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

Plum Tart

Plum Tart  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Plum Tart | 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: “Long Distance Dinner”

The Set-up: Ina’s cooking a dinner party menu that will be delivered to a friend’s daughter in the city.

The Menu: Filet of Beef Bourgignon, Zucchini Gratin, Plum Tart

0:34 – Ina says this dinner is for her friends’ daughter Genevieve as a post-med school exam treat. This is one legit motivator.

1:20 – First up is dessert, a Plum Tart with a walnut crust, which just has to be pressed into the pan. No rolling involved, you say…?

2:16 – The crust mixture is compared with a typical crumble topping – butter, sugar, finely chopped walnuts, etc. and Ina is setting some aside to put over the top of the plums.

3:42 – Pro Tip #1: Use a metal measuring cup to press the crust into place and create a sharp corner where the bottom and sides meet. Pro Tip #2: Flour the measuring cup if it sticks.

4:11 – Ina says she likes to use Italian Prune Plums when they’re in season, but today it’s just regular black plums in a lotus pattern. Basically, concentric circles of fruit wedges.

5:05 – I just realized that Ina didn’t peel the plums, 100 points in favor of fruit that doesn’t require peeling!

6:33 – Instructional Phone Call Alert! Genevieve requires guidance on flowers and wine to go with the dinner and Ina says – one color, one type of flower, and lots of them. For wine – another burgundy or similar to pair with the wine in the dish. Sounds simple enough…

9:07 – Now it’s time to work on the Zucchini Gratin which Ina particularly likes because it’s an easy way to make a vegetable dish in advance.

10:18 – So, I’ve been watching Ina on the regs for a while now and I still don’t know why nutmeg is a traditional gratin spice.

11:34 – Ina is not messing around with this gratin, cheese, breadcrumbs, and little dots of butter are in the topping. G’s party guests are going to need a post dinner walk!

12:26 – Speak of the devil: Genevieve is on the hunt for flowers, oh so casually dropping in that her “friend Ina” recommended… she walks out with $30 worth of hyacinths flown in from Holland.

13:41 – Main course time: Filet of Beef Bourgignon. I guess the fancy flowers aren’t going to be out of place since I think Ina has about $100+ worth of beef.

14:15 – Fun Fact: Ina started making this recipe when she was catering as a way to make a more rustic dish “really special.” Which is probably code for “my clients needed to impress their guests.”

18:30 – Okay, so the beef has been sliced into filets and seared, next bacon is crisped. Now for the garlic to get a quick sauté before deglazing the pan with the burgundy wine.

19:23 – Stop the presses! Ina says you don’t have to make your own beef stock, so you can free up that Saturday afternoon dedicated to the process.

20:38 – Pro Tip: Cut your vegetables on the diagonal to make a prettier shape.

21:52 – Over to Genevieve who appears to be picking up bottles of wine at random before giving up and asking the shop keeper for assistance. After hearing the menu he suggests an aligoté for white and pinot noir for red.

22:07 – Back to Ina who is thickening the sauce with a paste of flour mixed into softened butter which she recommends for thickening gravy too since it prevents lumps. Naturally, the French have a term for this it’s beurre manié.

23:59 – Stray thought… I usually try to sauté all the vegetables before adding wine, stock, etc. but Ina is doing the reverse and adding the carrots and onions to the stock. Hmmm…

25:41 – Final steps on the Filet of Beef Bourgignon adding everything back into the pan – seared filet, crisped bacon. A montage of Genevieve lighting candles and putting her flowers in water while Ina packs up all the food in a gigantic cooler.

26:28 – PS: she appears to be lending an oval Le Creuset for the party. Oh, to have extra French ovens for loaning!

27:46 – The cooler is handed over – rather easily which gives me hope that some strapping lad from the TV crew helped haul it and this one is an empty stand-in – for the trip to the city.

28:53 – Cut to Genevieve taking the reheated Zucchini Gratin out of the oven and the beef off the stove. Full accent on the French pronunciations as dinner is served. It look a-mazing.

29:49 – The New Yorker and former Bostonian in me is pleased to see that the apartment looks like a totally normal walk-up and that G’s serving “platter” for the Plum Tart is a plastic cutting board. Ahh, my twenties.

Final Thoughts:
I need to think more about ways to take classic dishes and make them special a la Ina.

A masterful lesson in “make-ahead” dinner - side, entree, and dessert.

This episode was filmed in 2006, loving the flip phone thank-you “selfie” G sends to Ina.

Plum Tart   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Plum Tart | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I know I’ve just made a plum-related dessert, but we loved the Plum Cake Tatin so much that I had to try to fit in one more before Italian Prune Plums were out of season and try Plum Tart.

