As I grilled my simple marinated chicken breasts for my usual late dinner, I noticed that the light was fading a bit earlier than it had the night before.
The cooling evening air had a touch of pungent smokiness that did not emanate from the barbeque.
Last night for the first time in months I need a blanket on my bed.
This morning, the air and the light felt differently too.
There was a hint of chill in the air and the daylight was lazy in putting in an appearance. The suns seemed less intense and more mellow than full-out summer sunrises.
On my second floor balcony, high enough to be safe from the herbivore creatures that live in the forest preserves across the street, I grow a modest vegetable garden.
From mid-summer it provided me with sun warmed tomatoes, spicy peppers, colorful lettuces, miniature thumbelina carrots, and a rainbow of edible flowers for my daily salads.
Even my humble veggies signaled a change. Some of the tomato leaves have taken on a golden hue and the lettuces have sprouted bright buttery flowers that are quickly morphing to purple seed pods for next season’s crop.
Instead of mourning the departing summer, I wanted to honor its passing into glorious autumn with a celebration. I proceeded to harvest a “last balcony salad” comprised primarily of the veggies from my terrace garden.
I was able to glean some soft red-leaf lettuce, crisp green romaine, arugula, juicy sweet grape tomatoes, tiny golden carrots, shallots and chive blossoms for a basis for this celebratory meal. I whisked together a Champagne pear vinaigrette dressing and drizzled it over the greens and veggies. For protein, I crumbled on pungent Gorgonzola cheese, added my grilled chicken breast, and for the sake of decadence, a dollop of rich crème fraîche.
To add spice to the lot, I topped it with a grind of fresh pepper and a pinch of each of my favorite salts; Kilauea black sea salt, Haleakala red sea salt, Bali coconut and lime leaf smoked sea salt.
This festive meal had it all...crunchy and soft, salty and sweet, smokey and mild, creamy and pungent, light, yet totally satisfying. As I enjoyed this impromptu creation, it seemed to me to contain the personality and essence of the nearly gone season. It was a beautiful final fling of the flavors of the season, but I look forward to the tastes of new one just over the horizon.