Labor Day has come and gone, and heavy rains have soaked us to the bone, but summer isn't technically over. I don't like to use Labor Day as an “unofficial end of summer” like so many do — I will wait until it really ends on Sept. 21, thank you very much.
Those of you who have gardens know that most veggies will continue to produce until the first frost, if you let them, which is great news for people who rely on canning to save their garden overflow, and great news for cooks who are dreading the moment it's time to go back to grocery store tomatoes.
My garden has been prolific and I've been working all summer trying to develop recipes that embrace sun-ripened vegetables so nothing goes bad and nobody gets bored. It's finally cool enough to go back in the kitchen, but I'm not going to spend half a day standing by the stove just yet. I have a lot of weeding to do.
Over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I came up with an easy dinner or lunch combo that's perfect for this time of year: An heirloom tomato flatbread paired with a kale and zucchini puree. It's got that bright, summer taste; the tomatoes are sweetened as they are baked in the oven, and even as you control excess moisture, they remain juicy and velvety, with a perfect salty crunch from the flatbread and some melted pecorino romano to complement a summer sweetness you can only get when you've been ripening in the hot sun for two months.
The puree, on the other hand, concentrates the vegetables' light flavor into a warm, creamy, nutritious blend with an autumn vibe. Chicken broth helps bring out the nuttiness of the kale, and zucchini gives this soup a good bulk without butting in too much on flavor.
It's a take on the soup and sandwich combo that's so perfect on a chilly fall day, but it frames vegetables beautifully and keeps summer color in focus.
And it uses a LOT of produce and makes leftovers, or even freeze-aheads. One side of this dish helps you relish a summer quickly ending; the other stirs warm memories of fall soups, which makes you look ahead toward cooler weather with excitement.
You can just make the tomato flatbread and cut it into squares to serve as an appetizer. Or you can make a lot of soup and freeze it for a snowy day when you feel you need the health benefits of kale and a shot of sunshine.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO FLATBREAD
Serves 2-4; Serves 8 as appetizer 1 premade pizza dough, halved (or you can make your own; my recipe at bottom) 2-4 medium size heirloom tomatoes 1/2 - 3/4 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese 4 tablespoons cornmeal Pinch of salt 2 cloves roasted garlic Large cast-iron pan, or pizza stone, or, if you have none of these, large rectangular cookie sheet (we use a monstrous cast-iron pan 17 inches in diameter all the time for pizzas and flatbreads) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Slice tomatoes into 1/2-inch rounds; sprinkle salt on them to draw out moisture. Pat with paper towels.
NOTE: I patted my tomato slices with paper towels a lot. Like five or six paper towels' worth. Heirlooms are so juicy, and the excess moisture, if not controlled, will make a wet, soggy pizza, so tread carefully.
Roll the pizza dough out until it's around 1/4-inch thick; make sure the shape fits your pan. Press 1 tablespoon cornmeal into the dough.
Take pan out of oven and place dough, cornmeal side down, into pan. Sprinkle the rest of the cornmeal into the dough; don't press down. This will also help absorb excess tomato moisture.
Arrange the tomatoes in a circular pattern; try not to overlap too many slices. Spread roasted garlic on top.
Spread cheese over tomatoes. Cook 10-15 minutes, or until crust is slightly brown and cheese is sizzling.
ZUCCHINI AND KALE PUREE
Makes 4-6 servings 1 medium zucchini, roughly chopped 20-30 kale leaves, roughly chopped 1 onion, chopped 3 cloves roasted garlic 2 cups chicken broth 1/4 cup butter 1 teaspoon thyme 1 teaspoon tarragon 1-inch cube Havarti cheese salt and pepper to taste Heat large saucepan to medium high.
Sautee onion and zucchini until onion is translucent. Add garlic and let simmer for 5-7 minutes more.
Add kale and stir thoroughly, then add broth; bring to a boil and let veggies cook in broth for 20 minutes, covered.
Puree with hand mixer or food processor; if using food processor, return to saucepan after it's pureed. Add thyme and tarragon.
Stir in Havarti cheese and keep stirring until it's melted. Serve.
Adapted from Mark Bittman's “How to Cook Everything” standard recipe 1 1/2 cups flour Just under 1 teaspoon yeast Just under 1 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for later Mix together flour, yeast and salt. Add 1/2 cup of water and the olive oil; stir until dough forms, then knead with your hands until you have a slightly sticky dough ball. Add more olive oil if dough is too dry.
Let rise 1-2 hours, covered, in a bowl coated with oil.