Q&A with Chef Greg: Anatomy of a salad

FEATURE – Chef Greg Reith is the owner and executive chef of Market Cafe in St. George. He began culinary training at age 19 and has opened several successful catering and restaurant consulting businesses, and works as a personal chef for a handful of clients. His boldest and most innovative designs accommodate the broadest spectrum of food sensitivities ever attempted in fine dining.

Q: Chef, what makes a great salad?

A: Have I ever mentioned trusted sources before? If you are fortunate enough to have access to locally raised natural or organic leafy greens, it will always act as the “secret sauce.” I have experimented, safely, with this and know that no matter how great the dressing is, the leafy greens as the base make or break a salad. A blend of bitters, savory, herbs, weeds, edible flowers, super crops and citrus zest is the base formula for all of the salads I create at Market Cafe. Assembling a great, healthy salad is like preparing your body for a nutritional Olympics. Don’t compete against yourself by saturating your salad with a fatty, creamy, fructose and gluten-filled dressing. Let super foods and super crops do their super jobs. The cleaner and more seasonal the base leafy greens that make up your salad are, the more remarkable your body’s reaction will be.

As far as dressing is concerned, here is a short list of my secret ingredients: Great extra virgin olive oil, quality vinegar, cracked pepper, ground nutmeg and a reliable whisk (and elbow). Here are some ingredients you can use as a wow-factor in making great dressings: Non-alcoholic wine, pickling brines, organic jams and jellies, and your favorite barbecue sauce.

My personal favorite is a Mediterranean-inspired dressing using oil, fresh shaved garlic, Meyer lemon juice, Sherry vinegar, cracked fleur de sol and cracked pepper. Pair this dressing with your favorite homemade recipe and let new traditions begin.

Now on to the accompaniments; less is more. The accompaniments should not weigh more than the salad. My formula is to use the freshest ingredients, select vibrant colors, use robust flavours and lean towards sliced (not smashed or run through a food processor), raw (not blanched) and salted (not seasoned) ingredients. For instance, if you add chicken to this salad, keep it healthy and light by steaming the chicken, dust with salt, and then slice and place on top of the salad. Let the dressing be the hero.

Q: What is a super crop?

A: A super crop is something available in abundance that is high in micronutrients but only available for a short period of time. A few examples are kale, kohlrabi, chard, strawberries, raspberries and select varieties of squash. Clearly, all food grows seasonally, but there are specific categories of fruits and vegetables that are notorious for short supply with abundant return.

These are the most exciting foods for me to handle, because they yield the highest nutritional returns. We focus on sharing this information with our dining patrons at the cafe, and it seems to be much appreciated.

Q: There seems to be a lot of talk about kale. What’s your take?

A: I jumped on that bandwagon two years ago after I tasted fresh kale we had grown for the first time. I too was aware of its nutritional buzz.

Given ideal conditions, kale stores an abundance of key nutrients and not just a singular or dominant nutrient. For instance, the pith between the orange peel and the orange contains the most valuable nutrients to your body but is often discarded and thrown away, leaving the most dominant nutrient, Vitamin C. When broccoli is cut or trimmed, it immediately and rapidly begins to lose nutrients. When an apple is cut or peeled, it immediately begins to oxidize and lose nutrients.

Kale preserves the nutrients that it stores while growing after harvest longer than almost any fruit or vegetable. Many vegetables lose a third to half of their nutrients when boiled or baked. Kale holds on to much higher quantities of its original nutrients longer than any leafy green when exposed to extreme heat or cold; eaten raw or cooked. The Market Cafe has designed a kale campaign unlike any other you have seen or tasted! It will be introduced throughout this year.

Here’s some recipes from Chef Greg for creating the perfect salad:

Fresh Spring Salad (serves approx. 6)

  • 8-9 oz. natural, all natural or organic leafy greens
  • 2 oz. kale
  • 1 oz. micro greens
  • Fresh basil and mint, hand-torn
  • Leek hearts, finely sliced
  • Organic heirloom tomatoes, quartered
  • Orange hearts, trimmed (orange supremes; do not substitute mandarin oranges)
  • Fleur de sol
  • Cracked pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Combine leafy greens, kale, micro greens and hand-torn herbs, and toss lightly; sprinkle fleur de sol, cracked pepper and freshly grated nutmeg; add leek, fruit, tomatoes and dressing. Using a wooden spoon, open fingers or closed tongs, toss gently but thoroughly (bruising the leaves and breaking the stems will depreciate micronutrient quality and release bitter tannins when combined with your accompaniments and dressing); garnish with toast points.

For toast points, warm a non-stick sauté pan, butter three slices of your favorite bread, place butter side down in warm pan, cook until golden brown; remove and sprinkle with salt, nutmeg and pepper; cut diagonally in halves.

Chef Greg’s Mediterranean Dressing

  • 1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tbsp Sherry vinegar
  • 3 large garlic cloves, shaved
  • 4 tbsp fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • Zest of one half Meyer lemon
  • Cracked fleur de sol
  • Cracked pepper

Combine ingredients in a glass jar with a lid, shake vigorously until emulsified; should not take more than 15-20 seconds; do not process or blend. Serve immediately.

health-and-wellness-staffWritten by the St. George Health and Wellness Staff for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.

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