Cinnamon Fig Old Fashioned

Cinnamon Fig Old Fashioned

cinnamon fig old fashioned, whiskey cocktail

I’m fully in fall recipe testing mode here. Some of it–like this fig old fashioned–is delicious and while others need tweaking. (We won’t speak of the muffins I attempted this week. Too many “healthy swaps” for an edible muffin.)

I have decided that this is what we grown ladies need to drink while watching Hocus Pocus 2. The Sanderson sisters would approve. I have no idea what I’m having for dinner tonight, but I know what I am drinking. The sisters would approve of that too.

Cinnamon Fig Old Fashioned

Ingredients

  • For cinnamon fig simple syrup: ⅓ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon fig preserves, 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 oz rye whiskey or bourbon
  • Dash of orange bitters
  • Half a fresh fig
  • Cinnamon-sugar blend for rim (optional)

Directions

  1. To make the cinnamon fig simple syrup, combine a half cup water, ⅓ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon fig preserves, and one cinnamon stick in a small saucepan. Heat until the sugar and fig preserves are fully dissolved. Let cool. Store in a mason jar in the fridge for up to a week. This will make at least four old fashioneds.
  2. In a cocktail shaker full of ice, combine 2 oz whiskey, 1 oz of cinnamon fig simple syrup, and a dash of orange bitters. Shake vigorously.
  3. Optional step for cinnamon sugar rim: Rub the cut side of a rocks glass and then roll the rim in a cinnamon sugar blend.
  4. Add ice to the glass, pour the contents of the shaker into the glass, and garnish with the fig half.

Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney: book review & book club menu

Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney: book review & book club menu

Beatrice Darker, known as Nana to her family, is the matriarch of the Darker clan. She is a successful children’s author and illustrator. Her family has depended on her for babysitting services and to stay financially afloat. While Nana is practical in most things, a fortune teller once told her she would die at the age of eighty and she has always believed it.

On October 30th, the eve of Nana’s 80th birthday, she gathers her entire family to celebrate at her isolated island home. The family includes: Frank Darker, Nana’s son, whose first love is music and whose first inconvenience is the family he created with his ex-wife, Nancy. Nancy Darker, a glamorous ex-housewife, who loves gardening, beautiful things, and her middle child. Rose, the oldest of Nana’s three granddaughters, who is an intelligent but isolated veterinarian who prefers animals to people. Lily, a single mother and the vain beauty of the family, is the middle granddaughter. Daisy, the youngest granddaughter and the narrator, has been sickly her entire life and is the inspiration behind Nana’s most successful book, Daisy Darker’s Little Secret. Trixie, Nana’s great-granddaughter and Lily’s daughter, is the only child in the family and a studious girl who dresses only in pink. Finally, Conor, a neighbor who grew up with the three Darker girls, makes up the final guest of the birthday party.

As the tide cuts off the island from the rest of the world, Nana serves an elaborate meal. The Darker family, who does not often choose to spend time together, makes awkward small talk until the conversation turns to murder. Each family member reveals how they would commit the perfect murder. The shared dark humor is only temporary, and the Darker family soon returns to their usual agenda of personal attacks, with new fuel from recently discovered family home videos. Just after midnight, after everyone is in bed, fifteen-year-old Trixie goes downstairs to find Nana dead on the kitchen floor and a menacing poem written on the kitchen’s blackboard wall. Soon after, the members of the Darker family begin to die, one by one.

Much like Lucy Foley’s brilliant thriller The Guest List, Daisy Darker has serious And Then There Were None vibes, maintaining a delicate balance between clever modern twists and nods to the original inspiration. Daisy, a naive and semi-reliable narrator, is the perfect choice to tell a complicated story. While I did predict a handful of the twists, I was also surprised by many, and I loved how the story came together. Feeney’s writing is suspenseful, and it is the type of story where you get nervous every time a door opens or a noise is heard. The characters, a mix of likeable and unlikeable, are all distinct and compelling. It was my first Alice Feeney book, but it won’t be my last.

On the whole, it is a perfect read for spooky season and would make an ideal book club selection for October.

Book Club Menu

On Halloween Eve, Nana prepares an elaborate and whimsical feast for her family:

“Dinner is a feast–roast chicken, potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, and lashings of gravy. But the gravy is hot chocolate sauce, because Nana thinks everything should be a sweet treat at Halloween. The carrots are loaded in sugar; the puddings are really marshmallows; there are Smarties mixed in with the peas, and popping candy on the potatoes. What looks like melted bread sauce is actually melted vanilla ice cream. The food is both surprising and surprisingly good.”
p. 34, U.S. edition

After this candied roast chicken meal, which is served with lots of white wine, Nana brings out a homemade chocolate cake and champagne.

