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.
We spent the last week in what I call the vacation trifecta: among beaches, wineries and farm stands. The vacation was supposed to be a reward for getting my book finished by August 1st. Instead, I all but tried to cancel the vacation when I realized I wouldn’t be done. Despite all of my practice over the last few months, I’m not very good at not finishing things. I don’t like going to bed with dishes in the sink, I’d rather stay up until midnight getting something done than have to start the morning with an old item on my to-do list and I did not want to go on vacation until I finished my project. Oh no. I did not. I might have even dreaded it.
Back when I started dreaming up a cookbook I would one day write, all I knew is what I didn’t want: I did not want to work every weekday, weekend and evening on it, I did not want to set an insanely close deadline and then have to hastily throw together a book I wasn’t pleased with and above all else I did not want the time I had to devote to this web space to become squeezed, although I understood that there would probably be a harried point right near the end that all three rules could be suspended for a good cause. And indeed, they have been. I hope to deliver my manuscript in August and it’s pretty all-consuming right now — in a good way, because I’m finally starting to see the whole thing coming together. So, if things are a bit slow between now and then, do understand that I cannot wait until late summer when my attentions can be what they were before my son was 4 months old, and instead of doing normal New Mom things like catching up on sleep or rounding up preschool applications (ha!), I decided that at my earliest convenience, I would write a book instead.
I’ve been doing a spectacular amount of hemming and hawing over this post. There’s the, “Is it too late to talk about eggplants and tomatoes?” question, as it is well into October and eggplants are so… late summery. But there are still a ton of eggplants and tomatoes at the markets, likely due to this warm fall we’ve been having. Although they may not be the perky specimen that first appeared in August, they are absolutely perfect for soup. Then there’s the “Ugh, SOUP” issue wherein I have to admit that I find soup kind of dull. Sure, I’ve got a slew of soup recipes in the archives that I find interesting, but still, the vast majority of soups out there to be either too salty, too watery, cream bombs (I’d rather save my heavy cream to top pie, thank you very much) or to taste like limp, boiled vegetables. And finally, there’s the fact that this soup is excellent the way it is but with endless potential for tweaking, and who wants a slightly unfinished recipe? But then, thank goodness, I said this to myself: “Zzzzz!” and also “pbbbblt!” Because if I put myself to sleep with all of this hand-wringing, I can only imagine how few of you will make it past paragraph one.