La Nuit Impromptu: Goodbye tomatoes, hello pears

Thursday night our friends Tomato and Paprika were moving, so Chili and I decided to have them over for supper to save ’em from cooking. 

We didn’t plan for the menu to turn out French, but when it all came together on the table, it had the spirit of  late-summer Provence—minus the foie gras and pâté, of course. 

I started some pearl couscous on the stove while Chili was slicing some incredible rustic bread that we buy from Tellico Grains, a family-owned artisan bakery here that is tops! We threw baby ‘bellas in the skillet with an onion while the couscous was cookin. 

Then I started the salad with some fresh local arugula and tender romaine. When I saw that Bosc pears were in season earlier that day while shopping, I was so excited to premiere them, but I wasn’t sure how I would use them until I saw the luscious local arugula and knew that they belonged together. Like an epiphany, I imagined them with the tender celery hearts that lay nestled beneath the sad outer stalks in the bottom drawer of our fridge. 

The French say celery hearts are a powerful aphrodesiac. Ooh la la! 

Under-ripe pears are such a turn-off, so to make them sultry and soft, I marinated them in champagne vinegar for awhile.

We wanted to top the rustic bread slices with caramelized onions to make toasts petits, but we had used our only onion for the couscous. We texted Tomato and Paprika and asked if they would bring a couple onions from their pantry to make our little toasts happy. 

When they got here, they had two onions for us and—a surprise!—sweet, plump mission figs. Chili had an idea to slice the figs with a famous Grainger County tomato, one of the season’s last, that his coworker had given him that day at school. While Chili caramelized the onions and popped the bread in the oven to toast (& decided to toast some walnuts too!), Paprika and I went out in my herb garden for to gather herbs to serve with the sliced tomato and figs. We ended up harvesting mint, lemon balm, basil, and catnip and ran it in for Chili to mince up. By the time we finished wandering around the yard to look at plants, everything was ready to go. 

On the table was a warm bowl of couscous with mushrooms and onions, a plate of sliced figs and tomatoes with fresh herbs drizzled with olive oil and fresh herbs, toasts petits with caramelized onions and walnuts, and a humongous salad of arugula, celery hearts, and pears with homemade vinaigrette. 

Now, what to drink?! We had a red and a white wine. Chili and Tomato decided the white would go well with the figs and pears. So we cracked it open and sat down to a beautiful meal. It was both a finale for summer tomatoes and a debut of fall pears—how perfect that they cross paths in the changing of the season!

Get the complete recipes here.

Bon Appetit!

—Chow Chow 

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