Tag Archives: Hugh Acheson

I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette

Southern chef Hugh Acheson is the cooking star of the moment…albeit one who is humble and has a really good sense of humor. He proclaims on his website, “To Athens, (Acheson) is the guy who owns those restaurants, has one eyebrow, a wife far better looking than he is and two young children who are the apple of his eye.”

I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette
Photo Credit: Emily B. Hall

And yes, with humor, there is always a modicum of truth but Acheson isn’t just the chef with one eyebrow, a beautiful wife and children and the guy who owns those restaurants – four to be exact — in Georgia which include his newest, The Florence (pictured above), the National, Empire State South and the one that started it all, 5 X 10. The Canadian-born but Southern food adopted Acheson is the chef who published an award-winning James Beard cookbook “A New Turn in The South” and won the prestigious award from the culinary organization for “Best Chef, Southeast”. In addition to these impressive accomplishments and many more, he has been awarded Food & Wine’s “Best New Chef” (2002), StarChefs.com “Mentor of the Year” (2012) and his town newspaper, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, presented him with “Restaurant of the Year”.

I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette. Photo by Emily B Hall
Photo credit: Emily B. Hall

Currently, Acheson is promoting his book “The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits” (Clarkson Potter, 2015) which showcases his love of vegetables, his family and cooking in the Southern with simple and easy to use recipes.

If you don’t live in the Atlanta/ Savannah, Georgia area, you have the potential of meeting Mr. Acheson in Los Angeles. He is cooking as the “All Star Chef” – along with “Local All Star Chefs” — Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo – for the James Beard Foundation’s “Night of Culinary Stars” on November 6, 2015. On November 7, he will be signing copies of his cookbook as well as demo-ing recipes at The Grove’s Sur La Table.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):


Chicken Arugula with Buttermilk Dressing. From I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette

What is your favorite food?


What do you always have in your fridge?

Feta, carrots, eggs, prosciutto.

What do you cook at home?

Roast chicken with gravy and rice.

What marked characteristic do you despise in your customer?

Everyone is different. I rarely despise anyone.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?

Adventurous eating.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?


I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette

Beer, wine or cocktail?


Your favorite cookbook author?

Paula Wolfert.

Your favorite kitchen tool?

A bench scraper.

Your favorite ingredient?


Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?

Dishes, just like everyone else.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?

Middle Eastern.

Chef you most admire?

Mike Solomonov.

Food you like the most?

Middle Eastern.

Food you dislike the most?


How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?

Six. One radish is the only culinary one.

Early Egg in The Hole. From I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette

Recipe: Butter lettuce salad with feta, radish, and dill pickle vinaigrette

Clean the lettuce. Dry and set aside.

In a blender, puree 1/2 a dill pickle and then add two tablespoons of cider vinegar and 1/3 cup of olive oil. Season with salt. Crumble some feta and slice some radishes, and then add those to the lettuces, lightly torn up to the size of your mouth. Dress to your taste. Toss well. Eat.

The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite: Spring Arugula Pesto with Spaghetti and Crisped Prosciutto (adapted from Hugh Acheson’s “The Broad Fork”)

I wish life were as easy as a recipe. Someone writes out the ingredients, measurements and methodology for creating the dish and I just follow it. I don’t think. My mind shuts off. I chop this, stir that and in the end, I have something delicious like a happy life.

I’ve never been a follower and I don’t mean that in a complimentary way. There is something infinitely courageous about the common worker. The individual who knows that they want security, a home and safe place. None of which I knew about when I ventured out in the world. There is no recipe for living.

That’s what I love about cooking. It makes me follow simple directions. I stop thinking and follow a direct path. I don’t drink like I used to when cooking. I found that I burned things. Besides, drinking and cooking, in my humble opinion, don’t really mix. At the table, when it’s all plated and everyone is seated, I feel that the libations are great for social lubricating; yet when cooking, I need my unbridled consciousness. I need to see the freshness. Taste the seasons. Hear the sizzling. Smell the aroma. Feel the food as it snaps. It is a sensuous experience. For me, cooking is in the moment, not on the periphery.

It’s why I seek out simple dishes to recreate with few but quality ingredients located at my markets. For just an unfettered moment, I can take my favorite lettuce, arugula, and turn it into a lusty, verdant sauce. Its peppery essence is intoxicating when pureed with olive oil, biting garlic and salty Reggiano.  Dressed over room-temperature or leftover chilled pasta, a little more grated cheese and toasted pine nuts. It’s a perfect for meal for an outdoor supper when the heat of the day has been turned down and the fervent emotions ready to be shut off.

I can chew my noodles with abandon, sip rosé and wish that life were as easy as a recipe (especially Acheson’s Arugula Pesto).

Arugula Pesto, adapted from Hugh Acheson’s “The Broad Fork”. (June 2015 Cookbook)

Spaghetti with Arugula, Pesto, Crisped Prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve 4.

Sea salt

¼ cup of pine nuts (or walnuts…I did say adapted)

4 cups arugula (preferably from the farmers market or CSA. It has a lot more pepper in the bite. However if you can only get stuff in plastic…nothing wrong with it. It’s good to eat your vegetables from any source.)

2 garlic cloves

1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Couple turns of fresh cracked pepper

3 ice cubes

¾ cup of olive oil

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 pound spaghetti

2 pieces of prosciutto (or salami. Acheson’s recipes calls for the salami. I didn’t have any and I wasn’t about to go out to market for the umpteenth time, so I used the ham. Shoot me.)

  1. In a large stockpot bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Salt the water enough so you can taste it.
  2. Toast nuts in a skillet until lightly browned. Take two-thirds (eyeball it) for the pesto, the rest for garnishing. Place on the side for cooling.
  3. In a food processor or blender, combine the arugula, the two-thirds pine nuts, garlic, grated cheese, 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper and the ice cubes. Puree on high for 30 seconds. Using the chute, with the motor running and the olive oil in a slow drizzle. Scrape everything down the sides until all the leaves are in the pesto, creating a smooth sauce. Stir in the lemon zest and put aside.
  4. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water, stir immediately and then cook to al dente. (If you made your own pasta…Good for you. Use that.) Drain into a colander and chill down with cold water. Turn into a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir. Add the pesto until coating all the pasta evenly.
  5. While the pasta cooks, add a little olive oil to a pan and crisp up the prosciutto, like bacon. Drain on a paper towel.
  6. Shave some of the cheese, chopped arugula, prosciutto and pine nuts to the top and serve-up family-style. (Or divide into 4 bowls.) (Lately, I’m really into family-style serving and letting people help themselves.)

Arugla Pesto