3 Early Summer Salads from PDX's Vegetable Whisperer

Ava Gene’s chef Joshua McFadden gets fresh with fava beans, radishes, spring onions, broccoli, and sugar snap peas. Dinner is served.

By Benjamin Tepler June 2, 2014 Published in the June 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Ava Gene’s chef Joshua McFadden sees vegetables the way some people with synesthesia see music: in vivid color. “I’ve always enjoyed the idea that you can make a carrot taste 100 different ways,” says the Italian-leaning chef. “But you can’t make a steak taste any different than a steak.” Three of McFadden’s salads, drawn from an early-summer palette, offer a glimpse of his eye-opening vegetable spectrum, complete with raw, uncut vegetables, headlining herbs, and unapologetic chile heat.


(Serves 6)

  • ½ lb new potatoes
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp chile flake
  • ½ lb sugar snap peas, strings removed and sliced in half
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced thin, roots and tough green tops removed
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
  • 4 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 6 fillets boquerones (pickled anchovies) or salt-packed anchovies, roughly chopped 
  • 2 cups mint, stems removed (loosely packed) 

1. Submerge potatoes in a pot of cold, generously salted water, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until there is little resistance when poked with a fork or skewer, about 10 minutes. Drain potatoes and let cool.

2. Zest and juice lemon, and combine with olive oil and chile flake in a large bowl. Add snap peas, potatoes, and scallions, and season generously with salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently to mix everything, and let sit for 10 minutes.

3. Crumble in eggs and add anchovies and mint to the bowl, and mix gently. Serve salad on its own, or alongside grilled chicken, steak, or fish.

0614 ava gene salad nkdxhv

Radish, Fava Bean, and Spring Onion “Salsa” with Burrata

(Serves 6)

  • 3 lbs whole fava beans in their pods (about 2 cups shelled)
  • 2 bunches radishes, sliced thin, radish greens reserved
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp chile flake
  • 1 spring onion*, sliced thin 
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup mint, stems removed (loosely packed)
  • 1 cup basil, stems removed (loosely packed)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 lb burrata** or fresh mozzarella 

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, shell fava beans from their pods. Blanch beans in boiling water for 30 seconds, and immediately transfer to an ice bath. Peel away the waxy outer coverings, and pat dry.

2. Carefully rinse radish greens so they are grit-free, and (using the same boiling water) blanch them for just a few seconds. Transfer to an ice bath, drain the greens, and chop roughly. 

3. Zest and juice lemon, and combine with olive oil, chile flake, spring onion, and pistachios in a large bowl. Add radishes, cooked radish greens, fava beans, mint, and basil, and season generously with salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently and serve with grilled bread and burrata. 

*Find spring onions, which have the beginnings of a bulb on the bottom, throughout late spring and early summer at farmers and specialty markets.
**Find this fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream, all summer at New Seasons and Pastaworks.

Grilled Broccoli with Pine Nuts, Dried Cherries, and Chile Flake

(Serves 6)

  • ½ cup dried cherries 
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp dried chile flake
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ lbs broccoli
  • ½ cup pine nuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp bread crumbs, toasted 

1. Soak cherries in red wine vinegar for at least 45 minutes. Separate large broccoli florets from stalks and set aside. Slice broccoli stalks into thin rounds, discarding the tough ends. Mix vinegar and cherries with garlic, chile flake, olive oil, and broccoli stalk rounds in a large bowl.

2. Light a charcoal grill or turn a gas grill to medium-high heat. Grill broccoli florets, turning with tongs to cook it evenly, until deeply charred. (Don’t be afraid to burn them a bit—that’s the point.)

3. Toss broccoli florets with cherry-vinegar marinade and sliced stalks. Add pine nuts, season with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and sprinkle bread crumbs over the top.

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