Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Flavor & The Menu
November 10, 2022

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John RussPhoto Credit: Josh Huskin

John Russ

John Russ is the co-owner and chef of Clementine, a neighborhood restaurant in San Antonio that menus seasonally driven dishes inspired by global flavors. His abilities to lift flavor and transform texture are extraordinary and are evident throughout the menu. The Ms. Julie’s Beets salad features beets, cocoa granola, grapefruit, seared okra with sunflower seed romesco and spruce tip honey, while a side dish of Rapini & Cannellini Beans stars piquillo peppers, lardo croutons and Urfa biber.

We asked Russ to share with us a trifecta of ingredients that inspires him. His reply: preserved lemon, sumac and Italian parsley. “In varying combinations, these three ingredients can be used to accentuate dishes, calm strong flavors, bring authenticity and add a different texture to old favorites,” he says. “I love how the sumac interacts and changes with the parsley and preserved lemon.”

He grinds the three ingredients together with a molcajete, creating a pesto-like paste. “Try separating the zest or skin from the interior of the lemon for a more elegant flavor,” says Russ.

“Sumac on its own is such a different spice. When it’s fresh and moist, it has a mild tomato and floral scent that I find wild. As it dries and ages, the scent changes to citrusy and musky, which is intriguing,” he says.

In combination with the preserved lemon, sumac’s profile is enlivened further. “It might be because of its own acid or the effect of the lemon oils acting on the spice, but the sumac changes dramatically,” he says. “The three together offer light floral notes, high acidity and earthiness, giving a perfume-like pull to the base foods.”

Russ features the combined trio in Caesar salad, on beef tartare and on grilled items, like lamb shoulder or pork chops, brushing on the paste for a big pop of flavor. “The possibilities are truly endless,” he says.

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