The Chef's Take: Lentil, Avocado and Kale Salad from Franklin Becker

©DANIEL KRIEGER PHOTOGRAPHY

DANIEL KRIEGER PHOTOGRAPHY

In 1997, Franklin Becker was a 27-year-old chef whose star was on the rise. That same year, he was also diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. The disease not only changed the way he ate, but it also changed the way he cooked. Becker, who was most recently the corporate chef of the EMM Group, overseeing menus for New York City restaurants Abe & Arthurs, CATCH and Lexington Brass, learned to use simple ingredients, to cook with more vegetables and to add flavor to food by using good fats such as olive oil, nuts and avocados."I realized that if certain ingredients were bad for me to eat, they were probably not great for my guests to eat either," Becker says.

At the time Becker began tweaking his own menus, New York was a very center-of-the-plate, protein-driven city. "It was a bit of a departure, but that has changed over the past 10 years." Becker says. "We are now in an era where a lot of people are whole-foods-driven. They are looking at alternative grains like quinoa, amaranth and millet, and they want to eat more vegetables."

Becker's latest concept, The Little Beet, which opened in January, capitalizes on the shift in attitude and appetite. Come lunchtime, the fast-casual spot in Midtown -- which specializes in local, seasonal, gluten-free and veg-heavy eats -- is packed with suits who have traded in their subs and slices for the likes of buckwheat soba noodles, charred kale, roasted sweet potatoes and brown rice.

With The Little Beet, which is on track to hit the $5 million mark for sales this year, Becker and his partners have clearly struck a chord. Three more of the restaurants are slated to open in the coming year, with two more in Manhattan and one on Long Island. Becker's highly-anticipated Little Beet Table, a full-service restaurant based on the same model of seasonal, wholesome, ingredient-driven food, will open in October.

Becker's lentil salad with avocado and kale is The Little Beet's No. 1 best-seller and is also featured in Becker's upcoming cookbook, Good Fat Cooking, co-authored with Peter Kaminsky. Due out in late October, the book is an ode to Becker's whole-food philosophy and to the good fats found in avocado, olive oil and nuts. "Eat more good fats, and you help prevent everything from heart issues to diabetes," Becker says. "This salad delivers all the benefits of good fats -- and it tastes great."

Lentil Salad with Avocado, Oranges and Kale

Serves 4
For the lemon vinaigrette:
2 ounces fresh lemon juice
2 ounces white balsamic vinegar
2 ounces lemon-flavored extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch black pepper
For the salad:
4 ounces cooked lentils
2 tablespoons toasted pecans
1 cup baby kale
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 ounce orange segments
3 tablespoons diced avocado
1 tablespoon minced parsley

Whisk together all of the vinaigrette ingredients.

Toss the lentils, pecans, kale, orange juice and orange segments with the vinaigrette. Garnish with avocado and parsley.

Andrea Strong is a freelance writer whose work often appears in Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She's probably best known as the creator of The Strong Buzz, her food blog about New York City restaurants. She lives in Brooklyn with her two kids, her husband and her big appetite.

Photo by  Daniel Krieger

Portrait courtesy of The Little Beet
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