Saturday, August 29, 2009

End-of-Summer Feast

Before I left L.A., I wanted to have one last meal. A meal that combined all the people I love in the city and all the food exploding out of the farmers' markets right now. An end-of-summer feast, if you will.

So my mom and I menu-planned like crazy and went shopping at three different markets. Here's some of what we came back with:

Let's see... there are raspberries, three small chickens, hearty bread, three types of tomatoes, basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, lemons, champagne vinegar, arugula, zucchini, and yellow summer squash. Did I forget anything?

Ah, yes, the lavender. When we couldn't find any culinary lavender at Gelson's or the farmers' market, we just gave in and bought a whole pot at Trader Joe's. Whatever works.

Our first dish was grilled summer squash drizzled with basil oil and oak-smoked sea salt. It was a pain to cut these in even narrow strips. (One reason I just splurged and got myself a mandoline for my kitchen in Seattle.)

Dish number two was a cold tomato salad. We started with three types of cherry tomatoes, all slightly different sizes.

We cut each tomato in half...

...and mixed with a whole bunch of good stuff. Sweet raw corn, softened shallots, basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper, if I remember correctly.

Our main dish was Zuni roast chicken with its accompanying bread salad. Zuni Cafe is a restaurant in San Francisco whose chicken is renowned around the city. The recipe was published in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook in 2002, and now you can find it easily online with some quick googling. I especially like this version from Smitten Kitchen.

Start with a big hunk of day-old hearty non-sourdough bread, cut into chunks, and cut off most of the crust.

Brush on all sides with olive oil and broil briefly, a few minutes per side, until golden and the edges blacken a bit.

Then cut off the burnt parts, tear in pieces, and add all sorts of yummy stuff. I'll let you read the recipe and do it yourself.

There are three things that make the Zuni chicken recipe different from others: a 24-hour dry salt rub, a small chicken, and a high heat. I won't go into the details (the recipe itself is about three pages long), but suffice to say that these chickens are delicious. Possibly not delicious enough to merit all the extra steps compared to a normal roast chicken, but I'm not sure. I think if I did it a couple times I would get pretty good at it and it wouldn't take more time than normal.

Doesn't that sage leaf look delicious?

We had ten people for dinner, including our family, so we had to sit at the formal dining room. We used placemats instead of a table cloth to keep the feeling more casual.

And here, a finished plate! (This was Rob's late plate; he didn't make it on time for dinner.) Clockwise, we have grilled summer squash, tomato corn salad, bread salad, and roast chicken. A pretty damn good dinner, if I do say so myself.

Next up... two homemade seasonal sorbets for dessert! (Did you notice we haven't used the lavender yet?)


  1. That was a wonderful dinner. And I love the pic of our dining room table--how pretty!

  2. nice pics and mouthwatering food



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