Steal This Chef’s Tricks for Using up Produce Before It Goes Bad
Chef Alex Thomopoulos of Great White—a chill, all-day café located in Venice Beach, California—has a charmingly "LA" story for how she ended up designing menus here, at the epicenter of Cali cool. "I was a stand-up comedian for three-and-a-half years in my early twenties," she tells me. "So I was doing the comedy circuits, waiting tables, and bartending, and I found myself gravitating toward the kitchens in the restaurants that I worked in to watch the guys cook."
Following a lightbulb moment—perhaps she, too, belonged backstage—Thomopoulos went to culinary school and subsequently became a personal chef to Hollywood's elite. Six years later she took another chance, moving to Nashville to strike out on her own as a restauranteur. However, the siren song of LA called once again, and within six months she was back within its borders to work on Great White, which opened this past September to immediate acclaim.
With its blue smoothie bowls and green marble tables, Great White's basically the definition of Instagram candy, but with some added culinary cred—at the end of 2017, Bon Appétit named the café's crispy chicken sandwich as its "best of 2017." This high-profile accolade could perhaps be seen as a bit of a cosmic joke; its creator doesn't eat much meat. Below, the former comedian shares what's filling her fridge instead, as well as her hack for making healthy food as appealing as, say, a certain comfort food for which she is now famous.
Keep reading to peek inside this Cali cool girl's uber-healthy fridge.
What an adorable sauerkraut jar. What's do you make with it?
I like to use the sauerkraut as a side to brighten up dishes. I think that fermented foods add such a unique, interesting layer to dishes, so I try to incorporate them as much as I can. I also put kimchi on my eggs—it's one of my favorite foods, and so healthy for the gut.
Is it weird to say I love an egg brand? I love Vital Farms. Are they your go-to?
I like Vital Farms a lot. It's so hard to tell with different companies how the animals are treated. I think that Vital Farms is the best at being really transparent and truthful about how they treat their animals.
What's your favorite morning egg dish?
My morning go-to is six-minute eggs, where you put your eggs in boiling water for exactly six minutes. Then, you shock them in cold water and peel them. They're perfectly runny on the inside without being too runny. I love doing that over a bed of spinach. Or, because I'm Italian, an egg frittata is always delicious. It's a good brunch food if you're having company over.
Is that almond milk yogurt? I've been meaning to try it!
It is—from Kite Hill. I just feel like my skin looks so much better and my stomach feels so much better when I exclude dairy from my diet, so I started eating almond milk yogurt and I love it. You can get the plain kind, which doesn't have a ton of sugar in it. Then I like to add a little bit of honey on top.
What's in the Tupperware next to it? Looks like a healthy mix.
I made a vegetable stir fry the other night. A lot of the vegetables from last week were on their last legs, so I just made a big stir fry and then I added miracle noodles to that. I also made a cashew cream for it.
Is that the white spread I see on that same shelf?
Yes. It's soaked cashews and a little bit of water, nutritional yeast, lemon, and garlic. It's a good [dairy] substitute if you're going to make a cheesy dish or if you want something to be a little creamy. I threw that into the stir fry with some soy sauce, ginger, and all that good stuff.
What's planned for this big batch of leafy greens?
Primarily, I use them in my smoothies in the morning. So, I'll make a big smoothie with a vegan protein powder and three or four cups of greens and some frozen berries. Then I add unsweetened almond milk, hemp milk, or coconut milk—to me, they all taste the same, but it's always good to have a variety.
For the collards, I'll blanch those and then I'll use those as wraps. You can use them in lieu of a tortilla. I also just always have good salad stuff on hand, because salads are an easy-prep meal go-to.
Any other tips on how to use up the fresh produce before it goes bad?
When vegetables are on their last day, or last two days, make some time to throw them in a soup. I love puréed soups. My go-to base is just two large onions, a couple cloves of garlic, and then I'll sauté that in some olive oil. Then, say I have kale, spinach, celery, and scallions... I'll just throw that all in there and let it cook a little bit and then blend it with some salt. It's actually really, really delicious, and I can freeze that and have a really yummy soup on hand.
Or, the other day, I made a pesto. I got fresh parsley and basil, but then I saw I had arugula that was on its last day, so I just threw it into the pesto. It ended up being absolutely delicious.
We need to talk about the radish drawer. Why so many?
Those are Easter egg radishes, which I love to [use as a] garnish on my food. I like really colorful food. It makes me excited to eat healthy, because if I have food that's ugly and healthy, then it makes me depressed. I buy little edible flowers. Those are on the second shelf, above the butternut squash, in those little packets. I have lemongrass, fresh chives, and two packages of edible flowers. I take photos of my food all the time, and they brighten up every dish.
So many condiments! What's *the one* you can't live without?
The jalapeño down at the bottom, and the Sriracha. I love spicy food. You'll also see Yuzu is there, which is great because it offers such a beautiful, unique flavor to some of my salads. I also put rice wine vinegar on every salad that I make.
Need a visual on how radishes can make a dish pop off the plate? Try this triple radish recipe. Plus, get the skinny on more fermented foods you should be eating.
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