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Eat Your Veggies: cauliflower, spicy greens, cherry tomatoes

Tender leeks and freshly-dug potatoes too

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It's the height of the spring season and vegetables are taking center stage on plates all over town. We called around to some of the chefs most dedicated to the veg to see what they are offering this weekend.

At The Grocery, Chef Kevin Johnson has a vibrant spicy greens and pork dish that he calls city greens. The greens from Rebellion Farm are made cooked with bacon fat and bacon, with an added bite of chili flake and just a little bit of vinegar. Once the ingredients are made into pan vinaigrette, Johnson adds spicy mustard seeds and serves the dish in a warm salad bowl. This is Johnson's version of mama's slow-cooked country greens, but with a raw, fresh crunchiness. "It's a flavor reminiscent of one thing, presented in a totally different way," says Johnson.

At Charleston Grill, Michelle Weaver also has a new take on a classic vegetable with her roasted cauliflower dish. First, Weaver pan-roasts the cauliflower until it's caramelized, and then it's sliced in a hot pan with olive oil. From there, Weaver combines all of your favorite flavors: a little bit of salt from the capers and a little bit of sweet from the diced dates, all topped off with the smoky richness of brown butter.

The local squash, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes at Cypress is Craig Deihl's spin on ratatouille. He sautées the squash and zucchini with butter, basil, and black olives, then blisters the cherry tomatoes by turning up the temperature and throwing in some olive oil, chilli, and salt. The tomatoes get gently tossed in the skillet until the skin blisters and their juiciness is revealed. The vegetables are served with a hickory-grilled, Border Springs leg of lamb from Virginia. "It's a play on ratatouille," says Deihl, "and lamb goes perfect with that." This is their first pick of cherry tomatoes, "and there's not a lot of them," says Deihl. So be sure to get to Cypress soon. The dish is a seasonal menu item, so you have about two weeks to enjoy.

Keeping things simple, Josh Keeler at Two Boroughs Larder is most excited about his roasted potatoes dish. The restaurant has been working with farmer Jim Martin from Compost in My Shoe to bring fresh potatoes to the downtown dinner table. Keeler roasts the potatoes in a cast iron pan with shredded suckling pig from Zachary Farm. Once the potatoes have been slow-roasted, he sprinkles in herbs and shallots. "There's nothing like a fresh dug potato," says Keeler, and it shows. Since the potatoes are uprooted only the day before they go into the kitchen, they keep their sweet, rich taste all the way to your dinner plate.

At FIG, the dinner menu features a leeks vinaigrette dish. Chef de Cuisine Jason Stanhope says they start with the youngest, most tender South Carolina leeks on the market. Those leeks are thoroughly cleaned, split down the middle, and then tied together. They are gently poached, peeled, and dresses with a whole-grain mustard vinaigrette. Finally, they're served with a lemon mousseline, an ale-based mixture of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, whipped cream, and egg yolk. Paired with blanched asparagus and frilly mustard, FIG's leeks vinaigrette is a flexible dish that can accompany many things, like quail eggs and potatoes.

Leeks vinaigrette at FIG
  • Leeks vinaigrette at FIG

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