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A Tale of Two Cooks

A Tale of Two Cooks
Written by Sheri Castle | Photography by Jack Sorokin

A chef and a food writer channel winter’s bounty into soulful salads

Move over, mac and cheese. We’re craving the hearty greens and root vegetables showing up at farmers markets throughout the South. So TLP asked chef William Dissen of the Market Place restaurant in Asheville and Charlotte’s Haymaker, and Chapel Hill food writer Sheri Castle to give us their spins on winter staples.

Specializing in American farm-to-table cuisine, Dissen is known for innovative combinations, fine-dining techniques, and gorgeous plating. Castle, the author of several cookbooks, including The New Southern Garden Cookbook (The University of North Carolina Press, 2011) has a knack for transforming chef recipes into streamlined versions suited for home cooks and helping readers make the most of fresh produce.

The premise? Both cooks create salads out of the same set of seasonal ingredients. The results are telling, in both their similarities and stark differences. Dissen’s food is stunning, often because of the intricacies of each component. A restaurant kitchen affords the opportunity to add a drop or dash of something heavenly to the plate—elements that might tax the resources and abilities of home cooks.

Castle’s recipes show that home cooking can be equally impressive, but more often for the ways that the dish can be streamlined and simplified without veering off in regrettable ways. When exploring shortcuts, she says it’s important to be clear on which ingredients and techniques form the heart and soul of a dish—and then don’t mess with them. On the other hand, when it’s possible to purchase a version of an ingredient that’s as good as (if not better than) something made from scratch, Castle says go for it. “Some people mistakenly refer to taking advantage of shortcuts as ‘dumbing down’ a recipe,” she says. “There’s nothing dumb about smart, expedient cooking, whether in a professional setting or a home kitchen.”

Both Castle and Dissen agree that no matter the ingredient, quality matters a great deal. Choose items in the best form available at the time, which doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive, Castle adds. “The goal is to make the most of what you have, whether that’s groceries, helping hands, or time.”


Squash + Fennel

Dissen’s Roasted Acorn Squash Salad with Preserved Lemon Yogurt, Chorizo, and Herbed Vinaigrette

Castle’s Roasted Delicata Squash and Kale Salad in Warm Chorizo Vinaigrette


Cauliflower + Farro

Dissen’s Roasted Cauliflower and Farro Salad with Root Vegetables and Confit Shallot Vinaigrette

Castle’s Spice-Roasted Cauliflower and Farro Salad with Tomato Jam


Pears + Blue Cheese

Dissen’s Pear and Buttermilk Blue Cheese Salad

Castle’s Warm Cabbage Salad with Chicken, Pears, and Blue Cheese


Quinoa + Carrots

Dissen’s Quinoa Salad with Carrots, Pickled Shallots, Ricotta, and Sumac Vinaigrette

Castle’s Roasted Carrot Salad over Ricotta with Red Quinoa and Za’atar Vinaigrette

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