Ernesto Antopia, executive chef at Café Cortina, started “cooking by my abuela’s (grandmother’s) side when I was 13 years old,” he says. That’s where he first learned the importance of using the freshest ingredients, a preference shown in his beet salad. The experience sparked his interest for all things culinary, and he entered the restaurant business at age 15, “starting at the bottom,” he says. After going on to Schoolcraft College’s culinary program, he “worked with a lot of great people in this business, but my best experience so far is working at Café Cortina,” says Antopia, who started there in 2012. — Molly Abraham
Goat Cheese, Roasted Beets, Arugula, and Spinach Salad (serves 8-10)
6 medium beets, roasted and quartered (use golden, red, or candy striped beets)
Homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette (below)
6 cups fresh arugula
3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
¼ cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
3 ounces soft goat cheese, coarsely crumbled
Wrap the beets individually in aluminum foil and place on a sheet pan. Roast at 350 F for 50 minutes to 1 hour. (Insert small knife in the middle to check if tender.) Unwrap each beet and set aside for 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Tip: Peel beets with a small, sharp knife over a piece of parchment paper to prevent staining your cutting board.
Homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette
1 cup fresh raspberries
⅔ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon salt (to taste)
Pepper to taste
Blend raspberries, set aside. Whisk together the vinegar, oil, white sugar, honey, salt, and pepper with blended raspberries and set aside.
Toss beets with half of the vinaigrette. Toss arugula and spinach in a separate bowl with enough vinaigrette to moisten. Set greens on a plate then arrange beets, berries, walnuts, and goat cheese on top. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette, if desired.