Coming on the heels of two new reviews for Gather (City Pages, Star Tribune), this story was originally published in the September/October issue of Walker magazine; it’s accompanied by a recipe for chef Josh Brown’s raw-and-cooked vegetable salad.
Besides the not-inconsiderable task of presiding over Gather by D’Amico, the Walker’s new restaurant that launched in June, chef Josh Brown has been tending a new vegetable plot at home—his first of any size since he was a kid in rural Montana. “Watching everything growing has definitely been a source of inspiration for Gather,” he says.
Recently he sat down to talk seasonal food and look toward the summer transition into fall. For Brown, tomatoes are “one last end-of-summer hurrah” that, as he points out, can be had until early October. Rather than fuss with this fruit, he prefers to let its sweetness stand out: “I just eat them with salt, pepper, and olive oil, or I make my wife’s favorite dish: pasta with fresh tomatoes, basil, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan. Of course, it only works with excellent tomatoes.” Leeks, another late-summer favorite that the chef enjoys braising and pairing with swordfish, also become available in late summer. As greens like chard and kale come into their own, he uses a simple preparation he picked up from a fellow cook: “Add salt and a pat of butter to boiling water before blanching your greens—the butter sticks to them and they’re delicious served with chicken or beef.”
Given the locally sourced and seasonal focus of Gather, Brown develops new dishes monthly as certain ingredients reach their peak. But the raw and cooked salad endures on the menu—not just because it’s one of his personal favorites, but because its components change depending on what’s freshest. “As summer ends, we’ll be trading out the beans and asparagus, probably with Brussels sprouts and a root vegetable,” he says.
As these items come into season, Brown turns on the oven. “Parsnips, turnips, kohlrabi, beets, and the like are really good as a hash, diced up small and slowroasted,” he says. Kohlrabi in particular, a lesser-known member of the cabbage family, takes him instantly back to that large garden of his childhood. “It has always stood out in my mind—something about the way it grows, watching my mother and grandmother picking it. Food sparks so many vivid memories for me; it’s one of the reasons I love cooking.”
Josh Brown’s Raw & Cooked Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
Serves 2. As Brown notes, this salad can change based on what’s in season, so swap out and add in vegetables — the key is freshness.
3 sliced asparagus spears, lightly blanched
3 oz fennel and fennel fronds
2 oz sliced radish
3 oz sliced haricot vert, lightly blanched
1 oz Hong Kong scallion
lemon vinaigrette (see below)
1 oz ricotta salata
6 slices soft boiled egg (see below)
Eggs: Cover eggs in cold water in a saucepan; bring to a boil and turn the heat off. Let stand for 7 minutes, then put eggs into an ice bath.
Lemon vinaigrette (makes extra)
1/2 c. lemon juice
1T lemon zest
1T Dijon mustard
2T minced shallot
1C extra-virgin olive oil
3T chopped basil
Mix lemon, zest,Dijon, and shallot in a bowl; whisk in the olive oil, then add basil and season with salt and pepper.
Plate set up: Salt and pepper the eggs and place in triangles on two plates. Toss all vegetables with vinaigrette and place on the plates; top with ricotta salata.