For the salad of garden lettuces with sunchoke, roasted grapes and Point Reyes blue cheese tossed in pumpkin seed dressing at Willie Jane, chef Govind Armstrong will look to Cook's Garden -- the nearly 4,000 square-foot edible garden next door to the restaurant run by Geri Miller -- for ingredients such as cucumber, frill mustard and red-veined sorrel. Armstrong goes there everyday to figure out what's available and tweak his menu accordingly.
"We're lucky to have the garden next door where greens are literally snipped the day they're served. One of the million great things about having the garden next door is that [Miller] grows to spec. So if I'd like arugula to be three inches tall, that's what I'm getting -- fresh right before service," Armstrong says.
Armstrong asked Miller to set up the garden shortly after Willie Jane opened; she's also responsible for the garden installed at Post & Beam. It's an ongoing discussion between chef and gardener: Armstrong keeps a wish list of fruits and vegetables that he shares with Miller and she'll suggest new additions as well. "I'm still trying to find some cool variety of black-eyed peas and different collard greens."
It's not that there aren't challenges in relying on an edible garden. "It's a mad juggle. We map out the garden seasonally," says Armstrong. "Some things just take a little bit longer to grow. I like working with plants that have a rapid turnover. We already have a bunch of delicata squash that takes forever to grow."
Armstrong shared his recipe for the salad. "When you roast grapes, would want them to dry out and shrivel just a little bit. It still looks somewhat like a grape, but the flavors are a little more concentrated. It hits you over the head," says Armstrong.
"Right now, we take kohlrabi, peel that down, slice them really thin and lightly dress them with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. That layers the base of the plate and then we put the salad on top of that. It adds a great texture and a good flavor profile."
Pumpkin Seed Oil
From: Govind Armstrong
Makes: about 3 cups
1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
3 cups canola or grapeseed oil
1. Puree in blender until well-incorporated. Strain through cheesecloth lined chinois and pour oil into an airtight container. Store in a cool place.
Pumpkin Seed Dressing
From: Govind Armstrong
Makes: 1-2 quarts
1 egg yolk
½ cup Sherry vinegar
½ cup Champagne vinegar
2 lemons, juiced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 cup pumpksin seed oil (recipe above)
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1. In a blender combine yolk, acid, Dijon, honey and soy sauce. Purée until smooth.
2. While the blender is running, add oils in a slow steady stream until blended in.
3. Whisk in yogurt and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container; holds up to five days in a refrigerator.
Roasted Grapes and Sunchoke Salad with Pumpkin Seed Dressing
From: Govind Armstrong
½ pound Red Flame seedless grapes with stems kept on
Extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ black pepper
1 pound mixed blend baby lettuces (Armstrong uses Red Oak, Green Oak, Little Gems and Butter Leaf)
½ cup soft herb salad (leaves of parsley, chervil, mint, dill and tarragon)
¼ pound sunchokes, washed, scrubbed, then thinly sliced on a mandoline
2 shallots, thinly sliced on a mandoline
½ cup pumpkin seed dressing
4 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
Point Reyes blue cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Lightly brush the grapes with extra virgin olive oil; sprinkle salt and black pepper all over. Place grapes on a baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes, or until slightly shriveled up. (Note: Keeping the stem on will prevent the grape from leaching out all its delicious juices.) Once roasted, set aside to cool to room temperature then remove the grapes from the stem.
3. In a large salad bowl gently dress the lettuces, herb salad, sliced shallots and shaved sunchokes in pumpkin seed dressing. (If needed, add a litle salt and black pepper to taste.)
4. Plate the salad by , sprinkle with the crumbled cheese. Garnish with the roasted grapes and toasted pumpkin seeds.
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