Fruit Selection – I personally liked the sharp tartness of the Italian prune plums, but if you want a more straightforward, sweet dessert then I’d use regular black plums, or pluots would work too especially if you’re finding other stone fruits hard to come by at this point in the fall.

Fruit Layout/Layering – This tart looks more dramatic when the points of the slices are emerging from the shell edges a bit which has the double benefit of giving you more space for a fourth ring of plums. I cut each plum into quarters (don’t forget your stone fruit lessons!) and started with the outer edge layering in toward the center. This is pretty forgiving and since the fruit cooks down a little I took the liberty of placing the slices in fairly snugly, and sneaking any extra slices I had at the end into spots that seemed like they could use a little more fruit.

Tart Shell – The shell is comprised of a similar concoction to your typical dutch apple pie crumb topping. The butter is cold to begin with, but warms and softens a little as you work the flour, sugar and walnuts into it. Mine seemed a bit dry at first and I worried that it wouldn’t hold together, but I kept mixing and pressing the ingredients with a rubber spatula until there was only a slight haze of flour visible, and it all turned out fine.

Shell/Crumble Ratio – The recipe suggests pressing 2/3 of the crumble into the tart pan and reserving the remaining 1/3 for crumbling on top. I’d revise that to 3/4 in the pan, 1/4 crumbled on top – there were a few places in the shell where I was having trouble getting good coverage and then it seemed like I couldn’t find enough places for all the topping to go.

Baking – I placed the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet while it was in the oven, which turned out well since the fruit juices did bubble over a bit. The time was spot on, and once it had cooled the tart lifted easily out of its outer ring and off the base onto a cake plate.

Storage – The fruit has a lot of moisture in it, so if you have one of those old-fashioned pie safes, now is the time to bust it out. Barring that, if you can stand to leave it uncovered or just very lightly with parchment paper your crust will stay crisp and firm.

Plum Tart   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Plum Tart | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, completely. I used a 9” tart pan with removable base, a medium mixing bowl, small cutting board, chef’s knife, rubber spatula, measuring cups and spoons. A parchment lined baking sheet will be helpful in catching crumble & fruit juice.

The Verdict:
I actually wasn’t sure whether I would like the combination of walnuts and plums in the Plum Tart since I sometimes find walnuts a bit sharp, but in this case they add a lovely toasty mellowness and crunch to the crust. Despite the plums being essentially unseasoned – no tossing in sugar or spices – the tart still manages to be rich in a way that sneaks up on you. Just a small slice with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream is perfect. This is the perfect recipe for company, it looks so elegant but only you need to know how simple it is.

Plum Tart   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Plum Tart | Image: Laura Messersmith

Plum Cake Tatin

Plum Cake Tatin   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Plum Cake Tatin | 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: “Photo Finish”

The Set-up: Miguel is photographing the garden at the Garten manse and Ina is making some magazine-worthy recipes.

The Menu: Plum Cake Tatin, Lemon Fusilli with Arugula, Bibb Salad with Basil Green Goddess Dressing, Roasted Tomatoes

0:39 – We’re starting off with Plum Cake Tatin, a twist on the French classic Apple Tatin.

1:17 – First order of business – get the stones out of the plums! NBD for we experienced stone fruit preppers

2:40 – There’s probably a little TV magic here, but I still can’t get over how perfectly Ina gets those plums to fit in her pie plate. One try!

3:11 – Over to Miguel snapping away out in the garden looking very autumnal-chic in his brown corduroy blazer.

4:23 – Time to mix the cake – a simple recipe Ina points out – with just a little lemon zest to flavor it.

5:42 – The batter calls for “1 cup + 2 tablespoons” of flour which to me is a sign of a well-tested recipe. Very specific!

6:15 – Note for the nervous – it’s okay (and maybe preferable?) if the caramel hardens after it’s poured over the plums. It will soften once the cake is baked.

9:08 – Ina makes a trip into the garden for basil to use in the Roasted Tomatoes and is immediately caught by paparazzi, aka Miguel. Not cool, Miguel! She said she wasn’t camera-ready!

10:34 – According to Ina plum tomatoes are available year-round, but unfortunately don’t have a ton of flavor which makes them ideal for roasting since cooking concentrates and develops their depth.

11:46 – The flavors that she’s using to season the tomatoes are essentially a deconstructed balsamic dressing.

12:13 – Pro Tip #1: allow the Plum Cake Tatin to cool for 15 minutes so that the caramel can set up and will stay on the cake. (PS: Ina turns that cake out like it’s her job, natch.)

