Table scraps, today. We're knee-deep in back-to-school, which as it turns out does not equal kick-back-and-relax. I have a tendency to expect things to easy up a little once school starts, what with the return of routine and class schedules to keep and fewer feet under foot. I also have a tendency toward revisionist history.
Every last week of summer, I make lists a mile long: "clean the fridge!", "clean the closets!", "clean the house, top to bottom!". Then I don't see them again until the last week of September. One of these decades I'll pick up on the pattern. Until then, I'm discovering it all over.
I am always forgetting the heave-ho of this moment. There are the obvious drags, early to bed, early to rise. And the scores of adjustments, tiny and vast. Backpack straps to shorten and lunches to fine-tune and shoes, a shocking two sizes too small. There are class snacks to rustle up and alarms to dust off and forms and meetings, and meetings and forms. There's pumping to practice (we are close, so, so close!) and first-day photos to take, the hammier, the better.
There's the intricate choreography of getting three children fed. And dressed. And combed. And out the door, before eight. Twyla, I'm sure, could run a tight ship. Me, I run the numbers: bad hair day or p.j.'s? I'm proud to announce we've not once worn our flannels. (I plead the fifth on the crazy bed heads.)
There are new names to learn and friends unseen all summer and near-daily playdates to make up for lost time. There's a new rhythym to our days, Kindergarten mornings and empty afternoons, a lovely quiet space we're figuring out how to fill. Picking fall raspberries filled one quite nicely. This iridescence experiment was great fun on another (thanks to you both, Lisa and Carmen!)
Oh! And let's not forget a birthday celebration or three, in honor of a certain Mr. Ten (!) Year (!) Old (!). And while we're on the subject, can we just take a moment, to pause and admire those gorgeous cupcakes down there? Cupcakes aren't my usual thing, but these little lovelies rocked my world. That rise! Those crackles! Their exquisite lightness of being! I'm not normally one to toot my own horn, but when I peeked in the oven late Monday night, I have to admit I beamed just a little.
Shame I forgot the sugar. (Beyond. Awful.)
And then, and always, there's the finding our groove bit. We adults obsess over Major Life Changes, moves and marriages and making house payments. But starting fourth grade rivals all of the above. As does starting Kindergarten. As does starting school. Even if it's just a few mornings a week. Even if she's been ready and waiting since August. August of 2009. Still and all.
So we're living very much in the moment, right now. My tangible accomplishments are roughly zero; I'm too busy attending to what actually matters. My closet's a scandal. Don't open my fridge. Fortunately for all of us, live things won't wait, which includes not just children but fresh garden goods. I'm doubling-down on my flower cutting, suddenly aware they've got expiration dates. And I'm reveling in tomatoes that keep coming on, so thick and so strong it's almost too much. Almost. Not quite. Maybe not even close.
We wait all year for these chin-drippy jewels, and we've been amply rewarded and indulging for weeks, now. We eat them out of hand, off the plant, still warm, and still bring in bags-full (thanks, resident robot, up there). We eat as many BLT's as we dare, and dabble in the odd soup and salad, here and there.
But I tend to get stuck in an Italian-esque rut, falling back on the holy tomato-basil-mozzarella trinity. Sometimes it looks like a caprese salad, sometimes like a pizza Margherita. Sometimes eggplant edges in for pasta alla Norma, sometimes it's only pesto and a pile of juicy slices. Details aside, more often than not, my tomatoes tend to sound like Sophia Loren. I am always forgetting how talented they are.
I might nearly have let this tomato season pass without treating them like the all-Americans they are, had I not spied this salad, all sassy with blue cheese. I'm so glad I remembered, just in the nick. It's deceptively simple, and fiendishly good.
There's not much going on, just sliced ripe tomatoes, co-habiting a quick blue cheese dressing. But they're September tomatoes and there's sweet buttermilk involved and a dashing buckshot of parsley and onion. About that onion. I don't like raw onion. I edit it out of recipes, right and left. But against ripe tomatoes, it tastes just like sparkles, bright and crisp and twinkly and right. Add that creamy punk blue cheese and fresh herbal green and you've a plate of tomatoes you won't soon forget.
Tomatoes, Blue Cheese
Adapted from Bon Appetit
The original recipe called for 2:1 mayonnaise:buttermilk, fairly standard for such a dressing. I don't prefer the flavor of mayonnaise, so make mine mostly with Greek Yogurt, plus just enough mayo for body. Feel free to tilt the balance, if you prefer.
We don't often talk about summer onions, but they are so very sweet and crisp when fresh, a world apart from their sulfurous February selves. This is a singularly summer salad for me, as much for the onions as for the tomatoes.
I'm hopelessly partial to Maytag Blue.
4 large, ripe, fresh local tomatoes, cored and and sliced in wedges
1 heaping cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup sweet onion, minced
1 heaping cup blue cheese, crumbled, divided
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup greek yogurt (2% or whole) and/or mayonnaise, to taste
2 Tbs. mayonnaise
1 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
10 grinds fresh pepper
3 Tbs. fresh parsley, minced (plus extra to garnish)
Combine all seven dressing ingredients, and whisk to combine. Add half of the crumbled blue cheese, and stir to incorporate. Test for seasoning, and adjust to taste.
Arrange tomato wedges and cherry tomatoes on plate. Season with several pinches salt, and scatter with minced onion. Dribble generously with dressing (you may not need all), scatter with remaining blue cheese and extra parsley, and take five.