September, in a bowl

sliced tomatoes before

By now, you've probably heard about the blight that has ravaged this summer's tomato crop all over the Northeast. Called "late blight," this pernicious, highly contagious fungus is the same disease responsible for the Irish Potato Famine of the late 1840s. It's no laughing matter. And yet, – farmers please forgive me – there’s something about the word itself that makes me giggle. "Blight." I can't say it without imagining myself in a petticoat and poke bonnet, fretting about things like dropsy and catarrh. Of course, the dreaded thought of a tomato-less summer snaps me right back to my jeans-and-t-shirt reality. Could summer even be summer without drippy tomato sandwiches on crusty bread? Without overlapping rounds of red and yellow heirlooms, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and sweet basil?

Thanks to the fine people at Kimball Farm, I may never know.

heirloom tomatoes

If late blight is big news here in New England (and I assure you, it is), the tomatoes at Kimball Farm didn't get the memo. Week after week, not a ten-minute walk from my apartment, flats of beautiful, healthy, tomatoes line the Kimball Farm stand at the Charles Square Farmers' Market. The staggering selection of heirlooms is enough to make you cast off your bonnets and petticoats and declare, "Blight, shmight!" This season, I've eaten Aussies, Green Zebras, Cherokee Purples, Black Cherries, and Pink Brandywines. My favorite, and Eli's too, are the Pineapple tomatoes. They're rich and meaty, blushing in rosy clouds over their bright yellow skins. Pineapple tomatoes are marbled all the way through with streaks of pink and orangey-red. Sometimes, when I slice into one at just the right angle, I feel as if I'm gazing at an early-morning sky, and not a refugee tomato that managed to escape the late blight of 2009.

A fat, shiny tomato on the kitchen counter is the most delicious excuse I can think of to avoid turning on the oven. This excuse is especially appealing in the heat and humidity of a Boston summer, when just the thought of touching a knob on the oven can cause you to melt on the spot. Until a few weeks ago, I ate every one of my tomatoes raw, at room temperature. I'd slice them alongside avocados; chop and toss them together with cucumbers and peppers; or, in a classic move, slide them under downy half-spheres of buffalo mozzarella. When you're leaning over the kitchen sink, biting into a whole tomato, and slurping loudly, it can feel like summer will last forever.

sliced tomatoes mid-meal

And then, in rolls September.

She wasted no time in announcing herself this year. On September 1st, blue skies faded to grey, and temperatures dropped suddenly into the low 60s. You could smell the almost-autumn in the air. It was a day for pulling on sweaters; for tying on scarves that you didn't really need, but that felt reassuringly soft and snug under your chin. It was a day for turning on the oven. With the slight chill creeping in through the window frames, a little extra heat in the kitchen didn't sound half-bad. The lunch that I threw together that day is a staple in my September kitchen: roasted chickpeas and heirloom tomatoes. I've eaten it at least twice a week for lunch all month long. It has taken me a while to get it down here, mostly because the recipe feels almost too simple to be called a recipe at all. Maybe you can think of it as assembly instructions, only instead of ending up with a swing set or an IKEA bookcase, you get lunch. You start with some canned chick peas, roll them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them just long enough for the outer skins to crisp up. Then, you toss them with a chopped tomato, top with basil, and call it a meal. If you happen to have a hunk of day-old bread on hand, I highly recommend using it to soak up any remaining seeds, juice, and oil in the bottom of the bowl. That part always feels like the grand finale to me, a special treat, like eating the heart of the artichoke, or the bit of ice cream that pools in the last bite of sugar cone.

People tend to talk about September in terms of where we've been and where we're going. We look back on the dog days of summer, cozy up to the idea of tights, hot cider, and evening fires, and brace ourselves for the coming winter. But for me, September is not about being betwixt and between. It's a special time all its own, and deserves to be enjoyed in the moment. Playing cool tomatoes off of warm, nutty chickpeas, this recipe celebrates just that. It's September in a bowl. And with autumn making its first official appearance tomorrow, I'm going to dig in my heels right here and, as long as there are tomatoes to be had, help myself to another serving.

tomatoes and chickpeas

Roasted Chickpeas and Heirloom Tomatoes

Because this recipe involves only four ingredients, it is important to go for high quality. I prefer Goya chickpeas, because – as far as canned chickpeas are concerned – they seem to stand up best to roasting. If you're lucky enough to have a selection of heirloom tomatoes at your fingertips, use whichever tomato is your favorite for slicing and eating raw. I have a feeling that "regular" tomatoes on the vine, and even cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, would also be delicious. If you feel like taking one step further in the direction of autumn, you can try replacing the basil leaves with fresh thyme.

