Lavender and Stone Fruit Rosé Sangria

Lavender and Stone Fruit Rosé Sangria

Summer entertaining should be simple, easy, and low stress. It’s just too hot to be mixing individual cocktails, so summer calls for a big batch of something delicious and refreshing that guests can help themselves and sip on as the sun drops lower in the sky. Rosé has become synonymous with summer afternoons and earlier in the season I had the pleasure of creating a recipe for a rosé tasting event at Maman, my favorite café in New York. Talk about a dream come true!

I was only recently introduced to Lillet Rosé by my lovely friends Josie & David, and afterward couldn’t believe I had gone so long without having it in my life. It makes a super simple aperitif – just add a sizable cube of ice and a slice of something citrusy.

Lavender and Stone Fruit Rosé Sangria

Or, take it one step further and transform it into a twist on sangria. Traditionally sangria combines wine with a liqueur or brandy, but since Lillet is already a fortified wine in my variation you get to skip that step. Score. Maman’s Provencal influence provided the inspiration to enhance the flavor by adding lavender and stone fruit. It fits the low-stress bill, and has the added benefit of being even better when it’s made in advance.

Lavender and Stone Fruit Rosé Sangria (serves 4)

1 bottle (750 ml) Lillet Rosé
3/4 teaspoon (3-4 sprigs) dried culinary lavender buds
1 ripe black plum
1 ripe white nectarine
2 ripe apricots
1 medium lemon
1/4 cup (2 oz.) club soda
Garnish (optional): fresh raspberries, blackberries, strawberries

Pour the Lillet Rosé into a large pitcher or glass container. Lightly crush the dried lavender flowers between your hands to release the essential oils and place in a tea bell or a piece of cheese cloth tied with kitchen twine and suspend in the wine. Allow the lavender to infuse the wine while you prepare the fruit.

Wash and remove the stone from the plum, nectarine, and apricots. Slice into 1/3 inch wedges and drop into the pitcher. Thinly slice half the lemon (reserve the other half) into rounds or half moons and add to the sangria. Stir gently with a wooden spoon. Chill the sangria overnight, or at least 3-4 hours, to allow the fruit, lavender, and Lillet Rosé to steep.

Just before serving, use a sharp knife to remove large strips of peel from the reserved lemon and wipe the yellow skin of peel around the inside of each glass. Place the ice in the glasses, remove the lavender sachet from the sangria, and add the club soda to the pitcher.

Divide the sangria among the glasses making sure that the fruit goes in too – it’s delicious! Garnish with a sprig of lavender (if using) or additional berries as your heart desires. Relax and enjoy.

Original recipe created for Maman and sponsored by Lillet. All opinions are my own.

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a large pitcher, liquid measuring cup small cutting board, utility knife, wooden spoon, cheese cloth, and kitchen twine.

Lavender and Stone Fruit Rosé Sangria
Lavender and Stone Fruit Rosé Sangria

One-Bowl Coconut Almond Granola

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola | Image: Laura Messersmith

I think I’ve teased this recipe enough with various photos on social media and now it’s time to actually reveal what’s become essentially its own food group in our household. I’ve been tinkering with the ingredients and baking time and I can safely say that we’re addicted. It hasn’t come to marking how much is left in the mason jar before I leave the apartment, but we’re getting there.

Yup, it tastes that good. Lightly sweet, plenty of crunch, lovely toasted coconut and flaked almonds. Excellent sprinkled over yogurt with a handful of blueberries or some pieces of fresh pineapple. What’s even better: all the ingredients can hang out in the pantry, no special trip to the grocery store required, and it only takes one bowl. So even when we’re reaching critically low levels we’re really only about 30 minutes away from a fresh batch.

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola | Image: Laura Messersmith

One-Bowl Coconut Almond Granola (yield 2 1/2 cups)

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
2 tablespoons lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup raw sliced almonds
1/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup dried apricots, sliced

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, vanilla protein powder, brown sugar, ginger cinnamon, and salt. (If you’re not into protein powder you can leave it out – just keep an eye on your baking times – or sub in whole wheat flour.)

Pour the olive oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract onto the dry ingredients and stir until the oats are evenly coated and the granola is well mixed.

Spread the granola mixture in an even layer on the prepared rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F. for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir to break up the clusters and sprinkle the almonds evenly over the granola. Bake for another 8 minutes, again stirring before adding the flaked coconut. Bake for a final 6-8 minutes until the granola is golden brown.

Remove from the oven, the slide the parchment paper and granola onto a wire rack and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before adding the dried apricot pieces.

Allow the entire mixture to cool completely before storing or serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Serve with vanilla greek yogurt and fresh fruit.

