Friday, July 21, 2017

The Art of the Salad with Chef Joshua McFadden, Author of Six Seasons

When you think of Italian food, chances are hearty classics like meatballs, osso buco and pastas with a slow-cooked ragus first jump to mind. So you might be surprised that those aren’t necessarily the most crave-worthy dishes on Chef Joshua McFadden’s Roman-inspired menu at Ava Gene’s, his much-touted restaurant in Portland, Oregon: the veggies are.

 

We call them salads by default, but there really should be a different word for McFadden’s layered and complex vegetable dishes, often made with grains, nuts, cheese, and sweet-and-savory combinations of vegetables and fruits.

 

Luckily the “vegetable whisperer” is now sharing the recipes for 200-some of these dishes in Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables. Peak-season produce is the star of each and every dish, including Cucumbers, Celery, Apricots and Pistachios, and Raw “Couscous” Cauliflower with Almonds, Dried Cherries and Sumac. Or Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds and Parmigiano — McFadden’s take on childhood favorite “Ants on a Log.”

 

The book is divided into six micro-seasons (Fall, Spring and Winter — plus Early, Mid and Late Summer) to help home cooks pinpoint which veggies are at their peak throughout different points in the quickly-evolving months of June through September.

 

So what inspires the chef’s balanced, unexpected, deceptively simple and very interesting “salads” (for lack of a better term)? McFadden credits an unexpected source as one of his early inspirations: a crispy watercress salad at cult-fave Thai spot Sripraphai in NYC’s Woodside, Queens neighborhood. “That was one of those moments that changed my idea of where I could go, even with simple, Italian-style food. Because the dish was at a temperature that you didn’t expect, and there were layers of ingredients like cashews, peanuts, chiles, sauce, mint, and fermented shrimp that weren’t expected. It was a symphony of flavors, instead of something one-note,” says McFadden. “And then while working at Franny’s I started working with colatura, the Italian fish sauce. From that point on, it opened up doors to start playing with flavors, and not be so classic — even with Italian food.”

 

But getting creative with your cooking shouldn’t be daunting for home cooks. McFadden likes to remind people that it should be fun: “And no one knows how to do it until they do it!” So cook your way through Six Seasons, learning McFadden’s clever techniques along the way, and then keep his four-point formula for a perfectly-balanced vegetable dish in mind as you make your own seasonal creations at home.

 

 

1. Creative Combinations

So how does McFadden come up with these combinations of cauliflower and cherries, celery and dates…and make them work? “It becomes fairly obvious when you’re thinking in the context of a season, and what ingredients you have available,” he says. “Whether it’s citrus, tomatoes, or parsnips…that’s your starting point. So what are you doing to that produce? Hopefully not much, but whatever you treat it and add to it, you want say ‘What the hell just happened?’ when you taste the finished dish.”

 

2. Acidity

McFadden considers acid to be an essential component to every dish…but not in the traditional way salads are dressed. “We don’t make vinaigrettes,” he says. “I’m a real big believer in dressing first with vinegar or lemon juice — or whatever acid you’re using — and then getting the dish to a point with salt, pepper, chile and all the other components you’re using that you don’t need olive oil. And then you taste it all and add the olive oil as its own ingredient, which brings it all together and adds another layer.” (Take for instance the recipe for Cucumbers, Celery, Apricots, and Pistachios below, where McFadden calls for the apricots to be plumped in vinegar before getting mixed with the rest of the salad.)

 

3. Texture

When McFadden was a kid, he hated crunch from nuts added to cookies or stuffing. But now he understands how texture can take dishes to the next level. “It’s fun to pull that out of vegetables and then enhance it with nuts and puffed grains. Not just for texture, but also for flavor. And it’s really cool that it’s all healthy too.”

 

4. Variation

McFadden wants the seasoning in his salads to be uniform…but likes to mix up the size and shape of ingredients. At one point while cooking at Franny’s, he realized he should stop ripping up fresh herbs, and started using the whole leaves as…well, leaves. “A basil leaf is like a salad leaf…why rip it up? Why can’t you just have explosions of flavor from herbs? I don’t want every bite of a dish to be exactly the same, so why I would I cut it up?”

Cucumbers, Celery, Apricots, and Pistachios

Serves 4

 

This dish hits every flavor note—sweet, sour, salty, bitter . . . and it’s all kinds of crunchy. The more herbs you pack in there, the better. Mint, parsley, basil, and celery are just the beginning—you can add sorrel, every kind of basil you can find, chives, even some cooked grains or couscous. Serve this with grilled lamb, friends, the great outdoors, and cold pink wine.

