Sam Talbot has a few things in common with Paula Deen, aside from the fact they both know their way around the kitchen. For starters, the Top Chef alum also grew up in the south. He, too, plays up his down-home roots when he’s serving up dishes such as hotcakes with a cheesy twist.
And, like Deen, Talbot is a diabetic. (He has Type 1 Diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas is destroyed by auto antibodies. Deen, as revealed recently, that she has Type 2 Diabetes, which is caused by insulin resistance.)
“I made a point of taking those traditional foods and making modern healthy tweaks,” Talbot, 34, the chef at the Surf Lodge in Montauk, N.Y., tells PEOPLE of his cookbook, The Sweet Life: Diabetes Without Boundaries. That’s what Sweet Life is all about: Taking those childhood flavors … trading out flour and sugar – and not once sacrificing flavor.”
His advice to Deen? Talbot has ditched processed sugar, and he has go-to ingredients, such as coconut and flax seed, that add healthy touches to recipes.
“No one is perfect, and, more importantly, everyone likes to bend the rules a little bit,” he says. “That’s okay. It’s a learning curve. But it doesn’t have to be scary or the end of the world. If there’s a way to sneak alternatives in to the recipes she knows and loves, it will be a win win for everyone.”
In the spirit of healthier cooking, which Deen herself is adopting in her latest initiative, Talbot, whose cooking is also influenced by his Sicilian mother, shared two of his favorite recipes with PEOPLE. Try them below:
Lemon Ricotta Hotcakes
• 2 lemons
• 1 cup of whole-milk ricotta cheese
• 1 cup of whole milk
• 3 tbsp. of almond milk
• 1 tbsp. of agave nectar
• 2 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
• 1 tbsp. of reduced-fat sour cream
• 3 cage-free organic egg yolks (reserve whites)
• 1 cup of whole-wheat flour
• 1 tbsp. of granulated Stevia extract
• 1 tsp. of baking powder
• 1 tsp. of baking soda
In a large bowl, whisk together the juice and zest of 2 lemons, 1 cup of whole-milk ricotta cheese, 1 cup of whole milk, 3 tbsp. of almond milk, 1 tbsp. of agave nectar, 2 tbsp. of unsweetened applesauce, 1 tbsp. of reduced-fat sour cream and 3 cage-free organic egg yolks (reserve whites).
In a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup of whole-wheat flour, 1 tbsp. of granulated Stevia extract, 1 tsp. of baking powder and 1 tsp. of baking soda.
Add flour mixture to ricotta mixture, and mix to combine (batter will be slightly lumpy). Whisk reserved egg whites until soft peaks form.
Using a rubber spatula, fold beaten egg whites into batter. Heat a medium skillet or griddle over medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray. Working in batches, drop ½ cup of batter per hot cake onto the skillet and cook until bubbles appear on the surface (about three to four minutes). Flip and cook through an additional one to two minutes. Repeat with remaining batter. Makes 15 hotcakes.
Pan-Roasted Shrimp with Whole-Wheat Linguine
• 3⁄4 lb. of whole-wheat linguine or fettuccine
• 2 tbsp. of olive oil
• 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• ¼ cup of shallots, finely diced
• 1½ tsp. of red pepper flakes
• 1½ lb. of cleaned large shrimp
• ½ cup of dry white wine
• 1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes
• 1 cup of low-sodium chicken broth
• ¼ cup of flat-leaf parsley and basil leaves, torn • Salt and pepper to taste
• 1 lemon
Cook ¾ lb. of whole-wheat linguine or fettuccine according to package directions. Drain and reserve. Heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 6 cloves of finely chopped garlic, ¼ cup of finely diced shallots and 1½ tsp. of red pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant (about one to two minutes).
Add 1½ lb. of cleaned large shrimp, and cook until they begin to turn pink (about one to two minutes). Add ½ cup of dry white wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until liquid reduces by half (about two to three minutes). Add 1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes and 1 cup of low-sodium chicken broth, and bring to a simmer. Add pasta, ¼ cup of flat-leaf parsley and basil leaves, torn, and toss to coat with liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste and the juice and zest of 1 lemon.
Serves four to six.