Lucas Clarke carries the whimsical title of “Head Lettuce Juggler” for MAD Greens, a fast-casual salad concept based in Golden, Colo. He leads the culinary team, which is tasked with creating modern salad builds, wraps, paninis and more.
Thriving in this competitive category, MAD Greens puts forward such items as its Crazy Ivan, with baby greens, roasted beets, pumpkin seeds, grilled citrus chicken and sherry-molasses vinaigrette—as well as sides like Spicy Avocado Hummus with warm pita or slices of carrots and celery. Here, he shares five ingredients that inspire his culinary creativity.
As an Oregonian, I have always loved the marionberry. One of my favorite childhood memories is picking fresh berries to make jam and cobbler with my mom and brother. Marionberry vinaigrette is an amazing seasonal dressing that brings some sweetness to more savory salads.
These dates are great by themselves, or in anything from ice cream and oatmeal to braised lamb and duck. The sweet, sticky and dense texture makes these one of the most craveable raw ingredients we have in our kitchen.
Cardamom is such a versatile spice—aromatic and citrusy. I use it when making my own chai tea. I work it into French toast and add it to my favorite style of basmati rice. It’s a great spice that can be woven into many different applications.
This Spanish pepper is fantastic in a tapenade because it isn’t overly spicy, and it adds a really nice texture to dips and sauces. My favorite application is for snacking—douse in olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt for a great shareable appetizer. Simple and tasty.
This is my favorite avocado variety. I discovered it at a fruit stand in Florida called “Robert Is Here.” This buttery and nutty smooth avocado is huge and can be used in many different applications. I render it into sauces and salad dressings, and it’s great as an appetizer with lime and salt.