Tag Archives: tomatoes

Feast Your Eyes: Farmers’ Market Dinner

A bustling farmers’ market in late summer might be one of the most beautiful places in the world to me. I’m enthralled by the rows of red, pink, yellow and orange tomatoes, still warm from the sun. The smell of freshly cut herbs, twine bows around their stems, resting in a shady corner. Pink mountains of peaches gradually shrinking as shoppers fill their bags with the aromatic fruit. And crates of sweet corn waiting to be snatched up and grilled, steamed or turned into creamy soup.

The weekends that I’m in town, my Saturday usually begins with a trip to the Arlington Courthouse Farmers’ Market where I challenge myself to put together a meal exclusively from items purchased at the market. Below was last Saturday night’s dinner.

Summer tomatoes, sugar baby watermelon, arugula & feta cheese. Dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Pork & tarragon sausages topped with grilled onions and poblano peppers

Chicken liver pâté served with a warm baguette 

Ok, I cheated a little by serving a pâté that I had made the day before, along with a baguette from Whole Foods. There is a stand selling some pretty damn fantastic bread at the market, (I’m a sucker for their potato bread). However this particular pâté was inspired by Peter Mayle’s Encore Provence, and thus demanded a French baguette be partnered with it. Can’t argue with that logic.

This simple meal took only 10 minutes in the kitchen, and 15 at the grill… who can’t spare that kind of time?

Mr. Sweetums…  looking for a little love and perhaps a taste of the pork sausage 

Chef’s Day Off

I’m afraid that I have a Chinese Tiger Mother living in my head. I strive for perfection. I love lists, schedules, benchmarks and goals. There is very little time for detours or “smelling the roses”. That’s for people with safety nets and back up plans. I have one plan… be wildly successful at everything.

With that in mind, let’s look back at the last year and a half… I jumped off a solid career track to pursue a passion for food. Miraculously, I found myself in one of the top kitchens in the city, worked my butt off, learned a huge amount… and then finally admitted to myself that becoming a chef wasn’t my long term goal and left. No surprise then that on my bad days the Tiger Mama in me lashes out, questioning my life choices and asking what I’ve gained from the decision to detour off the more obvious path. Unfortunately, I haven’t come up with a solid answer quite yet. But this past Sunday I came pretty damn close.

A year and a half ago I sat down to the most nerve-wracking interview of my life with Eric Ziebold (Gasp! I’ve finally given you his real name. I feel like the creators of Sex & the City revealing Mr. Big’s real name for the first time) at CityZen in Washington D.C., but on Sunday I was standing beside Eric (a.k.a. “Chef“) and his fiancé Celia, in the kitchen at my in-laws house sipping wine and making dinner. So, the answer to that question is that over the last year and a half I’ve gained confidence and some pretty wicked friendships.

Had I stayed on the safer career path I might be managing an Asian policy program, or getting ready to graduate with an MBA. But I’d also still be going to restaurants and staring at the cooks in the open kitchen and wondering what could have been. So, I’m glad that I traded the locked and loaded cocktail party drivel of my “very important DC job” for the culinary knowledge and friendships that I’ve since gained. Because honestly, in 30-40 years job titles will be a mere footnote in the story of your life. But a friend who will come over, on his one day off in months, with plates of fried chicken, grilled shrimp, freshly baked focaccia and sangria laden with liquor-soaked blueberries—I think we can all agree—is a rare and wonderful treasure.

Dinner is served

Dill potato salad. Green beans with garlic and toasted almonds. Glazed baby carrots. Guacamole

Fried Chicken 

Grilled focaccia. Shrimp and cherry tomatoes tossed with a yuzu vinaigrette and purple basil

From right: Eric, Celia, Chad & Ben 

Sangria with cherry and apricot brandy macerated fruit