Share the bounty of a Southern summer garden with Chef Ashley Christensen, served up family-style to encourage easy, late-into-the-evening conversation.
"Cooking is a way to connect with what you grew up with, what reminds you of home," says chef Ashley Christensen. Her memories include sliced garden tomatoes at every meal and fresh herbs drying on the hood of her dad's old Volvo.
Now the owner of seven Raleigh, North Carolina, restaurants and with a cookbook coming out this fall, Christensen reinterprets food from home while celebrating what's grown and made in the South.
Even in BBQ country, Christensen isn't afraid to let vegetables rule. She believes in the simplest route to a vegetable's natural state: a sprinkle of salt on juicy tomatoes, a quick char for crisp, just-picked okra pods, a room-temperature squash salad to mimic warm days in the garden.
The seasonal, straightforward approach defines Southern cooking now—not just rich or heavy dishes (a misconception that's going away). "As my mother would say," says Christensen, "Southern food is about what grows in the Southern earth."