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The last hurrah

I love the idea of a last hurrah. I know it’s really just a fancy way of saying that something is about to end, but it sounds so much better than that. Really, think about it: last hurrah! I mean, if something’s got to end, it might as well go out like that, with a loud, rousing cheer. I like the idea of a big blow-out, a big to-do, a triumphant one-last-time before something is through. Most of the time, when we celebrate something, it’s a beginning - like a baby shower, or New Year’s Eve - or a milestone, like a birthday. I think endings deserve a little attention too, or some of them, anyway.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and mainly because of tomatoes. I’ve been eating them almost daily for a couple of months now, and though it scares me to say it out loud, I know the end is near. Today is September 10th, and that means, what, maybe three more weeks before they’re gone: the good ones, the plump ones, the local ones, the real ones. You could almost smell the fear at the farmers’ market yesterday morning, with each person jostling for just the right tomato, the one whose memory will warm them through the winter. The end is nigh, and we all know it.

But I have to admit, I’m kind of ready. The tomatoes have been good this year. They’ve been plentiful, fat and full of sweet, jellied seeds. I ate a Caprese salad for lunch nearly every day in July, and for half of August too. I know it’s sacrilege to say this, and you’re probably going to line up to stone me right now, but I’m almost kind of tired of tomatoes. I keep buying them and eating them, but it’s mainly by reflex, not because I really need another. I keep buying them because they’re summer itself, summer on a stem, and when they’re gone, I won’t taste them again for a whole year. I keep buying them in the hopes that when winter comes, I might not miss them so much. It’s the last hurrah for tomatoes, and I’m going to make sure it’s extra loud.

Which brings me to what we’ll be eating around here this week, a sweet little dish called tomates tapenade. It’s a simple combination - just sliced fresh tomatoes with oil and vinegar, with a spoonful of tapenade on top - but I hadn’t thought of it until this past Friday, when my friend Austin (Hi, Austin! You blushing?) and I met for an after-work unwind at Cafe Presse, little sister to Le Pichet, one of my favorite spots in town. We sat down at the bar and ordered glasses of rosé - is there anything better to drink right now? - along with two salads and an order of fries. The Bibb lettuce with hazelnut vinaigrette was only so-so, and the fries were okay - though they were nicely browned, which usually bodes well - but the tomates tapenade, oh yes, the tomates, they were something else entirely.

It was nothing much to look at, really: just four slices from a big, ripe, ruby beefsteak, drizzled with a mild vinaigrette and capped with a quenelle of briny tapenade. We divided them between our bread plates, smearing a little of the earthy olive mash onto each slice, and then, between breaths - we had a lot to catch up on - we lifted them, sloppy, drippy, devil-may-care, into our mouths. I didn’t make a fuss about them at the time - like I said, we had a lot to catch up on - but they got under my skin, and second to plain old olive oil and salt, I can hardly think of a better way to hoist up the humble tomato. Later that night, when I came home, I dug out an old tapenade recipe from my accordion file, and yesterday, well, you know what we had for lunch.

I hope you do too, and soon. And while you’re at it, pick up an avocado. It’s good with the tapenade too. Don’t forget that. Or this: that once all the tomato slices are gone, you should use a hunk of bread to mop up the late-summer “soup” that’s left on the plate, the delicious slurry of tomato juice, dressing, and olive bits. It’s the best part.

It’ll be a very good last hurrah, I think. For at least a few more days.

Tomates Tapenade

This tapenade recipe is adapted from Simple to Spectacular, which, if you haven’t yet seen it, is a book with a very nifty premise. It’s worth checking out. Of course, you’re welcome to use any tapenade you want, really. If you’ve got a favorite recipe, have at it. You could even buy you tapenade ready-made, if you like. It doesn’t much matter. This dish is essentially a formula, so fill in the variables as you choose. The most important thing is that you like the flavor of the tapenade on its own, toute seule, and that the tomatoes you pair it with are plump, ripe, and totally delicious.

