Tosca’s Adam Vickerman on Eating Seasonally

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

The Heavy Table asked Chef Adam Vickerman of the hot new Linden Hills restaurant Trattoria Tosca (younger sibling to the Turtle Bread Company and Cafe Levain) for a seasonal recipe to share with our readers. Vickerman enthusiastically replied by providing his recipe for Local Vegetable Salad (below). He also answered a few questions for us along the way.

1. I am no longer with Cafe Levain – I’ve been over there on and off since I
started cooking in 2004 – I thought I would still have a hand in things over
there however, the workload over here is more than enough for one person – I
thought I could take on both places efficiently but things are different.
Remle, my Levain Sous Chef is as of right now the Chef – he has been keeping
things on lockdown the past couple of months and I hope he continues his
success thus far.
2. Having been a Chef for a year has given me a bit more experience when it
comes to seasonal menu planning – I’ve been lucky with Harvey (owner of
Levain, Tosca, and the Turtle Bread Company) in allowing me to change the
menu whenever I feel the need to – whether that is because we get a bunch of
something in one day or because a dish needs to change – with Levain, we
were kind of flying by the seat of our pants in terms of what to expect from
the local purveyors – now that I’ve had a growing season to order from – I
have a much better idea of what to expect, when to expect it, and how much
to order of it for various things. If anything, we ordered less than we
should have last year in terms of local produce – with Tosca, I hope to do a
lot more.
3. Greatest challenge is finding new, and interesting, albeit simple
preparations for the ingriedients. A lot of people have put a lot of time
and energy making this produce taste as great as it does – it’s important to
make it taste better – but still understand that they don’t need much
physical manipulation – to practice restraint – making sure the ingredient
is the first thing that shines through. The delight comes from hearing from
the purveyors (whether that be in an email or over the phone) what each week
has in store for the restaurant – with the openendedness of our menu, we can
change things on a moments notice – it creates a great environment for
collaboration and brainstorming with the other chefs in the kitchen – keeps
us on our toes and keeps us thinking.
4.
Landon and I went to Bologna, Lucca, Florence, and Sienna – we were there
for about 2 weeks and the reason why Harvey took us was to get inspired
about Tosca, and to just have a vacation during the slower time of the year.
What I keep telling everyone – the thing that impressed me the most had
to deal most with ingredient selection – if it wasn’t available locally,
they didn’t ever use it – which is next to impossible here in the Twin
Cities, especially outside of the summer months – for example – margherita
pizza – basil wasn’t available locally, it was never on the pizza there. The
pride in their food in the kitchens we staged in was quite apparent – a lot
of proud people showing us their food. Quite a good feeling seeing how
important food, and more importantly, locally grown, beautiful food is to
them.
5. An important thing that I’ve observed since I’ve started cooking in
2004 – so I can’t speak from much experience – but the growth in people
taking a huge interest in not only local food, local restaurants, but the
whole culture of food – urban farming, csas, the prominence of the co-ops,
chef followings, etc – total appreciation, care, and love for the food not
only produced by the top restaurants, but by the people growing the
ingredients, selling the ingredients, purchasing the ingredients, preparing
the ingredients, enjoying the ingredients with friends and family – I didn’t
grow up in that sort of environment in the south suburbs – it was incredibly
refreshing and rewarding thing to see these past 5 years. Restaurants come
and go with the wind but the movement towards slowing things down, enjoying
food a bit more, understanding where it comes from a bit more, who makes it
a bit more, growing it a bit more – that excites me about living in the Twin
Cities. It takes a lot for a restaurant to survive – but as long as the
movement grows – the other aspects beyond restaurants will continue to
strive.
Local Vegetable Salad
(7.2.2009)
(per 8 servings)
8 oz. of Local Snap Peas
8 oz. of Local Shelling Peas (shelled and blanched)
8 ea. Local Radishes like French Breakfast
2 oz. Chopped Herbs like Chive and Parsley
4 bunches Local Greens such as Mizuna, Arugula, or heirloom lettuces (washed
and cleaned)
½ C. Fresh Toasted Breadcrumbs – (toasted in brown butter, lightly seasoned)
½ C. Buttermilk Vinaigrette – see recipe
4oz. Pickled Watermelon Rind (available in the pickle section)
4 oz. Parmesan Reggiano or Grana Padano (shaved)
Process:
You can go 2 ways with this simple, light salad – I like to either keep the
vegetables raw – dressed in the buttermilk vinaigrette and seasoned – or
char the peas with evoo in a hot pan and season with salt and pepper – and
toss with chopped herbs – I like to dress local greens in just evoo, lemon
juice, salt, and pepper – since the greens have such a great flavor on their
own.
Top with the toasted breadcrumbs (toss in some chili flake with the
breadcrumbs if you’d like), thinly sliced watermelon pickles, and shaved
cheese.
Basic Emulsified Vinaigrette (Buttermilk)
(Year Round)
(rev. 1 – 12.11.2008)
(per 1 quart +/- of vinaigrette)
Pureed flavor base to equal about 1 cup.- usually for simple vinaigrettes
include about half a shallot, 1 clove of garlic, some (2 T. )dijon mustard
(mostly for emulsifying purposes – not flavor – unless a mustard vin), some
egg yolk (for a quart – about 3-4 yolks), the acid (buttermilk – about a
cup), herbs (if any), salt, pepper, sugar (or other sweeteners, like honey,
etc.)
1 quart of Canola Oil
Water (for thinning)
S/P/S – To Taste
Process.
Keeping emulsified vinaigrettes simple is the most important aspect of
making them – if it’s a Dijon vin – add more Dijon to make it the most
prominent flavor – tarragon? Add tarragon, Sage? Add sage. Etc. etc.
Whatever the flavors are – make sure once you’ve made your base, it has a
STRONG (you will be adding oil to it to mute the flavors a bit, keep in
mind) flavor of how you think it should taste – pureeing raw garlic and
shallot can be a bit risky if used in larger quantities – they take on a
almost acrid taste after the flavor developments after a day or so. Don’t go
crazy with the sugar, omit it if you feel it isn’t necessary. If using
buttermilk as your main flavor – keep the vinegars and mustards down to keep
the buttermilk the highlighted flavor.
Once you have your pureed base in the blender, put the machine to the lowest
it can go, and slowly drizzle in the oil to start, once about half is in,
you can go quicker – if the vinaigrette is getting too thick add some of the
water until it thins out again, add the rest of the oil, and adjust the
consistency with not only water – but if the flavor is too weak – add some
vinegar or whatever liquid flavorings you used to help the flavor out –
season with salt and pepper to taste. Usually a quart at a time is plenty of
vinaigrette for about a week. Rarely should we ever make more than that.

