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Simply Seasonal: A fresh veggie cache

Sue BarhamDaily CorrespondentVail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily
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Inspiration, imagination. As I walked through Restaurant Avondale’s kitchen on Friday, there was an excited buzz as the chefs gathered around a cart filled with that morning’s harvest from LaVenture Farms.They separated the cache into sections, a pile of summer squash, a bin of beans, greens galore – and what are those giant scallions, I wondered. The bulbs were elongated ovals, tinged with purple, with long green tails. “Torpedo onions,” chef de cuisine Dustin Beckner told me, as if their shape alone would have answered the question.The action continued – washing breakfast radishes, trimming pole beans, shelling English peas and long fava beans, mincing Italian parsley. The heads of cauliflower were as big as bowling balls, and the chefs expertly trimmed them to florets. Giant cabbages were crisply shredded. Purple fingerling potatoes were shaved thin on the mandolin.Beckner scribbled on a clipboard, logging ideas for the night’s specials, as I wondered which of these fresh veggies would star in this week’s column. It was all too overwhelming to watch the passion pouring onto the prep table. Six chefs, six knives, lots of laughs. Beckner placed an aromatic mound of basil in a blender, minced a few shallots, and added them, followed by some rice-wine vinegar, and gave it a whirl. With the blender running he added a stream of olive oil. As he tasted his quick creation, a look of delight came over his face. “Try this basil vinaigrette,” he said. “This is why I love to cook. Pure simplicity can taste so good.”He told me to come back at 5 p.m. with the camera and he’d make a sample of one of the evening’s specials for a photo shoot. I eagerly anticipated the dinner hour, and I wasn’t disappointed. When I arrived back in the kitchen, he was placing the crispy purple potato chips on top of a plate of fresh veggies.The dish was the epitome of pure simplicity – an assortment of freshly harvested garden wonders, each item clearly announcing its own identity, with a slight drizzle of basil essence to complement the composition.The recipe here encompasses a bounty that arrived in a professional kitchen one day. The simple beauty is the technique – whatever you can gather from your own garden or a farmers’ market can turn into a healthy and pure main or side dish. With three items or 13, you can spin your own thread of pure simplicity. Sue Barham is the marketing director for Restaurant Avondale in the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa. Avondale (www.avondalerestaurant.com ) opened in September 2008 and features straightforward, seasonal American cuisine in a stylish and social setting with views of Beaver Creek Mountain and the Eagle River. Email sbarham@avondalerestaurant.com to learn more.

Let your imagination guide you to create your own garden wonder. This can be considered a salad, a vegetable side dish or a fabulously healthy vegetarian main. You decide the ingredients and the quantities – there are no rules! Most of chef Dustin Beckner’s ingredients are raw on the plate, but you can add flavor dimension by choosing a couple of additional preparations. He dropped his thinly shaved fingerlings into hot oil to create whimsical purple potato chips and a delightful crunch. His cauliflower florets were sliced and sauteed quickly in a bit of butter, bringing a nutty caramelization to the flavor profile. A drizzle of basil vinaigrette complements, but does not overwhelm, the dish. The ingredients on this plate:Purple fingerling potatoesPole beansLemon cucumberCauliflowerBroccoliFrench breakfast radishesTat soiBaby spinachChive flowersSummer peas

2 cups fresh basil leaves1 shallot, minced1⁄3 cup rice-wine vinegar2⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oilPlace basil and shallot in blender, and pulse to chop and combine. Add rice wine vinegar; blend to incorporate. With blender running, add olive oil in a steady stream through top opening. Use as a dressing or sauce for salads, veggies, fish or chicken. Makes 13⁄4 cups.


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