Technically it is still summer; however, from kindergarten through university, school is back in session. The days are cooler and getting shorter. Birds have begun migrating. And back East they are no longer wearing white. With all indicators pointing to fall, now is the time to pull out those recipes on the to-do list that call for summer produce like raspberries, eggplant and figs. It would be nice to make at least a few of the dishes before the main ingredients disappear from produce shelves completely.
Fresh raspberry pie, vibrant and tart from all of those bright red berries, is a delicious way to recall summer as it wanes. Earthy and floral-scented cardamom raspberry bars are a bit more subtle: the raspberry and the warm cardamom hints at the coming cooler seasons.
Eggplant dishes can be as simple as flame-roasted eggplant spread with lemon and garlic or seared eggplant with spicy glazed peanuts. A bit more complex are a showstopping eggplant timbale and eggplant osso buco with mushroom Bolognese and rustic polenta. The timbale is sort of like Sicilian-style eggplant parmesan molded into the shape of a cake, the osso buco a completely vegetarian version of the original — the thick slices of eggplant are studded with hearts of palm to mimic the appearance of a shank.
Figs are at their peak at the very end of the season (as in, right now), so be sure to whip up some fig-tamarind ketchup to let you savor that figgy flavor long after summer is gone. Fig, prosciutto and blue cheese pizzas bring together sweet figs, salty prosciutto and pungent blue cheese, making for a full-on flavor fest. If you really want to showcase figs, this stunning fig tart with mascarpone cream will do it. The fig slices are nestled into a mascarpone pastry cream in a nutty, cookie-like crust.
If you need an occasion to entertain now that Labor Day has passed, call it a going away party for summer produce.