We’re going to let Nana inspire our book club menus, if in a somewhat less sugary way. We’ll pass on the chocolate gravy and marshmallowy Yorkshire pudding for a more traditional roast chicken meal and opt for a brownie with Halloween candy baked in instead of chocolate birthday cake. (Although if you wanted to write “Happy Birthday, Nana!” on a chocolate cake instead of baking a brownie, that would be memorable.)

  • Roasted Lemon Thyme Chicken with Potatoes (recipe below)
  • Apple Kale Salad with Candied Almonds (recipe below)
  • Halloween Brownies (details below)
  • Alcoholic Beverage: Both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are classic pairings for roast chicken
  • Non-Alcoholic Beverage: Warmed cider with mulling spices

Lemon Thyme Roast Chicken with Potatoes

roast chicken with potatoes

Lemon Thyme Roast Chicken with Potatoes

Roasting a whole chicken is surprisingly easy, and your house will smell amazing while it is roasting. You just need to get past handling a raw bird. Feel free to use a smaller amount of dried thyme if you don't have fresh.

Ingredients

  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus extra
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus extra
  • Fresh thyme, 4 to 5 sprigs
  • Whole chicken, 4 to 5 lbs
  • Olive oil (approximately 2 tablespoons)
  • Lemon half
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 lb small potatoes, cut into small pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, lemon zest, and leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme. (You will use the rest of the thyme later.)
  3. Remove the giblets from the chicken. (You can reserve them for another use.) Rinse chicken and pat dry.
  4. In a roasting pan, coat the chicken with olive oil and then rub the seasoning all over the bird and in the cavity. Fill the cavity with the lemon half, garlic cloves, and 2 to 3 sprigs of thyme.
  5. Add the potatoes to the roasting pan around the chicken. Add salt and pepper.
  6. Optional: tie the chicken legs together with twine.
  7. Roast for 1.5 hours, until it is an absolute minimum of 165. Baste the chicken with its juices halfway through the process.
  8. Allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving. This step is essential. Do not skip.

Apple Kale Salad with Candied Almonds

apple kale salad, candied almonds

Apple Kale Salad with Candied Almonds

Ingredients

  • ½ cup sliced raw almonds
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped finely.
  • 1 apple sliced
  • 3 oz feta cheese

Directions

  1. In a cold skillet, combine raw almonds, sugar, and cinnamon. Turn heat to medium. Once the sugar begins to melt, stir constantly until the sugar is fully melted and coating the almonds. Transfer the almonds to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Let cool.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, tahini, maple syrup, and olive oil to make the salad dressing. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Add the kale to the bowl and mix until all of the kale is coated in the dressing.
  4. Top with apple slices, feta crumbles, and approximately half of the candied almonds.

Halloween Brownies

Halloween Brownies

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print
This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a suggestion on how to make boxed brownies festive for spooky season. As written, this is baked in a pie dish and cut into 8 wedges. Therefore, you’ll want to find a box mix meant for an 8x8 dish. Both Ghiradelli and Trader Joe’s brownie mixes are for that size. If all you have is a brownie mix for an 8x13 dish, obviously skip the pie dish and use the correct size baking pan and use more peanut butter cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 box brownie mix, plus ingredients to make it as directed
  • 3 oz Reese’s Pieces (King size bag)
  • Miniature peanut butter cups (about 15 PB cups)

Directions

Spray a pie dish with nonstick spray and set aside. Make the brownie mix as directed on the box and fold in the Reese’s Pieces just before adding the mix to the pie dish. Bake according to the box directions for an 8x8 baking dish. Immediately after taking the brownies out of the oven, press the peanut butter cups into the warm brownie. Let cool fully before serving. If desired, serve with vanilla ice cream.

Spiced Pear Muffins

Spiced Pear Muffins

spiced pear muffins

These muffins were born from two questions: What can I use pumpkin pie spice for, aside from pumpkins and coffee? Also, how am I going to use up all the pears my parents gave me?

For context on the second question, this is what my parents give me when they say they’ll just give me “a few things from the garden:”

summer produce

I did hesitate to make this, as a quick scroll through Pinterest assured me that cinnamon pear muffins, ginger pear muffins, and chai pear muffins are all a thing, but no one seems to be using their pumpkin pie spice in pear muffins. But pumpkin spice is pretty much the same thing as chai spice, only it has nutmeg in place of cardamom, so I went forth.