For the tapenade:
4 ounces pitted Niçoise olives (about 1 cup)
1 Tbsp. capers, rinsed to remove excess brine and drained
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 large basil leaves
Salt, to taste

For the vinaigrette:
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. white wine or champagne vinegar
¼ tsp. salt

Ripe tomatoes, preferably heirloom
Crusty bread, for serving

First, make the tapenade. Combine the olives, capers, vinegar, olive oil, basil leaves, and 1 tablespoon water in a blender or small food processor. Process to puree, but don’t let the mixture get too fine. You want a little texture, some tiny nubs of olive or basil here and there. Taste, and salt if needed. (I usually think it’s salty enough as is.) Set aside.

To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk the oil, vinegar, and salt together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cut the tomatoes however you like, into wedges or slices. Arrange on a platter.

Serve the tomatoes with bowls of tapenade and vinaigrette on the side, so that each eater can dress them to their liking. (I take mine with a moderate drizzle of vinaigrette and a good-size dollop of tapenade.) Be sure to keep a hunk of bread on hand to mop up the juices on the plate. That’s very important.

Note: This recipe has no real “yield,” but amounts of tapenade and vinaigrette are enough for about four servings.


Anonymous DC Sarah said...

How coincidental that just today I was planning a "last hurrah" evening out for a dear friend about to move to London. Tomatoes should be celebrated too. This is definitely on the menu for tonight!!! I agree though-I'm starting to get in the mood for fall foods.

1:51 PM, September 10, 2007  
Anonymous Lynn said...

I agree - tomatoes taste like summer. At least real ones do. I used to eat them straight off the vine, salted. Your way sounds delicious and I can't wait to try it. Good thing I've finally got some tomatoes ripening!

2:28 PM, September 10, 2007  
Blogger Emma Shannon said...

I almost got tossed overboard this morning when I confessed to my commuting friends on the ferry that I was "over" Caprese salad for this year. So glad to hear that someone else has had a similar wicked thought! Of course, my "overness" didn't stop me from buying a bunch of heirloom tomatoes yesterday at the grocery store! But consistency is not mandatory, after all...

2:41 PM, September 10, 2007  
Anonymous austin said...

oh my, totally blushing, but proudly more than anything. it was one of those lovely lingering seattle evenings, a delightful last hurrah, thanks molly.

3:32 PM, September 10, 2007  
Anonymous Maija said...

I, too, have eating many, many tomatoes as I know the end is near. I have a bowl in my kitchen of cherry tomatoes, and all weekend, I would grab a handful, rinse them off & eat with a salt shaker close at hand. I'm operating on the same theory w/peaches, nectarines, and local melons.

I am ready for fall (a wee bit), as yesterday mulling dinner possibilites, I found myself drawn to squash casseroles and a recipe for a veggie potpie w/mashed sweeted potatoes as a topping. As it was close to 90 degrees, I wisely chose instead to go with your white bean spread, pita, and greek salad.

3:57 PM, September 10, 2007  
Blogger Anita said...

I'll be right there with you up against the wall as the rocks start flying: I've had a gazillion great tomatoes, peaches, and ears of corn this year, and I am realllly ready for autumn.

4:11 PM, September 10, 2007  
Anonymous Hillary said...

Tomatoes and tapenade - love them both and yet would never have thought of putting them together. I'm almost giddy to try it! Mmmm...I'm going to miss tomatoes, I don't think I've had as many as you this summer, sadly.

4:38 PM, September 10, 2007  
Anonymous Lisa said...

My fella is a veggie farmer (I can't even begin to explain how well we eat) -- it's been interesting to learn these last couple years how the tomato really is the hanger-oner of the peaches/corn/tomato summer trifecta ... around here (a different climate zone from you I'd bet), he and most of our friends plant four generations of tomato plants, staggered about three weeks apart. So the season really does last till the first frost, possibly a tad longer if it's a gentle frost. That said, I think they get less sweet, less POW! as the heat lets up.

Which is, now that we're finally coming to it, fine by me! Bring on the collards! Bring on the broccoli rabe! And soon enough, but not yet, bring on your killer eggnog ... heavens!

This dish looks ever so yummy -- we're having your Turkish eggs tonight and I think I'll add a side of tomatoes with EVOO and salt.


4:56 PM, September 10, 2007  
Blogger Lisa said...

Oops! I meant to ask: do you ever listen to The Splendid Table? Teh August 25 episode (archived online or get-able via podcast) had a funny bit by Scott Huler, who was so over zucchini. It reminded me of what you say here :)

5:00 PM, September 10, 2007  
Blogger aubrey said...

septembers here are not like normal septembers. today was 83 and gorgeous. still is. so, don't be sad. i must try that tapenade. and p.s. i absolutely adore your writing. when does your book come out?

