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Summer on the Plate

peaches.jpgOne of our favorite places for a mid-morning stroll is the Union Square Greenmarket, or really any one of the city’s greenmarkets for that matter.  There’s something so satisfying about the sight of August heirloom tomatoes, corn, hard-to-find peppers, peaches and beautiful berries of all sorts.  Lugging them home and whipping up a sensational meal is a whole other story.  That’s why we’re lucky to have so many talented chefs and farm-to-table restaurants that take advantage of summer’s bounty everyday.  Whether it’s fresh corn stuffed into ravioli or sandwiched in a tricked-out exotic lunch treat, there are all sorts of ways to get your summer produce fix.

Peaches: Grilled Peach Banh Mi at Num Pang
Num Pang
Address: 140 E. 41st St. between Lexington and Third Aves.
Phone: 212-867-8889

Num pang are the Cambodian equivalent of a banh mi and just as tasty.  It’s also the name of two sandwich shops, popular for putting inventive combinations between their grill-marked rolls.  Each shop offers a slightly different menu, so you can sample different versions at each, and right now, it’s the midtown location that has us excited for our lunch break. The grilled peach sandwich would be a vegetarians dream if it didn’t have bacon, which happens to be the best part, not to mention the perfect pairing. The addition of chives and jalapeno lend the combination brightness and spunk, making this sandwich way more interesting than most.

GrilledSummerPeach2.jpgCorn: Roasted Corn Ravioli at The Harrison
The Harrison
Address: 355 Greenwich St. at Harrison St.
Phone: 212-274-9310

Chef and owner Jimmy Bradley has stepped back into the kitchen at The Harrison and you can taste the difference on the plate.  While this Tribeca stalwart has always focused on local, seasonal produce, this summer, he’s created a menu that’s a true homage to the season.  There’s terrific starters, like grilled peaches with ricotta and crispy clam fritters.  If you order one thing, make it the homemade ravioli stuffed with fresh, roasted corn and plated with market fresh tomatoes, basil and ricotta.  It’s like summer delicately wrapped up in pasta sheets, yet light enough to eat even in a heat wave.

Melon: Grilled Heirloom Melon at Back Forty
Back Forty
Address: 190 Ave. B at 12th St.
Phone: 212-388-1990

While we lament the loss of Savoy, we’re comforted by the fact that we can still sample Peter Hoffman’s farm-to-table cooking at Back Forty.  Scan the menu and you’ll spot heirloom tomatoes in several dishes and they’re all put to great use. Still, it’s the heirloom melons here that are so outstanding.  Hoffman gives it a unique partner: bacon.  And the melon itself is grilled and gently spiced with jalapeno salt — a stellar combination.

Crispy Pork and Watermelon.JPGWatermelon: Watermelon Pickle and Crispy Pork at Fatty Crab
Fatty Crab
Address: 643 Hudson St. between Horatio and Gansevoort Sts.
Phone: 212-352-3592

Although watermelon is best in the summer and Fatty Crab’s menu changes seasonally, Chef Zac Pelaccio keeps this popular dish on the roster year-round. The reason? It’s just too delicious to only enjoy in August. We love anything pickled, so the pickled watermelon rind in this salad certainly speaks to us.  But it’s the pairing of the pork belly with that pickled rind and fresh watermelon chunks that takes this to the next level. You would think the salty, crunchy, fatty pork would overwhelm the melon but in fact it enhances its flavor. The dish has the same appeal as prosciutto and melon, but with the Fatty family’s Southeast Asian charm.

Blueberries: Blueberry Pie at Four And Twenty Blackbirds
Four and Twenty Blackbirds
Address: 439 Third Ave. at 8th St., Brooklyn
Phone: 718-499-2917

We can’t think of a more quintessential summer dessert than blueberry pie and August is high season for blueberries.  We went for a slice from the best: Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn. (We’d trek a lot farther than that for any one of their pies.)  Ever since the Elsen sisters opened their shop last year, their fresh fruit pies with thick, old-fashioned crusts have been in high demand.  But the blueberry pie just may be their tour de force.  Blueberry pie filling can sometimes be sticky and gooey, often the result of the addition of a thickener, like cornstarch.  Well, we can’t be certain what’s in their blueberry pie, but we’d place bets that it’s not composed of much more than pure, handpicked fruit.

Tomatoes: BLT at ‘wichcraft
Address: Multiple Locations

Come August the Greenmarket is lined with heirloom tomatoes of every color and stripe.  You don’t need a fancy green zebra to make a BLT. (Those are best eaten alone with a little olive oil and sea salt.)  What you do need is a ripe, in season tomato, which is why Tom Colicchio and his ‘wichcraft team only serve their BLT (that’s a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich if you’ve been living under a rock) during peak tomato season.  They layer their sandwich with thick, tomato slices from nearby Eckerton Hill Farm. The bacon? Artisanal and perfectly crisp, of course. And while we aren’t big fans of mayo, we realize it’s necessary to protect the bread from the tomato’s juice (no one likes mush). This version’s housemade aioli is refined enough to keep bad Hellman’s nightmares at bay, and isn’t piquant enough to mess with the simple flavors of the sandwich.  This is one fine BLT.

Peas: Sweet Pea Summer Pie at The Fat Radish
The Fat Radish
Address: 17 Orchard St. between Hester and Canal Sts.
Phone: 212-300-4053

Usually pot pies are a wintry affair: Creamy, heavy and best enjoyed on cold days in loose-fitting clothing. But the on at The Fat Radish is the light, delicious exception to the rule.  The ethereal pastry crust shrouds a light and silky filling of crème fraîche, mint and peas that walks a fine line between nourishing and light.  The dish is a perfect fit for the English Garden meets Fashion Week vibe of the restaurant.  It’s easy to forget the cook-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk weather when you’re hanging out in the stylish farmhouse space on the Lower East Side.

RG Writer: Lauren Bloomberg

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