Cook’s Tour: David Garrido
Note: This interview with David Garrido, commissioned by CitySearch, didn't make it into print before the recipe's ingredients went out of season. But the recipe's good, and the interview was fun, so I'm running it here. -bt
Here’s what all-star culinary ability is all about: When asked to be the subject of a Cook’s Tour, Chef David Garrido suggested we shop the Farmer’s Market for our ingredients, and he’d come up with a recipe based on whatever looked good that day. And by golly if he didn’t prepare the freshest, most flavorful meal I’ve eaten in all of Austin...even at Jeffrey’s, where he’s been burning up the kitchen for six years.
These days, it isn’t surprising to find "fresh" on Garrido’s mind. He and partners Neil Francois and Ron and Peggy Weiss recently opened the Fresh Planet Cafe at the downtown Whole Foods Market. The menu leans toward Asian and "Nuevo Tex-Mex" (which happens to be the name of the cookbook Garrido expects to publish in March) and emphasizes "natural, no preservatives, unrefined sweeteners, minimal dairy," he explains -- and, of course, "fresh."
So we started shopping downstairs from Fresh Planet, at Whole Foods’ weekly Wednesday farmer’s market. Garrido moved from table to table like an executive chef overseeing each station on the line (which he is) and choosing from the interesting and mundane. His first purchase was a pair of small Japanese eggplants, followed by a mottled squash. The seller described it as yellow squash with cucumber mosaic virus, I think; whatever it was, I ate it and lived to tell about it happily.
By the time I had finished writing this down, Garrido already had moved on to two more tables. This apparently was a man possessed. He grabbed a box of tiny currant tomatoes (like cherry tomatoes, but even smaller and sweeter), then moved indoors to round out his purchases. "Fruits are like wines -- they have good years, too," noted the chef with the Spanish and Mexican roots who’s called Canada, Europe and Dallas (among other places) home. This must be a good year for nectarines, because a couple went into the shopping basket.
After stocking up on a few items from the shelves -- "365" house-brand olive oil, pasta and Kalamata olives, plus German mustard redolent of horseradish, and some crumbly goat cheese -- he took the goods upstairs to put them to work. He grouped and regrouped them a couple of times, finally satisfied with his combinations, and then fired up the grill and put a pasta kettle on to boil. Like Gene Kelly doing an impromptu soft-shoe, he was making it all look very easy. But what about those of us born without the natural gift of combining foods (most of us, that is)?
"Read the food magazines," he advised. "The magazines always have recipes for in-season ingredients. Study the combinations. Then go shopping. And learn not to be afraid to substitute when something looks better than what you planned."
We were joined by Jackie Northway, Fresh Planet’s managing chef, who took over grill duties. Meanwhile, Garrido was working a handful of okra into submission -- I’m not kidding about that; he said he doesn’t like the stuff much but has ways of making it less slimy. (See the Chef’s Notes below for this and other tips.)
He combined the finished elements into artful dishes, and we were curious about those nectarines. As he placed pieces into the arrangement, he explained, "The combination of sweet fruit and vegetables is very romantic in the summer." How true. One bite of this extemporaneous ecstasy, and I was in love. I wanted to bear this pasta salad’s children ... or at least, be a part of its family reunions now and then. Thanks to the following recipes, you can, too:
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