It’s a Wrap

On days such as my birthday, I’m a stickler for exactitudes (is that a word? if not, I’m deeming it one). I was born at 10:38am, if I remember correctly, so I don’t officially turn my next beloved number until that hour. Call me silly.

But, for the seasons, my thinking is more relaxed. This weekend is Labor Day and that’s it folks, end of summer in my book. And Fall arrives this Tuesday, not September 21st (and that whole Indian summer thing just annoys me to no end). I love my birthday but I sooo love ushering in a new season. Birthdays are new seasons, too, I could reason, so I guess I’m just a big ol’ walking, celebrating hypocrite.

I’m not going to get out over my skis (waterskis, since it’s still summer) yet and start yammering on about apple cider donuts, harvest moons and crisp cool nights that make you want to snuggle around a fire (!). Nope, this weekend is the last hurrah. I’m still wearing turquoise and sporting a nice sandal-wearing-pedi for all the world to see. We must suck the marrow out of summer down to the last minute.

Labor Day. The last of the big cookouts, dips in the pool and memory-inducing scent of sunscreen. Wish the new ones were more coconutty-smelling, the way sunTAN lotions used to be, back when we sunned ourselves with wild abandon. Ah, Coppertone, it was nice knowing you. Along with the last vestiges of summer, such as an errant rose in the garden here or there, are tomatoes. Lots of lots of tomatoes. And I have the perfect dish for you to take to that last picnic.

Greek Panzanella Salad, courtesy of The Barefoot Contessa (can you tell I love her?)

3/4 cup good olive oil, divided
6 cups (1-inch) diced rustic bread
kosher salt and pepper
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and large-diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and large-diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
2 tsp. minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 lb. good feta cheese, 3/4-inch diced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large saute pan until hot. Add the bread and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 5-10 minutes, until nicely browned. Set aside.

Place the cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onion in a large bowl and toss together.

For the vinaigrette, place the vinegar, garlic, oregano, mustard, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a small bowl and whisk together. Whisking constantly, slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil to make an emulsion.

Add the feta, olives, and bread to the vegetables in the bowl, add the vinaigrette, and toss lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to develop. Season to taste and serve at room temp.

Happy last weekend of summer, everyone!

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