Labor Day weekend is almost here, and while some may be celebrating because their kids are back in school, I’m celebrating because it’s definitely the best time of year for produce. Tomatoes are hitting their peak, stone fruits are flourishing, and some of those early autumn treats are starting to trickle into stores and farmers markets. One of the things I really miss about living in New York was going down the Union Square Greenmarket during this time of year, because leaving the subway station around 15th street by the NQR line meant that you would be inundated by the heady scent of the best produce the market had to offer as you walked up the stairs, and inevitably you would then be smack in the middle of so many possibilities. It seriously ranks up there on my list of favorite smells along with the Mediterranean Sea.
In honor of the holiday weekend and the bounty of deliciousness at your disposal right now, I’m going to share some of my favorite ways to enjoy the best the season has to offer.
Black Plum Syrup: I found this via Food and Wine’s tumblr as part of a sparkling wine cocktail called the Dark Sparkler and instantly resolved to make it for friends who were coming into the city for dinner last weekend. The syrup was very easy to bring together and the salt and pepper gave it the slightest hint of savory edges while complementing the plums, lemon juice, and sugar. The recipe yields two cups and you only need an ounce of it per cocktail, so I’m planning on using some more of it with crepes this weekend because why not?
Figs with Mountain Honey and Ricotta: a couple of weekends ago now the first of the figs started popping up in Whole Foods, and on impulse I grabbed a box because FRESH FIGS. We used them that night in a pork belly dish that I’d like to make again before sharing here (it’s SO good but I want to get the fig part just right). A few days later I was still feeling a little peckish after dinner so I quartered a few more and tossed them on top of some ricotta cheese and drizzled some thick honey (also from Whole Foods) on top of it as a dessert. It’s a riff on the Catalonian dessert mel i matò, which is something else I want to write about and by putting it out here I’m meaning to hold myself accountable and actually, you know, write about it in the near future.
Charred Herb and Tomato Salad: as part of Michael’s birthday presents this year, I got him Francis Mallman’s Mallmann on Fire, which already has established itself as a new favorite in our kitchen. This salad is a big reason why: you marinate the tomatoes and onions with herbs, salt, and pepper, and then throw it onto a hot griddle or chapa, and let it go until the tomatoes have started to cook. The tomatoes taste fantastic as they marinate, but the heat adds much more complexity. The whole sprigs of herbs gives the dish a very rustic, we-cooked-this-in-the-middle-of-nowhere feel no matter if you cooked it on your backyard grill or on your kitchen stove.
Burnt Tomato and Crisped Herb Salad
adapted from Mallman on Fire
makes four side salads
- 1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes (ideally heirloom), halved
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 12 large basil leaves
- 12 large mint leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a little more for brushing
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the tomatoes with the herbs, oil, salt, and pepper and let marinate for about 20 minutes. Heat a cast iron griddle over medium heat, brush the surface of the griddle with a little olive oil, and then add the tomatoes and herbs to the griddle and cook until the tomatoes are lightly charred on one side. Remove from the pan and serve immediately.