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Summer recipes from award-winning college chefs

At Rice, college never tasted so good! So say the students who ranked Rice’s dining experience No. 5 in the nation according to Taste for yourself with these special summertime recipes from Rice’s award-winning chefs Kyle Hardwick, Verena Saenz and Ed Castillo.


Start to finish: 6 hours (30 minutes active prep time)

Servings: 6

2 cups raspberries
2 cups blackberries
2 cups blueberries
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup cabernet sauvignon (of your choice)
¼ cup agave nectar (or to taste)

In a food processor, puree all berries and strain though a fine sieve. You want to remove as many seeds as possible. Repeat if necessary. Add lemon juice, cabernet and agave nectar to taste. Mix well and pour into a freezer-safe container. Freeze until almost solid. The product should have chunks of ice the size of an ice cube.

In a food processor or blender, blend the semi-frozen mixture until smooth. Put back in freezer for at least 3 hours.

Alternatively, use an ice cream or sorbet maker according to manufacturer’s instructions in place of the freezing steps.

Chef Verena Saenz, chef de cuisine and currently the executive chef of Sid Richardson College, received her associate degree in culinary arts from the Art Institute of Houston in 2005. After spending six years at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston, she joined Rice University in 2011. In her previous role as Executive Chef of the Faculty Dining Club, Chef Verena enjoyed catering many of the events and weddings that take place at the Cohen House each year. Now, as Executive Chef of Sid Richardson, Chef Verena has found ways to implement vegetarian and vegan options of many classic dishes, like vegan pizza, into her menus.


Start to finish: 45 minutes

Servings: 6

1 cup red onion, sliced
¼ cup red wine or cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
2 ½ cups seedless watermelon, cubed
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
5 ounces arugula

In a small bowl, combine red onion, red wine or cider vinegar and salt. Let stand for 30 minutes and drain.

In a separate bowl, whisk white balsamic vinegar, pepper and oil together. In the remaining mixture, gently toss watermelon, cheese, herbs and onions. Set aside about ½ cup of watermelon mixture for topping. Toss arugula with the remaining watermelon mixture and arrange onto serving plates or a large platter. Top with ½ cup reserved watermelon mixture.

Variations include adding ½ cup pickled red or gold beets, cutting watermelon into planks to use as salad base or using all ingredients except arugula for a crostini topping.

This recipe was submitted by Kyle Hardwick, an American Culinary Federation-certified executive chef who has been at Rice for nearly 12 years. Chef Kyle’s undergraduate degree is in business administration, but his true passion is food. After working in the corporate world for nearly five years, Chef Kyle made the decision to fulfill his dream of being a chef. He attended and graduated from the Art Institute of Houston and came to Rice soon after graduation. He loves experimenting with new food concepts and utilizing local, fresh ingredients. Chef Kyle is currently the executive chef at the Abe and Annie Seibel Servery.


Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

2 cups corn kernels, cooked
1 1/2 cups peaches, sliced
1 cup jicama, julienned
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
¼ cup red bell pepper
½ cup lime juice
¼ cup Texas Hill Country Olive Co. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large salad bowl, mix all the ingredients above together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For variations, try adding avocado, cotija cheese, thinly sliced radish, caramelized red onion or tajin spice.

Currently Executive Chef of South Servery, Chef Ed Castillo received a culinary degree from the Art Institute of Houston in 2001. After working as a sous chef in the South Servery when it opened in 2003, Castillo was promoted to executive chef in January of 2012 after successfully completing the American Culinary Federation testing. Castillo's decision to become a chef came from his love of making others happy, and Ed works hard to ensure his students at Rice enjoy his meals. As a Texas Gulf native, Chef Ed's favorite dishes to prepare are fresh pasta and seafood!

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