All right. If you’ve been reading along the last few weeks, you know that my little garden plot has been rather prolific this summer on the tomato front. A steady 3-5 pounds have made their way home each week and I’ve been plugging along, making all kinds of things. This week I have a two-fer; two final tomato recipes for the season. Two recipes that are easy, delicious, perfectly do-able for a quick weeknight dinner and highlight what’s best about these late season tomatoes. So get in there while the going is still good and all these amazing tomatoes are still hanging around the markets. They’ll be gone before we know it.

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We’ve rounded the corner on summer when everything hits at once – the last holiday of the season, first days of school, work schedules pick up, garden produce is almost too much to handle and unfortunately, fall is in the air. I’ve been cooking quite a lot these last few weeks, making old favorites a few times over and searching recipes to deal with an overachieving garden. Nearly everything I’ve made has been from a published recipe, executed as written, and they’ve been good. Really good. Good enough that you might want to make some of these things too. So let’s chat.

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“Street Food” has been a big, hot food trend for the last few years with everyone and their brother doing some sort of riff. In the right circumstances, it can be a wondrous thing. On a late night in Bangkok, I had the best fried chicken of my life made in a wok perched on the back of a bicycle. The scenery was gorgeous, the cooking set-up was unbelievable and stunningly resourceful and the chicken is something I still dream about. If it hadn’t been 3am when I got back to my hotel, I would have gone back for more. I’ve eaten freshly fried samosas wrapped in newspaper from an Indian doorway, bite size water buffalo dumplings from a giant steamer set up in a Nepalese courtyard and countless tacos from beach peddlers. They were all spectacular. My best travel memories often involve food.

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During the summer when it’s hot and I’m lazy, I don’t do a lot of involved, complicated cooking. Well, not as often as in the cooler months. I’m still prone to wacky things, like making French onion soup in July when the craving hits because what are you going to do? But most of the time I just sort of throw things together with stuff from my garden or farmers market purchases. Simple, fresh ingredients that taste best served really cold lead the list.

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Le Marché Nocturne. The summer night markets in French villages, specifically those in the Southwest or Gascon countryside, are something to behold. Next to endless fields of sunflowers, they are one of my favorite things and I try to cram as many into my few short weeks as possible. In fact, these are things I heavily consider in the timing of my visits each year. Nearly every summer evening in July and August, village squares transform into big parties with music, cheap but delicious wine and booths manned with the neighborhood producteurs selling the delicious local specialties. The offerings vary by village but could be platters of melon, local cheeses, bread, duck confit, oysters, big vats of snails, frites (always frites), pastries, grilled sausages and maybe one of my favorites, duck hearts and gizzards slowly cooked in duck fat. We are in duck country after all. The best strategy is to go with several friends so one can stake out a spot at the long tables, one can grab the wine and the rest of the group can scatter to the various booths to assemble a meal. Everyone meets back at the table for a most enjoyable night. It’s really fantastic and I highly recommend you seek them out.

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There is a particular dish that calls to me this time of year. Maybe it’s all the summers I’ve spent in the French countryside, but a stuffed vegetable just says late summer to me, especially a stuffed round zucchini. Courgette farcie, I really love the sound of that. Bring out the olives, the cheese, the simple grilled meats or sausages, and most importantly, the big pitcher of cold, cold rosé. Round up the glasses, circle up the chairs, put the big platter of stuffed roasted vegetables in the center of the table as my French friends do and dig in.

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Three things signal the height of summer produce like nothing else: sweet corn, tomatoes and peaches. Three of my very favorite things. That they all show up about the same time around here is an opportunity for rejoicing. This is when the summer BBQ season really peaks, when pie crusts get rolling and a regular dinner around here is nothing more than 2 or 3 ears of corn with butter, salt and pepper. I eat an ungodly amount of corn in these few short weeks.

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