1 15-oz. can of chickpeas
1 large, or 2 medium tomatoes (that have never been refrigerated)
2 T. good quality olive oil, divided
About 6 basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
Coarse salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drain the chickpeas, and toss with 1 T. of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spill the chickpeas onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and shake them into a single layer. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until the skins brown slightly and begin to pull away a little from the beans.

Chop the tomato into large, bite-sized chunks. Toss the hot chickpeas with the tomato and the additional tablespoon of oil, and sprinkle with basil. Add a few extra grinds of salt and black pepper, to taste.

Serves two.


Linda said...

good morning!
enjoyed this post (& happy that you are truly back!)...cannot wait to make this recipe...tomorrow off to the local farmer's market in my town for heirlooms...& like the thyme as we move into fall!
jess, whose olive oil do you prefer for this dish?

maybelle's mom said...

WIth pastina and feta, this is my 2 year olds favorite dish on earth. lovely post.

Jennifer said...

Its so wonderful to see you back now!! :) I love this post so much! Heirlooms are my favorite tomaotoes, this is such a perfect creation! Thanks for sharing Jess!

Frenchie said...

I always just love reading you. There's something about tomatoes that always leave me feeling a little nostalgic. To me they represent change, the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year, but I love them. It's practically winter in Canada and the tomatoes are nowhere in sight, so I am just preparing myself to welcome squash and other delights of this season. Thank you for the mouthwatering images.

EEJ said...

Jess. These photos! How did you make them? Film? Digital? They're just stunning.

Also, the recipe sounds divine, even if I'm not the hugest fan of tomatoes (I know - sacrilege). But then again, all of your recipes sound divine.

petoskystone said...

oh, my! yum,yum...

Char said...

gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous...down here I've been living on peas...beautiful, glorious, tiny peas.

Rivka said...

Yep, this is the epitome of late summer. I've been contemplating making something similar with fried chickpeas as a snack to serve with white wine, but I'll be trying the roasted version, now.

Rogue Unicorn said...

autumn seems to be arriving everywhere (except for the southern hemisphere, I guess)Here in Jerusalem we had our first rain a couple of days ago and I finally gave in and pulled out my quilt which has been hiding under the bed since April.
Lately I've been roasting tomatoes and tossing them with pasta, but this seems like an equally nice and quicker alternative.
Happy fall.

Sara@SproutedKitchen said...

hello dear! such a simple and honest post. Good product yields good flavor... no fancy stuff... as it should be.

Jess said...

Hi, all

I fell behind in responding to comments over the last six weeks, as I slowly but surely got back into the swing of things. As of today, I'm all caught up. If you left a comment on any of the last few posts and have been waiting to hear back from me, you can check back now, and you'll find a response. Thanks for your patience.

Linda - I wish that I could give you a definitive answer about the olive oil, but I'm actually kind of flitty. I haven't yet found The One. When I was living in San Francisco, I got hooked on Stonehouse Olive Oil. Then, a little while back, my brother-in-law brought us back a big, beautiful, delicious bottle of olive oil from Greece. For cooking, I usually go with one of two larger commercial brands: Filippo Berio or Colavita. In this recipe, I roast the chickpeas in 1 T. of the Filippo Berio or the Colavita, and finish off the dish with 1 T. of a basil-infused extra-virgin olive oil by Olave.

How's that for a long answer?

Does anyone else have olive oil preferences to share? If so, I'd love to hear.

maybelle's mom - Your two-year-old has excellent taste!

Jennifer - Thank you. You are so kind.

Frenchie - Thanks so much for your reflections on tomatoes and this time of year. Stay warm up there in Canada. (And it means so much to me knowing that you enjoy what you read here. Thank you for saying.)

