Welcome back to Dirty Work, our series of dispatches from the MUNCHIES Garden. We're inviting chefs, bartenders, and personalities in the world of food and drink to explore our edible playground and make whatever the hell inspires them with our rooftop produce. In the latest installment, chef Greg Baxtrom drops in to turn a handful of green vegetables into the perfect end-of-summer lunch.
The unofficial end of summer is Labor Day, when everyone guzzles their last beach beers and prepares for a melanin-less autumn full of work, school, and other adult obligations.
But if you listen to the seasons, summer doesn't have to end so soon. If you inhabit the northern hemisphere of this big blue rock, the tilt of the Earth's rotational axis wants you to keep the summer party burning all the way until September 22.
That means the fruits of summer can stick around for a few more weeks, too.
If you're a chef like Greg Baxtrom, who heads up Brooklyn's garden produce-driven Olmsted, these last weeks are incredibly precious. Like so many spaces in New York, Olmsted is small but economically designed, with a rear garden that not only looks lovely but provides ingredients for the ever-changing menu. Function and form work in tandem to provide Baxtrom and his team with the freshest of vegetables and herbs, plucked not from a truck but their very own grounds.
It seemed exceptionally fitting, then, to invite Baxtrom to the MUNCHIES Garden.
Being at the whim of the seasons is not a new gig for Baxtrom, who's worked the kitchens of such lauded restaurants as Alinea, Per Se, Atera, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Not only does he have fine dining chops, he knows how to get his hands dirty, too.
"Some of it is, 'Strawberries are on the menu, so go buy some strawberry plants,'" Baxtrom said of planning Olmsted's backyard-farm-to-table approach. "The whole idea was that the outside [of the restaurant] was going to be perennials that would come back every year. There were things that people were familiar with, and things that we need in the kitchen, like herbs. And the inside was always meant to be like the farm/production part."
He added: "It was just trial and error of 'What can we consistently get all the time?'"
For the Olmsted team, there's little room for wildcards. "There's no takeaway for me to have some weird herb that I'll probably never use because it doesn't taste that good but sounds cool," said Baxtrom. "That's just eating up space in a tiny little garden." He added that while the kitchen might have little use for herbs like woodruff and mugwort, they sometimes do find a home behind the bar.
In the MUNCHIES garden, Baxtrom went straight to work pulling arugula, cucumbers, gherkins, and green tomatoes. "I grabbed whatever I could think of that was green," he said as he chopped up each of them. After that, he began mincing garlic and a handful of shallots, which joined the other cubed vegetables in a bowl of Champagne vinegar, water, and sugar to quickly pickle.
The plan: a cooling green gazpacho.
From there, the dish came together with a flip of the blender switch—all of the bowl's contents blitzed into a creamy green soup in a matter of seconds.
As humble as a bowl of gazpacho sounds, Baxtrom couldn't help but add a little fancy chef flair. He carefully sliced some baby vegetables—sungold tomatoes, hakurei turnips, and gherkins—and arranged them in the center of each bowl, over which he poured the soup.
The result? Garlicky green goodness, the ultimate summer postcard for your mouth.