And bakers, we need to be using our pumpkin spice blends in things other than pumpkin recipes because this was delicious, and also because it is near impossible to use a jar of pumpkin pie spice before it expires. I don’t care how basic you are, no one aside from a professional baker makes that much pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. I can’t be the only one who buys a jar of pumpkin pie spice every year only to use it once or twice and then realize there are four other jars of it rolling around the back of the cupboard.

This is a light, fluffy muffin that is not oversweet. In my not-so-humble opinion, it is a great way to transition into fall baking.

Spiced Pear Muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print
For a gluten free recipe, make sure your oat flour is certified gluten free.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups oat flour (or all purpose flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 5-oz package plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup diced pears

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray or use muffin liners.
  2. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Mix wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Once well incorporated, mix in the dry ingredients and then fold in the diced pears.
  4. Divide muffin batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes.

If you try this recipe, let me know how it turns out!

Pan Bagnat

Pan Bagnat

pan bagnat

Can we pretend for just a moment? I was supposed to post this before Labor Day when it was still rosé drinking weather. Can we pretend it’s still August? It’s hot enough to still be August, but it’s officially pumpkin spice latte season.

Unlike my recommended wine pairing, this sandwich is not seasonal. In fact, it’s one of my favorite lunches year round. The pan bagnat (pronounced pahn bahn yah) sandwich is from the south of France. Nice to be specific, and it’s pretty much the salad version of Niçoise salad. It is different from US egg salad sandwiches and tuna salad sandwiches in that it is not weighed down with large amounts of mayo. 

Hope you enjoy! I have some fall recipes and books coming soon.

Pan Bagnat

Wine pairing: rosé

Ingredients

  • 1 baguette
  • 2 6-oz cans of tuna in oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive tapenade
  • * 1/2 teaspoon capers
  • 1/4 of a red onion, diced small
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional 1 tablespoon of mayo
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
  • Leaves of lettuce and tomato slices to top

Directions

  1. Slice the baguette in half lengthwise. Remove some of the filling to hollow it out slightly.
  2. Combine the tuna, mustard, lemon juice, tapenade, red onion, salt, pepper, and mayo (if using) in a small bowl.
  3. On the bottom half of the baguette, layer the tuna salad, egg slices, lettuce, and tomato slices. Top with the remaining half of baguette.
  4. Wrap the sandwich in paper towels. If serving immediately, place a heavy item (cast iron skillet or similar) on top of the sandwich to press it. Leave for 10 minutes before serving. If not serving immediately, skip this step and let your sandwich marinate in the fridge overnight.
  5. Enjoy!
Best Books for Foodies

Best Books for Foodies

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

j ryan stradal, kitchens of the great midwest

Eva Thorvald, daughter of a chef and sommelier, is a culinary genius. Raised by her underachieving aunt and uncle after her mother leaves and her father dies, Eva does not have any social or economic advantages, but she does have her late father’s cookbooks, which introduce her to the culinary world. This novel in short stories follows Eva from her mother’s pregnancy, to a precocious childhood where she grows hydroponic habeneros as an escape from bullies at school, to an adolescence spent befriending chefs, to her successes in adulthood. Each chapter could function as a stand alone short story and focuses on a specific food like sweet pepper jelly or dessert bars or venison. In the end, each of the foods and characters come together perfectly. I enjoyed Stradal’s writing, and the characters were well-developed. Some of the characters were more likable than others, but they all had unique voices and points of view.

Luscious Lemon by Heather Swain

luscious lemon, heather swain

After 10 years of working in restaurants, Ellie (Lemon) Mannelli has opened a successful and hip New York restaurant. Soon after her restaurant’s one year anniversary, Lemon discovers that she is pregnant. Her boyfriend, Eddie, wants to get married and for Lemon to scale back on her workaholic ways. Lemon, who has never seriously contemplated motherhood or marriage, doesn’t know what she wants, even as she falls in love with the baby she is carrying. This is wonderful: fresh and original voice, great characters (Lemon’s family, in particular, is wonderful), and is, by turns, funny and sad. The only downside to this novel is that Lemon is a bit unlikable in the first few chapters, but the reader won’t be able to help but love her by the end. Highly recommended. Read with a box of Kleenex. Trigger warning: miscarriage

