Grace Meat + Three Rick Lewis

Rick Lewis is the chef and co-owner of Grace Meat + Three and Grace Chicken + Fish.

While doing their part to maintain social distance, home cooks everywhere are honing their skills in the kitchen. Feast consulted with some of St. Louis' finest chefs and business owners for their best advice on how to make easy, wholesome meals using simple pantry staples. Find out how to make the most of your groceries in this Q&A series, which outlines some pro tips for creating nutritious and comforting from-scratch meals, snacks and more.

Rick Lewis co-owns the popular Southern-inspired Grace Meat + Three as well as its counterpart, Grace Chicken + Fish, with his wife, Elisa. Grace is currently offering dine-in, sidewalk seating, a walk-up window for carryout, in-house delivery and catering. Guests can order ahead online or by phone. For details and the menu, visit ordergrace.com.

What seasonings or condiments are a necessity in your household, and how do you like to use them to spice up your meals? Aleppo pepper, salt, herbs, vinegars and citrus. We tend to cook heavier, rich soul-satisfying food so using spice, acid and fresh herbs tends to wake things up and add a pop of flavor as well as brightness and freshness.

When you're cooking at home, what are your favorite go-tos to make? Quick, easy one- or two-skillet meals, especially using fresh vegetables from our garden and local cuts of meat that can be quickly grilled or roasted – for example, a nicely roasted chicken. Sometimes, we use the grill or oven and a sauté of fresh vegetables with garlic, onion, lemon, Aleppo, fresh herbs and maybe a simple salad with pickled peppers, olives, picked herbs, Aleppo, grated cheese, red wine vinegar and avocado oil. 

At the end of the day, what are some of your favorite drinks or snacks you like to reach for? Dried figs and sunflower seeds, lots of water, tea and maybe a cold local beer at the end of the day from Perennial, Side Project, 2nd Shift, Narrow Gauge or 4 Hands.

What tips can you offer people hoping to make their own deep-fried delights? If you are breading an item, play with seasoning the product with dry rubs of salt and spices, then breading. Use a blend of flours, cornmeal and starches for extra crispness and crunch. Season with a flavorful salt. Also, choose quality neutral-flavored oils like corn oil, avocado or grapeseed.

Can you share a recipe for a quick and easy snack, meal or dessert idea? We like fried summer vegetables for an easy deep-fried crunchy snack with smoked tomato sauce. 

For the sauce, grill tomatoes and onions over wood or coals. Purée those with garlic, fresh basil, oregano and a splash of cream. Cook that over low heat with thyme, bay leaf, Aleppo pepper and salt. Once it reaches a desired thickness, turn the heat off.

Marinate zucchini sticks with a splash of white wine vinegar, salt and Aleppo pepper. Make tempura with flour, cornstarch, potato starch, baking powder and club soda. Dry the zucchini off – it probably purged some liquid. Dip it in the batter. Fry in 350°F corn oil until they are crispy and golden brown. Toss with herbs, sea salt and grated Pecorino. Dip in the smoky tomato sauce and enjoy.