It’s Labor Day weekend, which used to mean the end of summer and the start of school. Labor Day used to mean trudging along sun-baked dusty roads, saying good-bye to summer friends, and getting ready to go home and start school the next day. Shorts and tank top and flip-flops one day, skirt and blouse and ankle socks and shoes the next. But now school has been in session for weeks, and I live in the MidSouth, where summer temperatures seem to go on into November. Well, October at least.
But foods don’t know what our calendars say the schedule should be. They grow and ripen according to weather and their own internal ripening calendars. Today at the market, the summer squash and tomatoes and cucumbers and peaches and melons are still there, spilling across tables and filling crates and truck beds with the heady fragrance of summer. But mixing in are figs and apples, pears and grapes, the late summer & early fall foods. And an unprecedented, unusual, and remarkably pleasant cool spell (dear diary: In Memphis, in August, the highs have been in the low 80’s and lows in the 60’s) brought lettuces and cooler weather crops for an early reappearance.
I have a delicious-sounding tomato recipe from The Splendid Table to try: heirloom tomatoes, a little onion, basil, rosemary, sauteed in olive oil and smashed just until thickened like a demi-glace sauce and then tossed with pasta. Still full of fresh concentrated flavor.
And those beautiful multi-colored peppers are crying out to be part of Greek salad with tomatoes & cucumbers & olives & feta cheese.
And I love that the tender new lettuces are back. Once I discovered bacon, lettuce and tomato salads last year, I wait anxiously for the heirloom tomatoes & lettuces to be seasonal at the same time – I think there was a week or two earlier in the summer as tomatoes were justcoming in and lettuces were not quite bolting that I had a few salad days. A splash of olive oil over it all is the healthier version…but a little mayonnaise on the side for dipping is also excellent.
So the summer bounty is still here, although the varieties and flavors are shifting as the season moves on. I still have too many tomatoes waiting for me on my counter, but know that too soon they will be gone until next July, so will savor them several times a day. I have frozen some cucumber slices and small cantaloupe slices (when I’ve bought more than I can finish) for flavoring water later on.