EEJ - Actually, I took these photos - like most of the pictures on this site - with my dinky little point-and-shoot. With just the right light and a whole lot of patience, I find that it is possible to coax decent images out of the thing.

petoskystone - Agreed.

Char - Peas! Sounds wonderful.

Rivka - And I'll take my cue from you and open up a bottle of white the next time I make this meal. (Which, let's be honest, will probably be tomorrow.)

Rogue Unicorn - I love early fall in Jerusalem. I remember the first rain that fell the year I was living there. Just like that, the summer heat broke, and the seasons shifted. It felt magical. I bet you already have some ripe pomegranates. Here, they're still too pale on the inside, and lack that deep, wine-like flavor. Anyway, happy fall to you, too.

Sara - Yes, I've been in the mood for simple these days. You're right that it's all about starting with good, fresh ingredients, and the rest follows naturally. No fussing necessary.

Jennifer said...

I adore your description of Heirloom tomatoes. They really are beautiful splurges. I've never roasted chickpeas before and am excited to give your recipe a try. Such enticing photography too!

Elishag said...

I was totally inspired to try pineapple tomatoes after reading this post so I marched over to the farmers market near work, brought a pretty one home and Sam and I gobbled it up plain!! What a treat, thanks for the inspiration.

Linda said...

jess...thank you so for the reply. i am going to treat myself & purchase the basil infused olave oil... looking forward to your fabulous posts! :)

Jess said...

Jennifer - I have a feeling that you and roasted chickpeas are going to hit it off. Here's another recipe for you from the archives.

Elishag - You're the greatest. I love that you ran right out and bought one. And I'm so glad you liked.

Linda - You're very welcome. Enjoy the oil. Some other uses I've found: a spoonful added to a bowl of cream of zucchini soup; drizzled over a slice of pizza, or over a bowl of pasta with a little grated cheese.

bluejeangourmet said...

drooling over here! there's a loaf of roasted garlic bread in my freezer which I shall thaw for this very purpose -have two dear college friends coming in for our annual "girl weekend" and since they are both veggie, this will be perfect. I needed something I could throw together after a late pick-up from the airport.

technical question, Jess: do you think it will work the same, since I only have dried chickpeas in my pantry anymore, if I soak & cook them and then roast as you have directed?

thenewblack said...

those beautiful tomatoes made me think of a dish i ate every day last summer when i had endless home-grown green zebras, black russians and grosse lisses. roast excess tomatoes in lots of olive oil and red wine vinegar, then toss with cucumber, cubes of bread, chickpeas and whichever fresh herbs catch your attention. use the juice from the roasted tomatoes as dressing, with lots of salt and pepper. amazing!

Jess said...

bluejeangourmet - Roasted garlic bread? Now I'm the one drooling. About the dried chickpeas: I probably shouldn't admit this around here, but the only time I've ever used dried chickpeas is in soups and stews. I don't have any first-hand experience soaking and roasting them. Still, I can't imagine why it wouldn't work beautifully. I have a feeling that with dried chickpeas, the recipe might be even better. After all, you're taking the opposite of a shortcut! If you think of it, let me know how it goes. Have a wonderful weekend with your girls!

thenewblack - Amazing that you grew all of those heirlooms in your own backyard. What a treasure to have so many tomatoes at your fingertips. I've eaten tomato-bread salad this summer, but with raw instead of roasted tomatoes. Now that the weather is cooling off around here, I'll have to try your version. It sounds incredible. Thank you!

megan said...

Oh! Just perfect for an afternoon salad with my new NELC roommate...we used tomatoes from my grandmother's garden as well as a few from the second farmer's market I've been to in two weeks! Regrettably, they didn't have any pineapple tomatoes - and didn't even know the names of the varieties they did have - but the ones I chose are still delicious. This is going to be a new staple...last year my grandmother had them until nearly Christmas. Thanks!


Marilyn said...

This is just gorgeous to look at and even more fun to consider eating. A lovely way to say hello while summer says goodbye. So nice to have you writing!

nina (ncp) said...

jess, there is nothing better than summer tomatoes. when i was growing up as a wee one and my father had a garden, i would pluck them as is and go to town eating them :). even better is fresh bread and mayo (in my case, veganaise). thanks for reminding me of the simple things in life!

