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It’s no secret that salad is the bane of any ambitious chef’s existence. People want it, you have to have it, but what can one possibly do with the same old tired greens and listless roughage? Well, if one is Paul Liebrandt, one can emulsify black garlic; purée carrots with saffron; sculpt yellow fingerlings into tiny, round marbles; bind beets and sunchokes in a nage of vegetables and butter; rub Asian-pear slices and spinach leaves with oil and oven-dry them at 185 degrees; pan-toast red-pepper powder mixed with olive oil until it turns the texture of crunchy sand; and gift-wrap a ball of onion soubise in tender Shanghai-cabbage leaves. “From the Garden: Young Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs of the Season,” the mildly pretentious sobriquet of Liebrandt’s gorgeously constructed “salad,” is his inspired homage to Michel Bras, the French chef credited with first subjecting innocent vegetables to this form of torture. The effect is not only beautiful but surprising, and utterly satisfying. When was the last time you said that about a heap of mesclun?
From the 2009 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine