When it comes to food, September in the New York area is about as good as it gets. Labor Day has come and gone, but the weather’s still warm and the farmer’s markets are even more abundant than they were before. The tomatoes are bright red and juicy, the peaches and plums are like candy, and the local corn is plump and sweet.
My cooking in September is all about clinging to summer, with just a few nods to the coming fall. With the weather still warm, I turn on the stove as little as possible, and the oven even less. I want food that can be cooked quickly without a fuss, and even better if it lasts a few days, so I can spend more time enjoying the final days of summer.
1. Pasta with Tomatoes, Ricotta, and Fresh Herbs
This is my absolute favorite dish in late summer, when the tomatoes are at their best and the fresh herbs are bright green and fragrant. It does require the stove, but only to boil some pasta. The “sauce” is uncooked–just juicy tomatoes, minced garlic, creamy ricotta cheese, fresh herbs, and good extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy it warm or at room temperature. It’s great for a party or a picnic.
Find the recipe here.
2. Basil Pesto
When I was a kid, pesto was the silver lining that kept my spirits up on the ride home from summer camp, knowing that soon I’d be out in my parents’ garden with a basket and a pair of scissors, getting ready to start the food processor. Today, it remains one of my favorite foods, and there is no better time for it than late-August or September, when the basil is plentiful and the days for growing it are coming to a close. Pesto survives really well in the freezer, so late-summer is a nice time to make big batches and stock up for the next several months. Freeze it divided into small portions. To defrost, combine with some hot pasta water and stir.
Find our family recipe here.
3. Gazpacho Andaluz
When the tomatoes are this good, it’s time to make gazpacho. Don’t think of it as a cold soup. Instead, think of it as what it is: a refreshing tomato and vegetable salad with garlicky vinaigrette, thrown in the food processor so that it can be sipped refreshingly from a glass or eaten with a spoon.
Living in Spain as a high school student, the daily gazpacho was the only dish I was trusted to make, with the idea that even an American kid couldn’t possibly screw up tossing vegetables in a food processor. Still today, making and sipping gazpacho makes me think of those warm summer days in Extremadura, eating great food outdoors on the porch with a view of the mountains.
I still use the same recipe we prepared in Spain years ago. You can find it here.
4. Spicy Summer Squash and Sausage Stew
One thing you can always find in September is abundant zucchini and other summer squashes. I took home one the other day that was so large it could be used to hammer in stakes for a tomato plant. Usually I’m content just to slice these real thin and toss them on the grill, but on the occasional cool day in late-Summer, it’s great to take all those squashes and throw them in a stew with sausage and, of course, some tomatoes. For me, this is a way to greet the arriving cool weather without loosening too much of a grip on summer.
Mike wrote up the recipe, here.
5. Corn and Tomato Salad with Fresh Mozzarella
It would be impossible to talk about late-summer food without featuring corn, which, next to the tomato, is the New York area’s most prized ingredient during this time of year. When it comes to corn, I’m a bit of a purist–I enjoy it simply steamed, eaten right off the cob without any salt, seasoning, or butter. As I see it, all that stuff is helpful only when the corn is less-than-perfect. In high season, when the corn is sweet and beautiful, just picked, pretty much anything just takes it down a notch. Grill it if you wish, I suppose.
When I buy corn, I always grab a few extra ears for good measure–a hedge against one of them turning out to be less than perfect, perhaps, and a recognition that leftover cooked corn can be put to many great uses. One of them is this simple salad that pairs the corn with tomatoes and fresh green beans–two of the season’s other best ingredients–with some creamy fresh mozzarella cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and a gentle hit of red vinegar to cut the sweetness. Goat cheese instead of mozzarella would be fantastic.
Find the recipe here.
We’d love to hear about your favorite September dishes. Leave a comment, or shoot us an email! And enjoy the late-summer harvest.