Local Ingredients Are At Their Peak. Come Back to the Kitchen.
September is the best time of year to cook. Local ingredients are at their peak. The temperatures have cooled enough so that it's not punishing to turn on the oven in our small kitchens. Our interests are turning away from summer holidays to the start of the city's new season. And we are happy to cook for friends knowing they, and we, are around on the weekends.
I often think the hardest part of cooking is just trying to figure out what to make. But this has been a first rate Greenmarket summer and the best of the harvest is now. Please go and support our local farmers and get inspired by what they bring us. And don't be afraid to overdose on New Jersey tomatoes. Before you know it, they'll be gone and we'll be lamenting the drab imports.
Starters and Sides
- Fat, red, peppery radishes sliced onto pieces of soft, fresh baguette with unsalted butter. Pass a little dish of sea salt.
- Roasted eggplant spread, served with wedges of toasted pita bread. Combine cubes of peeled eggplant, chunks of red pepper, a red onion, garlic and a little olive oil and roast them all at 400ºF until browned and soft. Season with salt, pepper and cumin and use a food processor to combine.
- A favorite sweet melon with prosciutto. For a change, try a domestic prosciutto; it really tastes different than the Parma prosciutto from acorn-fed Italian pigs. A wonderful one is made with Berkshire pork and it's available at many of our better charcuteries.
- Thick slices of New Jersey tomatoes served with equivalent slices of fresh mozzarella. Offer a drizzle of good olive oil and lots of cracked pepper.
- Gazpacho made from end-of-summer vegetables and served with thin slices of baguette that have been coated with grated Parmesan and baked in the oven until the cheese melts and turns light brown and crusty.
- Baby local potatoes roasted, with the skins left on, until shriveled and tender. Let cool to room temperature, add salt, and toss with local arugula and a light vinaigrette dressing.
- More potatoes: Make your own potato chips with local potatoes from the Greenmarket. Slice paper thin, fry in a deep pot of peanut oil heated to 375º F until golden brown, remove with a metal mesh spider, and sprinkle immediately with sea salt. Partner with your own lemon mayonnaise made in a blender from organic eggs, canola oil, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Serve side-by-side with a favorite cocktail or glass of sparkling wine. I'd be glad to have this ruin my appetite.
- Lemon chickpea salad with baby greens.
- Fall vegetable tempura with crispy tofu.
- Ratatouille. Not the movie but the perfect September dish made with locally grown eggplant, zucchini, onions and tomatoes. Some say cook each element separately and then combine but you may prefer everything mushier. There are many recipes so try one that appeals while all these vegetables are cheap, bountiful and gorgeous. I love this best with lamb.
- Corn and Tomato Gratin made with kernels of fresh corn and slices of fresh tomatoes -- an end-of-summer triumph with a recipe from Gourmet magazine. Serve alongside a simply broiled steak. See the link above for this recipe.
- Roast Leg of Veal served with a favorite full-flavored pasta. See our recipe.
- Pasta with fresh basil pesto. Serve it in the authentic Genovese way, adding a handful of steamed green beans (trimmed but left long) and large diced pieces of steamed potatoes (Yukon Golds are perfect for this) to the pesto-coated pasta.
- Pan Grilled Lamb Chops with harissa, couscous and roasted vegetables. See our recipe.
- Make your own pizza with dough bought at your neighborhood pizza joint (they'll gladly sell you the raw dough for about $1.50 a ball) covered with a slick of olive oil and your favorite topping. Be traditional with tomato and mozzarella or just use your favorite vegetables. Bake on a cookie sheet if you don't have a stone.
- Pan grilled fresh tuna steaks, seared so that the steaks are rare in the center, only 2 minutes a side in a blazing hot grill pan. Serve alongside a trio of individually cooked end-of-summer local vegetables such as barely cooked small zucchini, oven-roasted slices of eggplant, and steamed yellow wax beans sprinkled with a crumble of goat cheese.
- Lamb burgers (pan cooked or broiled) with a Farro Salad with raw vegetables. See our recipe.
- Pasta with raw tomato sauce -- made with this summer's fantastic New Jersey tomatoes. See our recipe.
- A large, oven-baked frittata or omelet made with goat cheese and slices of red, yellow and green peppers. Serve with a salad of greens and wedges of tomatoes.
- Pan grilled sausages served with slightly cooked sweet fresh figs. Slice green or black figs in half and cook until warmed through, cut side down, in a sauté pan with a little melted butter. The sugar in the figs may caramelize, adding a luscious golden surface to the flesh.
- Pan seared local, wild Scallops with Lime and Cilantro Butter and basmati rice pilaf.
- Everyone loves meatloaf so make your favorite recipe -- whether beef, turkey, or vegetarian -- and serve it with ears of end-of-summer steamed corn and lots of butter and salt.
- Risotto with the first fall vegetables like swiss chard and butternut squash.
- Bake a Plum Galette, a rustic tart with pastry wrapped around slices of tender, sweet local plums. See our recipe.
- End-of-summer blueberry pie or Blueberry Crisp. See our recipe.
- A generous slice of bakery or store-bought pound cake with thick pieces of summer fruit that are first tossed with a little sugar to bring out the juices.
- Local late season peaches or chunks of sweet melon sliced into a small bowl over which you pour some chilled tricky-to-find-but-it's-out-there Pineau des Charentes, a rustic and sweet aperitif made from grape must and Cognac. Sherry-Lehmann is one source but check with your favorite wine store. It's usually cheaper than (good) Sauterne and a lovely match to early autumn fruit.
- Chocolate brownies with a generous handful of fresh raspberries and a dusting of confectioners sugar.
- Poached plums, peaches and nectarines served warm, spooned over vanilla ice cream.
- A bowl of local berries with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprinkling of sugar (no, don't use Splenda for this -- we're talking 27 calories and no chemicals).
Aren't you ready to get back in the kitchen?