When chef Clay Conley began re-envisioning the menu at Grato, his popular West Palm Beach restaurant, from a strictly Italian concept to a rotating collection of chef-driven, multi-cuisine dishes, he knew he wanted to include more plant-based fare. Having read Dr.
Michael Greger’s book, How Not to Die, and embraced a more vegan diet himself, Conley wanted to give Grato patrons—as well as those dining at his Palm Beach eatery, Buccan—healthier, more sustainable options. One such example is Grato’s grilled asparagus crostini. Here, Conley shares insight into the flavors, ingredients, and techniques behind the dish.
Inspiration: “With this dish, it is the great texture and color of the vegetable. I wanted to showcase the bright green asparagus that is bountiful in the spring and summer. Regardless of the seasonal vegetable, my approach to a crostini has usually been the same. It starts with a thick piece of wood-grilled bread, followed by a smear of something creamy. In this case, it’s vegan ricotta. I then top it with the vegetable tossed in a bright vinaigrette.”
Why It Works: “It’s important to me to have a layering of different flavors and varying temperatures and textures in the same dish. The creamy component in the cheese is an important one—it rounds out the mouthfeel and provides that umami flavor that is normally delivered by cheese. The creaminess here is achieved by pureeing soaked cashews with toasted garlic and shallot, vinegar, mushroom powder, and nutritional yeast.”