The counters are spilling over with ripe figs, bright red and amber tomatoes, delicate haricots verts, deep purple eggplant, and piles of fresh herbs. “October in Southern California is like summer everywhere else,” says Suzanne Goin.
Goin, winner of two James Beard awards—for best cookbook and best California chef—happily cooks on her days off. “It’s actually cathartic,” she says, tying on a slate gray apron, with the pitter-patter of children’s feet in the background. “I get to enjoy the ‘hanging out’ part of cooking—people in the kitchen, talking and sipping wine around me.”
With her business partner, she has four thriving restaurants in L.A.: Lucques, Tavern, the Larder at Maple Drive, and A.O.C., and she’s channeling the latter restaurant as she makes this menu. “It’s California cooking with a Mediterranean influence, and it’s all about communal eating, with shared plates, which is, to me, the best way to eat.”
Her food is fresh and sophisticated, yet doable for us home cooks. She follows simple tenets: “Produce that’s at its peak should be the heart of the meal,” she says. “And I always have an anchor dish that inspires the rest of the menu.”
Each of Goin’s recipes is like a little cooking class, full of interesting techniques that bring out the best in the beautiful ingredients she has chosen. Follow her lead and you’ll enjoy an afternoon of seeing into the mind of a great chef—how she combines flavors, thinks about textures, and creates the look of a dish. By the time you sit down to this wonderful dinner, you’ll be a better cook.