Beth Barden, chef/owner of Succotash since 2001, is a big fan of color. At home, Barden fills her rooms with vivid art, maybe a little too much, she confesses. “We’ve all got the crazy eye somewhere,” she says.
At the restaurant—for rehearsal dinners, a power breakfast, or a weekday lunch—she paints each plate with color, texture, and flavor, but knows when to edit. And anyone who walks into Succotash can’t resist that rainbow cake under the dome on the counter.
“You eat with your eyes, first,” she says. “I think of a plate as an art piece.” This warm brunch salad is a good example of Barden’s artistry: deep green kale, bright green sprouts, rosy bacon, yellow yolks of poached egg, earthy mushroom “chips,” creamy gold Delicata squash slices, and purple-hued blueberry vinaigrette.
Barden gets her eggs from Stanberry Community Farms in Stanberry, Missouri, her mushrooms from a new start-up she hopes will make it, and the sprouts from Be Love Too Farm in Edgerton, Kansas.
At Succotash, Barden says, customers can try new ingredients without having to pay for “an investment plate.” They come in hungry, and leave full—and happy.
Warm Kale, Bacon, and Egg Brunch Salad with Blueberry-Mustard Vinaigrette
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a starter
2 pints fresh blueberries
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
Pinch ground red pepper
1 cup olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ pound oyster mushrooms
1 Delicata squash, cut into ½-inch slices (rind on) and seeds removed
½ pound good quality slab or thick-cut bacon, cut into small chunks
3 ounces Manchego cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
2-4 large eggs
1 large bunch Lacinato (dinosaur) kale, rinsed and patted dry, tough stems removed, leaves sliced into thin ribbons
2 cups sunflower sprouts or pea shoots, lightly rinsed and dried on paper towels
½ cup pepitas, toasted
For the vinaigrette, place the blueberries, mustard, balsamic vinegar, and spices in a blender and process until smooth. With the blender running, add the olive oil in a thin stream until the mixture is thick and creamy. Season to taste. Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
For the salad, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel each “petal” off the stalk of each oyster mushroom to make mushroom “chips.” Place the petals in a bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until browned and crisp, around 15 minutes. Remove and let cool.
Toss the Delicata squash slices in a bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until browned and crisp, around 15 minutes. Remove and let cool.
Brown the bacon in a skillet. Set aside.
Bring a 4-quart pan of water with 1 tablespoon white vinegar to a simmer. Carefully crack each egg into the water, 10 seconds apart, and poach until just set. Remove from the heat and plate the salad.
Put a small amount of the vinaigrette into a large bowl and toss the kale, sprouts, bacon, and pepitas until well coated. Add more vinaigrette if necessary. Arrange the greens in a haystack on each plate. Place 2 to 3 slices of squash on top to “cradle” the poached egg. Top with shaved Manchego and oyster mushroom chips. Drizzle with a little more vinaigrette, if desired, and serve.
Eating with your Eyes
A chef’s garnish for a dish used to be a sprig of curly parsley; maybe a few carrot curls, and a radish rose. The question for the diner was “Do I eat that or not?”
Now it can be difficult to tell what is garnish and what are elements of a dish. You can eat it all.
Salads look like statement necklaces with microgreens and paper-thin radish slices folded in half, jewel-like berries and tiny leafy shapes.
The surface of soup becomes a landscape seen from the window of a plane, mid-air. A shingled beach of crispy bacon, a wave of crumbled feta, a shoreline of chives.
Desserts could be mistaken for abstract paintings. A pool of pastel sauce, quenelles of sorbets, spun sugar swirls or shards of caramel.
And we don’t even miss those maraschino cherries.