13:29 – Final touches on the tomatoes with a scattering of chiffonade basil and a sprinkle of sea salt. They do look photo ready now!

14:02 – Onward to the Lemon Fusilli with Arugula a Barefoot Contessa classic that I hope inspired thoughts of "Fusilli Jerry" among many a customer.

15:38 – Am I the only one that recoils whenever a recipe requires two pots of boiling water? Ugh.

19:41 – This kind of an unusual pasta salad since it seems to combine a cream sauce with a brighter lemon flavor.

20:25 – I’ve never thought of reducing a cream based sauce, but I suppose even heavy cream has liquid that can evaporate when heated.

21:39 – While Ina preps some cherry tomatoes and grates a little parmesan we are treated to the “Getting Things Done” music.

22:50 – Between the tomatoes, broccoli and arugula this really is a pasta salad.

23:16 – Lunch is served and Ina has to wave off the paparazzi from photographingall the food. Maybe Miguel has a secret desire to be a food blogger?

27:33 – Miguel has gone home and Ina decides to make Bibb Salad with Basil Green Goddess Dressing with the leftover basil leaves. I love when she gets all Home Ec.

28:44 Fun fact: Green Goddess dressing is named after a 1920s play of the same name.

29:52 – Salad is assembled and after the decadent lunch Ina is balancing it out with greens for dinner. Aww, Miguel sent his pictures and there’s a great one of Ina!

Final Thoughts:
I’m intrigued by the pasta salad, but that plum cake is calling my name!

I know I’ve said this before, but I never fail to be amazed by Ina’s coterie of talented friends!

It really is difficult to find a pasta that captures the person. #Seinfeld

Plum Cake Tatin   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Plum Cake Tatin | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
This isn’t my first cake tatin, but it is my first one with Italian Prune Plums and since it had been about a 6 month gap I still learned quite a lot from making Plum Cake Tatin.

Plums – The recipe specifically calls for Italian Prune Plums (oval shaped, deep eggplant purple with golden flesh) and they were a revelation. First the color changes from sincerely yellow to a bright fuchsia color when they’re cooked, second the flavor is surprisingly sweet-tart and perfectly balanced by the subtle lemon of the cake. Same recommendations apply for prepping these plums, although they are free stone which makes it a bit easier.

Plum Arranging – It’s worth taking some care with the pattern since it will show once the cake it turned out, so before buttering the pie plate, I’d recommend fiddling around with the plum halves to see what fits best. In my 9” pie plate about 6 plums cut in half or quartered fit nicely.

Caramel – I was far less worried this time since I knew what to look for and after about 5-7 minutes I had a deeply golden caramel. Again, DON’T stir, just carefully swirl the water and sugar together and then leave it alone to cook into the sauce. I wasn’t sure the first time around, but in this episode Ina makes it clear that it’s okay if the caramel sets up a little after it’s poured over the plums while you mix the batter - it will melt again in the oven.

Butter – My new favorite way to “generously” butter a dish is brushing it on with a pastry brush. In this case, it took about 1 1/2 tablespoons to solidly cover the bottom and sides of my pie plate. No trouble getting the cake to release once it had cooled for the requisite 15 minutes.

Cooking Time – This is a very moist cake, the kind that sticks to the plate it’s sitting on and clings to the tines of your fork. Because the plums are somewhat juicier than apples I’d probably add another 5 minutes just to allow the cake to dry out a touch more before its called upon to absorb all the caramel.

Plum Cake Tatin   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Plum Cake Tatin | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a small sauce pan, medium mixing bowl, small bowl, hand-held electric mixer, and 9 inch pie plate. I also used a rubber spatula, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, pastry brush, microplane grater, measuring cups and spoons.

The Verdict:
Not to toot my own horn, but beep beep, man... I still can’t get over how beautiful and flavorful the plums were. In fact I’m kind of obsessed now, so don’t be surprised if there are about 12,000 plum-related desserts while they’re in season over the next few weeks. And it doesn't hurt that Plum Cake Tatin is an excellent dessert for a dinner party. The presentation gives it wow factor and only you need to know how simple it was to make. It’s also so moist that you can definitely make it earlier in the day or even the day before and it will still be perfect come dinnertime.  Pears should probably be put on notice too, because I know I’ll be putting this technique into play with other fruits soon!

Plum Cake Tatin  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Plum Cake Tatin | Image: Laura Messersmith

Summer Fruit Crostata

Summer Fruit Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Fruit Crostata | 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: “Good Catch”

The Set-up: Ina and T.R. are having seafood dinner at his new fishing shack.

