As the head chef at Astoria bar The Bonnie, Shaun VanAlphen is keen on crafting bar fare that's light and flavorful.
"I love bar food, but I don't love the feeling after eating something that's really heavy or deep-fried," VanAlphen says. "I'm trying to make things that are lighter."
One of the menu's newest additions is an heirloom tomato and stone fruit salad -- now at their peak -- with sourdough bread. The seasonal salad is inspired by VanAlphen's stint at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the epitome of farm-to-table and health-conscious, flavorful food.
"We used to always run during the summer a nice, light vegetable salad," VanAlphen says. "This is more from that -- going around the green market, choosing the freshest tomatoes and fruit."
For tomatoes, that means heirloom and cherry, the latter of which are marinated for at least an hour in a lemongrass, white balsamic vinegar and raspberry vinegar marinade, for the dressing. The stone fruit can be peaches or apricots, whichever's ripe.
"My biggest inspiration is what is best available at the market," says the chef, who can be found at the Union Square Farmers Market at least three times a week.
The sourdough bread VanAlphen gets from Rollo Mio in Maspeth, Queens, and the charred addition gives the dish a bit of bitterness.
The end result is packed with flavor but still light. "It's not going to weigh you down," VanAlphen says.
The Bonnie's heirloom tomato and stone fruit salad
1/4 stalk lemongrass, chopped
1/8 cup white balsamic
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/8 cup ginger juice
1 mint sprig, chopped
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
Kosher salt, to taste
3 large heirloom tomatoes (cut into 2-in. wedges)
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 slices fresh sourdough bread
2 peaches or apricots, cut into wedges
1 cup arugula
For the tomatoes
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the lemongrass, white balsamic vinegar, raspberry vinegar, orange juice, ginger juice and mint. Whisk in 1 tbsp. of oil and season with salt to taste.
Set aside 3 tbsp. of the marinade in a separate bowl.
Add the cherry tomatoes and marinate for 1 hour.
For the peaches and sourdough bread
Preheat a grill to 350 degrees.
Drizzle the sourdough bread and peaches/apricots with the remaining olive oil. When the grill is heated, toast the bread slices until they are dark and crispy. Place the peach/apricot wedges on the grill, and allow them to take on slight grill marks. When done, remove the bread and fruit from the grill and transfer to a holding platter.
Chop the grilled bread slices into uniform pieces. In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, fruit, sourdough and arugula. Add the 3 tbsp. of leftover marinade and mix until the bread begins to soften