The sound of rain woke me from my slumber this Labor Day morning, and as I had my breakfast on the porch to the soothing sound of rain, my thoughts turned to the garden. The showers of last evening and this morning will help nurture the garden throughout late summer and early fall, providing us with many more weeks of a bountiful harvest.
The Labor Day weekend has traditionally been thought of as the last of the summer season. But I believe that here in Pennsylvania and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region that the beginning of fall does not begin for a few more weeks. In fact, I consider the month of September a period of late summer with the gardens and markets continuing to offer up the quintessential garden treats that one associates with summertime itself. Tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, and peppers are abundant. And although not falling out of every farm stand and roadside wagon, sweet corn will be available throughout the next few weeks as well if one takes the time to search it out.
We humans like to define and relegate our lives within strict schedules and agendas. Although this approach supports our busy lives and careers, it is not the perspective of the natural world. Nature, on the other hand, has a more casual approach to the rhythmic and seasonal passage of time. And if one can integrate their modern lives into this natural progression, I would expect one will find a certain fulfillment and enhanced level of peace within this journey we call life. A simple life well lived is based on this rhythmic passage of time. So, I would suggest not to rush it, but to enjoy what the late summer season has to offer.
Below you will find two great recipes to help you enjoy the late summer seasonal bounty. The first is a very French-style Rustic Gratin that will allow you to enjoy the full seasonal flavors of summer and fall. Also, a Summer Corn and Tomato Salad, adapted from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, features sweet corn and sun-ripened tomatoes dressed with a simple vinaigrette that allows the true flavor of these simple garden ingredients to shine.
I hope you enjoy both, and let me know which is your favorite. I hope that you and yours will join me as I savor these last few weeks of summer, the warm days and cool nights, and the best of summer flavors as we look forward to the cool days of fall and the upcoming holidays that define the year’s end.
Rustic Vegetable Gratin
This recipe is one that outlines a simple process and allows for flexibility within the context of ingredients. Please feel free to use any or all the following suggested ingredients that you may have on hand, although I believe fresh tomatoes and onions are a must.
Onions (White, Yellow, or Red)
Garlic (Rustic Chopped)
Fresh Seasonal Herbs (Parsley and Basil are particularly good)
A Good Quality Cheese or Two
Salt and Black Pepper
Slice all vegetable approximately a quarter inch in thickness.
Butter a baking dish and, starting with onions, alternate layers of vegetables with layers of cheese, and remember to season each layer with salt, pepper, garlic, and herbs. Finish with a thick layer of cheese.
Bake covered in a 350-degree oven until a knife will easily slide through the layers, and then uncover and continue to bake until the top is golden brown and the gratin is bubbling.
Allow to rest for approximately 20 minutes before serving.
This gratin, served with good wine and perhaps some fresh seasonal fruits, makes the perfect summer meal.
Corn and Tomato Salad
6 Shucked Ears of Sweet Corn
¾ Cup Small Dice Red Onion
1 Cup Cherry Tomato’s Halves
¾ Cup Chiffonade (Thinly Sliced) Fresh Basil
½ Cup Cider Vinegar
½ Cup Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Black Peppers
Cook the corn until tender. Cool, and cut the kernels from the cob.
Toss the corn, tomatoes, onions, and basil.
Wisk the dressing ingredients together, and dress the salad 15 minutes prior to serving.