Am I the only one in shock that it’s already October? When did this happen? It wasn’t until I walked past the Halloween pop-up store on 6th Avenue that it dawned on me – Fall is here. Or is it? The 80 degree weather has me completely thrown; I’m still wearing flip-flops and t-shirts, craving crisp white wines, and generally operating as if it’s summertime. While WholeFoods has their stores decorated with pumpkins and mums for sale, my local CSA is still delivering the bounties of the late summer harvest. The Union Square Green Market is overflowing with the last remnants of warm weather: peaches, corn, summer squash, and fresh herbs. So while catalogs like Pottery Barn have us gearing up for Thanksgiving and the holidays (stab me in the eye, please), mother nature seems to have another plan all together. Inspired by our Indian summer, I recently cooked a refreshingly light meal for our friends Anna and David who were visiting from out-of-town. They were greeted at our door by the best welcome party anyone could ever ask for: our golden retriever, Ellie, and a homemade margarita served in a mason jar.
Boozy (but delicious) Margarita
2 tablespoons simple syrup
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon Cointreau
1/4 cup Tequila
To make the simple syrup, bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil. Once boiling, add 1 cup of sugar and stir. Cook (should only take a minute) until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool. Pour all of the ingredients into a mason jar filled 2/3 with ice. Put on the lid and shake, shake, shake! Garnish with a wedge of lime. Important: you must make eye contact when you cheers, otherwise you’ll be cursed with seven years of bad sex. Not a risk worth taking, my friends. Plus, toasting is a practice of being present with both the people and the sentiment you’re celebrating.
I had a plethora of tomatoes on hand, thanks to my weekly CSA delivery, and so I made homemade salsa fresca with tortilla chips for everyone to snack on while I was getting dinner ready. You don’t want to keep your guests waiting around for supper, starving. This salsa is easy to make and can be prepared in advance.
Tomato and Peach Salsa Fresca
3 large tomatoes, blanched to remove skins
2 large peaches, blanched to remove skins
1/4 cup of red onion, finely chopped
juice from 1/2 lime
fresh cilantro to taste, rough chop
healthy squirt of Sriracha sauce
salt to taste
Prepare an ice bath (a large bowl filled with ice and a smaller bowl nestled inside). Blanch the tomatoes and peaches for a few minutes and then place in the ice bath (to prevent further cooking). Peel off the skins. Chop into a small dice. (Note: I placed the tomatoes and peaches into a strainer to drain some of the excess juice.) Combine all of the ingredients together and taste for seasoning.
Fortunately I had done all of the prep work before they arrived, otherwise I would’ve been seriously impaired by my margarita! I served the shrimp separately (because Billy doesn’t like it when any of his food touches on the plate – don’t get me started) but I think this could also work really well as one big salad.
Roasted Shrimp with Fresh Corn Salad and Basil Garlic Ciabatta
I finally got smart and bought pre-cleaned shrimp. If you have time to do it yourself, it can be like a japa (repetitive) meditation (albeit a sort of gross one). Otherwise, don’t bother. Place the shrimp on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and sea salt. Roast at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until they’re pink and firm to the touch. There’s nothing worse than overcooked shrimp, so keep an eye on them.
Fresh Corn Salad
corn cut off the cob
There’s nothing better than corn cut straight off the cob. Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a boil. Peel and clean the ears – about one per person. Boil corn for 4 minutes (put down your margarita and watch the clock). Immediately remove and allow to cool. Slice the corn off the cob and place in a large bowl.
Cut the tomatoes and avocados (as many as you like) and add to the cooled corn. Squeeze the juice of one lime and drizzle with olive oil. Taste and, if necessary, adjust your acid-to-oil ratio to find the right proportion for you. Season liberally with sea salt and pepper.
Basil Garlic Ciabatta
In a food processor, combine a large handful of fresh basil, 1/3 stick of unsalted butter, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Slice a loaf of ciabatta lengthwise and open like a sandwich. Smear the basil concoction over both halves of the ciabatta and then join the two halves together like a sandwich. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes, or until warmed thru (you can cook the bread at the same time as the shrimp). Cut into 1-inch slices.
Entertaining is fun if you actually have fun! There’s nothing worse than being chained to the stove whilst your friends are off having a good time. This meal is an easy-breezy celebration of the last days of warmer weather and a great way to practice being in the present moment as the seasons slowly change. Enjoy!