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Vegetarian Challenge
3 chefs, no more than 5 ingredients all locally sourced

Photos by Dan Bishop

December 2014

Any professional chef worth his apron can invent a tasty vegetarian recipe. But what happens if you limit the amount of ingredients and then make the chef use locally sourced products? This is the challenge we posed to three local chefs. Chefs Chris Hatleli of Coquette Café, David Swanson of Braise and David Magnasco of The Milwaukee Club and The Chef’s Table answered the challenge. Each created a vegetarian dish using locally sourced products and no more than five main ingredients. OK, so we gave them a little leeway with things like oil, salt, pepper, butter and spices, but the results are well worth it.

Butternut Squash Soup
Chef Chris Hatleli, Coquette Café

The first to take on the M Magazine vegetarian recipe challenge is Chef Chris Hatleli of Coquette Café. As a starter he uses butternut squash, whipping cream and honey to make a delicious seasonal soup.

Hatleli is confident that all of the ingredients in the soup can be sourced locally. "This is the dairy state, so cream and butter are not a problem. Wisconsin also produces fantastic honey and butternut squash. My partner Chef Nick Burki and I are huge supporters of local farmers. I urge anyone to buy ingredients at a local farmers market. You can’t beat the freshness," he says.

Hatleli chose this butternut squash soup recipe because, he says, "it really sums up the type of food we like to serve at Coquette Café. We love comfort food, and this dish certainly is that."

Butternut Squash Soup

3 large butternut squash

3 cups heavy whipping cream

12 pound butter

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon allspice

1 tablespoon clover


Roast the squash flesh side down at 350 degrees until tender. Remove inner flesh from skin with a spoon. Separate seeds. Heat the butter and cream in a pan just until the butter is melted. Combine all ingredients and puree, adjusting thickness with vegetable stock or water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Clean and dry the seeds and then toast in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle seeds on top and serve.

Note: Although it means going over on the ingredient limit, Chef Hatleli suggests that for a little added kick, and just in time for the holidays, sprinkle on these candied pecans.

Candied Pecans

1 cup roasted pecans

34 cup brown sugar

1 cup dark rum

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon butter

Combine dark rum, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a heavy-bottom pot. Over high heat, let the liquids reduce down until caramelized and bubbly. Add the butter and let cook for 30 seconds. Add the pecans and reduce heat to medium. Cook the pecans until they fall apart from each other (not sticky and stringy anymore). Place on wax paper to cool and sprinkle with salt. Sprinkle over the soup.


Farro with Olive Oil Poached Vegetables and Horseradish Crème Fraiche
Chef David Swanson, Braise

Chef David Swanson of Braise uses farro, carrots, rutabaga and celery root for his challenge dish. "The thing I like most about this dish is the way the sweetness of root vegetables poached in oil combines with the nuttiness of farro and the bite of horseradish. The crème fraiche adds a creaminess to tie the dish together," he says.

A longtime advocate for using local food, Swanson says all of the ingredients in this recipe can be sourced locally. "You can easily find all of the root vegetables grown here, and if you want you can even use sunflower oil in place of olive oil. Farro (aka emmer wheat) is commonly grown in Wisconsin."

According to Swanson, the dish is perfect for the fall and winter seasons. "It would work nicely as a starter course or a side dish with fish, poultry or pork," he says.

Farro with Olive Oil Poached Vegetables and Horseradish Crème Fraiche


2 cups farro

4 cups carrot juice

In a medium saucepan, combine carrot juice with the farro. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the farro is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add salt and simmer until the farro is tender, about 10 minutes longer. Drain well. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.


8 ounces each carrots, rutabaga and celery root peeled and cut into 1/2-inch by 2-inch logs

3 cups olive oil

1/4 cup fresh marjoram or thyme, chopped

Salt and pepper

In medium saucepan, add olive oil, carrots, rutabaga and celery root. Bring to simmer and gently cook vegetables until tender. Add marjoram (or thyme) and gently heat to warm through. Season with salt and pepper.


Horseradish Crème Fraiche

1 cup crème Fraiche

2-3 tablespoons horseradish

2 teaspoons lemon juice


In a small bowl, whisk horseradish, lemon juice and salt into crème fraiche. Set aside.

To serve, place farro on plate, spoon warm vegetables on top, and dollop with crème fraiche.


Tarte Tatin
Chef David Magnasco, The Milwaukee Club and The Chef’s Table

Rounding out the meal is Chef David Magnasco. Faced with our challenge, he has served up a delicious Tarte Tatin using only apples, butter, sugar and flour as his main ingredients. Magnasco is head chef at The Milwaukee Club and has just opened the city’s first private dining venue — The Chef’s Table in the Fifth Ward.

Magnasco’s recipe not only sticks to our ingredient limit but is simple to make and can easily be adjusted to different size serving pans and to the apple selection at your market. "One of the things I really like about this recipe is that it takes advantage of the availability of apples at the farmers markets around town," explains Magnasco. "If for any reason you can’t find miniature sweet lady apples, you can use another variety, but it may mean you will have to cut and arrange in the pan."

Tarte Tatin


25-30 miniature sweet lady apples or other sweet apple

12 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 12 pieces

1 cup sugar


1 1/2 cups flour

6 tablespoons confectioners sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons salted butter

cut in pieces

1 egg beaten

1/2 teaspoon vanilla


Put the butter in a mixer and beat with paddle until soft peaks form. Sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Then add to the butter. Mix to incorporate. Whisk together the egg and the vanilla. Then add it to the flour mixture. Mix until all ingredients are combined. Dump the mixture onto a floured surface and knead until pliable. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Just before using the dough, roll it out to fit the top of the pan.



Preheat oven to 375 F. Peel and core the apples. Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron pan over medium heat. Remove from heat and sprinkle the butter evenly with the sugar. Tightly pack the apples in the pan upright and return to the stove on high heat until the butter and sugar start to caramelize (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and carefully turn the apples over. Then cook another four to six minutes. Remove from the stove and carefully drape the pastry over the apples, tucking any excess down between the outer apples and the cast iron. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Then carefully turn the tart over onto a cutting surface and portion. Serve warm with ice cream.



This story ran in the December 2014 issue of: