As we near the end of the dog days of summer and cooler nights set in, we Michiganders know it ain't over yet. There will be at least one, maybe two, perhaps more screamingly hot days. The days where we try to think back to our halcyon youth to remember whether or not it was ever this hot or humid this late in the year. And the mosquitoes will take advantage of it; vengefully.
Thankfully, our gardens will keep pumping out the great produce so that we can have some benefit to a sticky day on the bay in September. Yes. September is right around the corner.
My word, that means football season looms. This is the changeover time. This is swimsuits and flip-flops and grills and sweaters and tchuks and tailgating. Oh, the tailgating.
Remember, we are just a few weeks from steam exiting our mouths when we speak, and not from anger. It's about to be vibrantly colorful every which way we look. Transition. This is the reason I love Michigan so very much. I love the deep green pines standing at attention among the technicolor deciduous trees having their last hurrah before the long, cold winter sets in for a stay.
Whether you opt to tailgate at the big game itself, or in your yard and then in front of your television, this is where fall comfort food makes its triumphant reappearance. Summer puts on a scarf and rubs its hands together and concedes to the wonder that is sustaining and warming vittles.
Does it get any better than this? I don't think so.
Take advantage of the last days of glorious summer produce with a light but substantial Greek salsa.
This light, fresh, but substantial salsa borrows from classic Greek salsa: feta cheese, cucumbers, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives and lemon make it sing. Serve it along with grilled meats or pita chips.
It transitions happily from summer to fall tailgating season.
1 seedless cucumber, also known as an English cucumber, diced finely
1 jarred fire roasted red pepper (or a freshly roasted pepper, peeled and seeded), diced finely
1-inch thick slice from a red onion, minced finely
1/2 c. garlic stuffed kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. feta crumbles
1/4 c. packed, flat leaf or curly parsley leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced or pressed
the juice and zest of 1 lemon
Finely mince the parsley leaves and add to a mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate, tightly covered, or serve immediately with pita chips or alongside grilled chicken or fish.
Tailgating Cheddar Bread
Now fall comes roaring in with a hearty, cheesy, garlicky bread that screams party!
A simple loaf of Italian bread takes on epic festive flair with sinful amounts of Cheddar cheese, garlic, green onions, butter and parsley.
It can be cooked in the oven or on the grill. Serve for your next big shindig.
1 loaf Italian bread (16 oz., by weight)
1 lb. grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1 stick (4 oz. by weight) butter
1 large clove of garlic, minced or pressed
1 bunch of green onions (scallions) trimmed and thinly sliced
A fistful of fresh curly parsley, minced
Nonstick cooking spray and foil
Preheat oven to 350°F (or preheat grill to medium heat). Lay out a double thickness of foil (or a quadruple thickness of standard foil.) Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
In a microwave safe bowl, or a heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the butter until melted and mix in the garlic and sliced green onions. Stir with a big spoon.
Lay the loaf of bread on the cutting board and cut a 1/2-inch grid pattern into it stopping about 1/4 inch above the base of the bread so that it stays connected.
Gently pry apart the bread and spoon the butter mixture along the seams.
Gently wrap the foil up around the top of the loaf and put on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, open the foil and sprinkle the Cheddar cheese over the top, gently pushing some of the cheese down into the cut bread. Return the pan to the oven or grill and raise the heat to 425°F or HIGH for another 15 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and bubbly and lightly browned on top.
Let set for 3 minutes before showering with freshly minced parsley and serving.