 

1 1/2 pounds cucumbers (a mix of varieties if possible)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 medium celery stalks (leaves reserved)

1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered

1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup pistachios, lightly toasted (see below) and chopped

1/2 cup lightly packed mint leaves

1/2 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/2 cup lightly packed basil leaves

1/2 cup lightly packed celery leaves (if you have them)

1/4 teaspoon dried chile flakes

Extra-virgin olive oil

 

Peel the cucumbers if their skins are tough or waxed. Trim the ends of the cucumbers, halve lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Cut the halves crosswise on an angle into very thin slices.

Put the cucumbers in a colander and toss them with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Set aside for at least 20 minutes to extract their water and give them a “quick-pickled” flavor.

Meanwhile, cut the celery crosswise on an angle into very thin slices and soak in ice water for

10 minutes. Drain, pat dry, and pile into a serving bowl.

 

Put the apricots, garlic, and vinegar in a small bowl. Let the apricots plump for 10 minutes.

 

Pat the cucumbers dry and add to the celery, along with the pistachios, mint, parsley, basil, and celery leaves (if using). Remove the garlic from the apricots and discard it. Add the apricots and vinegar to the bowl, along with the chile flakes and 1/4 cup olive oil. Season with black pepper, but don’t add more salt yet because the cucumbers will have absorbed a bit. Toss, taste, and adjust the flavors with more salt, vinegar, chile flakes, or black pepper until it’s bright and zingy. Finish with another drizzle of olive oil. Serve right away.

 

 

Toasted Pistachios

Quantity is up to you

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Spread the nuts on a pan in a single layer. For a small quantity, a pie plate is good; for more, use a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake until you smell the nuttiness and the color is deepening slightly, 6 to 8 minutes for most whole nuts.

When the nuts are done, transfer them to a plate so they don’t keep cooking on the hot baking pan. Determining doneness can be tricky, because the final texture won’t develop until they’re cool, so at this stage, you’re mostly concerned with color and flavor. To be safe, take them from the oven, let cool, taste one, and if not done enough, pop them back into the oven.

 

Recipe excerpted from Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Peden + Munk (top) and Laura Dart and A.J. Meeker (bottom).

 

Per serving: Calories 279; Fat 21 g (Saturated 3 g); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 654 mg; Carbohydrate 21 g; Fiber 5 g; Sugars 11 g; Protein 6 g



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“We Have to Do This!” (Meet Our First Primal Kitchen Restaurant Owners)

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

Folks, today is the big day. The first Primal Kitchen Restaurant franchise opened its doors this morning and served up the first Grok-style breakfasts to happy customers. I’m thrilled for Tara and Tom Olson, our South Bend, Indiana, franchise owners and grateful for all their amazing work to get things off the ground. 

Friday is Success Story day, and I couldn’t think of a more perfect story to share than Tara’s. Enjoy, everyone! 

Back in 2008, I started doing CrossFit and based on their philosophy of how one should eat, it lead me to the internet to find all I could on the subject. One of the blogs I came across was Mark’s Daily Apple. I subscribed to it and have been reading it ever since! I purchased The Primal Blueprint when that was released in 2009 and everything just made such perfect sense. It was the first time I had been able to put the pieces together that the foods we eat have a direct impact on our health. And more importantly, the foods that I thought were healthy were far from it.

Before I found the Primal Blueprint my diet consisted of mainly low fat/no fat foods and lots of processed carbohydrates. It was also low in calories and I was always stumped as to why I remained hungry throughout the day and why stubborn weight would not come off. I have always been a fairly athletic person and have always enjoyed working out. Perhaps this is why I had quite the impressive collection of every home workout DVD you could imagine!

At this time in my life we had a young daughter and I wanted our family to be healthy so I filled our fridge with all the “food” items that were marketed as healthful, and I worked out 5 days a week. I cooked at least 4 nights a week at this time but we also ate out 1-2 days per week. There was nothing that resembled a healthy restaurant at this time so we would end up at the standard sit down chain restaurants and eat portions that could have fed a family of 5.

Finding the Primal Blueprint was a turning point in my health because it is based on eating nutrient dense foods and avoiding processed foods. When I made this shift it allowed my body to work properly! My energy throughout the day increased, my skin cleared up, (I seriously cannot remember the last time I had the slightest hint of acne on my face) my sleep improved and to top it off I watched my body composition shift. I now tell people that is a nice side effect of eating real food! It was at this time that I committed to changing not just my eating habits but my husband and daughters as well. That meant cleaning out the pantry and fridge and slowly but surely replacing the bad with the good. It was tough on them and took time but we have been a Paleo/Primal household for the last 8 years and all three of us are far healthier because of it.

