Chef Edward Lee is no stranger to unconventionality. A Korean-American who grew up in Brooklyn, Lee never imagined he would one day become a chef. As a teenager, Lee had an innate passion for cooking, but quickly realized his parents would not accept his desire to pursue a career in culinary arts.
But like most successful chefs, Lee had an iron will, which fueled him to pursue his dreams, regardless of the obstacles that stood before him. Soon he began working as a cook at various restaurants, learning the ropes and slowly working his way to the top. In 2001, through a twist of fate, the chef was granted a weeklong trial run at a little-known gem of a restaurant called 610 Magnolia in Louisville, KY. During the “audition” Lee wowed the executive chef and less than a year later was offered the restaurant.
Having recently been a James Beard finalist in the category Best Chef Southeast and featured as a competitor on Iron Chef America and Top Chef Texas, Lee has undoubtedly reached celebrity status. So when we heard the chef would be at the Philadelphia International Flower Show as the host of four culinary demonstrations, we hopped on the opportunity to learn a thing or two from the Master himself.
Lee is a large proponent of using locally-sourced seasonal ingredients and the purest farmed animals at his restaurants, so I was curious to see what he would dish up during the demonstration. “New Ambrosia Salad with Ahi Tuna and Blue Cheese” was the featured recipe and although most of the ingredients were not local, there was a very fresh, clean, exotic feel about the ingredients (unlike the typical out-of-a-can ambrosia) that made this modern take on a Southern comfort food so appealing. Lee himself was a pleasure to watch and listen to; he spoke in a laid-back methodical fashion that was easy to follow.
When the lesson was over, I was one of the last to join the long line of food enthusiasts, so I did not get an opportunity to try the salad. I did, however, snag a recipe card so that I could test it out myself and, of course, share it with all our fine readers. So please enjoy, and feel free to give us your feedback if you decide to give it a go.
New Ambrosia Salad with Ahi Tuna and Blue Cheese
1 pound Ahi tuna cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 oragnes cut into supremes
1 grapefruit cut into supremes
2 champange mangoes peeled and sliced thin
4 jalapeno peppers deseeded and cut into thin rounds
1/2 cup shreded fresh coconut
2 oz almond slivers
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp coconut water (from the fresh coconut)
Blue Cheese Dressing:
2 1/2 oz blue cheese crumbles
3 tbsp coconut milk
3 tbsp sour cream
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp sugar
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1. Make the blue cheese dressing first. Smash the cheese into a mixing bowl with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together til combined, but still a but lumpy.
2. Combine the tuna, oranges supremes, mango slices and jalapeno peppers into a mixing bowl. Add the shredded coconut and almonds slivers. Sprinkle the ground cardamom over the salad and add the coconut water. Thoroughly toss the salad in the mixing bowl.
3. Add the blue cheese dressing. Toss again in the mixing bowl. Divide the salad into bowls or serve in lettuce wraps as an appetizer.
Serves 6-8 people.
Recipe by Edward Lee, 610 Magnolia
Photo courtesy of 610 Magnolia
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