Food and Dancing

Sweet – Savory – Salty

These words could easily describe a dance or a dancer. Dancers, for the most part, have a unique relationship to food. When the dance company was on tour, one of the most important details to get in place with the presenter was where we would all have dinner after the performance. Food has played an important part in my career. I learned how to appreciate and prepare good eats when I worked for David McCorkle’s catering business in New York. After home seasons, I always hosted a major closing night party for dancers, friends and family. I occasionally brought some sweet treats to rehearsal. The recipe for the Chocolate Espresso Torte listed below was a Minneapolis tradition. We usually had it during a rehearsal break. Afterwards, we were all amazingly energetic for the first twenty minutes and then everyone crashed – nap time. I also shared this with Jeff and Marty James in Cincinnati. They still make quite regularly. This was in Gourmet magazine.


A cross between a pudding and chocolate fudge. It is often served with cappuccino ice cream or a spoonful of lightly whipped cream on the side.


2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter cut into 1/2″ pieces

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot espresso coffee

12 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

4 ounces extra-bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

6 large eggs, 6 egg yolks, room temperature

powdered sugar

Position rack in center of oven, preheat to 325. Generously butter an 8 inch diameter springform pan with 2  1/4 inch sides. Line bottom with parchment paper, butter and flour the paper.

Melt 2 cups butter with sugar and espresso in heavy saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add both chocolates, stir until smooth. Remove from heat.

Whisk eggs and yolks in large bowl until frothy. Whisk into the chocolate mixture. Pour batter into pan, put pan on baking sheet. Bake until edges puff and crack slightly but center is not completely set, about 1 hour. Transfer to a race and cool. Cover and refrigerate over night. Release pan sides. Sift powdered sugar over the top.

Also in Minneapolis, I brought the Luscious Lemonade Cake to rehearsals for birthdays. It is another great recipe. Don’t remember where I found it.


1 and 1/3 cups granulated sugar

6 tablespoons butter, softened

2 tablespoons finely chopped lemon zest

3 tablespoons thawed lemonade concentrate

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs, 1 egg white

2 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 and 1/4 cups low fat buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

To prepare the cake, place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, beat with a mixture at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and egg white one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture – beat well after each addition. Pour batter into a 10″ spring form pan coated with cooking spray. Tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (check after 25) do not over bake. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, remove rim, cool completely.


2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon zest

1 tablespoon thawed lemonade concentrate

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 ounces cream cheese

3 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Place butter, lemon zest, lemonade concentrate, vanilla and cream cheese in a bowl. Beat at high speed until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat at low speed until just blended. (do not over beat). Chill for one hour. Frost the cake and enjoy!

I have a large binder with hundreds of recipes cut from magazines and discarded cook books. There are appetizers, pasta dishes, fish, meat and desserts represented. There is a recipe for Lemon Squares typed (and I mean with a typewriter) on a piece of JAZZDANCE stationery from the mid-1980’s. It was my go to for Lemon Squares until this past year. The New York Times had a new and interesting take – Lemon Bars with Olive Oil and Seas Salt. Melissa Clark demonstrated the process in an accompanying video. I bought a special professional chef’s baking pan to try it. They were extraordinary, adding an intriguing savory element to the sweetness. I made them once for a faculty meeting and again as a birthday  treat for one of the SMU dancers in Ezekiel’s Wheel, spring 2015. They disappeared in an instant.


For the Crust

1 and 1/4 cups, all-purpse flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon fine  sea salt

10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For the Curd

4-6 lemons

1 and 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs plus 3 yolks

1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

Pinch of fine sea salt

4 tablespoons, butter

1/4 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil

Confectioners’ sugar, flaky sea salt for sprinkling 

Heat oven to 325 degrees and line a 9×9″ baking pan with enough parchment to hang over the sides (to be used as handles later to lift the bars out of the pan).

To make the shortbread base, pulse together the flour, granulated sugar, confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest and salt in a food processor, or whisk together in a large bowl. Add butter and pulse to cut butter into flour until a crumbly dough forms. Press dough into prepared pan and bake until shortbread is pale golden, 30 to 35 minutes.

While the shortbread is baking, prepare the lemon curd. Grate 1/2 tablespoon zest from lemons and set aside. Squeeze lemons to yield 3/4 cup of juice.

In a small saucepan, whisk together lemon juice, sugar, eggs and yolks, cornstarch and fine sea salt over medium heat until boiling and thickened, 2 to 5 minutes. Make sure the mixture comes to a boil or the cornstarch will not activate. Once it boils, do not cook longer than 1 minute or you risk the curd thinning out again. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl. Whisk in butter, olive oil and lemon zest.

When the shortbread is ready, take it out of the oven and carefully pour the lemon curd onto the shortbread base; return the pan to the oven. Bake until topping is just set, 10 to 15 minutes more. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold before cutting into bars. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and flaky sea salt right before serving.