Last August, in the final few weeks of hot weather we’d be seeing for a while, I got a call from an editor I know at EatingWell magazine. She needed a writer to cover a special lunch chef Tom Douglas was hosting at his farm in Prosser, Washington.
Along with his wife, Jackie, Douglas is the owner of more than a dozen restaurants in Seattle. He’s one of the most famous and successful chefs on the West Coast, and one of my first culinary heroes. Was I willing to cover the event? Um, yeah. I think I can squeeze that in. Then I got even better news: they needed a photographer, too.
So that’s how early one Saturday morning Wendi and I found ourselves, bleary-eyed and coffee-guzzling, driving a big rental van through the Columbia Gorge. The farm is nestled in Washington wine country, about four hours north and east of Portland. We had to leave at the crack of dawn to get there early enough to shoot the bucolic grounds before the guests arrived and the midday heat set in.
When we got there, Tom’s staff was busy setting the tables on the sprawling lawn and prepping ingredients in the cool, spacious kitchen. Two frisky farm kittens chased each other under the draped tables, threatening to send everything on top crashing to the ground, but no one seemed to mind. Douglas and his staff are a relaxed and happy bunch. Wendi and I snapped away and took notes, all the while wondering how we could become Tom and Jackie’s new BFFs so we could get invited back for a vacation.
By noon, members of the restaurant group’s wine club had arrived for their cook-along lunch. They got to tour the farm and help prep veggies picked that day for the feast. The menu was deliciously rustic, things like roasted eggplant dip, grilled whole lamb, and cornmeal shortcakes with blueberries and cream. I took copious notes, knowing I’d have to recreate the recipes once I got home.
One year later, the story about Douglas’ farm, and its positive impact on his restaurants and staff, is now in the July/August issue of EatingWell. It was a joy to write about such an inspiring group of people. And the recipes were fun to develop (even the shortcakes, which took four tries to get right).
You’ll find seven recipes in the magazine, but one, a tomato salad, appears slightly different than the original. Douglas paired the farm-fresh tomatoes and fried capers with roasted carrots. It seemed at first like an odd combination, but it totally grew on me. When I developed a similar recipe for the article, my tasters felt the same way: puzzlement quickly gave way to applause. But in the end the magazine decided to omit the carrots. Oh well. That just means we can share the original recipe with you.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO AND ROASTED CARROT SALAD WITH FRIED CAPERS AND DIJON VINAIGRETTE
Makes 6 servings
Roasted carrots and tomatoes are both naturally sweet, but one is earthy while the other acidic. That’s precisely why they work so well together, especially when paired with the salty, subtle crunch of fried capers and a mustardy vinaigrette.
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¾ teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1½ pounds carrots, peeled and cut into sticks 3 inches long and ½ inch thick
¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon, or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
4-ounce jar capers
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 pound heirloom tomatoes
1 pint cherry tomatoes
In a small mixing bowl, whisk the vinegar, mustard, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. While whisking, drizzle in 6 tablespoons of the oil. Continue whisking until emulsified.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Arrange carrots on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper. If using dill, add it now. Toss to coat.
Roast carrots until just tender and beginning to caramelize, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat. If using tarragon, sprinkle it over the carrots and toss with a spatula.
Meanwhile, rinse the capers under cold water and dry thoroughly. Place a small saucepan with 1 inch of vegetable oil, or other frying oil, over medium-high heat. When oil reaches 350 degrees, add a handful of capers and fry until light brown, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towels. Repeat with the remaining capers.
Cut heirloom tomatoes into 1-inch-thick wedges. Divide tomato wedges, cherry tomatoes and roasted carrots among 6 plates. Drizzle with vinaigrette and top with fried capers.