Creating a meal from a bounty of local foods

Chef Carl Schroeder believes simplicity and fresh ingredients are key.

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    Crisp: Carl Schroeder visits Chino Farms in Del Mar, Calif., daily to get the best in-season ingredients.
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    Chilled heirloom tomato and extra virgin olive oil soup includes crushed red petter to add spice.
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From the trained chef to the home cook, preparing meals with fresh, local ingredients over shipped, shrink-wrapped food seems an obvious choice. Shopping locally may have a growing appeal among those wanting to lessen their carbon footprint, but its true attraction lies in simple flavors that sing for themselves.

"The quality of [fresh] ingredients is so good that you don't have to do a lot," says Carl Schroeder, executive chef and owner of Market Restaurant in Del Mar, Calif. "If you've got some great summer squash, sautée it ... with some garlic, olive oil, and season it up ... [with] some fresh chopped herbs, and you are done. That's the beauty of it."

Mr. Schroeder, California's 2005 restaurant chef of the year and this year's San Diego chef of the year, lives this philosophy. Every day he handpicks his ingredients from Chino Farms, a farm stand a short drive from his restaurant. At Market, Schroeder works with his team of talented cooks to conjure up a new menu almost every night.

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Creative simplicity in the kitchen is a panache home cooks can easily emulate, but make sure you start with the best produce.

"Buying a great tomato is so much better than trying to make a bad tomato taste good," says Schroeder. "All it takes is a good salt and a good vinaigrette, and you are ready to roll."

So pay a visit to your local farmers' market and load up. Then play chef with these recipes for chilled vegetable soups – a cool delight for a warm summer evening.

Chilled Corn and Lobster Soup

1/2 cup olive oil

2 Spanish onions, thinly sliced

1 leek, thinly sliced (white only)

1 tablespoon salt

4 cups fresh, raw corn kernels

2 quarts vegetable stock (preferably homemade)

1 bay leaf

1 thyme sprig

For garnish

1 to 2 cups cooked, chilled lobster or crab

Cilantro, chopped

Cherry tomatoes, chopped

Combine olive oil, onions, and leek in a saucepan and cook covered over medium heat, stirring often until onions are translucent, about 15 minutes.

Add salt, corn kernels, vegetable stock, bay leaf, and thyme. Cover, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and allow to cook for 10 minutes, or until corn is tender. Remove from heat. Remove herbs. In a blender, purée in portions at a high speed. Pass through a fine sieve and discard pulp. Taste and add more salt if needed. Adjust consistency with vegetable stock if needed. Cool down quickly by chilling in an ice bath until ready to serve. Divide soup equally among 8 bowls. Garnish each soup with rough chopped cilantro and cherry tomatoes cut in small pieces. Top each with cooked, chilled lobster or crab. Serves 8.

Source: Carl Schroeder/Market Restaurant + Bar

Chilled Avocado and Tomato Soup
2 quarts chilled, good-quality vegetable stock
2 cups roughly chopped, peeled avocados (about 2 medium)
4 cups roughly chopped, peeled cucumbers (about 4 medium)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups halved heirloom cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup finely diced red pepper (for garnishing)
1/2 cup small-diced avocados (for garnishing)
Lemon oil (for seasoning)
Put vegetable stock, avocados, and cucumbers in blender in batches. Pulse until puréed. Run through fine sieve to remove any remaining pulp or seeds. Adjust consistency with vegetable stock. Season to taste. Ladle soup into serving cups. Garnish each soup with cherry tomatoes, diced peppers, diced avocados, and a few drops of oil. Serve cold. Makes 8 servings.
Chilled Heirloom Tomato and Extra Virgin Olive Oil Soup
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
6 finely chopped garlic cloves
2 thinly sliced Spanish onions
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
5 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes
1 fresh basil sprig
1 bay leaf
1 quart good-quality vegetable stock
Mix together 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, garlic, Spanish onions, and red pepper in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add heirloom tomatoes, basil sprig, and bay leaf. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring often, for about 15 minutes. After tomatoes soften, add vegetable stock.

Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, purée with a hand-held stick blender (or in batches in a regular blender). As you purée, slowly add remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Chill. Divide equally into serving bowls and garnish with small chopped cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, if desired. Season to taste. Makes 8 servings.
Source: Carl Schroeder/Market Restaurant + Bar

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