Julie said...

Wow, you said it. You're speaking my language! I have a couple heirloom tomatoes left that I don't want to even eat because then they'll be gone, and so will summer...

Lo said...

Oh, yeah.
Roasted chickpeas are the best.
Pair them with garden fresh tomatoes... I'm a huge fan already.

Strange year for tomatoes, I have to agree. Here in Wisconsin, it's just been too cool to have bumper crops. HOWEVER, the tomatoes I've seen have been phenomenal. Sweet, succulent... maybe it really is all about quality rather than quantity!

Barbara said...

It doesn't get much better than this! Your photos are wonderful. Heirloom tomatoes just with some basalmic and basil are heaven- and with a touch of fresh mozzarella- perfect.

Jeff said...

Hi Jess.
I had lunch with your dad the other day, and he told me about your blog (he was VERY proud of you). Wow, he wasn't kidding...this is great writing. Academia, schmacademia! This is what the world needs more of.


Amy J in SC said...

Lovely photos - they make me hungry. Never had roasted chickpeas but this sounds like a good combo to try.

Rogue Unicorn said...

Jess- Indeed we had some really nice pomegranates in the past few weeks. Though now I'm in the states and mourning the general lack of really good fruits and vegetables-not just pomegranates. Every time I come back here I get a shock when I walk into the produce store and find strawberries in October. It feels all wrong.
Enough rambling-I made your "all of it" cake last weekend. I divided the batter up into little individual cake tins- the cakes came out beautiful and delicious. I'm going to make it again this weekend for my family. I'm pretty sure even my grandmother will like it.

Jess said...

Megan - Your grandmother's garden? Tomatoes until Christmas? Farmers' markets galore? Sounds like the west coast is treating you well.

Marilyn - Thanks for your note, friend.

Nina - Ah, yes, the tomato and mayo sandwich. Heaven. With tomatoes right off the vine, I'd bet that sandwich was seriously out of this world.

Julie - I know what you mean. At least we have squashes and pumpkins to look forward to!

Lo - Roasted chickpeas really are something else. I'm glad to hear that the tomatoes that you have come upon have been wonderful. Like you, I'll take quality over quantity any day.

Barbara - Thank you! I'm with you. Keeping it simple with heirlooms is the way to go.

Jeff - Hi! I'm always happy to meet a friend of my dad's. It was so nice of you to stop by and leave a note. Your encouragement means a lot. And I love your "Academia, schmacademia!" The next time my school work is getting me down, I do believe I'll have to say that out loud.

Amy J - Thank you. I hope you enjoy the roasted chickpeas. Here's another recipe from the archives that you might want to try.

Rogue Unicorn - I know what you mean about American supermarket produce aisles. It can be quite a shock to the system, especially when you've been living somewhere a little bit more seasonally oriented for a while. Produce aside, I hope you're having a wonderful visit in the United States with your family. Thanks for reporting back on that cake. I'm very glad that you enjoyed it, and I'll keep my fingers crossed that your grandmother will, too.

Staci said...

Hi there, I just made a variation of this for dinner... fabulous. I had some very skeptical looks when John and Anna (9 years old) sat down for dinner, but they devoured every last bit. I made mine with artichokes, and instead of basil I sliced up two garlic cloves. I served it with some blue corn hard shell tortillas warmed up in the oven. Really, really good. Sort of a fall spin on your summer recipe. Can't wait to make it again!

Calijn RvL said...

Hi, your recipe with chickpeas seems to be "stolen", without acknowledgement, is copied on this blog: http://degevuldeolijf.blogspot.nl/2012/06/geroosterde-kikkererwten-met-tomaten.html
The text is in Dutch (very bad dutch though), translated by Google translate.

Jess said...

Hi, Calijn. Thank you so much for letting me know -- and for sticking up for me on that blog. I don't mind if people re-post my recipes, but I always ask that they use their own photos, write their own text and, of course, give proper attribution and link back to Sweet Amandine. I'm going to be in touch with the author of that blog right now. Thanks again.