Last Gasp of Summer Dinner

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It is late October and although fall is by far my favorite season, I have grown to appreciate summer – mostly because of the abundance of delicious produce.  I love the light and flavorful meals we have in the summertime that require no or almost no cooking.  I love eating a bunch of different bites of things rather than one big bunch of the same while chatting over a crisp bottle of white wine.  I am ready to embrace the roasts and stews of fall, but first I needed to have one last meal before saying good bye.

Roasted Tomatoes – last week we got a bunch of tomatoes in our CSA share.  I couldn’t believe they were still so juicy and sweet this late in the year.  We got more this week.  What a difference a week makes – these didn’t have much juice or flavor.  Rather than throw them away or salt them to death I decided to slow roast them in the oven.  The slow cooking concentrates the flavor, so it is a great way to use those out of season tomatoes that are less than stellar.  Cut them in half (even if they are big, they shrink a lot), lay them seed side up, put a little salt and oil.  Place them in oven on 250 and give it about 2 and a half hours to cook.  (Adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook “My Father’s Daughter).  They should be caramelized along the edges.  You can store them in the fridge for at least a week and use them for salads, sandwiches, or a base for tomato soup.

Olives: Spicy mix from Whole Foods.

Crostini: About once a week I get a fresh baguette from the local bakery and almost never finish it before it begins to dry out.  Rather than throwing it out or making bread crumbs yet again, I started cutting the remaining baguette into crostini shapes or bread crumbs.  I throw them in a freezer safe bag and it is ready to go in a pinch.  My favorite way to make crostini is place the frozen bread on a pan, heat oven to 375 degrees, top with some olive oil and a pinch of salt and bake about 10 minutes or until golden. When they are hot out of the oven, use the other half of the garlic clove from the dressing and rub across the hot bread.  You can top with anything you want or use as a vehicle for cheese or other anything else you are serving.

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Cheese: My neighborhood needs a good cheese monger.  The big grocery stores have pretty great cheese sections (Whole Foods, Zabar’s (especially) and Fairway), but I want a Murray’s Cheese shop in my hood.  These two I bought at Whole Foods: a local sheep’s milk camembert named Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert and a hard cheese from the Pyrenees.

Grapes: These grapes are so delicious it is ridiculous.  The smell emanating from them is like what came from that grape bubblicious gum you chewed as a kid, but pure and natural.  The texture is amazing too.  When you bite into it the inside of the grape separates from the skin and you are left with this velvety sweet orb.  The truth is, these grapes inspired this whole meal.
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Salad: Beautiful greens from the CSA need basically no adornment.  I made my basic vinaigrette that goes as follows (1/4 cup your favorite vinegar – balsamic, champagne, red wine, etc.. – 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard, 1/2 clove garlic minced, smidge of honey, salt and pepper, and 1/2 cup olive oil).  Whisk all ingredients minus the oil in the bottom of a large serving bowl.  After combining first six ingredients, whisk in olive oil slowly until emulsified.  After washing and drying greens, place them on top. Just before serving mix it all together (waiting to mix until serving avoids that wilting lettuce thing I cannot stand).  Grate some parmesan on top.  Simple and delicious.

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Champagne: A fancy bottle given to us when my daughter was born.  She turns 1 on Tuesday.  Time to crack her open and celebrate her health, our family, and the end of sleep deprivation.  Cheers!

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