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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now it's time for some of our own favorite foods and our series Weekend Picnic.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This summer, we're bringing you easy recipes to eat al fresco, using fresh local produce. And today, we go to San Antonio to meet a local chef, Jason Dady. He's cooking up a smoked trout salad and a twangy South Texas gazpacho. Ryan Loyd of Texas Public Radio takes us into his kitchen.

RYAN LOYD, BYLINE: San Antonio is no stranger to triple-digit heat this time of year. That's why Jason Dady likes to keep it cool in the kitchen of his Northern Italian-themed restaurant called Tre Trattoria.

JASON DADY: We're going to do a kind of a soup and salad, a great gazpacho. And then we're going to do a smoked trout salad.

LOYD: The tomatoes and cucumbers are fresh, the veggies are bountiful, and Dady says it's one of the highlights of the year to have fun with light and refreshing food.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHOPPING)

LOYD: For the gazpacho, Dady chops the cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers, and adds some water.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER POURING)

DADY: And that's just going to help me kind of get it started.

LOYD: Now he blends it - a couple of times.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLENDER)

LOYD: With red wine vinegar, pepper for taste, and bread for thickness, Dady summons some tropical flavors for garnish - mango and avocado. It's so smooth a baby could eat it. And Dady's not much on rules.

DADY: And everybody says what, you know, asks the chef, what size, what's the shape? You know it's like, you know, do you want to spend 15 minutes cutting your mango or do you want to spend...

LOYD: ...15 minutes enjoying it?

(SOUNDBITE OF BLACK PEPPER GRINDING)

DADY: And that right there, fantastic, easy, quick, simple.

LOYD: Dady's been in the restaurant biz for 12 years. He started out with his own restaurant at the age of 24.

DADY: I could not convince people that I was actually the chef and the owner of the restaurant. You know, I was fortunate; I got a small business loan and worked my tail off. But I just always remember, you know, no, really, I am; no, I promise; no, seriously, I'm the chef.

LOYD: No one would ever mistake him for the boss now as he maneuvers through his kitchen full of cooks.

DADY: Chef, can you give me a steel pan down real quick?

LOYD: He's opinionated and knows what he likes.

DADY: It's exactly what I want.

LOYD: The smoked trout salad is high on the list of his summer favorites.

DADY: This is one of those wild, crazy things that just comes to you in the middle of the night type of dish, you know?

LOYD: Jason Dady calls for fingerling potatoes - the inspiration for this dish - to make a smoky twist on a classic summer potato salad. But it's all interchangeable and relaxed, both in measurement and ingredient.

DADY: What type of potato do you use? What looks best to you when you go to the market or you go to your, you know, your store and you see something that just looks delicious? That's what this dish is designed to do.

(SOUNDBITE OF MIXING)

LOYD: In a bowl, he's mixing together sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice and a touch of whipping cream to smooth it out.

DADY: When you're the chef, you can take everybody else's mixing bowls. They don't say anything.

LOYD: For the smoked trout, Dady says don't go to the store to buy oak chips.

DADY: I think a lot of people spend, especially here in South Texas, spend, you know, a lot of money going and buying wood chips from the store when they can just go out to their tree and chip off a little bit of bark.

LOYD: Now, with bacon in hand, he's chopping the thick slices down into chunks to fry.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIZZLING)

LOYD: The bacon is southern comfort on a plate. Now, he chops up a fancy lettuce called frisee and flakes the trout on top. Dady's been taking risks since his first restaurant when no one believed in him.

DADY: If people realize that, you know, that they shouldn't be afraid to fail when they're cooking and it's just about having fun and trying different things out.

LOYD: And with dishes like these, Dady says you might sit down, take only one bite, and not stop until you're finished. For NPR News, I'm Ryan Loyd, in San Antonio.

MARTIN: And you can find the recipes for that South Texas gazpacho and smoked trout salad on our website, npr.org.

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