Adapted from Small Batch Granola by Joy the Baker.

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Absolutely. I used a medium mixing bowl, measuring cups and spoons, a rubber spatula, rimmed baking sheet, and a wire cooling rack. Parchment paper will prevent the granola from browning too quickly and helps with the cooling process.

The Verdict:
Our granola consumption has gone up 1000% since I started making my own. It’s just the right amount of sweetly spicy, the oats and almonds give it enough satisfying heft, and the apricots are pleasantly chewy. We often bring along a small container to jazz up a cup of yogurt, and it makes a parfait or dish of ice cream feel like a treat. I also love that the basic oat mixture is endlessly adaptable to what’s in the pantry, so expect more variations down the road.

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola | Image: Laura Messersmith

French Chocolate Bark

French Chocolate Bark   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

French Chocolate Bark | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Festive Fun”

The Set-up: Ina and Jeffrey are having friends over for a pre-holiday celebration and christening the barn with its first dinner party.

The Menu: Seafood Gratin, French Chocolate Bark, Mulled Wine, Pumpkin Mousse

0:18 – Ina says everyone gets so busy preparing for the holidays that we forget to actually have fun. Preach!

1:20 – First up, she’s making Pumpkin Mousse instead of pumpkin pie although so far the ingredients seem to be the same.

2:31 – Ina says she’s not really a fan of pumpkin pie calling it “cloying and sweet”, which would be a treasonous statement to another audience, but sound spot on to be. Apple pie #FTW

3:09 – Home-Ec Ina says that she only needs the yolks for this mousse, so an egg-white omelet is on the menu for lunch.

4:42 – Another recipe calling for gelatin, but thanks to my marshmallow adventure I’m no longer intimidated!

5:13 – I’m honestly not fond of pumpkin-centric baked goods, but Ina is so good at “layered flavor” (who else would think to put a mashed banana into a pumpkin mousse?) I could almost be convinced.

6:29 – The pumpkin mousse is in the fridge, Ina says you could make it up to 3-4 days in advance, now it’s time to go shopping!

7:34 – First stop: a giant bunch of mixed evergreens from Michael the Florist TM who is decked out in his signature bright sweater (candy cane red). Then, onto the Seafood Shop for ingredients in the Seafood Gratin.

10:28 – Moving on the main course and Ina has designed this menu to be special and festive for company, but also something she can make in advance. Music to everyone’s ears.

11:45 – The seafood will cook in a fish stock based broth with cream, tomato and white wine, yum! Pro Tip #1: To make the shrimp bite sized while retaining the shape, cut them in half lengthwise.

12:06 – Oooh, tricky. Since some of the fish is cooked (the lobster) and some of it isn’t, Ina is cooking each ingredient separately and then lifting it out of the stock when it’s done.

13:30 – Now that all the fish is cooked stock continues to simmer and will reduce into a sauce. Clever way to retain all the flavors…

14:54 – Onward to the vegetables which are sautéed in butter while Ina makes a panko bread crumb topping.

15:23 – Friends, this will come as no surprise, but we’re not dealing with a low-cal recipe here. Lots of butter, cream, and cheese went into the making of this gratin.

16:12 – Pro Tip #2: the butter in the gratin topping is for flavor, but also ensures that it browns.

17:48 – Interesting, I thought at some point that the cooked seafood, sauce and vegetables would all be stirred together, but instead they’re layered in a large baking dish and then topped with the bread crumbs.

21:17 – Next on the docket: French Chocolate Bark starting with a combination of bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate bricks. The two different kinds are meant to balance each other out.

22:21 – Ina is using toasted cashews, cranberries, and apricots, but she has also given us leave to top it with trail mix if that’s what suits you.

23:02 – Fun fact: American chocolate bark has the fruit and nuts mixed in, while French chocolate bark starts with a sheet of chocolate and is then topped with the ingredients so they’re more visible.

24:36 – Ina is not messing around with the chocolate bark either, she’s planning to use it in S’mores over coffee gathered around the outdoor brazier. Boom, gauntlet thrown.

25:05 – The table setting is in silver and taupe, because you know Ina probably isn’t going to rock red & green. She’s using large glass jars of lemons and clementines softened with some of her greenery from Michael the Florist TM and mercury glass votive holders. Gorgeous, naturally.

27:24 – Part of Ina’s strategy for the Mulled Wine is to serve it after dinner with the chocolate bark since it’s already on the sweet side, and it's a nice hot drink to have on a cold night.

28:50 – I honestly never knew what was in mulled wine but Ina is using a combination of sweet spices, apple cider, and a little honey. Sounds pretty good, actually.

