The days have been blue as heaven this week, the sky clear and high domed with an unmistakable shift into autumn in the air. The sun has dropped in its orbit, crossing the sky just a little lower than it did a few weeks ago, just enough to prove that summer has said its farewells. Apples--the small, tart early varieties, Tydeman Reds and Gingergolds--are showing up at the farmers market, next to the piles of peaches and corn, melons and tomatoes. These are the last few weeks to sit in the back gardens of restaurants all around the city, drink rose and wave off the wasps and pigeons. At Sweet Melissa's this afternoon, my mother and I got hustled by a couple of very aggressive birds acting like they owned the joint, ready to shake us down for chilled beet-raspberry soup, a slice of baguette or a stray bit of goat cheese and apple salad.
Sitting at Bellavitae (on Minetta Lane, in the Village) on Saturday night, after listening to open-air bluegrass at the Damrosch Park bandshell, K. and I got a plate of figs and proscuitto--which was just that and nothing more, little slices of fig and a few sheets of sheer proscuitto. Pleasant enough, although the figs weren't yet bursting-sweet enough to make such simple treatment perfect. Unless you know one of the lucky people in Carroll Gardens who still have a fig tree growing in their backyard (planted decades ago by the neighborhood's Southern Italian immigrants), most figs in the market need a little help along. So Sunday night, feeling peckish, the figs in my fridge got run under the broiler until they were jammy within and slightly caramelized without, stuffed with a nubble of goat cheese and a few leaves of fresh thyme from the windowbox, then swaddled in strips of proscuitto. Then they were drizzled with a quickly boiled-down syrup of balsamic vinegar and pomegranate molasses. Voila, Figs and Pigs, Chez PQ. We ate the whole plateful, swiping the plate with our fingers for every streak of thick, fruit-tart syrup, and then wandered off to read the Walt Whitman poetry inscribed around the floating deck down the base of the Brooklyn Promenade and eat basil-leafed, fresh-mozzarella'd pizza at Grimaldi's.
This is the month of the corn moon, of harvest time and reaping what you've sown. B., busy doing manly nautical things to his new boat (mostly involving paint and taking the skin off his thumbs with various toxic chemicals), has been letting his fire escape garden run rampant. So after a lazy lunch at Frankie's (and that's the time to go, late on a weekday afternoon when no one's there)--tomato-and-mozzarella sandwiches on Sullivan St Bakery's irresistably oil-sopped pizza bianca; crunchy skinny green beans with roasted garlic, buttery polenta, thick slices of inexplicably good cold roasted sweet potato--I headed out with three plastic bags and a big pair of scissors. Singing Bill Monroe songs to the plants, I snipped and snipped, cutting foot-long swaths off the basil and mint, stuffing velvety, triangular leaves of catnip into my bag, nipping off spikes of rosemary and rumpled stalks of lemon balm, picking cherry tomatoes and 6 long red peppers off the now-huge plants I'd planted back in June. Then I went to pick up golden peppers, red-leaf lettuce, yellow and red tomatoes, lilac-streaked eggplants and green beans at the Cobble Hill CSA dropoff, to go with even more tomatoes that my mom had picked herself at a farm near her house upstate, the corn I'd bought on Saturday thinking to make corn pudding, the bowl of peaches and plums in the fridge.
So it's been salads with everything, peach cornmeal pancakes topped with poached peach slices, panfuls of habanero-green chile turkey sausage sauteed with red peppers and onions. Tomorrow, I'm going to go get even more tomatoes and make Susie Bright's Best Spaghetti Sauce Ever. I love reading Susie on food, because she makes every recipe she passes along sound like the best thing you'll put in your mouth, ever. Check out her cherry pie recipe in Mommy's Little Girl and see if you don't drop everything to start rolling pie crust and pitting cherries, the book still in one hand. So read her recipe, and then read the rest of her blog, for the well-directed outrage and grief at what's going on down South in Louisiana these days, and many, many links to alternative news sources and insightful commentary.
This Saturday, Lillie's in Red Hook is doing a Katrina fundraiser and donation collection--they'll be barbecuing, playing music, and collecting all kinds of stuff--toiletries, clothing, food, bottled water, baby items, and more. Starts at 10pm. Before you go down to Lillie's, stop in at Freebird, the little second-hand bookstore that's hanging on by a thread over on Columbia Street. 4 - 10pm, readings by Jonathan Ames and others, free food, lotsa cool books to buy.
Music for Figs & Tomatoes
1. Dark as the Night, Blue as the Day (Bill Monroe)
2. Pure (Lightening Seeds)
3. I Hope There's Someone (Antony and the Johnsons, channeling Nina Simone)
4. Acadian One-Step (Joseph Falcon, from Harry Smith's Anthology of American Music)
5. This Little LIght of Mine (Louvin Bros)