I heart oinkers

Hearth's bluefoot chickenPeach salad at Il BucoThe Tasting Room's razor clams

Summer Vegetables

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
July 8, 2005

The inspiration for this summer issue came during my visit home in May. Summer comes early in Taiwan. The farmers markets were already in full swing, displaying their bountiful harvest of summer vegetables. The visual cacophony of greens, yellows and reds reminded me of my own Green Market at Union Square. This triggered the realization that after my chocolate indulgence this spring, my body was craving fresh fruits and vegetables. With the abundance of produce in season during the summer, I found the perfect opportunity to eat well and light at the same time.

Beets, carrots, corn, fennel, green beans, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers are just some of the wonderfully ripe produce available in the summertime. If you close your eyes thinking about these vegetables, you can visualize their vibrant colors and personalities.

Having decided to feature summer vegetables, it only made sense to approach restaurants that focus on seasonal menus and serve fresh artisanal produce from our local area. I was also interested in chefs who support the movements of sustainable agriculture and Slow Food. The seven chefs I interviewed all have relationships with local farmers from the Green Market. This connection assures them of the quality of the food and helps them know where it’s coming from and how it’s grown or raised.

I was really excited to do this feature, not only because there would be a lot of diverse and yummy summer dishes to talk about but also because I have been wondering how to put some of these restaurants into Cravings since their menus change constantly. For most of these restaurants, I can’t add a specific craving dish in the site because I can’t guarantee that you will find it at the restaurant during your visit. But it is precisely this fleetingness of the menus that makes dining at these restaurants fun and memorable.

The focus is on summer vegetables, but I did not want to cover only vegetarian foods. The only requirement I had was that each dish had to include a summer vegetable, so you will see some fish, chicken, and lamb dishes too.

Credits: A thousand thank yous to my food photographer, Shida Kuo, for all the beautiful shots of the dishes in this summer feature!

Note: The craving dish for each restaurant is a reference for the style of food the restaurant serves. Depending on what is in season, the menu may change.

Summer Vegetables

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
July 8, 2005

Blue Hill Summer Salad

seasonal vegetables

What a feast for both the palate and the eyes. It not only tastes amazing, it’s a delicate yet vivacious piece of art composed of vegetables, flowers and herbs — a symphony from the garden. Just looking at it makes me hungry. The ingredients change daily depending on what’s fresh and available. My salad included peas, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, beans, carrots, tomatoes and more. The vibrant colors of greens, yellows, oranges, reds and purples literally illustrate the dynamic tastes of summer. Pistachios act as a colorful balancing agent by adding an earthier taste to the lightness of the garden-fresh veggies. While one may think that, however beautiful, a salad is just a salad, this one at Blue Hill refutes that argument. The vegetables are so fresh and alluring. And each bite taken creates a kaleidoscope of combination and sensation. The vegetables don’t get boring, instead each taste alters your dining experience. How utterly refreshing!

Summer Vegetables

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
July 8, 2005

Salad bar at City Bakery

lime onions w/ cherry tomatoes & baby bok choy

Onions can be tricky. Most of the time they add great flavor to a dish, but sometimes they can be too overpowering and pungent. This salad uses them generously and creatively. The onions are marinated in lime juice and lime zest until slightly pickled, taking the edge off their strong flavor. Having said that, onions have so much personality on their own that it’s important that the original taste is not lost but instead softened. The result is very light and refreshing. Next add the juicy sweetness of the tomatoes, and the slightly bitter taste of the baby bok choy and you get a really unexpected summer winner. I was so pleasantly surprised by how good onion can taste in a leading role.

Summer Vegetables

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
July 8, 2005

zucchini raviolo at Hearth

w/ ricotta, pine nuts & basil

A full-flavored entrée, the zucchini raviolo is the main vegetarian dish on the menu at Hearth for the summer. However, even for hard-core meat lovers like myself, this entrée is a great alternative and very satisfying. This dish fully demonstrates how a single ingredient can be so dynamic in a diversity of texture, taste and aesthetics depending on how it is prepared. The zucchini is sautéed with tomatoes and then wrapped in a thin layer of pasta to create this raviolo. The pasta is so thin it is like a fresh and delicate crêpe. The raviolo sits in a zucchini purée sauce and is garnished with shreds of raw zucchini. Pine nuts and basil are used for subtle, added flavoring. Whether cooked or raw, sautéed or puréed, the zucchini tastes delicious. A wonderfully playful dish, paying homage to the simple and abundant summer zucchini.