Another benefit that came from this is that it forced me to cook all of our meals. We really made an effort to not eat out as we couldn’t control what was going into our meals. Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint Cookbook was one of the first cookbooks I owned and I have made the Bacon Broccoli Salad and the Peach Clafouti more times than I can count. I also have the Reader Created Cookbook he offered on the blog a few years back. It is printed out in color and in a 3-ring binder and I have made so many of the dishes from there. His 2nd cookbook Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals is also in my repertoire!

Having these resources for recipes in the beginning of our journey was a game changer. My husband Tom and I often talk about where we might be if we had never made this change. What health problems we might have? What medications would we be on? How would our daughter’s health be? We simply cannot fathom going back to the place we started and are forever thankful we took the leap and trusted the science.

Slide15We saw a social media post in July of 2015 regarding the opportunity to own a Primal Kitchen Restaurant Franchise, and immediately we were intrigued. We had already benefitted so much from a Primal lifestyle ourselves and the thought of being able to share that with others through a restaurant led us to investigate further. We were invited to attend one of the Open House events that served to highlight the franchise, and unfortunately I could not go with Tom but when he came home he simply looked at me and said “We have to do this.” So we jumped right in and haven’t looked back.

The most exciting thing to us about this venture is that we get to be a part of this real food movement. Consumers are starting to demand better quality food and I think that is demonstrated by the choices we are seeing in the grocery stores. However, I don’t see that coming through in a lot of the restaurants out there. To be able to offer the “on the go” consumer a full menu of nutrient dense food choices is by far the most important thing to us.

Some of my favorites include the short rib hash, the duck fat biscuit with egg salad, the chicken curry coconut soup, and the bison filet with fig reduction. I have also tasted all three of our dessert items and let me just say you can never go wrong with chocolate cake in a mug!

The support we have received from Primal Kitchen Restaurants and the franchise company have been wonderful. Neither Tom nor I have backgrounds in the restaurant industry so it was imperative to us that we have a good team there that could walk us through all of the challenges we knew we would face. They have done a phenomenal job. The support that we have received from not only our friends and family but the community as a whole has been amazing. We have received incredibly positive feedback from so many people about this concept coming to our area.

We hope to have folks from all over come visit us. Since we will be the first location open in the country we anticipate people coming from near and far to check us out. (Spread the word to your friends and family. Maybe they are traveling through our area and need a great place to eat!) It is our goal to create a healthy culture and community within the restaurant. From our employees to our patrons we want everyone to benefit from eating whole, nutrient dense foods.

Thanks to Tara Olson for sharing her and her family’s Primal journey today. Want to support Tara and Tom? You can follow the South Bend restaurant on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest. 

Also, be sure to check out the Primal Kitchen Restaurants website as well as follow the PKR Facebook page and Instagram for updates on ALL 7 of our upcoming franchise openings. Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

Open

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Three Bears Oatmeal Porridge

Remember my three bears!? They used to be such characters on the blog. I think Mazen replaced them! I am pretty sure my mom has two of them at her house. I should check. What I bad bear mother I have been!

Today I am actually talking about the famous three bears. You know, the ones Goldilocks disturbs?!

My mom, the librarian, loves to send Mazen new books. This pop-up version of Goldilocks has been a big hit.

Mazey and I were reading it the other night and he commented: “Mommy what is porridge?” I explained that it was like oatmeal but without all the chunky oats. His response after studying the pictures: “So it’s like oatmeal soup?” You got it, Mazen! I told him I would make him porridge for breakfast.

So the next morning I got up early to make us bowls of porridge. I used my typical whipped banana oatmeal method but added all milk instead of just half so it would be extra creamy, along with a pinch of cinnamon.

I also broke out the immersion blender to smooth out the texture.

Somebody was excited!! He ate his whole bowl. (Although he did ask for a spoonful of peanut butter on top!)

I added summer fruits to mine. And some coffee!

Here’s the basic recipe:

Three Bears Oatmeal Porridge

Yield 2 servings

If your kids love Goldilocks, they’ll love eating up porridge just like the three bears! 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups milk of your choice
  • 1 banana, thinly sliced
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Splash of vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Add oats, milk, banana, and seasonings to a medium pot.
  2. Heat to medium heat and stir frequently until oatmeal is thick and bubbly. 
  3. Use an immersion blender to smooth texture (or a real blender being careful with the hot oatmeal).

Courses Breakfast

Cuisine Bear

Enjoy, my little Goldilocks friends!

Three Bears Oatmeal Porridge // www.katheats.com

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