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George Bumbaris had always worked with his hands. He knew he could be an architect, or fix cars, or build houses — he could choose any number of careers. But George liked to eat and thought about how the combination of his Greek heritage and Czech upbringing had led him to love food.

Sarah Stegner was a talented classical guitarist. One day as she was practicing, she thought to herself: Do I want to spend my life practicing 12 hours a day, every day before my concerts? Or would I rather spend 12 hours a day, maybe more, every day, making yummy food?

Opening their own restaurant

Luckily for those of us who have been to Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook, both of them chose food. As it happened, Sarah and George each also chose the same cooking school on the North Shore, though George attended a year before Sarah. Both of them were hired by the Ritz-Carlton Chicago Hotel. Both thought they would be at the Ritz for a few years, but their stays turned into decades as they brought fame and awards to the Ritz-Carlton dining room.

As they worked together and learned to trust each other’s taste and creativity, the idea of opening their own restaurant began to germinate. It grew and eventually turned into the Prairie Grass Cafe. Their decades of experience at the Ritz had reinforced lessons each learned from their own families.

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George went to Greece in the summers to visit relatives. There, he saw that plentiful, freshly caught seafood dominated the menus. Sarah’s mother and grandmother were both great cooks and they taught her to use vegetables that were in season, preferably grown locally so they would be as fresh as possible. It was time to take that major leap, save money, raise support, design a restaurant, and hire their own staff. Prairie Grass Cafe was born.

A spectacular summer dish

Sarah and George taught me how to make a dinner that’s true to their best collaboration: wild striped bass and seasonal root vegetables. Sarah is so passionate about supporting local farmers that she helped put together the group of chefs who started Chicago’s Green City Market.

George shows us the very fast, perfect way to cook fish, while Sarah whips up roasted carrots, celery root, beets and parsnips. I’ve never cooked parsnips so I asked Sarah what to do when you’re faced with a vegetable you’ve never cooked or tasted before. You can find out what she and George taught me, and their yummy recipes on The Chicago Sun-Times website.

 

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Download and print the recipe for Sarah & Georges’ Striped Bass & Roasted Vegetable recipes here.

Wild Striped Bass

Ingredients

4 5-6 ounce portions of wild bass
Sea salt
Ground white pepper
2 tbsps. olive oil

Directions:

Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat until enough for browning fish.
Carefully place fish in pan, brown on both sides. Depending on the thickness of the fish it should take 5-8 minutes to cook.

Roasted Garlic Cider Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

1 head roasted garlic
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. local honey
Sea salt, pinch
2 tbsps. olive oil

Directions:

Wrap garlic head in aluminum foil with olive oil and salt. Roast in oven at 375 degree for 35 minutes.
Squeeze the roasted garlic into a bowl removing any skin. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together with a whisk. Set aside.

Roasted root vegetables. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Roasted root vegetables. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients:

1/2 cup carrots, celery root, beets, parsnips, peel and cut into large dices
Sea salt, pinch
Black pepper, freshly ground
2 tbsps. olive oil
Pecans, toasted
Petite greens, garnish

Directions:

Toss all the ingredients in a bowl. Spread on a single layer baking sheet, cook in the oven at 400 degrees until tender approximately 25-30 minutes. Stir occasionally, allowing to brown.
Arrange vegetables on a plate. Place fish atop vegetables.

Garnish

Ingredients:

Pecans, toasted
Petite greens

Directions:

Toast fresh pecans on baking sheet in oven at 375 degrees until lightly browned.
Sprinkle toasted pecans over plated veggies and fish. Add petite greens as a garnish. Pour a generous amount of vinaigrette over completed dish.

Chefs’ note: We recommend the petite greens and the pecans from Three Sister Garden at Green City Market. Many of the root vegetables can be found at GCM as well. The honey used is from Ellis Farm. Enjoy!

Wild Striped Bass and Roasted Root Vegetables. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Wild Striped Bass and Roasted Root Vegetables. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Watch more “Food We Love” episodes

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