Chef Owen Maass is whacking away at the pile of tomatoes in front of him as if he’s holding a machete instead of a 10” chef knife. Unlike the precision associated with much of the gorgeous food he creates as the Executive Chef of Cumin, he is explaining to the audience of 60 that a random large chop creates a much more interesting mouth feel for the tomato salad he is making. “I’m ADD and need a lot of stimulation,” he quips, “my mouth gets bored easily.”
Along with mixologist Molly Wellmann (Japp’s On Main) and wine wonk Mario Polito (City Cellars Fine Wine), Maass was (in June) the first in the lineup of celebrity chefs offering free cooking demonstrations during the Second Sunday On Main street festival. In its 6th year, the popular series has grown from a couple dozen onlookers gathered in the open contemporary kitchen of a model condo (Falling Waters, 1417 Main St.), to standing room only capacity.
Like many of the chefs that are featured, Maass is engaging, both at ease in front of an audience and as an instructor. “Tomato and horseradish is the new PB&J”, he says as he grates fresh horseradish into the tomatoes, seamlessly jumps to a brief history of how the microplane found its way from the hardware store to the professional kitchen, then lowers his face to the bowl, inhales deeply and declares “If it doesn’t smell good, you did something wrong”. Apparently, the ADD self-diagnosis is accurate.
As Mario Polito explains the wine pairing (a dry French rosé), volunteers scoop Maass’s tomato salad into cups and pass it among the crowd along with the one-ounce wine pours. A buzz of approval circulates around the room, then quickly subsides as Molly Wellmann steps up to the counter. “Who loves a refreshing mojito?” she asks with a radiant smile. The hands go up. She begins to muddle basil, simple syrup, and fresh strawberries.
For the recipes featuring Owen Maass’s tomato salad and Molly Wellmann’s strawberry basil mojito, see below. Reprinted with permission.
The Second Sunday On Main Celebrity Chef series continues this Sunday, July 10, at 2:30 pm with Chef Dave Taylor and Owner / Sommelier Bryant Phillips from La Poste Eatery. For more information www.secondsundayonmain.org or check the SSOM facebook page.
Tomato Salad with Horseradish and Chorizo
Chef Owen Maass | Cumin Eclectic Cuisine
4 cups of chopped tomatoes (Maass recommends a mixture of varieties)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
approx. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (Maass prefers Spanish or Portuguese)
1 – 2 tablespoons quality red wine vinegar (lemon juice can be substituted)
½ clove garlic, grated
2 teaspoons fresh horseradish root, grated
¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
½ pound Spanish chorizo, sliced
Randomly chop tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes can be halved or left whole. Place them in a colander set over a wide bowl. Sprinkle them with a generous dusting of sea salt (not iodized salt) until coated. The salt draws the excess moisture from the tomatoes, intensifying flavor (don’t worry about the salad being too salty; most of the salt drips away). Leave in colander 30 minutes. While the tomatoes are sitting, cook sliced chorizo over medium-low heat until crispy (approx. 5 minutes).
Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and dress with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar. Toss with chorizo (Maass recommends adding the pan drippings as well) and garlic. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the grated horseradish. Taste and add more if desired. Toss with parsley. Serve with bread to mop up the juices.
On salt: “No iodized table salt! Your salt should taste like the ocean.”
On olive oil: “Pay for your olive oil. If it’s not in a green bottle, don’t buy it.”
On vinegar: “Please don’t use distilled white vinegar ever, ever, ever. It’s a chemical product made in a lab.”
On cooking: “Have fun. If you’re not smiling while you’re cooking, whoever is eating your food isn’t going to smile either.”
Strawberry Basil Mojito
Molly Wellmann | Japp’s on Main
3 ripe strawberries, sliced
3 – 5 fresh basil leaves
1 oz. simple syrup (tsp. of powdered sugar can be substituted)
2 oz. white rum
Reserve a couple of strawberry slices for garnish. Place the remaining with basil and simple syrup in a tall glass. Using a muddling tool or the back of a bar spoon, bruise until juices are released. Stir in the rum and top with crushed ice. Top off with club soda and garnish with strawberry slices.