George Reis tosses homegrown, local organics of Michael Dean Farms.
By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
Ocean's chef George Reis is an experienced chef with accolades abound. Yet Reis realizes that no amount of culinary knowledge or learned technique can improve the quality of the product being prepared. "I love to buy locally grown produce, not only for the freshness but for the flavor that it adds to all of our salads and entrees," he says.
Reis’ selection of Michael Dean’s baby greens (Arugula, Pea Tendrils, and Mizuna) make the mix of Ocean’s organic salad. For over 10 years Dean has read and studied horticulture. And he specializes in baby vegetables and organic micro lettuces. His beds include pea tendrils—a baby lettuce of snow peas and English peas. The Mizuna is grown to sell but also serves as a trap crop—attracting insects and keeping them from his precious Arugula, which is bursting with a spicy, peppery flavor. This lettuce can be wilted or served as a salad.
And much like Reis uses his culinary knowledge to create a pleasing and palatable presentation, Dean puts his horticultural knowledge to work to grow the most delicate and delicious organic veggies—locally. A typical day begins at sunrise hand clipping and washing vegetables, then spinning them dry in the planting shed’s lettuce machine (a washing machine with only green “laundry”). Afterwards, calls are made to chefs whose orders are not yet confirmed. Dean then makes deliveries to restaurants and specialty markets.
“Everything is at its absolute peak once it is cut. Then the clock starts ticking,” Dean describes. “Squash blossoms, for example, are the most fragile and only remain open for stuffing for one day. My carrots are mega sweet and packed with sugar that begins to oxidize as soon as you pull it out of ground or cut it. And micro lettuces are fragile with a premium shelf life. Thus fragility and freshness precludes shipping vegetables long distances.” Enjoy the home grown goodness of Dean’s lettuces mixed with an Alabama goat cheese in Reis’ salad.
Birmingham Restaurants Recipe - Ocean:
Locally Grown Organic Greens, Roasted Baby Beets and Alabama Goat Cheese Salad with a Stone Ground Mustard Vinaigrette
Broken Stone Ground Mustard Vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon stone ground mustard
1 clove shallot, finely diced
1 each lemon
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
.5 to .75 cup extra virgin olive oil
Blend first four ingredients loosely and then add all oil at once. Stir briefly. You want the vinaigrette to “break.” Hold for later.
4 6 ounce baby greens (Arugula, Pea Trendells, Mizuna), washed and dried
8 10 ounce baby beets, roasted, peeled, and cut into fourths
3 tablespoons Belle Chevre goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
In a large mixing bowl toss greens, salt & pepper and goat cheese to blend well. Add vinaigrette and toss well. Place on serving plates and top salad with roasted baby beets.