The Washington Post

Superfoods kiwi and salmon become low-key dinner-party fare

Editor’s note: This is third in an occasional series in which Washington area chefs create simple dishes that incorporate nutritious ingredients.

What most chefs do on a daily basis is not rocket science, but props are always due to those who transform good ingredients in simple, stunning ways. The dishes created by Ristorante Tosca executive chef Massimo Fabbri and chef de cuisine Riccardo Rinaldi deserve their oohs and ahs — perhaps none more than the ones that call for kiwi and salmon, the two superfoods those chefs chose to work with for the Food section’s challenge series.

The fruit holds a special place in Fabbri’s Tuscan upbringing. “It used to be sold at the farmacia,” he grins. “We were told it had iron and Vitamin C.” Thanks to its superfood status, kiwi has survived its overexposure in the 1980s, when the telltale wheels or wedges of seed-studded green and white seemed to adorn every designer dessert. (During that decade, kiwi production hit a high point in California.)

Fabbri and Rinaldi, 35 and 28, respectively, have made it a sweet-tart foil for the pureed sauce they serve with pristine seafood tartares at the downtown Washington restaurant. “We were looking for something to offset the bitterness of kale,” Fabbri says. “Odd, right? There’s sweetness and the brightness of citrus, but not so much.” He reports that customers at the chef’s table — with a firsthand kitchen-pass view — react with initial skepticism when they see kiwi and kale come together. “Then they say, ‘Nice and refreshing!’ We like that,” he says.

Both chefs reached for the salmon as their other superfood ingredient for two reasons: to offer recipes that were dinner-party elegant yet not hard to pull off, and to highlight their appreciation for the sustainable Verlasso brand — the first farm-raised salmon to pass muster on Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list.

All four of their accompanying recipes are fit for company, and three require little more than boiling a pot of water, toasting nuts and wielding a sharp knife. With Rinaldi’s step-by-step instruction, even the stylish first-course salmon carpaccio, dotted with dollops of mascarpone, caviar, ruby-toned pomegranate seeds, chives and feathery dill, is achievable. The radicchio salad has wonderful color, flavor and texture, topped with a luscious burrata cheese and graced with toasted hazelnuts.

Chefs’ tips for the latter: Try to find hazelnuts grown in Italy’s Piedmont region, Fabbri says, because they are especially rich-tasting. Rinaldi likes to toss them with a few drops of hazelnut oil and toast them in a preheated 300-degree oven that has just been turned off. “Just to warm them through,” he says.

The accompaniment for their roasted salmon entree yields a nice surprise. They toss tender coins of boiled fingerling potatoes with spring onion and sauteed cubes of sunchokes — the latter a vegetable that has enjoyed a “Top Chef” moment or two, mostly in the service of purees and soups. The Tosca chefs’ treatment of something as mundane as potato salad reflects their goal of simplicity, of letting good ingredients speak for themselves. And the mustard cream sauce on the plate doesn’t hurt.

Piedmontese hazelnuts can be special-ordered locally from La Cuisine in Alexandria (703-836-4435) and from Cornucopia in Bethesda (301-652-1625).


Tuna Tartare With Kale-Kiwi Puree

Radicchio Salad With Kiwi and Hazelnuts

Verlasso Salmon Carpaccio

Roasted Verlasso Salmon With Warm Potato-Sunchoke Salad

Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes:
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