Are you still with Cafe Levain ? If not, do you know what their plans are?

I am no longer with Cafe Levain. I’ve been over there on and off since I started cooking in 2004 — I thought I would still have a hand in things over there, but the workload over here is more than enough for one person. Remle [Colestock], my Levain sous chef, is as of right now the chef — he has been keeping things on lock-down the past couple of months and I hope he continues his success thus far.

How is your approach to Trattoria Tosca different from your approach at Cafe Levain?

Having been a chef for a year has given me a bit more experience when it comes to seasonal menu planning. I’ve been lucky with Harvey [McClain] (owner of Levain, Tosca, and Turtle Bread) in allowing me to change the menu whenever I feel the need to — whether that is because we get a bunch of something in one day or because a dish needs to change. With Levain, we were kind of flying by the seat of our pants in terms of what to expect from the local purveyors. Now that I’ve had a growing season to order from, I have a much better idea of what to expect, when to expect it, and how much to order of it for various things. If anything, we ordered less than we should have last year in terms of local produce. With Tosca, I hope to do a lot more.

What is your greatest challenge / delight in working with seasonal ingredients?

Greatest challenge is finding new and interesting, albeit simple, preparations for the ingredients. A lot of people have put a lot of time and energy making this produce taste as great as it does. It’s important to make it taste better but still understand that they don’t need much physical manipulation — to practice restraint — making sure the ingredient is the first thing that shines through. The delight comes from hearing from the purveyors (whether that be in an email or over the phone) what each week has in store for the restaurant — with the open-endedness of our menu, we can change things on a moment’s notice. It creates a great environment for collaboration and brainstorming with the other chefs in the kitchen… keeps us on our toes and keeps us thinking.

What impressed / surprised you most on your recent trip to Italy?

Landon [Schoenfeld, Trattoria Tosca’s first chef] and I went to Bologna, Lucca, Florence, and Sienna; we were there for about two weeks and the reason why Harvey took us was to get inspired about Tosca, and to just have a vacation during the slower time of the year.