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

This is a novel for foodies who also enjoy magical realism. Structured with recipes, Like Water for Chocolate tells the story of Tita, a passionate home cook whose emotions spill into the foods she prepares. Tita and Pedro are in love, but Tita’s mother, Mama Elena, refuses to allow Tita to marry, citing an old family tradition where the youngest daughter remains unmarried and cares for the parents. To remain near Tita, Pedro marries Tita’s older sister, Rosaura. Tita puts all of her pain and passion into a family meal, where she incorporates petals from a rose that Pedro once gave her. Tita’s rose-enhanced meal is the catalyst for the events of the novel, and when Gertrudis, Tita’s other sister, eats this meal, Tita’s emotions fill her and she runs away with a soldier. This family epic is full of love, loss, betrayal, and revolution.

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

arsenic and adobo

When Lila gets into a fight with her ex-boyfriend, Derek, in her aunt’s restaurant moments before Derek drops dead of unknown causes, she becomes the top suspect in a small town murder investigation. Seeking to prove her innocence and restore the image of the family restaurant, she conducts her own investigation, unearthing small town feuds, a corrupt health inspector, and drug trafficking. As a second generation American, I related to the younger characters who grew up with very traditional expectations, yet I wanted to see more of the older Filipino generation. I felt that Tita Rosie and Lila’s grandmother should have had more of a role, and I kept getting Lila’s many godmothers confused. As Arsenic and Adobo is the first of a series, hopefully these characters will have their opportunity to shine. Entertaining and page turning, Arsenic and Adobo is a must read for both cozy mystery fans and food lovers. I’m not even familiar with Filipino food, but reading this book made me hungry and wish Tita Rosie’s Kitchen was located in my town.

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

little beach street bakery, jenny colgan

When Polly’s graphic design business goes bankrupt, she loses her dreams and her long term relationship. Depressed by the rental options in her hometown of Plymouth, Polly moves into a severely neglected rental on Mount Polbearne, a not-so-fashionable beach town. Whatever her rental may be lacking (central heat, charm, a reasonable landlady), it is located over a now-shuttered bakery, and Polly loves to bake. As Polly makes friends with quirky locals, cares for an injured baby puffin, and bakes bread obsessively, she feels contentment for the first time in years. Unfortunately, her landlady, the owner of the other bakery in Mount Polbearne, is threatened by Polly’s baking and threatens to evict her for competing with her business. I probably wasn’t the target audience for this, as I’m not typically a rom-com reader and it was a bit sweet for me, but I did enjoy it. It was page-turning, I liked the quirky characters, and it did make me want to bake bread. This is a fun read for people who enjoy Hallmark movies and for people who need a breezy read to throw in their travel bag.

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber

midnight at the blackbird cafe

Twenty four years ago, high school sweethearts, Eden Callow and AJ Linden, got into a car accident just outside their hometown of Wicklow, Alabama. Eden lost her memory of that day due to the car crash while AJ did not survive. AJ’s parents were quick to blame eighteen-year-old Eden for murder due to the mysterious nature of the crash. Once cleared of wrongdoing, Eden left Wicklow for good, with no one but her mother aware that she was pregnant with AJ’s child. When Eden’s daughter, 24-year-old Anna Kate Callow, arrives in Wicklow for the very first time to bury her Granny Zee, she finds she has inherited her grandmother’s business, the Blackbird Café, on the condition that she runs it for 60 days before it is legally hers. In Wicklow, she finds that no one knew of her existence, that Granny Zee’s pies were the source of local folklore, that bird watchers and journalists have descended upon the town searching for rare blackbirds, and the Linden family wants to get to know her. Over her 60 days as a café owner, Anna Kate befriends quirky townspeople, searches for answers about her father’s death, and determines to judge the Lindens for herself. Midnight at the Blackbird Café, a family drama with a touch of magical realism, is about loss, healing, and finding your family. Enjoy with sweet tea or a slice of your favorite pie.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

sweetbitter, stephanie danler

Tess moves to New York City after her college graduation. She is hired at an upscale restaurant in spite of a terrible interview. In the beginning, her coworkers are hostile and refuse to call her by her name, instead calling her New Girl.  Although she loses her name, she is reborn in the restaurant. She begins with a traditional Midwestern palate and no knowledge of wine, and on her journey, she becomes passionate and knowledgeable about both food and wine. She learns about other hungers–for partying and drugs, for friendship, and for sex. As a young woman with no close family or friends, Tess’ poor choices are numerous yet enthusiastic. Danler made the curious choice of presenting Tess as a blank slate when she arrives in New York. We know she has a father and that she attended college, but nothing is known about the relationships, choices, or traumas of her past. As Tess self-destructs, I kept wondering if that was what she had been doing all her life or if it was new behavior. Even though my response to this book wasn’t warm, it definitely left me in a pensive mood, and there is something very compelling about it.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (memoir)

