The One-Block Summer Feast

Heard of the 100-mile diet? Try the 1-block diet, and discover how much fun growing and harvesting, cooking and savoring can be.

| June 27, 2011

  • One Block Feast
    Based on “Sunset” magazine’s One-Block Diet blog, this book details how to raise and produce everything you need for completely made-from-scratch meals, starting in the garden and ending on the table. The book includes seasonal garden plans, recipes and several do-it-yourself projects to help you move to a new level of complete food self-sufficiency. 
  • Purslane
    Growing purslane is a breeze, and it makes a unique pair with cucumbers for a tasty summer salad.
  • Sunset Magazine Staff
    A shot of "Sunset" magazine's staff holding several pieces of the summer feast and bounty.

  • One Block Feast
  • Purslane
  • Sunset Magazine Staff

The following is an excerpt from The One-Block Feast: An Adventure in Food From Yard to Table by Margo True and the staff of Sunset magazine (Ten Speed Press, 2011). This inspiring book details the magazine staff’s adventure in creating meals made from ingredients grown, processed and prepared right in the lot of their editorial offices. Complete with seasonal recipes and basic instructions on how they made it happen, each season ends with a multi-course dinner menu using all home-grown ingredients. This excerpt is from “The Story of Our Summer Feast.”  

It all started with the menu. In the Sunset kitchen in mid-May, we cooks dreamed about the end-of-summer dishes we wanted to make: Peppery arugula salads with a rainbow of ripe tomatoes in oranges and yellows, greens and purples, reds and pinks. A platter of avocados and oranges with paper-thin red onions. Sweet corn on the cob, definitely. Ripe figs, because we had spotted a vine growing out back.

With a tentative menu drawn up, we sat down with the garden department and got a reality check. Arugula, a cool-season crop, would wilt in our summer heat. Our fig vine had been pruned so severely the year before that it probably wouldn’t bear much fruit—not enough to plan on, anyway. We had no avocado trees, and even if we bought some young ones, they would take several years to produce.

There were consolations, however. We could grow good tomatoes, though they would be on the small side in our cool climate. Corn would not have the savory depth that it does in the Midwest, but it would be sweet and juicy. ‘Yukon Gold’ potatoes would be no problem. “How about zucchini?” suggested Lauren Swezey, our garden projects editor. “Zucchini does really well here.” Privately, I was crushed—zucchini is just about the most boring summer vegetable I can think of. But then Lauren described a wondrous variety called ‘Trombetta di Albenga’. She took out a seed packet with a picture on it. “It curves like a trombone,” she said. “And it’s sweet and a little crunchy. Completely delicious.” We were sold.

Over the next few days, we settled on a cooking fat (not peanut oil, because peanuts need a southern climate, or corn oil, because three cups would require about sixty pounds of corn, and we wanted to eat our corn). What Sunset did have were twenty-one olive trees, planted all around the property as landscaping back in the 1950s. They were loaded with fruit, and surely it wouldn’t be too hard to figure out how to press it.

For seasoning, we would plant chiles, lemons, and potent summer herbs. And, because we lived close to the Pacific, it seemed worth trying to make some salt from seawater.

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