For Freds Executive Chef Mark Strausman, home is where the freshly picked produce is. Which is why he feels as comfortable scouting fresh ingredients in the Midwest’s most food-crazed metropolis, Chicago, as he does in Los Angeles and New York. We caught up with Mark on a recent trip to the Windy City’s Green City Market, where we learned that taste is just one factor when putting together a mouth-watering menu.
Scroll on to discover a few tips and tricks from the pro himself, as well as the inspiration behind the dishes at Freds. Summer has never tasted so sweet.
“While it’s a good idea to bring a shopping list, it’s equally important to keep an open mind. The best piece of advice I can give food lovers is to shop with your eyes. Let your senses decide your ingredients. Just look at the vibrant reds of this seasonal rhubarb!”
“My favorite summer ingredient is—and always will be—ripe heirloom tomatoes. It’s probably pretty obvious, because I use them in about half of Freds’ dishes. My love for the ingredient began at a young age. I’d eat them with local olive oil and freshly chopped onion at my close friend François’ parent’s home in Provence. One bite always takes me back to my summers in France as a child.”
“When creating Freds’ menus, I try to be regionally centric. I use these gorgeous green asparagus in the frittata. Local eggs, mushroom, and fresh parmesan top off the dish for the perfect breakfast.”
“Root vegetables like these radishes are a great finishing touch to any salad. They provide a necessary texture and crunch—not to mention a delicious crisp, almost peppery, flavor. And that color? Magenta looks good against any shade of green.”
Freds’ Summer Salad
with Local, Artisanal Alpine-Style Cheese
2 heads Bibb or butter lettuce, washed and well-dried
2 small heads red leaf lettuce, washed and well-dried
2 bunches fresh asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces, blanched and chilled
1 cup fresh shelled English peas, blanched and chilled
1 cup peeled fava beans, blanched and chilled
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup sliced radishes
½ cup shredded Arethusa Farm Dairy Crybaby cheese*
(This recipe makes more dressing than you’ll need for this salad, so you’ll have some left over. It’s a basic vinaigrette that can be used on any type of green salad. Store it in the fridge for up to ten days.)
1 medium spring bulb onion, trimmed of its stalk and peeled
½ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup red or white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons kosher pickle juice
¾ – 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
Grate the onion and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add all ingredients except the olive oil, salt and pepper and slowly blend until everything is well mixed. While the food processor is still churning, slowly drizzle in the oil in a steady stream until the dressing is thick and emulsified. Add salt and pepper and adjust seasoning according to your taste. Set aside while you compose the salad.
Place the lettuce and green vegetables in a large wooden bowl and toss lightly together. Add the tomatoes and drizzle with dressing to your taste. Toss lightly again. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top and serve immediately.
**Arethusa Farm Dairy, located in Litchfield, Connecticut, produces some of my favorite local cheeses. Their products can be purchased in various places around the NYC area, but if you can’t find their Crybaby, you can substitute any Alpine-style cheese.