Chef’s Day Off

Fresh, bright flavors define what David Turin serves to restaurant guests and to family at home

David Turin and Christy Bomba in the living room of their Cape Elizabeth home. The wall sculpture was made by David, an avid surfer, from an old wooden lobster trap he found smashed on a Maine beach. He has since added shells from surfing trips to Fiji, Costa Rica, and South Africa.

Standing at the island in his Cape Elizabeth kitchen, David Turin deftly slices a ripe avocado into wedges, and does the same with a plump, red tomato, arranging them in a neat circle on a plate. He crumbles feta cheese over the top, adds sliced radishes, sprinkles on fresh basil, cut into slim ribbons—a technique called chiffonade—and finally drizzles extra virgin olive oil over the whole assemblage. The bright, fresh salad is part of a casual, colorful, and healthful meal the well-known chef is preparing for his family on one of his few days off from work at his busy restaurants—David’s Restaurant in Portland’s Monument Square and David’s 388 in South Portland. (He also operates the seasonal, fine-dining David’s Opus Ten, a restaurant-within-a-restaurant at the Monument Square location.)

David, Christy, and her 21-year-old daughter, Ashley, cook a casual, vegetable-focused meal together.

David is riffing on a meal that he, his wife, Christy Bomba, and her daughter, Ashley Bomba, eat regularly: a broad assortment of roasted vegetables sprinkled with his own homemade za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend, and served with some kind of protein. Today, it is fillets of salmon, which Ashley is rolling in the za’atar before they go in the oven to roast. David has also made hummus, a lemon-basil-garlic sesame tahini sauce, and, to accompany the fish, a wild blueberry-sour cherry gastrique. It’s purposeful, yet off-the-cuff kitchen artistry, which is indicative of the chef’s well-honed style. “I find cooking from a recipe at home to be more like work,” he says. When Christy or Ashley prepare dinner for the family, it is usually a vegan meal from the meal-kit service, Purple Carrot. All three are health-conscious and fit, thanks to regular spin classes at Jibe Cycling Studio in Portland and workouts in a home gym in the basement.

David slices radishes for the salad while Ashley rolls salmon fillets in the homemade za’atar.

David and Christy have lived in this light-filled, spacious old house since 2009. They met when Christy was on a lunch date at David’s Restaurant with a man who spent much of the time at the table on his phone. David, who was bussing tables, kept filling her water glass. “And then he sketchily followed me to the bathroom,” jokes Christy, who had recently relocated to Maine after living for a time in Mexico. “She came back one evening with a girlfriend to stalk me and was asking questions of the bartender, who happened to be my son,” David chimes in. Now married for 12 years, they have six children between them, but Ashley, 21, is the only member of their brood now living at home.

The house was in foreclosure when they acquired it, and David did much of the subsequent renovation work on the first floor himself. The comfortable rooms are filled with books, plants, and art objects collected in their frequent travels. An avid surfer, David created a wall sculpture that hangs in the living room out of parts of an old wooden lobster trap that washed up on a Maine beach several years ago. With a few exotic shells tucked into the tangled web of rope, it chronicles his surfing trips to places such as Costa Rica, Fiji, and South Africa.

Christy and David prepare and eat most of their meals at this large island in their kitchen.

“The only room that didn’t need anything done was the kitchen, which was a main reason we bought the house,” David says. Outfitted for serious cooks, the room features a six-burner Viking stove and wall oven, a baking station with a marble top, a large farmhouse sink, and generous expanses of granite countertop. The large island is where the family eats most of their meals together. Behind it, a sitting area with a large sectional couch and a pellet stove invites postprandial lounging. “Our normal dessert routine is eating Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby right out of the container,” says Ashley.

David plates roasted vegetables on a bed of hummus and adds baby kale leaves.

Even after more than 35 years as a culinary professional, the kitchen remains a place of joyful creativity for David, who in addition to running his successful restaurants is also a member of Chef’s Table, a program created by Hannaford to sup-port child nutrition programs (the chefs also include Kerry Altiero of Rockland’s Café Miranda and cookbook author Kathy Gunst, of South Berwick, among others). Deeply entrenched in Maine’s restaurant community and committed to giving back, he mentors high school students who aspire to a culinary career through the national initiative ProStart, contributes to the culinary arts program at Southern Maine Community College, and serves on the board of Hospitality Maine.

While the preparations may be more complex at his restaurants, the dishes David makes at home are intensely flavorful, with sauces and seasonings that enhance, rather than mask, the ingredients. To serve the roasted vegetables, he first spoons a generous swath of hummus onto a platter, piles the vegetables on top, and adds some baby kale leaves before pouring over some of the brilliant green basil-lemon tahini sauce. As a final flourish, he drizzles on a bit of fig vincotto vinegar. Plated alongside the za’atar-coated salmon topped with the wild blueberry gastrique, and the salad, the visual effect on the plate is dazzling, and the combination of flavors and textures is sublime.

For dessert, Ashley has made baked apples, cored and stuffed with a mixture of sour cherries and almonds and sweetened with maple syrup and apple cider. With them, David serves plain Greek yogurt, laced with a little maple syrup and cinnamon. It’s a fitting ending for a nutritious and beautiful meal made with joy and love, by a chef who serves up generous helpings of both, at work and at home.

David’s Za’atar

Makes: 1 cup

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted, preferably half black and half white
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground sumac
4 teaspoons dried marjoram
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Keeps for months in an air-tight container.

Lemon-Basil-Garlic Tahini Sauce

Makes: 1 quart

1 cup hulled white sesame seeds
1 large clove garlic
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½-2 cups ice water
Kosher salt to taste

Toast sesame seeds until lightly golden brown in a dry saute pan. Remove from pan and allow to cool.

Place cool sesame seeds and garlic clove in a blender cup and pulse until seeds look like coarse crumbs.

Add olive oil, basil, and lemon juice and alternate between pulsing the blender and scraping the sides until the mixture starts to look smooth.

Drizzle in the ice water (chips of ice are ok, too) while running the blender. Run until sauce is silky smooth. Add more of less water depending upon the desired consistency.

Add salt to taste.

The sauce lasts a really long time in the refrigerator but is best served at room temperature.

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