5:07 PM, September 10, 2007  
Blogger Chicago Sarah said...

We are having the end of summer here, too...and I hope there are enough good tomatoes by the time I get to the farmer's market so I can try that dish! Thanks.

6:25 PM, September 10, 2007  
Blogger hannah said...

oh this is just spot on. i showed up at work today and there was a bag full of cherry tomatoes sitting on my chair. like a little gift from the end of summer. and then i come by here, and well you know what is going to happen next. oh and happy birthday mr. orangette.

6:32 PM, September 10, 2007  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

I'm the type who will just pick up the plate after the big chunks have been eaten, and slurp up the tomatoey oil. I do it all the time. Keeps my coat shiny.

6:37 PM, September 10, 2007  
Blogger The Pescetarian said...

hi! a loyal reader. love your blog...and CONGRATULATIONS!!!

8:16 PM, September 10, 2007  
Anonymous Leah said...

Oh boy, do I ever understand the automatic, near-compulsive tomato buying. It's been Tomato TV here, all tomatoes, all the time. The heirlooms in particular have been killing me - brandywine and green zebra and pineapple and this and that. It's darn good being a "tomato" is considered a good thing, because I'm eating so many I think I could turn into one.

I definitely have that "hold on to summer" urge - I've been freezing peaches like crazy. But maybe too I feel like this summer has been tomato heaven, and I want to eat so many that I'll never have a moment's regret. Ah yes, summer '07... remember those tomatoes?

10:31 PM, September 10, 2007  
Anonymous The Silver Owl said...

I've been reading your blog for about a year now and it's one of my favourite reads.

Congratulation on getting married and I want to wish you and your partner a happy and healthy life together.

Enjoy the tomato's while the sun shines.


10:49 PM, September 10, 2007  
Blogger Me said...

Oh man, I hate the end of tomato season. The pantry gets stocked with canned tomatoes for soup and chili and sauce, but I only eat raw tomatoes from local farmers so I miss them when the season ends. We are allowed to glean green tomatoes from our CSA so I guess I have that to look forward to as a transition.

I've never made tapenade, but now might be the time. Great looking recipe!

4:27 AM, September 11, 2007  
Anonymous Luisa said...

I do think that that "slurry" at the bottom of the plate after eating this kind of thing is almost the best thing in the world, with bread. And heh, I liked your description of the desperate people at the farmer's market grabbing tomatoes before the summer goes. So, so true. ;)

5:06 AM, September 11, 2007  
Blogger Kevin Kossowan said...

It's funny how you get kinda sick of seasonal produce like this, but then when it comes back into season, you've had enough of a 'break' to be thrilled to see them again. I get like this with Asparagus in May/June.

I've definitely felt like my garden is living out its last days of the season. In 2004, it was covered in snow on Sept 9.

8:56 AM, September 11, 2007  
Anonymous Meryl said...

mmmm - that sounds wonderful! we've tried a similar recipe (a la bobby flay) that stacks tomato slices, mozzerella slices, basil leaves and tapenade... ohhhh, it is SO good!

10:21 AM, September 11, 2007  
Anonymous SusieJ said...

I love tomatoes -- and when it gets cold, they really loose their flavor. But, it's a perfect time to fry the green ones.

10:58 AM, September 11, 2007  
Anonymous Lauren said...

I will defend the Salad Verte at Presse--I like its simplicity, and the lightness of the dressing is perfect for the soft bib leaves. Plus the hazelnuts are wonderfully fresh.

Have you tried the Apple and Fennel Salad at Saint Germain on Madison? It might be what you are craving: Salad Verte with sass and style.

As for the tapenade, I like to add a few anchovies-brined or packed in oil. They add a rich saltiness that balances the frutier salinity of the olives.

Lauren :)

2:31 PM, September 11, 2007  
Blogger Meet Me at Mikes said...

Oh yum...! We are just coming into Spring here.. and I was at the market yesterday noticing that the tomatoes were coming down in price.. still looking a bit sort of orangey and floury and un-tomatoey.. but we are nearly into tomato-time! At long last! This post made me hungry and excited about the Summer we will soon have! I hope you enjoy your Autumn and it's filled with nice mushrooms and other fall-y things!