Summer Vegetables

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
July 8, 2005

Peach salad at Il Buco

fresh peaches, mâche, cripsy guanciale, ricotta salata, in a vanilla-white balsamic vinaigrette

This summer peach salad embodies the essence of the restaurant Il Buco for me. It is simple, understated, elegant, eclectic and delicious. Mâche is one of my favorite greens because, while flavorful, it has a light mouth feel, and the vanilla-white balsamic vinaigrette adds a dash of honeyed tartness to it. The peach slices are juicy and sweet, balanced by the perfectly crisp, savory guanciale (meat from the pig’s cheek). The ricotta salata — a dried, salted ricotta cheese — has an interesting texture that crumbles in your mouth and tastes like an Italian dried feta cheese. The thinly sliced onions add just the right amount of kick to the dish. While the ingredients are extraordinarily diverse, the outcome of the composition fits so naturally together it’s enticing in a very comfortable and welcoming way.

Summer Vegetables

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
July 8, 2005

Loin of Colorada Lamb at March Restaurant

w/ spicy crushed fennel, mint & pepper caramel

The lamb sits on a bed of caramelized fennel. The fennel is roughly diced, then braised in white wine with onion, and overcooked to achieve the “crushed” texture. The crushed fennel is so soft it melts in your mouth and its sweetness complements the savory lamb. Meanwhile, on the side there is a little salad of fresh fennel with vinaigrette. Tasting and comparing the two ways the fennel is prepared, my palate is first lulled by the rich, smooth caramel taste of the cooked fennel, then rejuvenated by the more pungent raw fennel. The anise-taste of the fennel salad offsets the milder flavor of the cooked fennel. The contrast between the two demonstrates how various cooking techniques can reveal a whole new dimension of a single vegetable. Yummy!

* Since publication of this feature, March has closed — January 2007.

Summer Vegetables

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
July 8, 2005

Sockeye Salmon Gravlax at Savoy

w/ golden beets & purslane

Three simple ingredients are combined in this dish to make a delicious starter to a meal or afternoon snack. The slightly rooty flavor of the raw purslane balances the saltiness of the cured salmon. Purslane is an herb that is pleasantly chewy and has more personality to it than many common greens. The golden beets are roasted to tender perfection. The composition works on many levels; the textures give great mouth feel, the flavors work in unison to balance the palate, and visually it’s beautiful. This is representative of the down-to-earth feel of Savoy, how the dishes are all simple, simply balanced and simply wonderful.

Summer Vegetables

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
July 8, 2005

The Tasting Room's razor clams

petit pois peas, shitake mushrooms, chives & buckwheat

This is a delightful combination of razor clams (out of the shell), petit pois peas, shitake mushrooms, and chives over buckwheat that has been cooked in tomato water. Details like the tomato water as base and chives for added flavor are subtle yet significant for the flavoring of the dish as a whole. The petit pois are so fresh I couldn’t stop popping them in my mouth. In the past I had often thought of peas as just a side dish, but these peas really stole the show. Razor clams are a common dish in Chinese cuisine but usually always served in the shell. This dish has opened my eyes and imagination to the endless possibilities and combinations of cooking them without the shell. I am a fervent fan of buckwheat, which has a very particular taste, so needless to say the combination of all the ingredients worked really well together for my palate.

* Since publication of this feature, The Tasting Room has closed — June 2008.

Summer Vegetables

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
July 8, 2005

Blue Hill Restaurant New York City

75 Washington Pl
(MacDougal St & 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10011
Feeling: Warm, Comfortable, Fresh

City Bakery New York

3 W 18th St
(5th & 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10011
Feeling: Playful, Energetic, Innovative

Hearth Restaurant New York City

403 E 12th St
@ 1st Ave
New York, NY 10009
Feeling: Warm, Rich, Cozy

Il Buco New York

47 Bond St
(Lafayette St & Bowery)
New York, NY 10012
Feeling: Eclectic, Relaxing, Elegant

March Restaurant in New York City

405 E 58th St
(1st Ave & Sutton Pl)
New York, NY 10022
Feeling: Romantic, Quaint, Charming

* Since publication of this feature, March has closed — January 2007.

Savoy restaurant in NYC

70 Prince St
@ Crosby St
New York, NY 10012
Feeling: Modern, Warm, Cozy

The Tasting Room on 1st Street

72 E 1st St
(1st & 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
Feeling: Personal, Charming, Delicate

Note: Since the publication of this article, the restaurant has moved to a larger space in NoLITA, and the original space has been converted to now wine bar & café. The restaurant unfortunately closed in May 2008 and the wine bar also closed soon after.

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