crying in hmart, michelle zauner

As a child in rural Oregon, Michelle Zauner always wanted to be near her mother, to spend all her time with her, and she lived for summers spent in Korea with her mother, aunts, and grandmother. Later, as a chronically depressed adolescent, she dreamed of college on the other side of the country, feeling she could never get far enough away from her mother. When Michelle was a recent college graduate, stumbling awkwardly into adulthood, her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Suddenly, all Michelle wanted to do was return to Oregon and care for her mother. Her mother had expressed her love through food, so Michelle wanted to learn her mom’s favorite Korean recipes to express her own love and to help her mother recover from cancer treatments. Crying in H Mart is compelling for several reasons. The first is that Zauner’s writing is beautiful. As a songwriter, she undoubtedly learned the importance of finding the perfect words with no room for excess. People prone to making notes in the margins or highlighting significant passages will graffiti their copies.  The second is her unflinching honesty. She portrays both the love and the cruelty of family relationships accurately, as she dwells on family belonging versus individuality and the generational and cultural factors that cause rifts between mothers and daughters. The third, of course, is the focus on food and how it relates to family and culture. Strongly recommended.

Plenty by Hannah Howard (memoir)

plenty, hannah howard

When Hannah Howard started her first restaurant job as a host, she fell in love with the food industry. Food had been a significant part of Howard’s childhood, but it quickly became her calling, and while she found success in her chosen industry, her obsession with food had a darker side: disordered eating had made food into a thing she both loved and feared. At the time of writing Plenty, Howard is a former restaurant manager turned food writer, and she has left binge eating behind but still struggles with body image. In this memoir, Howard not only tells her story, but that of women in the food industry. She writes about chefs, culinary teachers, entrepreneurs, and even a barge captain working in food-related tourism. Plenty addresses being a woman in a male-dominated environment, struggling with body image while working in food, and choosing motherhood while also chasing career goals. Trigger warning: miscarriage.

Black, White, and the Grey by Mashama Bailey and John O. Morisano (memoir)

When the Greyhound Station opened up in Savannah, Georgia, it was designed for the Jim Crow South with white and colored waiting rooms and restrooms. When New York businessman, Johno Morisano, purchased it in 2013 with dreams of opening a restaurant, the abandoned building was both a tribute to art deco architecture and a reminder of institutional racism past and present. A year later, Morisano opened The Grey with a new partner, up-and-coming chef Mashama Bailey. Black, White, and the Grey is the story of how two cofounders, one a White man and the other Black woman, learned to communicate and create a restaurant family in the modern South. It is the story of the love of food, common ground, and unconscious bias. A visit to Savannah–and to The Grey to try Mashama Bailey’s award winning cooking–is now in my future.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (memoir)

kitchen confidential, anthony bourdain

One of the most influential books on the restaurant industry, Kitchen Confidential follows Anthony Bourdain from his aimless adolescence to becoming a successful chef. Bourdain first entered the restaurant industry when he needed a summer job to fund his partying habits. Much to his surprise, it was more than a paycheck, as he quickly fell in love with the kitchen. He considered chefs to be rockstars, fearless and creative. The restaurant industry saved Bourdain, allowing him to develop his own work ethic and code of honor, but it also threatened to destroy him, in that it allowed substance abuse to go unchecked. Written with one part bravado, one part affection, and one part self deprecation, Kitchen Confidential introduces larger than life characters and reflects on the things we excuse for culinary genius. To be honest, this wasn’t my cup of tea as it’s a bit macho for my tastes, but I do understand why it is a much loved modern classic. Kitchen Confidential is a bit like a mob movie, horrifying and appealing all at once. If you want to read about food, but have zero desire to read about family recipes and the gentle memories they evoke, this is a good read for you.

