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Verona Cooks: Ariane Duarte’s Fresh Beet Salad

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Michael and Ariane Duarte

Ariane Duarte’s week is one long Quickfire Challenge.

If you watched the Verona-based chef compete in season 5 of “Top Chef”, you know the drill: An impossible mix of ingredients, limited time and a lot of people to please. In her daily life outside the world of reality television Duarte juggles the cooking at CulinAriane, the acclaimed Montclair restaurant that she runs with her husband Michael; her role as mother to daughters at HBW and VHS; and ongoing commitments to Bravo, the cable television company that produces “Top Chef”. This past week, that meant spending two days in North Carolina with Jennifer Carroll, a season 6 semi-finalist, before heading back to CulinAriane, which is open Wednesday to Saturday from 5:30 to 10 p.m.

The current “Top Chef” tour will also take Duarte to Westfield, New Jersey; Westchester and Michigan over the next few months. But it’s hardly the only thing on her plate: She’s chaired a benefit for St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, serves as a contributing chef for Prevention magazine, writes a blog and tapes video segments for DinnerTool, a menu-planning Web site sponsored by Proctor & Gamble, and tapes segments for spots on the “Today” show. Oh, and cooks for a restaurant that expanded to 55 seats from 30 in early January.

CulinAriane's arugula salad with sliced strawberries
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“If you had told me five years ago that I would be doing all this, I never would have believed it,” says Duarte, during a break in the prep work for a recent dinner service. “This” also includes accepting the recognition that comes with national celebrity. “Mike is the front of the house. I never came out of the kitchen, the regulars didn’t know me,” she says. “Now I come out all the time.” And she talks with them in the same low-key way that she chats with her neighbors in Verona, the town she grew up in, the town she brought her Midwest-born husband to after they graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. “My mom still lives in the house I grew up in,” she notes.

Despite the celebrity, Duarte remains committed to preparing her food, her way. “Oysters, scallops and tuna will never leave the menu,” she says. “My customers look forward to them.” And to cooking with the seasons. “I got spring fever so early this year,” she says, “I’m already calling for soft-shell crabs.”

We got Duarte to part with one of her favorite salad recipes, but there are many more of her recipes on DinnerTool, including a White Bean Chicken Chili for a slow cooker and Chipotle Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese. Enjoy!

Fresh Beet Salad, Goat Cheese, Toasted Hazelnuts With Tangerine Honey Vinaigrette

Beet Salad (Serves 4)

2 large beets, peeled and julienned on a Japanese mandoline

1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and rough chopped

1 cup goat cheese, crumbled

2 teaspoons chives, chopped fine

1/2 cup tangerine vinaigrette

Tangerine Vinaigrette

1 cup white balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons tangerine honey

2 1/2 cups pure olive oil (not extra virgin)

salt and pepper

Combine the beets and hazelnuts in a bowl. Add the honey tangerine vinaigrette and toss until coated. Season with salt and pepper. Plate on a small plate and finish by sprinkling with the crumbled goat cheese and chives.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

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