29:49 – Dinner is served and everyone seems to be diving right in. Ina disappears to set up the s’mores tray and the mulled wine while her guests enjoy the fire. Looks like a blast – invite meeee! (please.)

Final Thoughts:
Add an outdoor brazier to my future home wish list.
s anyone else contemplating the thousands of different types of chocolate bark to make?
Just imagine if Ina had made her own marshmallows and the chocolate bark. Heads would explode.

French Chocolate Bark   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

French Chocolate Bark | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I’ve really been enjoying my starter candy course this month, and frankly this French Chocolate Bark, is even easier than the marshmallows I made last week, but I still managed to learn a few things along the way.

Double Boiler/Bain Marie – this really is the time to use a water bath to melt the chocolate. Nothing could be more tragic (okay, that’s an exaggeration) than ruining high quality chocolate by burning it. A double boiler allows you melt the chocolate through indirect heat and reduces the chances of a mishap due to inattention. Make sure the bowl is heat proof (ie. pyrex) and that the water doesn’t actually touch the bottom.

Advance Prep – The double benefit of using a water bath is that it allows you to get your other ingredients ready without stressing that your chocolate is charring. And, since the chocolate will cool and harden fairly quickly after it’s spread on the parchment it’s a good idea to have the toasted cashews and fruit ready before that step. Much less panic inducing….

Sweet & Salty – I realized as I was making this recipe that the cashews I had were toasted, but not salted. They’d still have worked and been quite good, but as we’ve discussed a balance of sweet and salty is what makes a dessert really amazing. Hence, the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency use of the Maldon sea salt. A good trick to have in your back pocket and regular Kosher salt (used sparingly) could work in a pinch.

French Chocolate Bark   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

French Chocolate Bark | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
100%. I used a medium Pyrex bowl, a medium sauce pan, a large cutting board, chef’s knife, and a rimmed baking sheet. Parchment paper is a must, and if you’re into precision then a ruler and a pencil to help mark the boundaries.

The Verdict:
I ask you, how bad could dark chocolate studded with tart cranberries, sweet musky apricots, and roasted cashews be? Add in a shower of coarse sea salt and this French Chocolate Bark could be your new favorite treat. It also would make a lovely gift for anyone who likes a decadent little something. I’m already plotting my next chocolate bark concoction – maybe spiced like Mexican Hot Chocolate or make use of those leftover starlight mints? What about crunchy pretzels? Candied ginger? Sky’s the limit!

French Chocolate Bark  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

French Chocolate Bark | Image: Laura Messersmith

Honey Thyme Chicken & Apricot Kebabs

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Summer, especially days when it’s too hot to move are made for recipes like this one. The chicken is tender and flavorful, the apricots are fresh and the whole shebang is lightly lacquered with honey and bright herbs. Assembly takes just a few minutes, minimal effort and very little planning, but the results are phenomenal.

I realize that this is the second recipe I’ve posted from Food + Wine that features apricots – I might be just a little obsessed – but I think it has more to do with Justin Chapple’s inventive way of combining classic ingredient pairings. Apricots and honey given a modern twist with fresh thyme. Perfect.

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Honey Thyme Chicken & Apricot Kebabs (serves 4)

1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
8 small apricots
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon water
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper

Special Equipment:
Cast iron grill pan
8 long bamboo skewers

Put the bamboo skewers in water to soak for 30 minutes.

Mince the thyme leaves and whisk together with the honey and water. Season with kosher salt and black pepper.

Halve and pit the apricots length-wise, divide the chicken thighs into 1 inch pieces. Thread the 3-4 pieces of chicken and apricot onto each skewer (I recommend keeping them separate for ease of cooking.) Brush the kebabs with olive oil and season with kosher salt and black pepper.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until the chicken is just cooked through, about 10-12 minutes total, the apricots will need about 5 minutes total.

Brush the hot kebabs with the honey and thyme mixture and serve.

Lightly adapted from Food + Wine’s Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs by Justin Chapple.

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I needed a medium cutting board, chef’s knife, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons, a cast iron grill pan, tongs, and a pastry brush. You'll also need bamboo skewers, and a plastic wrap-lined sheet pan will also be helpful during assembly.

The Verdict:
Chicken thighs and kebabs are a match made in grill heaven only improved by the addition of the sweet herbal glaze of the honey and thyme. And, as we’ve established already, stone fruit is amazing when it has a hint of char and smoke from the grill. I served the kebabs for a dinner party over a bed of fluffy couscous with a little green salad on the side. Light, easy, perfect for a summer evening.

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs | Image: Laura Messersmith