taste: late-summer meals

I love September: the second chance in the year at new year’s resolutions, freshly sharpened pencils, and good intentions. Blowing out the cobwebs of a relentless, sweaty August feels good – but at the same time, the end of summer is bittersweet. So, I thought I’d round up some late-summer meals, born out of that panicky sense that, if I don’t eat corn and tomatoes and summer squash nownownow I won’t get them again for a whole year!!

Caprese salad

First up: a dead simple Caprese salad with homegrown* heirloom tomatoes, soft mozzarella, basil and some salty prosciutto torn over it. I would eat this all summer long if I could, in some incarnation – with or without prosciutto or other cured meat; with or without avocado; in a sandwich; on a bed of greens; dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. It makes such a nice change to be able to ‘arrange’ dinner, rather than cook it.

(*incidentally, not grown in my home – this was the bounty of housesitting for the wonderful green-fingered Lisa of UrbanEGardener)

I also ‘arranged’ this salad – figs and more prosciutto, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a little New York rooftop honey:

Figs and pig

Requiring a little more preparation was this warm summer squash and feta salad. When I say ‘a little more’, I mean a trip to the Union Square greenmarket rather than just leaning out of the window to pick tomatoes. But since everything I bought was at the height of its season, I think I paid $4 for the corn, squash and lettuce. Said squash:

Patty pans and dip-dyed summer squash

The first step was to steam two corn cobs. Strip them of their paper jackets and silky underthings, and chop each one in two, set them in a metal steamer insert in a medium pan, and simply let them steam while everything else cooks. Chop the squash like so:

Diced squash

and sautée with three chopped cloves of garlic and plenty of olive oil in a large pan with a lid. After five minutes or so, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and a handful of mixed, woody and aromatic herbs – I used rosemary and lemon thyme, although other varieties of thyme, or oregano, would have worked well too. Cover the pan, and while the squash is cooking in all its aromatic juices, wash and tear a small head of lettuce, and toss in a large bowl with some fresh basil, a little more lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Remove the corn cobs from the steamer when they are soft to the point of a knife, and let cool until you can safely slide a knife down to cut off the kernels and corral them into a small dish. Check on the state of the squash – they should be firm but cooked through. Take the lid off the pan to allow some of the liquid to evaporate. When they are done, turn off the heat and stir in the corn so it’s well integrated with all the juices and herbs. Check the seasoning – you may need to add some salt.
Remove the pan from the heat and leave the mixture to cool slightly, then pile it on top of the lettuce and give everything a thorough stir. Chop or crumble 4oz feta into the dish, tear over some more fresh basil, and serve. It’s not the prettiest dish I’ve ever assembled, but it was damn good.

Summer squash salad

Finish with a rooftop gin & tonic, garnished with lemon and herbs.

G&T with lemon and basil

One thought on “taste: late-summer meals

  1. Loved the Caprese salad recipe. David and I ate a similar salad on the rooftop terrace in our holiday apartment in Florence this summer. Our version involves basil and rocket leaves, torn procuitto, buffalo mozzarella and slices of ripe peaches or nectarines all straight from the market. It tastes wonderfully Italian especially drizzled with olive oil and thick sweet balsamico. Try it with a glass of pink Prosecco for the complete experience.

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