Chef Lisa LaValle’s weekly menu at the Des Moines Art Center’s restaurant focuses partly on what is in season, and partly on whatever LaValle is in the mood to make that week.
When we stopped by she was serving a red tabbouleh salad — a mix of cracked wheat grain tossed with cranberries, tomatoes, beets, cabbage, apples and carrots served over mixed greens, then topped with walnuts, sunflower seeds and queso fresco.
She serves it with a cranberry yogurt vinaigrette on the side for $9.45.
She invited us into her sunny kitchen, just across the courtyard at the Art Center. The small, open kitchen features French doors that open to the courtyard, allowing a breeze to flow through the kitchen and the sun to fill every corner and crevice. If we didn’t have to get back to work after learning how to make her recipe, we could have sat in the kitchen for hours. She showed us how to make the vinaigrette. (Note — this recipe is large, and makes about two quarts of dressing. Halve the recipe if you don’t need as much.)
1. First, LaValle mixes a one-pound bag of fresh cranberries with water and sugar, and boils to take away their tart bite and make them sweeter.
2. In a bowl, she combines two tablespoons of Grey Poupon smooth Dijon mustard (she said the trick to a good vinaigrette is using smooth Dijon mustard), one teaspoon brown sugar (for sweetness, and to enhance the flavor of the dressing), one tablespoon each of salt and pepper, a half cup of the cranberry mixture and one cup of red wine vinegar.
3. Carefully, she blends the ingredients with an emulsion blender until the cranberries are blended and the consistency is smooth.
4. Once blended, she adds vegetable oil to the mix until she arrives at a desired consistency, about five cups. She said the ratio of oil to the first six ingredients should be about five-to-one or six-to-one, depending on desired consistency.
5. Then, she adds between a half cup and one cup of plain Greek yogurt. She recommends adding to your taste, but adding more than one cup will overpower the taste of the red wine vinegar.
6. Blend again, and enjoy. LaValle recommends using her vinaigrette in salads, as well as over poultry for extra flavor.
Des Moines Art Center restaurant
Where: 4700 Grand Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Info: Go to desmoines artcenter.org/visit/ restaurant.aspx for the current menu, which is posted weekly.