Summer reared its head one last time this weekend, with temperatures soaring to the low 80s on Saturday. I kicked off my 40th birthday by taking a funder on a tour of community-run farmers’ markets in East New York and Bushwick and ended the night jubilantly dancing with good friends at Franklin Park. (OK, fine, I ended it at a 24-hour diner, but that was technically the day after my birthday.)
By Wednesday, which was the first day in October, temperatures had dropped to the low 60s. There’s a crispness in the air that I will always associate with the first day of school. The woman at my local coffee shop must be feeling the same deeply ingrained nostalgia. “Have fun. Make new friends!” were the words she sent me off with this morning.
The close of my workday found me meeting the same funder for a cup of tea and a lovely apricot and pistachio tart at one of Maison Kayser‘s New York City outposts. I hadn’t had their addictive pain au cereales since my June study trip to Paris, so I grabbed a loaf before departing.
A couple of blocks away I stumbled upon Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, which I had been meaning to investigate. Cubes of their signature cheese, Flagship, greeted me just a few steps inside the door. It was everything you want cheddar to be–sharp, creamy and crumbly all at once. My hunch that it would melt beautifully was confirmed by the sweet bearded Macalaster graduate working the counter. I mentioned my grilled cheese vision and he encouraged me to add a little funk to the mix in the form of Alemar Cheese’s Good Thunder. This young man seemed to know his cheese. And so I departed with not one but two precious (and preciously priced) cheeses in my sack.
While I am perfectly capable of eating nothing but a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner, I felt compelled to dispatch with some of this week’s CSA share. Boy, am I glad that I did.
Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup
- 1 medium eggplant
- 2 large tomatoes
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small handful cilantro
- salt and pepper
- splash red wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 425. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil into a roasting pan. Rinse the vegetables and slice them in half, making sure to core the peppers. Place everything cut side down in the roasting pan, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top and place in the oven.
Let roast for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are soft and their skins are beginning to char and pull back.
Peel off the skins from the peppers and tomatoes and transfer everything to a food processor. Add a healthy pinch of salt and black pepper and purée until smooth. Continue to run the processor while you slowly add water until you’ve achieved the consistency of your favorite tomato soup. Add the cilantro and purée for a couple of additional minutes. Just before serving, bring soup to a simmer, remove from heat and add a splash of red wine vinegar.
WARNING: This recipe made about two servings of soup. I am seriously bummed to not have more leftovers, as it is quite tasty. As your attorney, I advise you to double it.
I recently read that Gabrielle Hamilton makes her grilled cheese using mayonnaise instead of butter. This is a game changer. Seriously.
Grown-Up Grilled Cheese
- 2 slices good quality bread
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 2 ounces serious cheese – 1 cheddar and 1 a little funkier
Bring a cast iron skillet up to medium-low heat. Spread the mayonnaise on one side of each piece of bread. Place one slice into the skillet, mayonnaise-side down. Layer on your cheese and add the top slice. Let cook until nicely browned, pressing gently with a spatula. Flip and repeat the procedure. Let sit for a minute or two before serving to make sure all of that oozy goodness doesn’t drip right out.