Skip to main content

American Magazine



Cooking Light

By Adrienne Frank

AU’s catering company since 2000, Bon Appetit buys at least 20 percent of its food from farms within 150 miles of its 400 cafes. Soto, left, with Kerwin, handpicks AU’s produce from seven farms in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. (Photo: Jeff Watts)

Alumna Ann Kerwin and AU’s top chef Mary Soto dish on the recipe for summer: eat local, eat fresh, eat simple.

American magazine challenged Bon Appetit executive chef Soto and fellow foodie Kerwin, CAS/BA ’71, to prepare a trio of light, fresh, and—most importantly—mouthwatering offerings from the Penn Quarter farmers’ market. The pair set out for the market, nestled between the National Archives and the National Portrait Gallery in northwest Washington, on a June afternoon. On the menu: gazpacho, asparagus with sorrel butter, and strawberry and arugula salad.    

“Nothing beats fresh, organic produce,” says Soto, a self-taught culinary wonk, as she chops tomatoes in the bright, airy kitchen of the AU president’s residence. “My philosophy is to keep it simple and let the fruits and vegetables shine.”    

Kerwin, too, likes to keep it simple in the kitchen. She has a collection of crowd-pleasers—including curried pumpkin soup, chicken parmesan, and lasagna—but she’s always looking for new dishes to spice up family dinners with husband, AU president Neil Kerwin; son Alex and fiancée Darcy; son Michael, daughter-in-law Kara, and granddaughter Violet.     

Enjoy this taste of summer, from Bon Appetit and the Kerwins’ kitchen to yours.


A cold, tomato-based Spanish soup that’s perfect for hot summer nights. Serve with tortilla chips and sangria.

Yields 5 1-1/2 cup servings

  • Seed and finely chop 1-cup cucumbers.
  • Chop two dozen tomatoes.
  • Finely chop one medium red onion (about ½ cup) and two bunches of cilantro.
  • Combine ¾ of chopped tomatoes; two garlic cloves, peeled; 2 tbsp. lemon juice; 1 tbsp. olive oil; ½ tsp. coarse salt; and ¼ tsp. pepper in blender. Blend on high speed for 30 seconds.
  • Pour into medium bowl; stir in cucumbers, cilantro, onion, 2 tbsp. diced hot cherry peppers, 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, and remaining tomatoes.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Serve chilled with sprigs of cilantro.

Asparagus with sorrel butter
Bring 1-inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Put 2 bunches of asparagus, tough ends trimmed, in a steamer basket, cover and steam until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drop asparagus into ice water to blanch. Drizzle with 1 tbsp. melted sweet cream butter and 4 tsp. chopped, fresh sorrel; salt and pepper to taste.

Strawberry and arugula salad

This sweet and tangy mix is perfect for hot summer nights.

Yields 4 servings

  • Melt butter and brown sugar; toss ½ cup pecans to coat. Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 for 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a salad bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Assemble 4 cups arugula, 2 cups sliced strawberries, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper, and 1/8 tsp. salt.
  • Drizzle strawberry vinaigrette over the salad and sprinkle with pecans.


Making the most of your farmers’ market:

  • Shop seasonally:Plan meals around what’s currently being harvested in your area.
  • Skip the middle: Shop the market early for the best selection and late for the best discounts.
  • Buy in bulk: Enjoy the best prices—and the best flavors—at the peak of the harvest. Freeze, can, or dry what you can’t use.
  • Plan to be spontaneous: Buy peaches and plums that are in season now, but also take a chance on those gorgeous gooseberries.
  • Ask the pros: New to nettles? Perplexed by pommelos? Ask farmers their favorite ways to prepare produce.
  • Bring green, go green:Don’t forget to bring plenty of small bills and a grocery tote. Buying meat or dairy products? Spring for an insulated bag or cooler.
  • Browse before you buy: Comparison shop. Sometimes larger farms get the prime real estate on the edge of the market and will charge a little more.
  • Know when to negotiate: Haggling for a bunch of basil is poor form. Asking for a modest discount for a large box or a bushel is OK.
  • Don’t just focus on fruit: Fruit is the pricier produce. If you’re on a budget, focus on vegetables, which are generally less expensive.
  • Wait to wash: Unless there’s obvious dirt, wash fruits and vegetables just before cooking or eating.