KARLA RUIZ: Cooking in Nashville since 1999

Dirty Page: Apple Crisp

photo: Andrea Behrends

photo: Andrea Behrends

Karla Ruiz holds a treasure trove of recipes in her head, many of which come from her home country of Mexico. But one of her go-to’s is as American as apple pie. “I love this recipe, because it works,” she says.

She learned to make apple crisp from Rebekah Turshen, a former colleague (and another Dirty Pages participant), when the two worked together at Belle Meade Plantation.

Karla took the job at the historic plantation shortly after moving to the U.S. from a small town outside of Mexico City with her young son. Though she grew up at her grandmother’s side learning techniques handed down—and mostly unwritten—for sauces like dulce de leche, she didn’t fully embrace her gift for cooking until she worked in a professional kitchen—and was encouraged to showcase her Mexican heritage melded with Southern ingredients. She went on to open Karla’s Catering, which she now runs out of the Mesa Komal community kitchen at Conexión Américas.

For this dessert, she has added her own twists including several shakes of cinnamon, a spice she dusts into 90% of her dishes, from sweet to savory.

And when Karla’s parents visited from their home country, she served them this apple crisp to show them one of the American dishes she had learned and honed. “They just kept eating and eating it,” she says. 

Cindy Wall