Labor Day…the symbolic end to summer. Although the official first day of Fall is September 22nd, You know what is coming, the crisper shorter hours of daylight, school, if you have not started back already, and the end to a much more relaxed state of schedules. The unhurried lazy days of summer are wrapped up on Labor Day weekend as we begin to “get busy” again like the squirrels that begin to scurry around at this time of year, working to stock up on their winter food supply. We, too, begin to scurry around again on a much tighter schedule as the daylight hours shrink on us as we cart kids to school, after-school activities, sports and the likes. Our daughter, who works for a PR firm in New York City, has been lamenting the end of the summer work schedule stating that the office is revving back up again into the frenetic, energetic atmosphere that took a hiatus over the summer.
I am certain that most of you grabbed onto the lest vestige of summer this weekend with cookouts, BBQ’s, and celebrations of all sorts as if we are never to feel this season again. We, in the inland part of the Northeast, got a taste of Fall with the chilly nights where windows were flown open and kept open all day long…one of my favorite times of the year.
But alas, this has just been a tease and the warmer humid air is about to move back in. We grabbed what we could of this delightful time of year this weekend and in doing so, it made me think that we can linger in summer a little bit longer…until the official start of Fall with our menus, if not our schedules. The hearty stews, crock pot dinners and heavier palette of autumn’s cuisine is a bit much when the temperatures are going to be in the 80’s and near 90’s again over the next couple of weeks. Keeping that in mind, we continue to cook with the harvest of the garden which is producing bigger crops of zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplants. Here are some of our favorite recipes to help you hold onto the summer just a wee bit longer…
*use any fresh herbs you have on hand to enhance this simple dish
1 medium eggplant
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (we often used the jarred minced garlic to save time)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium zucchini, sliced thinly in rounds
6 medium ripe tomatoes, sliced in rounds
3-4 sprigs fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary or oregano or all three
1/2 cup grated parmigiana-reggiano cheese
- Cut eggplant in 1″ cubes, sprinkle with salt, and place in a colander. Drain for 30 mins and pat dry.
- Cook onions and garlic in 3 tsp olive oil over medium heat until slightly browned, about 10 mins. Transfer to a medium baking dish (rectangular) or pie plate. In the same skillet, cook eggplant in 2-3 tsp olive oil until tender and slightly browned, about 10 mins. Season with salt and pepper, and stir into onion mixture.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange zucchini and tomatoes in layers over eggplant onion mixture. Top with herbs, drizzle with 2-3 tsps. olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and bake 30-40 mins. Sprinkle with cheese the last couple of minutes and put back in oven just to melt. Serve warm.
Arugula and Baby Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Red Onions and Poppy Seed Dressing
1 small onion
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp salt
3/4 c. white vinegar
2 cups canola oil
2 tsp poppy seed
1. Blend all ingredients in a blender and put into a glass jar if not serving salad right away for salad should be dressed and mixed right before blending. This recipe makes a lot of dressing so I typically only use about half of it for one salad.
1 bag of baby spinach
1 bag of arugula
1 small red onion chopped
1 pint of strawberries washed and then sliced
*You can add goat cheese and pecans or walnuts to the salad
Mix all of the produce ingredients together in a salad bowl and top with half of dressing mixture right before serving and any optional ingredients you choose.
Grilled Salmon with Lemon and Dill
1 Large salmon fillet
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped dill plus fresh dill fronds
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 a large lemon sliced in wedges or rounds
1. Put the fillet on a large sheet of tin foil large enough to wrap around whole piece of fish.
2. Brush fillet with olive oil, approx 2 Tbls olive oil, and add salt and pepper it. Top with a couple of dill fronds.
3. Wrap fillet in tin foil and cook on grill approx 20 mins.
4. While fish is cooking you can do the optional step of making the melted dill butter which can be served with the fish by melting the butter and adding the chopped dill.
5. To serve, unwrap fish and plate it. Top with lemon and serve with dill butter.
Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella with Basil and Balsamic Vinegar
This is a tried and true summer dish for us but is even better when the tomatoes are falling off the vines right now. Simply layer cut, garden fresh tomatoes in between slices of fresh mozzarella (make sure it is the softer fresh variety). Top with sprinkles of balsamic vinegar, torn up basil leaves, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
One of my son’s favorite desserts to make is the following. Unfortunately, they ate it all before I could get a photo of it. One of the down sides of serving it at a dinner whose attendants were primarily teenage boys. I have included the recipe but you will just have to envision it in your mind. Sorry!
Dulce De Leche Ice Cream Pie with Mocha Fudge Sauce
⅓ cup chopped pecans
2 Tbls sugar
2/3 cup vanilla wafer cookie crumbs (from about 32 cookies)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbls (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
SAUCE (The sauce is utterly delicious and decadent but if you do not have the time to make it, you can substitute chocolate fudge for it, not chocolate sauce)
2 Tbls boiling water
1 Tbls instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder
1 cup sugar
2 Tbls unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
2 Tbls (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 pints caramel ice-cream such as dulce de leche
1/2 cup chilled whipping cream
1 Tbls powdered sugar
2 Tbls chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350. Blend pecans and sugar in food processor until pecans are finely ground. Add cookie crumbs and cinnamon and process to combine. Add butter and blend until moist clumps form. Press crust onto bottom and up sides of a 9 inch glass pie dish. Bake until crust is lightly toasted, about 10 mins. Cool completely.
Stir 2 Tbls boiling water and coffee powder in small bowl until powder is dissolved. Whisk sugar and cocoa in heavy medium saucepan. Wisk in 1 cup cream, corn syrup and coffee mixture. Add chocolate and butter. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 4 mins. Cool 30 mins. Stir in 1 tsp vanilla.
TO PUT TOGETHER:
Soften 1 pint ice cream at room temperature for 15 mins. Spread evenly over bottom of crust. Drizzle 3 Tbls of sauce over ice cream. Freeze until sauce sets, about 15 mins.
Meanwhile, soften remaining 1 pint ice cream at room temp, again for 15 mins. Spread evenly over sauce after sauce is set. Sizzle with 3 Tbls sauce. Freeze pie until frozen, at least 4 hours. (Sauce and pie can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate sauce. Keep pie frozen)
Rewarm mocha fudge sauce over low heat, stirring often. Whip 1/2 cup chilled cream, powdered sugar, and remaining 1/2 tsp vanilla in medium bowl until peaks form.
If you want to be fancy and make a pretty pie…
Transfer the whip cream to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe rosettes of cream around edges of pie. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Serve with sauce.
If you want to serve the pie to a slew of teenagers…
Spread the whip cream over the pie, sprinkle with nuts, serve with the mocha sauce and watch it disappear!
May you not rush into Fall too soon and close out the opportunities that the tail end of summer can still bring…even though Labor Day is soon to pass!