Taste by Stanley Tucci (memoir)

stanley tucci, taste
A second-generation Italian-American, Stanley Tucci grew up eating traditional Italian foods. He talks of his mother’s recipes, family gatherings, and his grandfather’s homemade wine. While he acknowledges how lucky he was to grow up with strong culinary traditions, he also recounts how he and his sisters coveted American foods like peanut butter and Velveeta. His palate grows more diverse in his years as a struggling actor in NYC and then sophisticated as he establishes his movie career. He relates a story of being taken out for lunch by Italian film legend, Marcello Mastroianni, and of another lunch where he and Meryl Streep experience some language barriers when reading the menu. Near the end of the memoir, Tucci returns to telling family stories, but this time he is talking about raising three young adults and two small children with his wife, Felicity, while battling cancer and later sheltering in place during COVID. In this likable memoir, Stanley Tucci comes across as equal parts debonair movie star and perfectly normal American dad who puns frequently and is proud of every last pun.
Hummus Bruschetta

Hummus Bruschetta

Tomatoes feel like summer like the food of summer, but in Michigan, they mark the end of summer. A countdown to the school year, a marker of days getting longer, and the last sweet days before fall.

My sister, whose birthday is August 18, always said the tomatoes were ripe by her birthday. Tomatoes are beginning to ripen now, but by my big sister’s birthday, they will be abundant. This is a mixed blessing. I love that my parents grow tomatoes and that they are eager to give them to me at summer’s end. I hate that they always feel the need to give me more than I can eat. Calm down, Mom. I’m not the Tomato Monster. (Though I suspect that the Tomato Monster is far more svelte than the Cookie Monster. And less hairy.)

While I might not be quite a Tomato Monster, I am pleased to share this vegan bruschetta recipe with you. I love a good cheesy bruschetta, but this hummus based one is equally compelling.

Enjoy!

Hummus Bruschetta

Wine pairing: rosé

Ingredients

  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 baguette
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus extra to brush the baguette
  • 2 garlic cloves, one minced and one halved
  • ¼ cup vinegar (white balsamic or red wine)
  • ⅓ cup basil
  • 5 oz hummus
  • Black pepper and balsamic glaze for topping

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Combine tomatoes and salt in a bowl and let sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Cut baguette into half inch slices. Brush each side with olive oil.
  4. Bake baguette slices for 5 minutes, then flip and bake for an additional 3 minutes.
  5. Remove baguette slices from the oven and rub the tops with the cut side of the halved garlic clove.
  6. Drain the juice from the tomatoes and then add the olive oil, vinegar, and minced garlic clove. Mix well.
  7. Top each baguette slice with hummus, a spoon of tomato mixture, freshly ground black pepper, basil leaves, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

This recipe is part of my food and rosé pairing series. For more about pairing food with rosé, please see this post.

Strawberry Watermelon Frosé

Strawberry Watermelon Frosé

In August, you can feel summer being rationed. The warm days and nights are no longer endless, and you can feel that the last vacation, the last dinner enjoyed outside, and the last barefoot days will come far too quickly. Did we experience enough? Did we travel? Did we enjoy the flowers and vegetables the earth gave us during these months? 

Then at some point, you have had too much. Too much heat. Too much sand in the corners of your suitcase. The days have a laziness that no longer suits you. You begin to crave the day you can turn off the air conditioning. Since childhood, we associate autumn with new beginnings, even decades after we no longer need to do back-to-school shopping.

This is the in-between drink. Before you are ready for pumpkin spice lattes and apple picking and sweaters dyed in harvest colors. When you are still holding on to summer and saying, “This is good. I am content.”

Strawberry Watermelon Frosé

Ingredients

  • 4 cups watermelon, cubed and frozen
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, plus more for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons agave syrup
  • 1 bottle rosé

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a high powered blender and puree.
  2. Pour into glasses and garnish each glass with a strawberry.
Family of Liars by E. Lockhart (YA)

Family of Liars by E. Lockhart (YA)

family of liars, e lockhart, beach read

Carrie is a Sinclair. This means she has grown up a child of privilege, with the best clothes, schools, and experiences. It also means there is pressure on her to be perfect. To always be an example to her younger sisters and to excel academically, socially, and athletically. To get surgery on her jaw when her father, Harris, worries that her jaw makes her look weak. Being a Sinclair means always keeping a stiff upper lip even when the youngest Sinclair, 10-year-old Rosemary, drowns. “Be a credit to the family,” is Harris and Tipper’s instruction to their daughters. 

Carrie has spent every summer vacationing at her family’s summer home on a private island off of Massachusetts. It is a time for beach days with her sisters and cousins, her mother’s elaborate dinners, ice cream, tennis, and croquet. At seventeen, Carrie is worried about returning to the island as it will be the first summer without Rosemary and the first summer where she has to hide the narcotics addiction she developed after surgery. Carrie is distracted from her fears when her cousin, Yardley, arrives on the island with three handsome eighteen-year-old boys. Carrie, unlike her younger sisters, has never had a boyfriend, but Pfeff, who Yardley has warned her about, seems to like her and she is interested in him. It should be the most exciting summer ever on the island, but the combination of privileged boys, competitive siblings, and geographical isolation turn a promising summer into tragedy and carefully constructed lies.

