Autumn is near, and these dwindling summer days makes me want to gather up all the sweet ripe produce possible, before it becomes a distant memory.
With the weather still sunny and fair, many summery offerings are still available. Some, like tomatoes and peppers, are at their peak. The last of the corn is still on its way to the markets. There are melons, berries and figs to savor, wistfully, even as the afternoon light is beginning to change.
The other day, my favorite farm stand had all of those and more. It didn’t take me long to devise a menu for dinner. (I nearly always base dinner on whatever beautiful items the market has to offer.)
In reverse order, here is what we’d end up having: For dessert, a fruit Macedonia. You don’t need a recipe for that; you merely toss ripe fruit — a few kinds, in slices or chunks — with a little sugar or honey and a splash of sweet wine or a squeeze of lime. A certain alchemy transforms the parts into a greater whole.
The main course would be something from the sea (the fishmonger’s stand was steps away). I couldn’t decide between a quick spicy sauté of calamari, or a boneless piece of fish roasted over thyme branches, a nearly effortless technique that produces great results. I flipped a coin. The squid won out.
I wanted corn to begin with, but not on the cob, which we’ve had a lot lately. But the pile of fat ears got me reminiscing. I thought about the funny little corn holders my mother used to pull out for corn-on-the-cob. Made of bright yellow plastic, they were tiny replicas plunged into both ends of the cob to keep one’s fingers unsullied. I hadn’t thought of them in years. Nor of pretending the corn was a typewriter, nibbling away and crying “ding!” at the end of each row.
With these images on my mind, I opted to make a puréed corn soup. A little on the fancy side, it could be made in the afternoon, heated up to serve later — and not at all difficult. The only fussy part is passing the finished soup through a fine-meshed sieve, which doesn’t take much time. It makes a real difference, however, in transforming each spoonful into a velvety experience, well worth the extra effort for an appetizer. But, of course, this soup could also be a wonderful light lunch on its own, served with the usual suspects: a crusty baguette, a green salad, perhaps a bit of cheese.