San Antonio is no stranger to triple-digit heat this time of year. That's why Jason Dady likes to keep it cool in the kitchen of his northern Italian-themed restaurant called Tre Trattoria.
This time of year, the tomatoes and cucumbers are fresh, the veggies are bountiful, and Dady says it's one of the season's highlights to have fun with light and refreshing food.
For the gazpacho, Dady chops cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers, then adds some water. Then he blends it, a couple times.
With red wine vinegar, pepper for taste, and bread for thickness, Dady summons some tropical flavors for garnish — mango and avocado. It's so smooth a baby could eat it.
Dady's not much on rules. "Everybody asks the chef, what size, what's the shape?" he says. "You know, it's like, do you want to spend 15 minutes cutting your mango or do you want to spend 15 minutes enjoying it?"
Dady's been in the restaurant business for 12 years. He started out with his own restaurant at the age of 24. His smoked trout salad is high on the list of his summer favorites.
"This is one of those wild crazy things," he says, "that just comes to you in the middle of the night type of dish, you know?"
For the smoked trout, Dady says don't go to the store to buy oak chips.
"I think a lot of people spend, especially here in South Texas, spend a lot of money going and buying wood chips from the store when they can just go out to their tree and chip off a little bit of bark."
Dady recommends fingerling potatoes, but it's all interchangeable and relaxed, both in measurement and ingredient. He uses thick slices of bacon — southern comfort on a plate — chopped into chunks and fried. He chops some fancy lettuce called frisee and flakes the trout on top.
With dishes like these, Dady says, a cook could try new things, take a few risks. "It's just about having fun and trying different things out," he says.
2 or 3 heirloom tomatoes, in season
Half dozen cherry tomatoes
Fennel, leafy part
3 bell peppers (yellow, red or green)
1 loaf day-old bread (like French bread)
Fresh garlic, to taste
Avocado and mango for the relish
Salt, pepper and olive oil, to taste
Chop vegetables into chunks. Put tomatoes, fennel and cucumber into a blender with a little water and garlic. Blend until it reaches the desired consistency. Jason Dady likes his a little thinner, but a stew-like presentation is classic, too.
Add bell pepper: Green, yellow or red — one of each or whatever you're in the mood for. While blender's going, add a little bit of red wine vinegar (or whatever vinegar you like — champagne, blood orange, etc.).
Chop the day-old loaf of bread into chunks. This will help give the soup its thicker consistency. Add the chunks into the blender and blend. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Make a simple relish of diced avocado, mango, salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss together gently.
Serve immediately at room temperature or chill. A classic gazpacho is served closer to room temperature — and that's when tomatoes taste their best.
Serve soup with relish on top. Add sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Recipe: Smoked Trout Salad
Oak bark chips (for smoking the trout)
6 ounces trout
Frisee or any type of lettuce
1/2 pound fingerling potatoes
Fresh lemon juice
Horseradish, 1/8 cup fresh grated or prepared
Sour cream, 1/4 cup
A touch of whipping cream
Mix the lemon, horseradish, sour cream and whipping cream into a dressing. Add fresh cracked black pepper.
Chop the thick-cut bacon into large chunks and cook it in a hot pan to render the fat. Sear it and evaporate the water. Don't mess with it a lot in the first minute or so, so it starts to caramelize. Cook in small batches so it crisps up. Pour off the fat as it renders out.
Cut fingerling potatoes into half-inch coins and poach in simmering water for 15-20 minutes.
Flake the trout into chunks. You can substitute already-smoked trout — or smoked salmon or smoked sturgeon — if you don't want to smoke the trout yourself. Mix the trout with the potatoes and dressing.
Tear frisee lettuce and put on plate. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon. Top with potato-trout salad mixture and the bacon chunks
Mix the caviar with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, then drizzle it overtop of salad and serve.
