Recently, I attempted to roughly outline the parameters of the gap between the recipes you see here on this site and what I might have made for dinner last night. In the first category, we’ve got words like aspirational and exceptional or unusual and best in category or just seriously we all need to make this right now. It’s fun, noteworthy stuff. Sure, it’s also our dinner, you know, on the days such exciting things come to pass in my kitchen, but it’s the second category — staples, comforts and easy wins, things that miraculously make all three people around the table happy at the same time — that dominate our table the rest of the time.
Okay, I know that despite everyone being back to school, people actually showing up to the office again, like, to work, again and Labor Day being but a blip in the rearview mirror that summer isn’t really over yet — it’s hot, the days are still relatively long and, no, I will not put my sandals away. But I can’t help it. As soon as the first day of September, one of my favorite months, arrives, my brain becomes fiercely rooted in all things fall. I grab cardigans on the way out the door. I crave soup. I walk right past the peaches at the market so I can get to the new apples instead. And I turn on the oven again to make deep, bubbly, and more filling meals.
A few summers ago, I discovered what I consider to be one of the greatest things that has ever been placed over oiled grill grates on a beachy summer evening, preferably while a glass of rose trickles condensation down your hand: grilled haloumi cheese. Maybe you’re
Greek Cypriot or better versed in the world of grill-able cheeses than me and are nodding silently right now, lucky enough that this is old news. Or maybe you’re confused because I just said grilled cheese and really? There is nothing new about two slices of white bread fried in butter until the gooey orange runs over the crusts and your freak-of-a-toddler won’t touch it. But, of course, this is an entirely different kind, no bread, no butter and absolutely better in summer than any other time.
As promised, I am here to aid you with you midsummer afternoon’s zucchini nightmare, er, bounty. But please, just because I try to help people who weren’t wary enough of friends bearing baskets of zucchini doesn’t mean that I should be mistaken for someone who never lets zucchini expire on her watch. I went away for the weekend and left my last haul to meet a terrible end in my kitchen. Let this gratin be my zucchini repentance.
Lest you think I spend any part of my days doing Important Things — preparing, and totally not at the last second or haphazardly, for my only child’s second birthday, or for his first week of pre-preschool; assembling warm, wholesome meals for his lunch each day; meeting my manuscript deadline; dealing with the shoe bomb that went off in my closet, etc. — it’s only fair and honest that I tell you that I’ve spent a significant portion of the last year considering ways to merge grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup in a single vessel.
One of the things I’ve been fiddling around with last year is the idea of making bruschetta without, you know, bread. I shared a Thanksgiving-inspired version last November, but was itching for a late summer spin on it when I created this. I’m the kind of person who would happily eat appetizers for dinner any day — I’m pretty sure if I had nobody else to feed, I’d have subsisted on nothing but pan con tomate, blistered padrons, pink wine and Gossip Girl season one reruns the entire month of August — but it doesn’t really cut it with a family of three.
Every year at just about this time I renew my obsession with tomato sauce. It’s late August, after all, and just about anyone who has ever gardened or knows people who garden is drowning in tomatoes and I am here, with my virtual bucket, eager to help you out. Don’t be too fooled by my so-called benevolence, however, as it’s really a selfish endeavor; I find spaghetti with tomato sauce to be one of the universe’s perfect meals, so I’m hardly kicking and screaming my way to the kitchen the next time the whim for a new one strikes me.