Traditionally your typical middle-class New Yorker would rather have his or her toenails plucked out one by one than be caught in the city over Labor Day weekend. I used to be one of these New Yorkers. But I've gotten over that. I'm in the bohemian class now, in which one dictates one's own weekends and holidays. This year those of us who were not too cool to stick around were rewarded by gorgeous weather: warm, in the low-to-mid 80's, and dry like June in Colorado.
We kicked the weekend off with a dinner party Friday night to welcome our friends Brian and Andrea, visiting from DC. I put together a faux ratatouille, dumping chopped zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers (one yellow, one orange, one red), a fennel bulb, a large eggplant, and several cloves of garlic into a heavy roasting pan. I drizzled olive oil over all, salted, and added a few sprigs my rosemary, thyme, and lavender before plunking right on the grill. I gave the vegetables a stir every few minutes, and it came out perfectly: eggplant soft, but not mushy, and flavors mingling but still distinct.
We also grilled another large fillet of wild Alaskan salmon (fish from the gods) from the coop along with Dave's hamburgers and Shelley's turkey burgers. Lane made gin and tonics.
For dessert I served some Ciao Bella peach habanero sorbet, some lemon ginger cookies, and that jasmine tea gelatin dessert I made a few weeks back. Dave was particularly interested in trying it. He thought the gelatin could have used some sweetening, even though the condensed milk is already very sweet, so I'll have to try it one more times.
The next day we had lunch at De Marco's, a restaurant run by Dominic De Marco's (of Di Fara pizzeria in Brooklyn) kids in the West Village. His nephew, also an Italian native, is the chef. He came out to chat with us a while, and Lane told him we knew his uncle's piazzas well. He was gracious, and his pizza was delectable. We noticed that the crust was particularly cracker-y, but completely white. He told us this was because of the superfine Italian pizza flour he uses. Additionally, unlike most pizza makers (including Dominic), he does not mix his flour with semolina (cornmeal).
Just before we left our host gave Andrea and Brian some of his fragrant 2002 Parmesan, a cheese he says makes him weep with joy every time he unwraps it. Our friends were kind and gave us a sizable chunk of this gift cheese. The three-year-old cheese is sublime, mild and a little tangy. I don't even want to cook with it -- we've just been eating it by itself. Maybe I'll look Parmesan up in my Max McCalman cheese bookto find a good accompaniment.
Sunday Shelley hosted a brunch. She served waffles from the perfect apartment waffle iron. It makes lovely, plate-sized waffles, but it is only as large as it absolutely has to be. It's not one of those countertop-hogging behemoths. I'd made a fruit salad of cantaloupe, strawberries, bananas, figs, and currents, but had cut everything so small it was really more of a compote, which made it a good topping for the waffles, along with whipped cream. I also liked them with the lingonberry (?) jam Shelley had out. She also put out this fantastic runny triple cream (with Wasa crackers), and I had to exert every ounce of my willpower not to embarrass myself by eating the whole thing. It was a fun, chaotic brunch with kids running around and plenty of coffee, bloody marys, and mimosas.
Last night we grilled some big, thick pork chops for dinner. I was in the mood for something chocolate and gooey, we also made s'mores. Since I find marshmallows too sweet I picked out some semisweet chocolate and undersweetened, practically cardboard, graham crackers from the coop. I liked how they turned out, but they weren't sweet enough for Lane. He says if you're going to have the marshmallows you might as well go full hog with the sugar; he prefers the Nabisco graham crackers topped with cinnamon sugar.
We compromised tonight (after another one of our sausage and peach grills) by using some French L'Ecolier cookies. These are tea biscuits covered in dark chocolate with a little impression of a French schoolboy. We sandwiched marshmallows between them and grilled, and they were even better than last night's. We lost the too-wholesome grainy graham and there was extra chocolate. They were an excellent end to our weekend.
And now fall begins. My wonderful summer with Jasper has come to an end, but I'm glad. I had enough summer and am ready for a change. I look forward to crisp air, apples, Halloween, sweaters, an emptier playground, fall colors.