4:35 PM, September 11, 2007  
Blogger susan said...

perfect, a lovely last hurrah!

5:12 PM, September 11, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

DC Sarah, 'tis the season for last hurrahs, it seems! Hope the tomatoes were a hit.

Oooh, Lynn, I'm jealous of your homegrown tomatoes! Our tomato plants didn't do so well this summer. Harumph.

Emma Shannon, you know, I've always thought being consistent was overrated. Plus, better to keep buying tomatoes and get really tired of them, right? That way, you'll have no regrets this winter.

Aw, Austin. Thank you, m'dear. xo

Maija, I know how that goes! I'm on a peach-(or two)-a-day routine. Think I will be until they're gone, in fact.

Anita, I'm so glad to have company here, before the firing squad. I worried that it might be lonely. :)

Hillary, hurry out and get thee some tomatoes! Hurry! There's a little time left, so if you try hard, you may still get your fill before the season is through...

Lisa, I always love hearing from you, lady. And about this veggie-farming fella - ooh, ooh. You lucky thing! May you grow beautiful tomatoes together for a long, long time. (And thanks for the Splendid Table tip! I do listen to it sometimes - when I remember to. It's so good.) xo

Aw, thank you, Aubrey! I'm blushing. My book won't be out for a while, so please hang in there! My manuscript is due on December 15 (ack!), and the book is slated to be released in fall of 2008. I'll keep you posted as I learn more, of course. Thanks so much for your interest.

I hope so too, Chicago Sarah! Good luck.

Mr. Orangette thanks you, Mrs. Huffman. Please wish Mr. Huffman a (belated) happy one from us, if you will. And enjoy those tomatoes, lady. I see some tapenade in your future... xo!

Ah ha, cookiecrumb! I should have known you'd be a slurper.

Well hello, Pescatarian! Thanks so much.

Ooh, freezing peaches, Leah? Such a good idea! Why didn't I think of that? Eeeep! Must. Start. Immediately. xo

Aw, thank you, Silver Owl. So sweet.

Me, you're so smart to do all that canning! For some silly reason, I've never really done anything like that. I should start. It must feel so good to open the pantry in, oh, say, January, and to see so much summer bounty...

Luisa, I actually thought of you when I was writing that bit about the "slurry"! I had a feeling it might be right up your alley. Good taste, lady. xo

Wow, Kevin, snow in September? That's amazing. Or terrifying! I'm not sure which. Either way, enjoy that garden while it lasts...

Meryl, I love the idea of adding mozzarella to this. Thanks for the suggestion!

Oh, wow, thanks for the reminder, Susiej. Fried green tomatoes, here I come...

Lauren, you know, I guess I should be a little more specific about my beef with the salad at Cafe Presse. The lettuce and hazelnuts were lovely and fresh, but to my taste, the dressing had very little flavor. I usually love the simple green salads at Le Pichet, so I was surprised that this one struck me as underwhelming. Maybe it was an off day? (On the other hand, I've loved the Bibb salad with walnuts that Boat Street has served periodically this summer, with a nice, strong Dijon vinaigrette. So punchy and good.) And thanks for the tip of the hat to the humble anchovy. I heartily agree! The tapenade recipe above originally called for one anchovy, in fact, but in this case, I chose to leave it out. I don't always like the way fresh tomato works with certain fish flavors, like canned tuna and anchovies. I may be crazy, but it seems to really reinforce their fishiness. But really, it'd be hard to go wrong either way, anchovy or no...

Thanks so much, Meet Me at Mikes! Happy Spring to you.

Thank you, Susan!

6:17 PM, September 11, 2007  
Blogger Toni said...

Funny coincidence that I was sitting here reading your blog and digesting a meal from Simple to Spectacular. I made the spinach cannelloni for dinner tonight. It is a great book.

6:57 PM, September 11, 2007  
Anonymous Julie said...

Mmm,tapenade. It's been years. If only I could convince G to eat olives. Oh, and I totally concur with you and Luisa about the slurry. Trust me, you don't want to see the slurping antics after any number of tomato salads are gone...

7:07 PM, September 11, 2007  
Anonymous jules said...

