“It’s very easy to make a steak taste great,” said Freds‘ chef Mark Strausman. “It’s a lot more challenging to replace a steak with vegetables.” Yet one need only glance over the Freds menu to see that Strausman has mastered the culinary challenge with a mouthwatering selection of vegetarian cuisine.
According to Strausman, offering these delicacies is as much about pleasing bonafide vegetarians and vegans as it is about giving healthy options to non-veggie customers—himself included. Strausman eats vegan 90% of the time, excepting those moments when his profession requires him to eat meat. “If we are going to redo the hamburger blend, I am gonna be right in the middle of that tasting,” he said. But the health advantages of a mostly vegan diet allow him to indulge, despite being constantly surrounded by rich food. “You can eat asparagus until you’re blue,” he said. “Nothing’s gonna happen!”
So, it goes without saying that the seasoned chef has a major incentive to make said asparagus and other veggie delights on the Freds menu delish. How does he do it? Well, the quality of the produce must be top-notch (he sources ingredients from suppliers who buy from local farms), great spices are a necessity (he prefers middle-eastern and Indian blends), and incorporating a large variety of produce in the menu lends not only great taste, but a stunning visual component.
Hungry yet? Two of Strausman’s favorite vegetarian and vegan menu items follow, along with the culinary inspiration behind the dishes. And for you non-chefs out there, never fear—Freds takes reservations.
ROASTED AsparaguS baked in Parmesan with aged balsamic
“Asparagus is the quintessential Upper East Side appetizer. It has been on the menu for the life of Freds. You look at a plate of asparagus and it is just…elegance. It is like a black cocktail dress. Or a crisp white shirt under a black tuxedo. Those beautiful green spears! To me, it is the essence of Freds: simplicity, beauty, and elegance.”
3 tsp of extra virgin olive oil
2 bunches of medium green asparagus, trimmed, peeled, and boiled
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 cup of aged balsamic vinegar
Salt to season
1. Boil the asparagus for 2 – 3 minutes, tasting to make sure that it is not overcooked.
2. Take the cooked asparagus and spread out on a baking sheet.
2. Drizzle with 3/4 of the oil.
3. Carefully place the Parmesan cheese on top and bake in a 350-degree oven until the cheese is melted and the vegetable is hot (around 5 minutes).
4. Slowly simmer the balsamic vinegar until it is reduced to 1/2 cup.
5. Drizzle with the reduced balsamic and the remaining oil, season with a pinch of salt, and serve.
“In classical French cooking, we mince vegetables in what is called a brunoise. I thought, what if we brunoise 15 different kinds of vegetables and stew it the same way as you would a meat sauce? I put in herbs and cooked it slowly with olive oil and garlic, and everyone was like, ‘Whoa! This is really good!’ It’s not just tomato sauce. This pasta elevates the senses through sight, smell, and texture.”
1 box of dried eggless pasta
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 gloves of garlic
1 large red onion
2 sweet red peppers
2 sweet yellow peppers
1 large bulb of fennel
1 green zucchini
1/2 lb of button mushrooms
1 small head of cauliflower
1 hot red pepper (optional)
1 cup of red wine
48 oz of canned Italian tomatoes
6 sprigs of fresh oregano
1. Purée the canned tomatoes and set aside.
2. Mince the onions and garlic separately from the rest of the vegetables (you can use a food processor on the pulse setting).
3. Mince the rest of the vegetables and set aside (you can use a food processor on the pulse setting).
4. In a large soup pot, heat the extra virgin olive oil with the garlic and onions. Mix slowly until the onions are translucent.
5. Add the rest of the of the vegetables and cook until they are wilted.
6. Add the red wine and cook together with vegetables for 1 minute.
7. Add the tomatoes and cook on a simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the sauce has a rich color. Let cool and refrigerate. It will be even better the next day.
8. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Save 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
9. Reheat the sauce in a pot. Add in the strained pasta and cook for an additional 2 minutes, making sure the pasta does not stick.
10. If sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta water that was saved.
11. Place pasta on the serving dish. Take remaining sauce and continue to cook until thick and place on the top of the pasta.
MON-FRI: 11:30 A.M. – 9:00 P.M.
SAT: 11:00 A.M. – 8:00 P.M.
SUN: 11:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M.
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