Family of Liars is the prequel to We Were Liars, which is set in the modern day with Carrie’s and her sisters’ children as the main characters. If you haven’t read We Were Liars, I don’t recommend starting with Family of Liars in spite of it being chronically first as there is a large spoiler for We Were Liars at the beginning. Family of Liars is narrated by an adult Carrie looking back on her 17-year-old self. As she narrates, Carrie mostly taps into her teenage self, but there are times you can sense the adult Carrie. Adult Carrie acknowledges the privilege of generational wealth, while teen Carrie growing up in the wealth-obsessed eighties surrounded by wealthy family members and classmates, would have understood that she was unusually wealthy but not much about how it affected how she related to the world.

Carrie explains her world through fairy tales, the same stories she used to tell her youngest sister, Rosemary. Carrie and those in her life are imprinted onto the fairy tale characters. Sometimes Carrie views herself as the hero and sometimes as the villain. Sometimes she acknowledges that she is both at the same time. She tells these stories to herself, to the reader, and to Rosemary, who visits her on the island as a ghost.

Family of Liars is a perfect beach read. E Lockhart has a gorgeous writing style, and there is a dreamlike nature to the story. The story’s appeal is a combination of well developed characters, a fascination with how the 1% live, the depiction of the best and worst of family life, the slow revelation of secrets, and just a hint of Greek tragedy. Highly recommended for those who enjoy beach reads, family stories, and YA. Readers who are repulsed by overly privileged characters may want to pass on this one. It may not be suitable for younger YA readers due to language, substance abuse, and sexual situations.

Tortellini Caprese Salad with Zoodles (wine pairing: rosé)

Tortellini Caprese Salad with Zoodles (wine pairing: rosé)

What foods can you not get enough of in the summer? For me this year, it’s tomatoes. Caprese, bruschetta, gazpacho, tomato soup, I love it all. While I love all things tomato, caprese has a special place in my heart. Or stomach, if we are being literal. Turkey burger looks boring? Add a caprese topping. Need to liven up plain pasta? Caprese!

Zucchini is another favorite summer food. I particularly love zoodles. If you don’t own a spiralizer, high end grocery stores will sell packaged spiralized zucchini. In my area (Metro Detroit), you can find zoodles in the produce section of Fresh Thyme stores. If no pre-spiralized zucchini is to be found and you don’t want to buy a new spiralizer, you can try thrift shops. Undoubtedly, someone had bad memories of a 2010s keto diet mid-pandemic and Mari Kondo’d a spiralizer out of her life. (While I love zoodles, they cannot pass as a replacement for wheat pasta. They are their own thing to be appreciated on their own merits.)

Also, if you have all the ingredients in your kitchen but the tortellini, you can make this with regular pasta. The cheese tortellini just kicks it up a notch. Also, if you don’t have or can’t find white balsamic vinegar, feel free to use regular balsamic. It won’t be as pretty, but the taste will be equally good.

This is the first recipe in my food and rosé pairing series. If you want to learn more about pairing rosé with food, please see this post.

Tortellini Caprese Salad with Zoodles

  • Servings: 4 entree or 8 side salad portions
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print
Wine pairing: rosé.

Ingredients

  • One 10 oz package cheese tortellini
  • Two medium zucchini, spiralized
  • 12 oz tomatoes chopped
  • ¼ cup basil, chopped finely
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, chopped (or use mozzarella pearls)
  • 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Balsamic glaze to top (optional)

Directions

  1. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain tortellini and rinse with cold water.
  2. While tortellini are cooking, prep the next four ingredients and combine in a large bowl.
  3. Add cooled tortellini, white balsamic vinegar, and olive oil to the bowl. Mix thoroughly and salt to taste.
  4. Serve with freshly ground pepper and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.
Food and Wine Pairing: Provençal Rosé

Food and Wine Pairing: Provençal Rosé

Rose wine and food pairing

The Provence wine region of France is known for their fields of lavender, their location on the Mediterranean, and their crisp, fruity, dry rosés. Provence rosés are as beautiful as the region where they are cultivated. The wines are the palest of pinks and dangerously drinkable. Flavors you can expect from this style of rosé include strawberry, melon (especially honeydew and watermelon), rose petals, and celery. The alcohol levels range from low to medium, with most rosés within an ABV of 11.5–13.5% ABV. They have enough acidity to be an excellent summer wine, but are less acidic than many dry whites.1-2

Rosé wine has skyrocketed in popularity in the US over the last few years, so we should know how to pair it with food. Luckily, rosé is pretty versatile as far as food wines go. In spite of that, I am focusing specifically on rosés specifically from Provence, so that I could test all of my recipes with the same style of wine. Not all rosés are the same, just like not all red wines or all white wines are the same, and I wanted to offer consistency here and not a generalization about rosés.

