Chef Ashley Christensen has made incredible strides in the food world in just a few short years. The James Beard award-winning chef runs seven Raleigh, NC restaurants in addition to an event business and commissary kitchen. Death & Taxes, her most recent restaurant, was just named to Food & Wine’s 2016 best restaurants.
In our July issue, Christensen shares her favorite vegetable dishes—most of them rooted in her childhood, not her world travels or years in professional kitchens. “Cooking is a way of subconsciously connecting with what you grew up with, what reminds you of home. It comes back to how fulfilling and rich those memories are,” she said.
Christensen’s mother was an avid cook; her father was a gardener and hobbyist beekeeper. She remembers herbs quick drying on the dashboard of her dad’s old Volvo, sliced tomatoes at every summer meal, and her mother running outside to snip a few chives from the garden to sprinkle over a dish.
One thing she makes clear: the notion of Southern food as only a deep-fried, gravy-smothered, vegetable-fearing culture is not true, and never has been. “As my mother would say, Southern food is about what grows in the Southern earth.” It’s about appreciating the raw and cooked aspects of all produce, respecting the perfectly simple (ripe tomatoes and salt is a perfect dish), and bringing people to the table for great food and great conversation.
As de facto Southerners based in Birmingham, AL, we couldn’t agree more. Look for Christensen’s stellar vegetable recipes in our July issue.
More from our Vegetable Cooking Series: