Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fresh Local Produce, Barbecued Chicken, and a Torte

September 2, 2013

Sweet and Tangy Barbecued Chicken
Homemade Sandwich Bread
Fresh Sweet Corn
Fresh Fruit Salad
Chocolate Raspberry Torte

Sweet and Tangy Barbecued Chicken from Cook's Illustrated
Classic Sandwich Bread from King Arthur Flour
Chocolate-Raspberry Torte from Cook's Illustrated

There is a wonderful variety of local fruit and vegetables available in San Jose at this time of year. From my favorite orchard stand we had plums, peaches, and nectarines. A short drive let us pick our own beautiful strawberries and raspberries (most of which Diane turned into jam) and purchase some fresh apples. An even shorter drive provided local sweet corn. With all of this fresh local produce and a recently published recipe for barbecued chicken, a late summertime menu featuring fresh local ingredients came together easily.

Many things can go wrong when grilling chicken. Everyone has probably had dry tough overcooked chicken, chicken that was raw at the bone, chicken burnt from flare ups, chicken with a burnt sauce, and chicken with little flavor. Happily this chicken had none of these problems. It was tender, both the white meat and the dark were moist and juicy.  We did not love the sauce, which was sweet and tangy, as advertised, but it was a little too spicy for us. It improved with time, though, and we enjoyed it more as a leftover as the passage of time tempered the heat.

The fruit salad demonstrated the great variety of fresh local fruit available this time of year: peach, plum, nectarine, Valencia orange, gravenstein apple, strawberry, and raspberry. It was a very good salad though the tart raspberries with their strong flavor tended to overwhelm the other fruits.

I haven't made sandwich bread in a long time, usually I make a more rustic bread with a crisp crust and chewy crumb. Sandwich bread is richer with a tender crust and crumb. It hold up better (the crust on the more rustic bread softens when stored), makes good toast and sandwiches, and is way better than store bought sandwich bread. I was inspired, too, by the bread we had recently with dinner at Sonora Cookhouse. Not having a go-to recipe for sandwich bread I selected the most popular recipe on the King Arthur Flour web site. I didn't use all-purpose King Arthur Flour as the recipe calls for. Instead I used another brand and chose bread flour rather than all-purpose. It worked well: the bread rose nicely, browned evenly, and has a tender flavorful crumb. And it is easy to make.

Having fresh raspberries, I made the chocolate-raspberry torte that has been on my wish list for dessert for some time. It was pretty easy to make this elegant-looking cake with assembling and decorating being the most challenged aspects of the process as I have little experience. The recipe included instructions for using cardboard cake rounds to help manipulate the cake. Not having these, my cake didn't come out as pretty as it could have: one of the layers broke and the icing and almonds on the side all collected around the bottom of the cake. Nonetheless it looked good and tasted good but next time I'll invest in some cake rounds; they don't cost much and would make the assembly easier.

As summer wanes the availability of local stone fruits, berries, and sweet corn will diminish. But already local apples are becoming available as the Fall season brings with it its own delights for the dinner table.

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