What I keep telling everyone is that the thing that impressed me the most had to deal most with ingredient selection. If it wasn’t available locally, they didn’t ever use it — which is next to impossible here in the Twin Cities, especially outside of the summer months. For example, margherita pizza — basil wasn’t available locally, it was never on the pizza there. The pride in their food in the kitchens we staged in was quite apparent… a lot of proud people showing us their food. Quite a good feeling seeing how important food, and more importantly, locally grown, beautiful food is to them.

Anything else you’re really excited about?

An important thing that I’ve observed since I’ve started cooking in 2004 (so I can’t speak from much experience) but the growth in people taking a huge interest in not only local food, local restaurants, but the whole culture of food. That’s urban farming, CSAs, the prominence of the co-ops, chef followings, etc. Total appreciation, care, and love for the food not only produced by the top restaurants, but by the people growing the ingredients, selling the ingredients, purchasing the ingredients, preparing the ingredients, enjoying the ingredients with friends and family. I didn’t grow up in that sort of environment in the south suburbs — it was an incredibly refreshing and rewarding thing to see these past 5 years. Restaurants come and go with the wind but the movement towards slowing things down, enjoying food a bit more, understanding where it comes from a bit more, who makes it a bit more, growing it a bit more… that excites me about living in the Twin Cities. It takes a lot for a restaurant to survive, but as long as the movement grows, the other aspects beyond restaurants will continue to strive.

Local Vegetable Salad
(per 8 servings)

8 ounces local snap peas
8 ounces local shelling peas (shelled and blanched)
8 ea. local radishes, such as French breakfast
2 ounces chopped herbs, such as chive and parsley
4 bunches local greens, such as mizuna, arugula, or heirloom lettuces (washed and cleaned)
½ cup fresh toasted breadcrumbs (toasted in brown butter, lightly seasoned)
½ cup Buttermilk Vinaigrette (recipe below)
4 ounces pickled watermelon rind (available in the pickle section)
4 ounces Parmesan Reggiano or Grana Padano (shaved)

Process:

You can go 2 ways with this simple, light salad. I like to either keep the vegetables raw — dressed in the buttermilk vinaigrette and seasoned — or char the peas with extra virgin olive oil (evoo) in a hot pan and season with salt and pepper — and toss with chopped herbs. I like to dress local greens in just evoo, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, since the greens have such a great flavor on their own.

Top with the toasted breadcrumbs (toss in some chili flake with the breadcrumbs if you’d like), thinly sliced watermelon pickles, and shaved cheese.

Basic Emulsified Vinaigrette (Buttermilk)
(Year Round)
(per 1 quart +/- of vinaigrette)

Pureed flavor base to equal about 1 cup. Usually for simple vinaigrettes include about half a shallot, 1 clove of garlic, some (2 tablespoons) Dijon mustard (mostly for emulsifying purposes — not flavor — unless a mustard vin), some egg yolk (for a quart — about 3-4 yolks), the acid (buttermilk — about a cup), herbs (if any), salt, pepper, sugar (or other sweeteners, like honey, etc.)

1 quart of Canola oil
Water (for thinning)
Salt / Pepper / Sugar — To Taste

Process:

Keeping emulsified vinaigrettes simple is the most important aspect of making them — if it’s a Dijon vin — add more Dijon to make it the most prominent flavor — tarragon? Add tarragon. Sage? Add sage. Etc. etc. Whatever the flavors are — make sure once you’ve made your base, it has a strong (you will be adding oil to it to mute the flavors a bit, keep in mind) flavor of how you think it should taste — pureeing raw garlic and shallot can be a bit risky if used in larger quantities — they take on a almost acrid taste after the flavor developments after a day or so. Don’t go crazy with the sugar, omit it if you feel it isn’t necessary. If using buttermilk as your main flavor — keep the vinegars and mustards down to keep the buttermilk the highlighted flavor.

Once you have your pureed base in the blender, put the machine to the lowest it can go, and slowly drizzle in the oil to start, once about half is in, you can go quicker — if the vinaigrette is getting too thick add some of the water until it thins out again, add the rest of the oil, and adjust the consistency with not only water — but if the flavor is too weak — add some vinegar or whatever liquid flavorings you used to help the flavor out — season with salt and pepper to taste. Usually a quart at a time is plenty of vinaigrette for about a week. Rarely should we ever make more than that.

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