I planted my tomatoes and basil on the weekend and am already excited about the prospect of using my babys with some tapenade. thanks for the top idea.

Normally being in the southern hemisphere doesn't work out so well for seasonal blogging but this time I feel like you're passing the tomato relay batton over to us. Yay.

8:45 PM, September 11, 2007  
Blogger Lauren said...

Hi Molly! This sounds delicious- can't wait to try it with the last of the tomatoes here in NYC. I have a quick question regarding your turkey meatballs (my apolgogies that this is off topic). How do you get the pine nuts to stay stuck in the meatballs? I made the recipe last night (delicious!) and my only issue was that most of the pine nuts seemed to fall out. Hmm. Any thoughts would be much appreciated. Thank you! I LOVE LOVE your blog!

6:32 AM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger Maryann said...

What a wonderful site you have here! I wanted to stop by and give a hello :)
It's always the same every year with the tomatoes. They appear and you are in love. Then, the flood and you kinda get sick of them. Then they are gone and you miss them so much haha

8:02 AM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger 11frogs said...

Absolutely agreed with the hurrah! We had a pesto party last week - each and every dish on the buffet contained pesto, just to get us appropriately sick of it before winter. It didn't work, of course, and I have a year's worth in the freezer. Great recipe, and what a beautiful wedding you had - congratulations!

6:54 PM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger Lynn said...

I do love tomatoes, but know the season is almost over....a favorite way of eating them is dipping ripe tomatoes in fish sauce...sounds weird but it is what I grew up doing (instead of salt)

7:05 PM, September 12, 2007  
Anonymous misti said...

Here in Florida tomato season is about to start up again. Our season is from around October to May and then it wanes in the heat and rains of the summer. I've been missing them all summer and am ready to get them back! Probably one of my favorite things to grow!

And caprese salad...mmmmm!

9:36 AM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Logos Mori said...

Delurking to say that my most favorite word that I learned while in Italy on my honeymoon was the word for mopping up "slurry" with bread -- scarpetta. A wonderful waiter named Firenzo even showed us how to add to the slurry with extra olive oil and salt and pepper and enjoy every last bite. We didn't have any room, but we weren't going to let the juices of roasted boar and leeks go to waste!

9:31 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Emilie said...

It sounds delicious. I like the concept very much.
We grow tomatoes in our garden, and we have a ton of them. They're sitting on our counters collecting gnats. Ew.

1:38 AM, September 17, 2007  
Blogger Thea LaVigna said...

Greetings from Colorado...your blog inspires me to cook more, you give us delicious, creative ideas -you write with the kind of wit that I like to carry into my kitchen. Thanks for all of it!

2:42 PM, September 17, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

What a coincidence, Toni! I'll have to look up that recipe...

Julie, I still hold out hope for that man of yours! Brandon was an olive hater too until just a few months ago. He's still picky - he likes picholines best, and Nicoise, but absolutely nothing oil-cured and wrinkly - but he's finally eating 'em. Phew! I've got my fingers crossed for G...

I like the idea of that, jules - passing the tomato relay baton! Take it and go forth, lady.

(Lauren, thank you for e-mailing me about the meatballs! I'm ridiculously late in replying to these comments, as you can see, so I'm glad you took the bull by the horns and dropped me an e-mail too. Hope those pine nuts are behaving now...)

Thank you, Maryann! Hello to you too.

Thank you, 11frogs! And I love the idea of your pesto party. I'll have to steal that one of these days...

Tomatoes in fish sauce, Lynn? I can't quite imagine what it would taste like, but I'm game to give it a go! Thanks for the suggestion.

Oooh, Misti, I'm jealous. Tomatoes from October to May? Too good to be true.

I love that, logos mori! Scarpetta, is it? I'll have to remember that. (And roasted boar with leeks? Wow, wow, wow!)

Emilie, have you tried slow-roasting those tomatoes of yours? It's a really good way to make use of lots of them at a time. Here's how I do it.

Well, thank you, Thea! What a sweet thing to say.

4:33 PM, September 17, 2007  
Blogger Megan said...

gosh, you make my life easy. i'm like a lazy baby bird, devouring the recipes you post. and i say that with no shame - i like not thinking about what to make. this was a great way to use a recent glut of tomatoes.

8:09 AM, September 21, 2007  

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