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Name: Sara Siegel Title: Sous Chef/Pastry Chef Restaurant: Ba Bay Twitter: @BaBayDC Cooking Since: About 5 years professionally. I went to Florida State for a year. I always knew cooking was my passion but wanted a business degree. But then I thought it was a waste of time so I went to the French Culinary Institute in New York. From there I went to Babbo before coming back to D.C. Random Fact: I broke our field hockey scoring record at Centennial High School in Ellicott City, Md. Favorite Vegetable: Mushrooms. There are so many different types and used in so many ways. My favorite thing is crispy shiitakes: toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary or thyme and put it in the oven at 350 for about 15 to 20 minutes. It’s nice and crisp. Least Favorite Vegetable: Eggplant. I think the texture is a big part of why I don’t like it and I don’t enjoy the flavor. To me, eggplant parm is just gross. But I can cook with it because I can separate myself.
Memorable Meatless Dish: First, at Palena, a couple years back, there was their strawberry gazpacho. It’s so vibrant, so fresh and everything was balanced and spot-on. It’s just one of the best dishes. Second, growing up in Houston, Texas (for my first 10 years), there was a huge garden behind the church and my grandfather tended it and picked from it. That was his passion and he spent 10 hours a day at the garden. He would make us a vegetable soup: chunky with lots of tomatoes, celery, carrots. It’s not anything that special, but for me, it was special. Best Vegetable Dish at Ba Bay: The vegetable rice. We offer it with meat or veggies. There are shiitakes, Padron peppers, scallions, white and red onions and Maggi. When I eat it in the back I put peanuts in it. Quick and Dirty Meatless Idea: Fried cauliflower. Cut into florets, drench in flour, then drop in oil for two minutes and then toss with toasted garlic (in a 350 oven for 5 minutes until lightly browned, but not too long because it will burn), minced Thai chili or chili flakes and salt. I use a deep fryer at work, which gives an extra crunch. But at home, you’d want to blanch it first, then toss it around with garlic, chili, oil and salt. We were just playing around with it, but we might put it on as a side.
About: 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.
Photo Courtesy Ken Tu