38 The NaTioNal CuliNary review • July/augus T 2015
them with the bulbs (pickled in an Egyptian marinade) and deep-fried tips. He confits hulking wild mushrooms in duck fat before
finishing them on the grill for a steak-like texture and flavor.
Leaving vegetables whole makes for dramatic presentation
but requires attention to the oft-varied cook times of each part,
Landau says. Bok choy’s stems, for one, require longer blanching
times than the tender leaves.
One menu staple at Vedge is the smoked carrot kimchi “Reuben”
featuring whole smoked carrots over sauerkraut white bean puree
with fiery gochujang, served with pumpernickel bread. But the entire
dish hinges on getting the texture of the carrot just right, Landau
says. “The dish is presented with steak knives, and the knife has
to glide though that carrot with little resistance,” he says. “Being a
vegan restaurant, the last thing we want is to serve a crunchy carrot.
But we also can’t give them baby food. Because carrots are tapered
naturally, we do a trick where we put half on the grill and let the tops
cook through first.”
MAKING TIME FOR EXPERIMENTATION
As more and more chefs embrace the untapped potential of produce, requests have gotten more obscure for Nichols Farm & Orchard,
Marengo, Illinois, which supplies dozens of Chicago’s top restaurants.
“Someone will get their hands on an old cookbook, or see
something on someone else’s menu, and suddenly, an idea will
spread,” says second-generation farmer Nick Nichols. Recent offbeat requests include baby sunflowers (used in place of artichoke
hearts), fava bean leaves (for sauteing), and the now-famous corn
fungus, or huitlacoche. “More and more we’re seeing restaurants
wanting obscure ingredients, but we’re also seeing them use more
common produce in creative ways.”
When it comes to the latter, necessity is often the mother
of invention. Such is the case for Brian Scheehser, executive
chef at Trellis Restaurant at The Heathman Hotel in Kirkland,
Washington, who also tends the restaurant’s 18-acre farm.
Experimentation is key, he says. “You won’t know what corn
silks or carrot tops taste like deep-fried unless you fry them.”
He also overplants certain crops, such as heirloom tomatoes,
to ensure he’ll have enough beautiful, impeccable ones to hold
raw for slicing and plating. Then he cooks and pickles the gnarly
ones into soup, purees, relishes and sorbets.
ProDuCe seCTioN seed to stem
CloCKwise, froM lef T: 1) at Trellis restaurant, carrot cake with grated carrot and
carrot tops is topped with candied carrot peel and served with carrot juice caramel. 2) the
greens salad at Trellis restaurant, with whole-leaf herb flowers, cherry tomatoes and herb
vinaigrette. 3) scallop crudo with blood orange vinegar jam, Piment d’espelette, pickled
fennel, borage flower, salsify puree, chive and chive flowers at homestead on The roof.