This is easily my favorite time of year: walking around outside with not much besides a sweater or a slick jacket is not just possible but a pleasure, and farmers markets are still brimming with the last of the summer produce (well, perhaps now the best of the tomatoes are gone) and the early fall bounty, all but guaranteeing a heady, sensual experience when stepping out from the subway and into Union Square.
Clearly, this will not last forever; soon we’ll be dealing with “snowicanes” and shorter days and heavy coats. So meals during this time of year deserve to reflect the period of transition we’re experiencing: a little bit of summer, a little bit of fall.
For me, this means “make bruschetta with the remaining tomatoes and wait for the first cool day that justifies making a meaty ragu sauce.” There’s one stand in Union Square that we’ve taken a shine to thanks to its gorgeous and delicious produce along with a wide variety of exotic herbs–they carry everything from purple basil to Vietnamese oregano–and when I looked at the lemon basil a few Saturdays ago, I knew that some last-gasp bruschetta was in order (though, let’s be honest: if we go this weekend and see similarly good-looking tomatoes, I’ll probably get those and make this again). It was shockingly easy to sell Michael on the rigatoni ragu (given that it included one of his food nemeses fresh ricotta cheese), but I think a summer based heavily on lighter fare had by then developed a craving for a rich and meaty sauce.
Well, Food + Wine did not disappoint: their October issue, celebrating all things Italian, featured this as one of their new recipes and it was absolutely divine. This is kind of like a deconstructed lasagne, though not quite as cheesy–a welcome compromise for a household where one person loves fresh ricotta while the other is more than happy to forgo it. It also doesn’t hours and hours to make and the utilization of copious amounts of herbs and wine ensures that your kitchen/apartment/hopefully house is perfumed with the scent of this sauce cooking.
So what are you waiting for? Run, don’t walk to F+W’s website and try this recipe! In the meantime, give this bruschetta topping a whirl (assuming you still have access to some awesome tomatoes).
Bruschetta with Tomatoes and Lemon Basil
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
- 1/2 baguette, sliced into rounds
- Zest and juice of one lemon, divided
- 6-8 lemon basil (or regular basil) leaves, chiffonade
- Good “finishing” olive oil (or regular EVOO)
- Kosher salt
- 2-3 garlic cloves, unpeeled but not crushed.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange bread rounds onto a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 6-8 minutes (but keep checking them so they don’t burn). When finished, remove from oven, let cool slightly and then carefully rub each piece with garlic cloves.
In the meantime, combine the tomatoes, basil, lemon zest and juice, a little salt, and olive oil; stir to combine and season with more salt if needed. Spoon topping over bruschetta and garnish with basil flowers if available.