September has always been my favorite month. The grimy, relentless sauna that is New York City in August finally lifts and we can almost always count on a solid week (or more) of impossibly sunny low-humidity days that I consider my personal obligation — as happy repentance for all the above griping — to spend entirely outdoors. My best memories are from Septembers; this may sound weird, but I remember going to work on the morning that nobody knew yet would be 9/11 and thinking it was as clear-skied and gorgeous out as a day could ever be. Two years later, I met my husband on that day. Six years and a few days after that, we met our baby boy, and I distinctly remember checking into the hospital on a hot summer day and checking out three days later when it was unquestionably fall, disoriented.
I am never a better citizen of the sidewalks of New York than I am when I have a newborn, or at least the variety we’ve been assigned twice now: those that can only be calmed by long walks in the stroller. And so we stroll, even though it’s unforgivably hot out, even though we rarely get out of the apartment early enough to enjoy those brief parts of the day when there’s an actual shady side of the street to hover on, even though we really don’t need anything else from the Greenmarket or anywhere else, we make up excuses so we have somewhere to go. On the best of days, we see people that we know and the neighborhood feels like something out of Mr. Rogers (although his is notably absent of the guy who yells outside my apartment all day about his superstitions and the clouds of secondhand decriminalized smoke we wade through). We bumped into my son’s old preschool teacher a few weeks ago, someone who likes to cook almost as much as me, and she said she’d recently made a big batch of caponata and had been having it with everything — for breakfast with an egg, in sandwiches for lunch and even with pasta for dinner and I thought that sounded absolutely brilliant. I just needed to learn how to make caponata.
We’ve rented a house at the beach this week, but we haven’t seen it because why would you leave your house if it had a pool like this in the backyard? Between this, and other things the only delight pathetic city people — the giant (charcoal!) grill, a washer and dryer and an entirely separate floor just for bedrooms, meaning that adults can converse at a notch above a whisper after children go to sleep — we have zero regrets. Plus, 7 week-olds, as everyone lies when they say, are so portable! I mean, they physically are, but our sardine-packed car on Friday with everything from a folding bassinet, crib, tub, reams of burp cloths, swaddling blankets and the most sigh-worthy collection of tiny rompers might tell a different story.
I cannot resist a recipe that promises an odd outcome. To wit, prior to stumbling upon this curiosity in the wonderful A Boat, A Whale and a Walrus, an assembly of recipes and stories from restaurants on the other side of the country that I am now extra-sad I haven’t been to (yet! Like maybe in 5 or 18 years or so?), I understood cobblers to be more or less baked fruit topped with a soft cake batter or plush biscuit, while crisps had clusters of oaty and sometimes nutty cookie-like crumbs giving them their namesake texture. [Let us save comparisons with crumbles, grunts, fools, pandowdys, sonkers, bettys, buckles and slabs for another delicious day.] Crisps were not soft; cobblers were not crisp.
The internet might be loaded with a ga-jillion recipes, but finding the great ones can still be a little bit of a needle in a haystack. My favorite way to find new recipes is to ask a random person what their cult favorites are. Bonus points if they claim to hate cooking, because these are the people who are only going to be excited for dishes that work with airtight reliability that are unquestionably worth your time. I have found so many gems this way; Marion Burros’s Purple Plum Torte (which, if you have not made yet, shut this browser tab and get to it, please), Cook Country’s Chicken and Dumplings, Jeremiah Tower’s Raspberry Brown Sugar Gratin, this crazy simple beef braise and Ina Garten’s Lemon Cake. (If you ask me about mine, I might also up this curious tuna salad from the New York Times Magazine, this zucchini and almond saute). In more recent memory, it’s from asking around that I learned a lot people have a very deep fondness for a raw tomato sauce for a 2006 issue of the late Gourmet Magazine.
At the outset of this summer, I had only a few things on my agenda: a baby (check!), a garden (check!, but oof*) and as many frozen desserts that do not require an ice cream maker as possible. And sure, from toasted marshmallow milkshakes to swirled berry yogurt (breakfast) popsicles, saltine crack ice cream sandwiches, strawberry cheesecake ice cream pie and raspberry crushed ice, it’s been a good time. But as summer isn’t over, I’m not done yet either.
Among frozen summer desserts, granitas are a hard sell, not matter how you rename them. A coarse, grainy sorbet, they’re the shaved ice of the Italian food world. Sure, they’re insanely refreshing, require no churning and are probably the kind of thing you ought to be cooling off with on a very hot day, but who’d choose them over hot fudge sundae cakes, toasted marshmallow milkshakes, saltine crack ice cream sandwiches or key lime pie popsicles? Nobody we’re going to be friends with, for sure.