September is a month of memories: joy at the happy times spent among family and friends, sadness at the summer that has passed and energy as autumn knocks at our door.
Here, I serve up a concept, the idea of a salad, as opposed to a recipe. Still in-season figs meet the first crop of grapes and hazelnuts, a taste of the winter to come. Summer freshness is furnished by the mint, while papaya and ginger linger like an exotic ghost of distant travels. The pastrami is a tribute to the past and a promise of the future, a nod to New York delis.
September is the end of the summer, but the beginning of a new season bursting with healthy ingredients ripe for the picking.
Figs, grapes, celery, ginger, papaya, mint, hazelnuts + pastrami
To make the pastrami: 1 kg beef brisket / 1 tbsp black peppercorns / 1 tbsp paprika / 2 tsp coriander seeds / 2 tsp mustard seeds / 1 tsp ground garlic / ½ tbsp chilli pepper / 1 tsp coarse salt
4 figs, peeled and cut into quarters / a few grapes, halved /2 celery stalks / dried papaya cubes / mint leaves / roasted and peeled hazelnuts, halved / edible flowers / grated ginger / extra-virgin olive oil / soy sauce / salt and pepper
For the pastrami: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rinse the beef and dry it well. Mix and blend the spices altogether. Massage the spices into the beef. Wrap the beef in baking paper and bake for 90 minutes. (If you happen to have a food smoker, after having cooked the meat, smoke it with some beechwood, wrapping the beef in foil for 3–4 minutes.)
For the dressing: Whisk the oil, ginger, black pepper and a splash of soy sauce in a small bowl.
Arrange the fig wedges on a plate in an asymmetric way. Place the halved grapes next to the figs. Cut the celery into very thin strips using a potato peeler to add a touch of movement to the dish. Arrange the celery on top of the figs and grapes.
Drizzle with the dressing. Add the papaya, mint leaves, hazelnuts and a few edible flowers. Cut the pastrami into very thin strips.
To turn the dish into a vegetable salad, substitute the pastrami with mixed seeds, slices of cheese or grilled tofu.
Wine pairing / by Helen Farrell
September calls for a sparkler. Castello del Trebbio’s Metodo Classico Brut gets our undivided attention, shaking off late-summer sadness. If these Chardonnay-centric bubbles were a song, they’d be Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over”.