheese, spreadable or crumbled
3 or 4 slices prosciutto, ripped apart
handful of candied walnuts
approximately 1/4 cup aged white
cheddar, crumbled or shredded
3 or 4 slice pears, apples or both,
baby arugula (to taste)
honey, to drizzle
Brush olive oil over flatbread. Next, spread a thin layer of fig jam. Top with goat cheese, aged white cheddar, prosciutto, and walnuts. Arrange thinly sliced pears or apples over top. Return to parchment lined baking sheet and place in oven for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and fruit has softened. Allow to cool slightly and then top with baby arugula. Drizzle honey on top. Cut into triangles for serving.