End of August. Chloe invites me to Westhampton.
The sun sears as though through parchment paper. Air hangs like brocade.
The height of the season.
This is what we have to deal with?
Needless to say, we were like two kids in a leisurely, late summer candy store.
In the best of worlds, cooking hour and happy hour: a) last much longer than a single hour; and b) overlap significantly.
White wine, fresh peach purée, elderflower liqueur, thyme, bitters.
Fresh black mission figs, stuffed with goat’s cheese whipped with honey, and fresh oregano blossoms.
But enough with the peach drinks and the flowers; it was time to get down to business. While Chloe’s mom worked on the clams at the stove, I took a big basket of fairytale eggplants, kale stalks, and sliced dark sauerkraut bread out to the deck and fired up the grill, to exert my male supremacy and pyrotechnic dominance by heat-blasting teensy, purple, tear-drop shaped vegetables named for the mythical world they seem to have lost themselves from.
Grilled fairytale eggplants with sesame-sherry sauce and oregano.
The oregano plant was really producing, I felt like I needed to take advantage of all the beautiful leaves and buds. They were just what this dish needed to cut through some of the sweet creaminess of the sauce and the meatiness of the eggplant, not to mention their herbaceous, spicy aroma swirling around the table, lifted by the steam to mingle with the grill smoke and the august light falling about, heat hanging itself from our skin.
Along with the eggplants, we enjoyed some local clams braised in white wine, tartines with grilled dark sauerkraut bread with butter, herbs, and sliced radishes, kale salad, and a delicious Chablis that was perfect for the simple fare and wooed me with its crisp minerality. It knows the way to my wine-heart.
Chloe and I dabbled in dessert. We took the rest of the grilled bread and topped it with butter sage, thyme, and melted dark chocolate.
Somehow a husk cherry found its way into my wineglass.
We won’t ask how that happened. But it was a nice surprise to find at the bottom. Husk cherries are one of my favourite of summer’s bounty. They are candy. They taste like pineapple and hazelnuts and poundcake! And have the most playful yet distinguished pop. You even get to peel them from their husk, just like a mint or a toffee.
Next morning, Chloe made me a delicious breakfast of greek yoghurt, granola, blueberries, huskcherries, and a drizzle of wildflower honey. It was like dessert. But that, I guess, is how things go on summer vacation in Westhampton with the Zales.
I, for one, am not complaining.
Creamy sesame-sherry sauce
In a bowl, Combine tahini with some of your favourite oil (olive, walnut, or grapeseed would all be lovely), a splash of sherry, a few drops of sherry vinegar, a dash of nutmeg, a bit of honey, and a pinch of salt, and whisk until blended and aerated. Adjust for taste and texture. Serve over grilled eggplants or other vegetables.