Califonia Bountiful

Field of greens

May/June 2020 California Bountiful magazine

Chef welcomes ever-changing options

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Versatility is one of the many things chef Tom McNary appreciates about greens. Photo: © 2020 Lori Eanes

Tom McNary finds it easy being green. In fact, greens are a go-to ingredient for this longtime chef.

"I enjoy eating fresh greens and cooked greens as well," said McNary, executive chef of Soif, a Santa Cruz restaurant and wine bar. "I have greens on my menu all the time, whether it be chard, whether it be kale, whether it be dandelion. We use them in a lot of different ways."

And they change with the seasons.

McNary said he appreciates the contrast from the hardier, bitter greens of winter—think escarole and radicchio—to the milder greens that hit their stride in summer, such as Little Gem, with its crisp texture and sweet flavor.

"It's all about seasonality, so that's what interests me so much about greens, what I can do with them in the restaurant setting," he said.

If pressed, McNary lists arugula and frisée as his two favorite leafy vegetables, but hints at the benefits of seeking new and unfamiliar choices.

"Greens are very versatile," he said. "You can really play around and experiment."

A lifelong Californian, McNary said he feels fortunate to have a ready supply of locally grown greens—and scores of other fruits and vegetables—available throughout the year and often picked the same day he uses them.

"As each season comes around, I get excited to work with what I have," he said.

McNary, who shops at a farmers market twice a week for the restaurant, said buying local is important to him "because I know where it's grown, I know who's growing it, I know when it's harvested."

"That's the way I've been eating all my life, even before I actually became a cook," he said. "It's second nature to me."

Barbara Arciero


Spring vegetable soup with crème fraiche and mint

Beet and lentil salad

Garden lettuce salad with roasted cherries, fromage blanc and hazelnuts

Salmon with asparagus, potato, hard-cooked egg and salsa verde

Green garlic, greens and ricotta ravioli

Salsa verde

Fresh ravioli

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