Summer doesn't officially end until September 22, but for most of us Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer. We gather round for a last holiday (it's about three months until the next one, Thanksgiving), put something on the grill and say good bye to the dog days of August. Here in the South that mean's we still face the dog days of September, but it's the thought that counts. Here's a great little menu for celebrating the season's end.
Start with this artichoke bruschetta. The Spanish are known for their tapas, the Greeks, Turks, and Lebanese for their mezethes, and the Italians for their aperitivos - although, to be frank, it's often hard to tell what the origin of a particular bite is (I've had tuna-deviled eggs in both Spain ad Greece). At any rate, tapenade is generally made with olives, but I'm especially fond of this version made with artichokes. Perfect for munching while preparing dinner.
As long as we're visiting the Mediterranean, these Greek burgers aren't really Greek, but they are infused with the flavors of Greece to create an excellent change-of-pace from the standard grilled ground-round on a soft bun. The burgers have a deep, robust flavor highlighted with Greek herbs and spices. I like serving them on Kaiser rolls with a slice of red onion, sliced cucumbers, and tzatziki sauce.
The Italian Insalata Caprese is a tomato salad created on the island of Capri. It consists of sliced tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, and olive oil. It's absolutely delicious and well-deserving of its fame. But I like a Greek version of the salad that I make better - in fact it's my standard lunch during tomato season and makes a great side dish when grilling.
Don't flinch! Adding spicy, smoked chili peppers to a peach and then grilling it may strike you as a bad idea, but it's really not. It's a wonderful idea and absolutely delicious. You can make the peaches as spicy as you want (I'm a bit of a wimp and like just enough chipotle to add a touch of heat and bump up the smoky flavor) but the chili pepper really accents the peaches' sweetness and, topped with lightly sweetened mascarpone, the cheese melts down into the luscious halves.
I'm not a huge ice cream fan, but sometimes I have clients ask for it so when I got a chance to buy a factory-rebuilt Cuisinart ice cream maker for $20 I jumped at the chance. I'm still learning the ins and outs of ice cream making, but I was pleased with this recipe. Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits (along with being, supposedly, a particularly healthy fruit) and this simple preparation is rich and luscious. Coriander has a particular affinity to blueberries, so I highly recommend including it.