With summer produce unfolding weeks and in some cases even a month or two earlier than usual in recent years, there is more time to indulge our pleasure in the foods that will vanish come rain (we hope, please) and cooler temperatures. There is a leisurely quality to this year’s harvest so far, a lack of urgency. We have tomatoes already, we said in June, and we are likely to have them for quite some time.
The same with sweet peppers. We have them now and may have them well into October or November.
This abundance has made me dig deep into my recipe archives, to some of the things I enjoyed years ago, when I was first writing this column and even before then. I found many old favorites that I’ll feature now and then, as earlier columns are not archived online.
Here, I’ve adapted two favorites, one a sandwich inspired by Middle Eastern street food and the other by the garden of a friend which, for me, is always the best source of inspiration.
This delicious sandwich is adapted from classic Tunisian casse-croute, the country’s version of a submarine sandwich and common as street food. Traditionally, the bread is spread with harissa, not chermoula, but the two condiments have a lot in common and both are delicious. The sandwich, which you can think of as a cousin of the Provençal pan bagnat, includes a Tunisian salad known as mechwiyah, which also may be served alongside roasted meats and fish, with tagines and couscous, atop sliced grilled eggplant or alongside creamy polenta. It is a great way to preserve some of summer’s produce, as it will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
Serves 4 to 6
— Chermoula (recipe follows)
2 red bell peppers
1 onion, cut in half through its equator
3 ripe red tomatoes, cut in half through their equators
— Kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
— Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground caraway seed
— Black pepper in a mill
2 ablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1- pound long sourdough loaf, sliced in half lengthwise
4 to 5 small potatoes, cooked and thinly sliced
12 ounces cooked wild King salmon, flaked, or 1 6-ounce can best-quality tuna, drained and flaked
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
2 cups shredded lettuce of choice
3 pastured eggs, hard-cooked, chilled and peeled, sliced
First, make the Chermoula and set it aside.
Next, char the peppers under a hot broiler until they are uniformly blistered and the flesh is softened. Set aside.
While the peppers cool, make the michwiyah: Set the onions and tomatoes on a pan that will fit under the broiler, place them cut side up, and sprinkle with salt. Broil for 30 minutes, until charred; remove the tomatoes from the broiler, turn the onions over and cook for another 25 minutes, until very well charred.
Set aside to cool.
Remove the charred skins of the red peppers, cut out their stem and seed core and cut into thin (¼ inch) julienne. Cut the julienned slices into ¼-inch squares. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Cabernet Sauvignon, the venerable statesman
Rodney Strong, 2015 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5% alcohol, $20. ★★★★
This is a cab that clearly overdelivers. It has generous fruit — black cherry and black raspberry — with herbs and spicy oak. It has good structure with firm tannins and a nice length.
J. Lohr, 2015 Hilltop, Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.9%, $35. ★★★★: This is a pretty cab with black raspberry fruit, herbs and spice, and the flavors meld together seamlessly. The cab has good balance, ripe tannins and a lingering finish. It’s well-crafted.
Duckhorn, 2014 Three Palms Vineyard, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.9%, $98. ★★★★: This is a gorgeous cab with notes of black raspberry fruit, and notes of cinnamon and clove in the mix. It has a soft and supple texture, with ripe tannins. Nice length. Striking.
Cliff Lede, 2015 Stag’s Leap District, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 15%, $78. ★★★★: This is a striking cab with complex aromas and flavors. It has notes of jasmine, black currant, blackberry, cinnamon and black pepper. The Cliff Lede has bright acidity and great balance. Top rate.
Justin, 2015 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5%, $25. ★★★1/2: This is a savory cab with dried herbs at the forefront, while cherry and black currant fruit play backup. What melds it together is a hint of caramel. Smart.