It seems like the weather on the first day of September is always cool and crisp. It’s technically still summer, but it’s as if autumn pops its head up to say “Hi! Missed me? I’m coming soon!” A taste of autumn for a day or two, then summer resumes its place for the duration.
Produce-wise, it’s the peak of summer vegetables. Tomatoes, corn, zucchini abound. It’s one of my favorite times of year for eating.
This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays fit right into the “peak of summer” theme. Baked Provençal Vegetables aka Tian was the order of the day. Sautéed onions and garlic for the bed for an arrangement of thinly sliced zucchini (home grown!), eggplant, and tomatoes sprinkled with thyme and handful of Gruyère cheese. The ingredients resemble those ratatouille, but the technique, baking instead of simmering stovetop, makes a tian so much easier to prepare.
I served the meltingly tender vegetables atop leftover spaghetti. It was delicious. What’s not to like? Well, that assumes you’re a fan of zucchini and eggplant, which Howard is not. Obviously, I was solo for dinner the night I made this.
If you’d like the recipe, you’ll find it on page 226 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. This recipe from Saveur is also very similar. You can also find the reviews of my Cook the Book Fridays friends here.
Summer produce is at its peak this week. We have tomatoes coming out of our ears (no complaints). My counter is filled with heirloom tomatoes, other field tomatoes and bowls of cherry tomatoes. I know it’s fleeting so I’m trying to consume my fill of tomatoes while they last.
I’ve been slicing lots of tomatoes for topping toast, sandwiches, bagels, or anything else appropriate. I’ve been making plenty of salads, the favorites being panzanella (with bread) and Caprese (with mozzarella and basil). I pull out recipes for tomato tarts. This tangy Tomato Mustard Tart and this retro biscuity Spicy Tomato Pie are tops on the list. I’ve stashed some containers of tomato sauce in the freezer for winter enjoyment. I’ve also become enamored with the roasted cherry tomatoes we made last month. Before the season’s out, one perfect BLT sandwich is a must.
This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays (yes, I know I’m a little late) is Gazpacho. That fits perfectly with my current tomato mania. Early in the season, I make gazpacho with canned tomatoes, but right now, that would be a crime. I started with a trip to the weekly Farmers’ Market to pick up the vegetables.
David Lebovitz’s Gazpacho recipe from My Paris Kitchen could also be named “Summer in a Bowl”. Fresh tomatoes are peeled and seeded, then pureed with a slice of bread to add some extra body. The tomato puree is combined with finely chopped cucumber, bell pepper, and red onion along with garlic. A small shot of vodka is added to make the soup taste extra-cold, then chilled before serving. I found the cold soup to be delicious, but not that different from other recipes I’ve made. I know it’s traditional to add the bread slice, but I prefer recipes made without it.
The suggested garnish for this gazpacho is herbed goat cheese toast. Toasted baguette slices are rubbed with garlic and covered with a tangy spread made from goat cheese, olive oil and fresh herbs. I used lemon basil which added a lovely citrus undertone. The cheese toasts turned gazpacho into a light meal for me. And when I ran out of baguette slices, the herby goat cheese was equally delicious on crackers. The goat cheese spread counts as another winner from My Paris Kitchen.
Being a bit over-obsessed about using every last drop of ingredients (when time permits), I used this occasion as an excuse to try out this recipe for Tomato Skin Salt. The skins peeled from the blanched tomatoes are sprinkled with their weight in coarse salt, then dehydrated in the oven to create a seasoning that, judging from the aroma in the jar, will extend summer’s flavors beyond the last frost.