Provençal rosé pairs well with fish, seafood poultry, salads, barbeque, egg dishes and charcuterie. Not surprisingly, it pairs with many classic French dishes like Nicoise salad, bouillabaisse, and ratatouille.2-4 It’s a great choice for picnics, bridal showers, summer brunch, and happy hour with a charcuterie board, being both festive and affordable.

Recipes to Serve With Provence Rosé:

Tortellini caprese salad with zoodles (Recipe)

Hummus bruschetta (Recipe)

Pan Bagnat (Recipe)

Watermelon mint salad (recipe to post in summer 2023)

Recipe with Rosé:

Strawberry watermelon frosé (Recipe)

How to Taste Wine: 

Step 1: Examine the color. First hold the wine up to the light, and then examine it against a white background (tablecloth, napkin, etc.). Wine Folly has a great color chart on their website that can help you narrow down the shade of your vino. Other questions to ask yourself: Is the wine clear or opaque? Can other shades be seen along the edges of the glass? If the wine is browner near the rim, it may indicate the wine has been aged. If it’s pale near the rim, it may be a less flavorful wine. 5-7

Step 2: Swirl the wine glass. Yes, it looks snobby, but swirling your wine has two purposes: releasing aroma compounds and indicating alcohol levels. After you swirl, you will find there are tears running along the sides of the glass. These are called the legs. Is your wine a thick thighed gal? That indicates she has a higher alcohol level and you do not want to underestimate her.5-6

Step 3: Sniff. Note the distinctive aromas, which can be fruity, floral, herbal, or mineral. Take another sniff and see if you can identify new scents. Distinguishing aromas can be challenging. You might note that you smell berry, but you can’t identify which berry is triggering your scent memory. One way to simplify (or possibly complicate) the matter is to refer to the Davis Wine Aroma Wheel, which was created by Dr. Ann Noble, a chemist who retired from UC Davis.5-6, 8

Step 4: Taste. Your first sip should be swirled around your mouth so all the flavors are released. My first impression is always whether the taste matches the scent. White wines I usually find to be pretty consistent, but every now and then, I come across a red wine that smells like sweet ripened berries and tastes like gravel. Other things to note when tasting include acidity, sweetness, alcohol content, and tannins (wines with high tannins will “dry out” your tongue). The last thing is the wine’s finish. Do the flavors linger after your sip? If yes, your wine has a long finish. Is it a pleasant finish? Some wines may mellow out in the finish, while others taste delicious initially only to have an unpleasant finish.5-6

Step 5: Cheat. (This is the step that I invented.) Wine tasting is subjective. You may taste pears while your dining companion tastes apples and vanilla. After I note my perceptions of both smell and taste, I like to read the notes on the wine bottle. If the wine doesn’t provide any notes on the back of the label, I Google wine reviews and learn what Wine Enthusiast had to say about it. I then take another sip and see if I now taste new flavors based on the tasting notes of others. This isn’t to see if I am right or wrong; there isn’t a right or wrong in wine tasting. For me, it’s about training my palate. Please don’t ever read tasting notes before you taste yourself, as you will only taste what the notes tell you.

Sources:

1 Wine Folly: Essential Guide to the Provence Wine Region. Accessed July 6, 2022.

2 Wine Folly: Provence (Rosé). Accessed July 6, 2022.

3 Vine Pair: 10 Perfect Provence Rose and Fall Food Pairings. Accessed July 6, 2022.

4Dornenburg A and Page K. (2006.) What to Eat with What You Drink. (pp 253-4) Voracious/Little, Brown and Company.

5Wine Enthusiast: How to Taste Wine. Accessed May 26, 2022.

6The Spruce Eats: How to Taste Wine Like a Professional. Accessed May 26, 2022.

7Wine Folly: The Wine Color Chart. Accessed May 18, 2022.

8The Wine Aroma Wheel Official Website. Accessed May 18, 2022.