Is this sacrilege? At the same time I’m buying blackberries in bulk–lay them on a baking sheet, move to the freezer; in a few hours, you’ll have un-clumped berries you can toss into baggies for winter–I am starting to flip through the fall chapters of my favorite cookbooks. Nigel Slater, David Tanis: they are already nudging me towards fall, what with their talk of hunks of pork roasted over beds of thyme, deep apple crisps cooked in earthenware pots, Dutch ovens full of lentils gemmed with sturdy vegetables. I am looking forward to mushrooms in cast iron: cook them in salty butter flecked with parsley, until they’re deep and warm and nutty; twist into strands of pasta bejeweled with crisp-fried nuggets of pancetta, sprinkled with a dusting of some hard, sharp cheese.
But I digress.
We are living in the strange, liminal time where the Fall Season has been trumpeted, and yet: I’m still picking weighty tomatoes off the farmers market pallet, and also melons, and silky husks of corn. I’m still carting home the peaches, the zucchini, the eggplant. Did I miss the figs entirely? (More on that next week.) I’m buying peppers of all sorts by the armful, and cherry and pear tomatoes (why are tiny tomatoes named after other fruit?) Toss those baby tomatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper; roast for 2 hours at 250F, and then for another hour at 200F. The result will be burst-in-your-mouth, crostini-or-pasta-perfect tomatoes. Add garlic, and a spoonful of ricotta.
Maybe as a reaction to this impending thing called Fall, fresh off a week away and missing the market, last week I brought home an unreasonable amount of late summer produce. Then I watched as it withered on the kitchen counter for the better part of five days. I had to move the peaches to the refrigerator, to stop the wan brown spots from spreading too quickly. The corn had dried past the point of enjoyment without adulteration. The peppers became wrinkled as old men in their punnets. What was a girl to do?
Monday was Labor Day, and I had the day off. (Well, technically we all did. But as I work for myself, there isn’t really such a thing as a day off.) Regardless, I had the time and the impetus to wait for these vegetables to soften and become ripe with new promise for a few hours. To the oven! It’s still quite warm in New York, but I’m only asking you to turn it to 275F, for pete’s sake.
What follows is barely a recipe, but it is truly a jack of all trades. A bit sweet, a bit spicy, it’s bombastically colored, and 100% summer. Serve it on: tacos, steak, or simply with tortilla chips. Smear it on toast, with an oozy fried egg on top. Use it as a modified shrimp cocktail dip. It would make a stellar addition to your next grilled cheese. Sauce couscous or pasta. One night for dinner, I made pork sausage burger sliders with this salsa, roasted onions, and diced cucumbers: it was delicious. Or, freeze the salsa for later, for some day in February, when the city feels like a wasteland tundra of never-ending onions and potatoes, and once again you long for the next season to arrive.
Happily, this salsa lasts in the fridge in a sealed container for about a week. Makes about 1 quart.
4 overripe plums
2 overripe peaches
1 punnet sweet baby peppers
2 bell peppers (yellow, orange, or red)
2 large, overripe tomatoes
2 small white onions
1 small head garlic
2 ears corn
1/4 cup olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper
Prep all the vegetables: Wash the plums, peaches, jalapeños, peppers, and tomatoes. Peel the onions, break the garlic head into cloves, shuck the corn.
Now prep further, dumping everything into a large bowl as you go: halve the plums; quarter the peaches; de-stem, seed, and roughly chop the jalapeños; stem and roughly dice all the peppers; chop the tomatoes; roughly dice the onions. Toss the garlic cloves into the bowl, too. (Keep the corn separate for now.)
Heat the oven to 275F.
Pour the olive oil into the bowl, along with a generous quantity of salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix everything together. Adjust the olive oil, salt, and pepper as you see fit.
Spread the contents of the bowl onto a large baking sheet. Use the olive oil left in the bottom of the mixing bowl to coat the corn; add it to the baking sheet, too.
Cook the fruits and vegetables for 2 hours. Then, lower the oven to 215F, and cook for another 30 minutes. Once out of the oven, cut the kernels from the corn. Run everything through the food processor. Enjoy warm, or at room temperature.