A Salad for Indian Summer

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Can you believe its October already?

I can’t.

I’m just not ready to let go of summer yet. I’m not ready to accept the days getting shorter, the weather getting cooler, or the holidays that are just around the corner.

Fall officially fell upon us last weekend, on the same day it does every year: September 21st, the day after my birthday.

I like fall and all. Pumpkins and spice and everything nice. Blah blah blah. But every year, Fall, along with colorful foliage and apple pies, brings feelings of anxiety that before we know it, we will be wallowing in the cold, dull, lifeless month of January. And January makes me want to curl into a ball and hibernate until spring when things start to lighten up and thaw out.

I’M NOT READY FOR JANUARY!!!

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Thankfully, according to my garden, January is still a long ways away. Its been producing tomatoes lately like summer is still in full swing.

If you are a gardener in the northeast, you know what bizarre weather we had this summer. So much rain and unusually mild temperatures made for an unpredictable and difficult gardening season. My tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and other vegetables didn’t seem to really get going until the end of August when we finally dried out. Now, in October, I am finally getting to reap what I’ve sowed.

And I’m not complaining. If having a rainy summer means getting to enjoy tomatoes well into October, then I am ok with that. Sure, a few more beach days would have been nice. But its a trade off.

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The weather this week is forecast to be even nicer than it was a month ago. So to celebrate this epic Indian Summer, I will leave you with one final tomato recipe for the season. And keeping with the theme of my past tomato recipes (like this one and this one), it will also feature the tomato’s best friend: grilled bread rubbed with garlic.

My recipe for grilled vegetable panzanella is a take on the classic Tuscan bread salad. To give it an added layer of flavor, I like to grill the vegetables and bread before tossing them together with the tomatoes, herbs, and vinaigrette.

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How many times have you grilled slices of onion only to lose most of them to the fiery abyss below? Grilled onions are one of lifes simple pleasures, and I don’t want to hear about this happening to you again. Capisce?

Here is the best way to cut an onion for the grill:

First, cut off the stem end of the onion, then slice it in half lengthwise and remove the peel. Next, cut each half into wedges, keeping the root end (the one with the little hairs) intact.   Be sure to include a little bit of the root end in every slice, as it will keep the wedge from falling apart. Toss the wedges in olive oil, salt and pepper, and throw them on the grill. You can use a set of tongs to fan out the layers of the onion so they all get in contact with the grill. Like this:

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Keeping the root end intact will prevent the layers of onion from separating and falling through the grates. The grilled red onions add a nice sweetness to this dish, so you don’t want to lose any of them.

So go pick a few good tomatoes and fire up the grill. This October, there’s no need to rush into winter squash, hearty greens, soups, stews and roasts.

We’ve got all of January for that.

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Grilled Vegetable Panzanella
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 large or 2 smaller red bell peppers, sliced into large pieces
1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch thick wedges (root end intact!)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 loaf rustic Italian bread, sliced lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
3-4 ripe tomatoes cut into large chunks
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 large bunch fresh basil, torn into large pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium high. Toss the zucchini, peppers, and onions with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill until softened and nicely charred on each side. Allow to cool, then chop into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl. Brush the bread liberally with olive oil and grill until nice and charred. Immediately generously rub the hot bread with the cut end of the garlic to release its oils. Slice bread into a large dice and add to the bowl with the vegetables. Add in the olive oil, tomatoes, vinegar, basil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and let sit for a few minutes to allow the bread absorb the juices and the flavors to meld. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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9 thoughts on “A Salad for Indian Summer”

  1. I’m pleasantly reminded of enjoying delicious, grilled veggies on your deck in Shorewood, Frank and Mary Marie. Yum!

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