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Baseball cookbook is ‘a labor of love’

Author shares recipes from the game’s stars

POSTED: April 3, 2012 11:30 p.m.

Baseball and food have always been a team.

When you first walked into a ballpark as a kid, the aroma of hot dogs, popcorn, nachos and other savory delights became one with the sport. Dad’s wallet would gradually get thinner as nine innings’ worth of peanuts, Cracker Jack and cotton candy ruined your appetite for dinner.

So it was only a matter of time before someone created a baseball-themed cookbook. That was Julie Loria, whose "Diamond Dishes: From the Kitchens of Baseball’s Biggest Stars" from Lyons Press blend those two American pastimes.

The book profiles 20 of the game’s top players — including Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Roy Halladay, Josh Hamilton and others — sharing their favorite dishes, a total of 60 recipes.

"Since I was a child, I have always had a passion for food and baseball," Loria said in an email interview. "If you think about it, food and baseball translate across all cultures and generations. And most of all, they both conjure up feel-good memories."

Loria visited All-Star players across the country over three years to test their dishes and take photographs.

"Diamond Dishes was truly a labor of love," she said.

And how involved are the players in actually cooking their recipes?

"Quite a few players surprised me with their cooking skills," Loria said. "The most impressive cooks were Evan Longoria, Adrian Gonzalez, Johan Santana and Hanley Ramirez. They definitely know their way around the kitchen and demonstrated some amazing culinary skills."

Sadly, no Atlanta Braves are included in the book, but Loria, wife of Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, says a sequel could be coming.

"I received such positive feedback from so many people, including all of the players who told me how much they loved it," Loria said. "I wish I could have included many more All-Stars, but I had a deadline to meet. Yet another reason perhaps to write a follow-up book."

I received the book as a Christmas gift from a newsroom colleague who knows well of my love for both baseball and puttering about the kitchen and grill.

Though there are a few simple recipes — Sweet Tea: water, sugar, tea bags — you won’t find any for hot dogs. A wide array of tastes and ingredients are featured.

Of particular interest are many Latin-American and Caribbean dishes from the Hispanic players. A few I plan to try are Dominican Beans and Rice; Empanadas, a pastry filled with meat, tomatoes, onions and peppers; and grilled Ribeye Steak Soft Tacos in which every ingredient goes over the coals.

Two dishes I made both involved chicken, which I prefer because I’m cheap and, this being Gainesville, we want the poultry gods to smile upon us.

The first was Lemon and Herb Chicken Breasts by Ryan Howard of the Phillies, which turned out great even after I substituted limes for lemons; citrus is citrus.

The next was Home Run Chicken by Albert Pujols and his wife, Deidre. This was bittersweet for me since Pujols recently left my beloved World Champion St. Louis Cardinals to sign with the Angels for $250 million. So the extra ingredient in this dish was my tears.

Again, I improvised a bit because I’m cheap (see above) and lazy, so I use what I have on hand. Instead of fresh cilantro used by The Traitor Pujols, I chose chopped from the spice rack; instead of tomato paste, I used diced tomatoes. But my resident food critics at home all enjoyed it. They’ll get more samples as I work my way through lineups in both leagues.

I also considered whipping up something from any player in the book who winds up on my fantasy team (Do I have to trade them if the dish doesn’t turn out? Dilemma).

Sorry, no hot dogs. But as a new season begins, it only takes a pack of wieners and any source of heat to relive those youthful days at the ballpark.


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