Fred Minnick
Movement of summer vegetables from chef/owner Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia, Louisville, Kentucky
magnify Click image to view more.

Vegetable Demo: Movement of Summer Vegetables

Edward Lee, 610 Magnolia, Louisville, Kentucky / October 2012

In July, I came up to New York City to cook a six course dinner at the Tasting Table loft in SoHo. I brought a lot of product and prep with me from 610 Magnolia, my restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, intentionally keeping one spot open in the middle of the menu for a dish of whatever summer vegetables I’d find at the Union Square Greenmarket that day. At my restaurant, the vegetable course always comes after the meat course; it’s a way of refreshing the palate, like retuning guitar strings before the finale. I choose vegetables with sharp crisp flavors, greens that are succulent, and fruits that add sweetness with a secondary note of umami. I stormed through Wednesday’s market with a city friend in just under 40 minutes, buying impulsively as we made our way from stand to stand. My friend kept putting vegetables in my hands, saying, “You gotta try these!” And what I ended up with was an armful of bags filled with the materials for a course that had yet to be conceived five hours before the guests would arrive.

I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t think about Michel Bras in the cab back to the kitchen. His gargouillou of young vegetables is still the touchstone for chefs of my generation. I recalled the harmony and theatrics of Charlie Trotter’s vegetable plates and how they bridged a European aesthetic with an American palate. And more recently, David Kinch’s “Into the Vegetable Garden” is not only a perfect expression of terroir but also a snapshot of a single and brief moment in time, because gardens are constantly changing. From seed to sprout to fruit and back to seed, there is an unstoppable force behind the cycles of the moon. To capture that motion, I wanted to create this dish in as little time as possible, imbuing it with improvisational rhythm. I know that wax beans cure in about two hours, so I timed that to 8:30 p.m., when the dish would go out to the guests. I know that tomatoes need four hours to absorb the flavors of a salsa verde—this one made with carrot tops—giving me plenty of time to roast the mushrooms and eggplant in a hot oven. Garlic, however, needs a long roasting time, while greens, on the other hand, should be left undisturbed in ice water until the very last minute. All these different time considerations make for a steady stream of movements in the kitchen. That’s how I see and express the bounty of summer’s vegetables. It’s the same when I plate the dish: I want to show linear motion through a continuous line of vegetables in various permutations.

For 4 servings

Goat’s milk dressing:

  • 1/4 lb. fresh goat’s milk cheese
  • 1/3 cup goat’s milk whey (more if needed)
  • 2 tsps. mascarpone
  • salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground

Place cheese, whey, and mascarpone in a blender; blend until smooth (dressing should be thin enough to drizzle; gradually blend in more whey if needed); season; reserve.

Roasted garlic puree:

  • 2 heads heirloom garlic
  • 2 tsps. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. white miso
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 3 to 4 Tbsps. olive oil
  1. Heat oven to 360°F.

  2. Wrap garlic in aluminum foil; roast 1 1/2 hours; remove from oven; cool.

  3. Squeeze garlic cloves from skins into a blender; add vinegar, miso, and cayenne; blend until smooth; with motor running on low speed, gradually add oil until desired consistency is reached; increase speed to high; blend, adding a little water if needed, until emulsified and smooth; place in squeeze bottle; reserve.

Heirloom tomato/carrot top salsa verde:

  • 1/4 lb. carrot tops, blanched (A) and chopped (B)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsps. shallots, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 lb. sm. mixed heirloom tomatoes, peeled (C)

Mix carrot tops, shallots, and garlic in a bowl; whisk in oil, zest, and juice; season; stir in tomatoes (D); cover with plastic wrap; reserve.

Braised breakfast radishes:

  • 1/2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. clarified butter
  • 5 breakfast radishes, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp. Sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper, freshly ground

Heat oil and butter in a pot set over medium-high heat; add radishes; cook, stirring, just until coated in fat (about 1 minute); add 1/2 cup water and remaining ingredients; stir well; bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium; simmer until radishes are tender but still have a slight crunch (12 to 15 minutes); drain; place radishes in airtight container; cover; reserve in refrigerator.

Roasted baby eggplant:

  • 4 fairytale eggplant, stems removed with hands and halved lengthwise
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground
  1. Heat oven to 385°F.

  2. Using a small paring knife, cut surface of eggplants to make crosshatch pattern; place on a baking sheet flesh-side up; brush with oil with a pastry brush; season; roast until flesh is tender and skin is wrinkled but not charred (15 to 20 minutes); remove from oven; cool; reserve.

Roasted maitake mushrooms:

  • 1/4 lb. maitake mushrooms, broken into bite-size pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsps. sesame oil
  • salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground
  1. Heat to 375°F.

  2. Place mushrooms on baking sheet; drizzle with oil; season; toss to coat; roast until mushrooms are wilted but not browned (about 8 minutes); remove from oven; cool; reserve.

Cured purple wax beans:

  • 1/4 lb. purple wax beans, cut crosswise on the bias into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tsps. kosher salt
  • 2 tsps. granulated sugar

Place beans in a bowl; mix salt and sugar in another small bowl; sprinkle over beans as though you were heavily salting them; toss; let stand 1 hour 45 minutes (beans will be soft and tasty but still crunchy); rinse beans under cold running water; pat dry with paper towels; place in airtight container; cover; reserve in refrigerator.

Spicy Corn Nuts:

  • 1/4 cup Corn Nuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. Korean chile flakes (see note below)

Place all ingredients in small bowl; toss well; cover with plastic wrap; reserve.

Assembly:

  • 2 sm. carrots, peeled
  • 1 Korean melon, quartered and seeds removed
  • 4 radish seed pods (rat tails), woody stem end trimmed
  • 4 husk tomatoes (ground cherries), husk pulled back but left attached
  • 1/3 cup purslane, leaves picked
  • 1/3 cup mustard greens, leaves only
  • 4 tomato blossoms
  1. Using Japanese mandoline set on thinnest setting, slice carrots lengthwise into ribbons; place in ice water; cover; reserve in refrigerator.

  2. Remove skin and 1/4" flesh from melon; cut remaining flesh into bâtons; place in airtight container; cover; reserve in refrigerator.

  3. For each serving, spoon goat’s milk dressing on one side of long rectangular plate; using small offset spatula, spread dressing from one end of plate to the other; layer vegetables over streak of dressing, starting with 3 small tomatoes in salsa verde; place a breakfast radish next to each tomato; place two eggplant halves next to each radish and/or tomato (E); scatter 3 to 4 maitake mushroom pieces around; top radishes with carrot ribbons; sprinkle a few bean pieces on right hand side of plate; place 2 melon bâtons toward center of plate (F); add a few rat tail radishes on left hand side of plate; place 1 husk tomato to the right of all vegetables; sprinkle purslane over salad to the left side of plate; sprinkle mustard greens to right side of plate; sprinkle tomato blossoms on top; scatter Corn Nuts around vegetables; garnish plate with a few drops garlic puree.

What to drink: LIOCO Chardonnay Chalone Michaud 2008 Chef’s Note: Use red pepper flakes if you can’t find Korean chile flakes.