Labor Day: Moving Slow

My labor day weekend was just long enough to sink into the familiarity of comforting new rituals. J worked every day, so I started each morning watching the sunrise alone through our bedroom window and then lazily slumping around the kitchen, counting the minutes to my single cup of coffee being ready.

It felt like an insult to the holiday weekend to start housework or laundry that early in the morning when the world was still shuddering awake. So I left the dishes and the piles of clothes in lieu for coffee and books.

We have a teeny tiny little porch with some cheap white chairs surrounded by plants struggling to bear fruit (we’re so determined!). There the cool morning air was my only companion with a hot cup in my lap and a glorious book in my hand. I just recently finished The Vacationers, The Girls, and Eleven Hours (much free time = many books read).

I’m taking a break from fiction for a little while to finish out a few of my writing/life advice books. I just recently picked up Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and I cannot wait to start it.

Other mornings, I bypassed the porch for our work room—a room that is quickly becoming my favorite spot in our new apartment. The floor and coffee table there are littered with scribble notes of thoughts or phrases that might be discarded and forgotten or that might get the chance to grow into full memories and stories.

This is a quote I so love: “There are two kinds of people in the world—those who wake up thinking about dinner and those who don’t.” That quote perfectly describes me every day. But during the slow, uninterrupted pace of the holiday weekend, I fully indulged in my dinner thoughts.

Before the weekend started, J and I decided that we’d eat out once and grill all of our other meals. Because, why not? The first night, J and I grilled up some gorgeous steak, roasted potatoes (seemingly a staple every time we grill), and a wonderfully vinegary, grilled take on bruschetta from Bon Appétit's grilling issue. We have nothing to say except that our bruschetta cravings didn’t know how to recover from the gloriousness. We followed that later with a marshmallow roasting extravaganza.

Sunday night, we walked down to the grills around 8 p.m. to throw some dough on the grill for our first attempt at grilled pizza. Both grills were out of gas, and we were a bit too lazy to build a charcoal fire, so we opted for the stove to warm our spicy BBQ chicken (+red onions, jalapeños and goat cheese) and margherita (topped with a balsamic vinaigrette) pizzas.

Monday night more friends joined us around the grill. We passed around cups of hard cider and dipped into bowls of guacamole and salsas. Meal times are so much sweeter when shared with family and friends. 

On Tuesday night, J and I both shuffled into the apartment at the end of the day, half-dazed at the sharp turn of routine once again (me more so than him). So we brought out another round of that glorious grilled bruschetta to the table, trying to ride out the last little high of the holiday weekend. It simply wasn’t soon enough to repeat this side dish.

I think I love it for its stark contrast between creamy and vinegary, hot and cold, toasted bread and blistered tomatoes.

But mostly I love this dish because it reminds me of summery childhood lunches of Miracle Whip spread on pieces of bread, topped with thick slices of tomatoes still warm from the garden vine, followed by healthy sprinklings of salt. The tomatoes slipped and slid with each bite, creamy trails dripping down fingers. Such a simple meal, but still, a favorite.

So before summer slips away and the juicy vine-ripened, local tomatoes disappear to the mushy, mealy supermarket pickings, find yourself a grill, gather your friends, and make this refined take on the humble tomato sandwich. (It’s so good, you can skip the main dish and make this your entire meal.)

Grilled Bruschetta (adapted from Bon Appétit, Grilling Issue)

½ loaf of french bread (This recipe makes enough for two 12 inch halves of french bread. If you want to use your full loaf of french bread (those huge two footers from the grocery store), double ingredients below.)
¼ cup of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons dijon mustard (must be dijon—don’t just use any old yellow mustard)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to season
1 large shallot
¼ cup of fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Dash of balsamic vinegar
1 clove of garlic
1 ½ cup of halved cherry tomatoes (these little cherry tomatoes hold up best under the heat)
Goat cheese crumbles
Sea salt and cracked pepper to season
Extra olive oil

Cut the the french bread in half, set aside. Whip together the mayo, the mustard, and fresh lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Sit back inside the refrigerator to chill. Dice the shallot and garlic clove. Pour the two tablespoons of red wine vinegar and one tablespoon of olive oil over it. Add a dash of balsamic vinegar. Chop up basil and add to the shallot mixture. Let that sit, covered, for at least ten minutes. 

Halve the cherry tomatoes. When your grill is hot, place your cast iron skillet on top, and add a quick splash of olive oil to it. Add the tomatoes, salt them, and let them sizzle. I’m semi lazy and prefer to halve the tomatoes right into the hot pan to save myself an extra step in the kitchen. It’s all about getting outside to the grill faster!

Let the tomatoes blister for at least ten minutes until the skins start to look wrinkly. While the tomatoes are cooking, drizzle the cut side of the bread with olive oil and get that on the grill, cut side down. Keep an eye on these at all times so that you don’t waste this precious bread. Toasting should take about 2-4 minutes, depending how close you place the bread to the flames.

Once you’re satisfied with the heat the tomatoes have endured, pull from the grill, and let them cool down for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, slather the grilled bread with the mayo mixture. Then add the slightly cooled tomatoes to the cold vinegary shallot mess and stir up all of that goodness. Top off the bread with the tomato mixture, and if you’re a salt-aholic like I am, sprinkle another helping of salt over it. Top off with goat cheese crumbles, and dig in. Go on, get into that goodness like a madman.