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Short ribs and baby octopus may dominate many menus in the city, but that doesn’t mean local chefs can’t find love in an acorn squash. In our ongoing series, Chefs Veg Out, we’ll prove D.C.’s chefs can play with more than just meat.

  • Name: Nate Garyantes
  • Title: Executive Chef
  • Restaurant: Ardeo+Bardeo
  • Twitter: @nate73
  • Cooking Since: Professionally for about 15 years. But my family’s been in the restaurant business. My father owned a family restaurant, kind of a bar/tavern in north Delaware: very basic sandwiches and steaks, chops, seafood.
  • Random Fact: I was in the infantry for three years, stationed in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. I never fired a weapon in my life, but once I got in there I had a natural affinity. All the weapons systems I had to qualify for, I got “expert.” But I don’t like guns.
  • Favorite Vegetable: Cabbage and making your own sauerkraut from a head of cabbage. I like humble ingredients, ingredients that you have to coax into submission to be appetizing.
  • Least Favorite Vegetable: I’m not a huge fan of eggplant. It kind of makes my tongue tingle. I don’t know if that’s an allergic reaction…
  • Memorable Meatless Dish: I used to own a restaurant in Wilmington, Del., and the farm-to-table movement was just starting to take hold. There was this lady who owned a farm in South Jersey, Neptune Farm—she and her husband were ex-Wall Street people—and they cashed in. She grows asparagus. We went out to the fields and picked it and she just put olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice on it and grilled it over coals. We ate it right there. It was in the ground a half hour before. And I’ve never been able to recreate it, that same feeling, that same memory, that same favor. I can’t capture it.
  • Best Vegetable Dish at Ardeo+Bardeo: Brussels sprouts. We deep fry at 350 degrees so the outside gets crispy and the inside cooks. We toss them in an orange vinaigrette and it has dried apricot and dried pistachios. We season it with salt, cinnamon and red chile. We place it on a little bit of yogurt on the plate. It has a nice acidity and texture.
  • Quick and Dirty Meatless Idea: I like to roast vegetables, where most people’s intuition tells them to steam or blanch. Broccoli comes to mind. Get a cast iron skillet really hot: heat it on the stove top until you can’t hold your hand over it for more than a few seconds (takes about 10 minutes). Dress broccoli in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Put it in the cast iron and then into an oven, 350 degrees, until just cooked through. What you end up with are these caramelized flavors. It’s not that bright, vibrant green, but it has these very different nuances of flavor. Add more lemon at the end, fresh parmesean over the top and just a bit of red chili flakes. It’s a perfect vegetable dish.

Photo by Andrew Lightman