Editor's Note: These recipes have not been tested by NPR.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now it's time for some of our own favorite foods and our series Weekend Picnic.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: This summer, we're bringing you easy recipes to eat al fresco, using fresh local produce. And today, we go to San Antonio to meet a local chef, Jason Dady. He's cooking up a smoked trout salad and a twangy South Texas gazpacho. Ryan Loyd of Texas Public Radio takes us into his kitchen.
RYAN LOYD, BYLINE: San Antonio is no stranger to triple-digit heat this time of year. That's why Jason Dady likes to keep it cool in the kitchen of his Northern Italian-themed restaurant called Tre Trattoria.
JASON DADY: We're going to do a kind of a soup and salad, a great gazpacho. And then we're going to do a smoked trout salad.
LOYD: The tomatoes and cucumbers are fresh, the veggies are bountiful, and Dady says it's one of the highlights of the year to have fun with light and refreshing food.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHOPPING)
LOYD: For the gazpacho, Dady chops the cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers, and adds some water.
(SOUNDBITE OF WATER POURING)
DADY: And that's just going to help me kind of get it started.
LOYD: Now he blends it - a couple of times.
(SOUNDBITE OF BLENDER)
LOYD: With red wine vinegar, pepper for taste, and bread for thickness, Dady summons some tropical flavors for garnish - mango and avocado. It's so smooth a baby could eat it. And Dady's not much on rules.
DADY: And everybody says what, you know, asks the chef, what size, what's the shape? You know it's like, you know, do you want to spend 15 minutes cutting your mango or do you want to spend...
LOYD: ...15 minutes enjoying it?
(SOUNDBITE OF BLACK PEPPER GRINDING)
DADY: And that right there, fantastic, easy, quick, simple.
LOYD: Dady's been in the restaurant biz for 12 years. He started out with his own restaurant at the age of 24.
DADY: I could not convince people that I was actually the chef and the owner of the restaurant. You know, I was fortunate; I got a small business loan and worked my tail off. But I just always remember, you know, no, really, I am; no, I promise; no, seriously, I'm the chef.
LOYD: No one would ever mistake him for the boss now as he maneuvers through his kitchen full of cooks.
DADY: Chef, can you give me a steel pan down real quick?
LOYD: He's opinionated and knows what he likes.
DADY: It's exactly what I want.
LOYD: The smoked trout salad is high on the list of his summer favorites.
DADY: This is one of those wild, crazy things that just comes to you in the middle of the night type of dish, you know?
LOYD: Jason Dady calls for fingerling potatoes - the inspiration for this dish - to make a smoky twist on a classic summer potato salad. But it's all interchangeable and relaxed, both in measurement and ingredient.
DADY: What type of potato do you use? What looks best to you when you go to the market or you go to your, you know, your store and you see something that just looks delicious? That's what this dish is designed to do.
(SOUNDBITE OF MIXING)
LOYD: In a bowl, he's mixing together sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice and a touch of whipping cream to smooth it out.
DADY: When you're the chef, you can take everybody else's mixing bowls. They don't say anything.
LOYD: For the smoked trout, Dady says don't go to the store to buy oak chips.
DADY: I think a lot of people spend, especially here in South Texas, spend, you know, a lot of money going and buying wood chips from the store when they can just go out to their tree and chip off a little bit of bark.
LOYD: Now, with bacon in hand, he's chopping the thick slices down into chunks to fry.
(SOUNDBITE OF SIZZLING)
LOYD: The bacon is southern comfort on a plate. Now, he chops up a fancy lettuce called frisee and flakes the trout on top. Dady's been taking risks since his first restaurant when no one believed in him.
DADY: If people realize that, you know, that they shouldn't be afraid to fail when they're cooking and it's just about having fun and trying different things out.
LOYD: And with dishes like these, Dady says you might sit down, take only one bite, and not stop until you're finished. For NPR News, I'm Ryan Loyd, in San Antonio.
MARTIN: And you can find the recipes for that South Texas gazpacho and smoked trout salad on our website, npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.