This is the week that we face the truth: The days are getting shorter, and the nights colder. (As I type this, I’m wearing a sweater for the first time since June.)

In a normal year, tonight would mark the opening of the Columbia County Fair in Chatham, N.Y., held continuously since 1840 and attended continuously by me since age three. Here’s my run of show: Start at the Cornell Cooperative Extension shed with the baked potatoes, served with unlimited butter and sour cream and cooked so perfectly that even kids eat every scrap of skin. Visit the giant prizewinning rabbits, split a meatball-pepperoni hero from the Greenport Fire Department, brave the bees at the lemon-shaped lemonade stand, then wind up with a black-and-white milkshake at the 4-H Milk Bar.

Like most fairs, parts of it have become garish and cookie-cutter — but this one still has agriculture at its heart. It is canceled this year, of course, but supporting local growers in other ways has become a priority for me in the pandemic. (For more ways to fulfill your fair food fix, check out Marissa Conrad on how vendors are navigating the closures of state fairs.)

And now is the moment when it seems like everything’s in season: cherries and cucumbers, figs and eggplant, zucchini and apples. Meet the moment with Jerrelle Guy’s cherry-almond crisp (above), Martha Rose Shulman’s juicy fresh fig tart, or Ali Slagle’s new California dream of a salad, mixing cantaloupe, avocado, spiced salt, red-pepper flakes and lemon.

And it’s the best time of year to provision for vegetarian dinners, like Hetty McKinnon’s umami-rich stir-fry of cucumbers with tofu, this seared eggplant with pearl couscous from Adeena Sussman, or Alexa Weibel’s quick tomato tart. Master the art of a slow-cooked ratatouille with Melissa Clark, or throw her sheet-pan version into the oven at the end of a busy day.

If one of the things you’re busy with is reimagining your child’s education, this column about building online relationships with new teachers can help. Or escape it all with Andrea Nguyen’s deep dive on making ca-phe sua da, Vietnamese iced coffee.

Also, and I hope you’ll trust me here, a subscription to NYT Cooking helps streamline daily life. It removes the paywalls to every single one of our recipes, collections and teaching videos. And for support — either culinary or tech — you can always email us at And there is lots of free and fresh content on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

See you on Wednesday. (Or sooner, on my Twitter and my Instagram.)

Cook the Season’s Best – The New York Times

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