Asparagus season

Fat Delta asparagus with Jersey cow's milk ricotta, pounded hazelnuts and lemon zest at Cooks County restaurant. (Jay Clendenin / Los Angeles Times / May 20, 2013)

Daniel Mattern, chef at Cooks County, where the focus is on fresh local ingredients and great wine, is having visions of soft-shell crab and big fat asparagus.

Mattern is executive chef and partner at the neighborhood restaurant on Beverly Boulevard. The Illinois native attended culinary school in Los Angeles before working with chefs such as Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton at Campanile and Suzanne Goin at Lucques and AOC. He decamped Los Angeles for Clarklewis in Portland, Ore., then returned to helm the kitchen at Ammo.

Now he and his wife, pastry chef Roxana Jullapat, are serving a California menu of dishes at Cooks County, such as avocado toast with bottarga and crème fraîche, roast chicken with fregola sarda and fresh chickpeas, and steamed mussels with green garlic and pickled chiles.

What’s coming next on your menu?

It’s soft-shell crab time. I like to pan-fry them and serve them as a sandwich for lunch with some spicy greens.

Latest ingredient obsession?

All things asparagus. We have been shaving the purple asparagus raw in salads, roasting some for sandwiches, grilling the big fat ones. I try to make the most out of their relatively short season.

What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again?

I go to Marouch all the time. All the mezze is great, really fresh, clean flavors. The sujuk [dry, spicy sausage] is fantastic too!

Favorite kitchen soundtrack?

Miles Davis. The electric fusion stuff from the '70s. It really goes to some far-out places!

What was the last cookbook you read, and what inspired you to pick it up?

"Vegetable Literacy" from Deborah Madison. It explores the relationships of vegetables, herbs and grains within their botanical families. I like to see people make interesting things with veggies. I'm kind of a vegetable geek.

Cooks County, 8009 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 653-8009, CooksCountyRestaurant.com.

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