Cox maintains a philosophy to let seasonal ingredients “speak” for themselves.
Sara Cox’s Spring Pea Risotto with Asparagus Nage, and Arugula, Oyster Mushroom Salad and Sweet Summer Corn Puree Soup with Charred Ramps and Cherry Tomatoes at Washington University in St. Louis “Our philosophy is that we prepare menus with what’s in season, what’s fresh, and what our farmer partners may have on hand,” says Sara Cox, Bon Appétit Management Company’s research and development chef who oversees the development and implementation of recipes and menus at Washington University. “This allows our culinary team to be creative and flexible in preparing restaurant quality food in a university café environment.” For CDT, Cox contributes recipes that are influenced by her childhood backgound. She grew up in the South and started her career at Café DuPont in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. “When I think of spring and summer vegetables I immediately remember going to a local farmer’s market to pick out fresh, seasonal ingredients that were turned into great recipes. I enjoy taking seasonal ingredients and letting them speak for themselves. So much of my early career was shaped around this philosophy and to me this is the best way to cook and eat foods.” The recipes Cox selects for CDT feature vegetables that are simple in nature and what she believes are the “perfect vehicle to showcase the integrity of these vegetables’ flavors.” Both are featured on chef’s special menus rather than as part of a menu rotation.
Spring Pea Risotto with Asparagus Nage, and Arugula, Oyster Mushroom Salad features sweet peas grown within a 150-mile radius from campus. The purchasing relationships align with Bon Appetit’s and Washington University’s philosophies concerning sustainability and animal husbandry and welfare. The Parmesan cheese in the risotto gives a light saltiness to balance out the sweetness of the fresh peas. “Make the risotto in batches to maintain the bright green color and thickness and hold under a heat lamp or in a covered warmer to avoid allowing it to thicken up,” says Cox. Locally grown corn, ramps and cherry tomatoes are combined in Sweet Summer Corn Puree Soup with Charred Ramps and Cherry Tomatoes. Cox selected cherry tomatoes for the acidity that cuts through the creaminess of the heavy cream while charred ramps balance out the delicate flavors of the corn. This soup can be held in a bain marie or steamtable. Keep garnishes refrigerated until service. In any recipe, she says, “mastering the application of heat is the key to consistency.” Chefs must control the heat so ingredients that are meant to sweat don’t end up caramelizing or vice versa because the heat is too high or too low. Also, she says, avoid boiling when the instructions are to slowly reduce because the ability to capture maximum flavor is lost.
C A M P U S D I N I N G TO DAY
Spring/Summer issue of Campus Dining Today