The Menu: Parker’s Fish and Chips, Tartar Sauce, Chopped Pickles, Summer Fruit Crostata

0:53 – According to Ina, T.R. is in charge of catching the fish for their dinner but we all know that’s fairly unlikely.

1:07 – Ina is cooking most everything in advance, including the Summer Fruit Crostata.

2:30 – Pro Tip#1: Use unsalted butter so that you can control the amount of salt in a recipe.

3:11 – I can’t be the only one who has a hard time moderating the water in pie crust - it always seems to be too wet or too dry! Naturally, Ina’s is perfect.

4:26 – And now ladies and gents: T.R. looking impossibly dapper in a navy Lacoste polo and admitting that he maaaay have fudged the truth when it came to his fishing experience.

5:14 – We’re back with Ina to mix up the homemade Tartar Sauce and even though she’s using dill pickles she still manages to say “cornichon.” Love it.

6:29 – Next, the Chopped Pickles, essentially the same jarred pickles that went into the tartar sauce jazzed up in pretty slices with fresh minced dill fronds.

10:42 – The crust for the Summer Fruit Crostata has rested and chilled in the fridge and now Ina is rolling it out into a perfect circle. One day that will be me!

11:53 – Now the fruit – peaches, dark plums, and blueberries. Pro Tip #2: You can remove the skin from the peaches by blanching in hot water and shocking them in an ice water bath.

12:35 – Ina has somehow, with no swearing or effort, managed to slice the peaches and the plums right off the inner pit. For my own self-esteem I’m going to chalk that up to expert fruit selection and a little TV magic.

13:19 – Hahahaha. We’re treated to intermittent shots of T.R. faithfully, but fruitlessly casting and reeling from the dock. Poor guy.

14:50 – Thank goodness! We saw the fruit piled in the middle of the crostata dough, but for a second I thought we weren’t going to get a demo of the folding technique. How could I have though Ina would hold out on us?

19:18 – Onward to make the batter for the Parker’s Fish and Chips and Ina promises us that it will be crispy and light, not soggy. Preach girl!

20:36 – Ina compares this process to making pancakes in the morning and suggests that it can all be done in advance.

21:27 – It’s official: T.R. has not caught a fish (perhaps the lack of bait on that hook?) and makes an emergency trip to the seafood market. A much more sensible approach, if you ask me.

22:12 – One last prep task before heading over to T.R.’s: cutting big Idaho baking potatoes in wedges and sprinkling them with salt, rosemary and garlic. Yum!

25:05 – Ina arrives at the fishing shack with an adorable “Yoohoo! T.R.?” and immediately calls him out on ‘catching’ the fish at the Seafood Shop.

26:33 – He’s put to work portioning the fish while Ina puts the chips in the oven to roast.

27:24 – Since the potatoes take 30+ minutes to bake they have time for a glass of wine on the dock as the sun sets. Gorgeous.

28:41 – The fish goes from plate, to seasoned batter, to hot oil and back to a paper towel-lined plate in about 6 minutes. No dredging in flour though, which is surprising.

29:10 – Ina’s kicking this one old-school, roadside stand style with newspaper cones and little containers of pickles and tartar sauce. Crostata is consumed straight from the baking sheet.

Final Thoughts:
Fish and chips seem so much more approachable after watching Ina prep them so simply.

I sincerely would love to do a little dock-sitting if it could be arranged this summer.

T.R. is the consummate rascal and Ina is so classy that even jarred dill pickles aren’t beyond her reach.

Summer Fruit Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Fruit Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
In my continued efforts to master pies and pie crust baking Summer Fruit Crostata was another opportunity to test my skills and learn from my mistakes. It was also a chance to emulate one of the more alluring Bon Appetit covers I’ve seen. No one should be surprised that even with the concerted effort I’ve been making I still have room for improvement in this department.

Stone Fruit: Am I the only one who is incredibly intimidated by the process of slicing and removing the pits from peaches, plums & nectarines? The last time I tried the fruit was nearly unrecognizable from the divots and bruises I inflicted just trying to get a few slices free. So. Frustrating.

Before I made the crostata I carefully studied these tips & videos from Mario Batali, Southern Living, The Kitchn, and Food52 and have a few of my own.

·      Serrated/utility knife – Stone fruits are like tomatoes, the skin is tougher than you think and the flesh is really delicate. A serrated knife makes a cleaner cut with minimal pressure that might damage the fruit. Slice as close to the pit as you can to make the slices easier to remove.

·      The SEAM!!! – All the articles mentioned this, but making that first cut along the seam is more essential to successfully twisting the two halves apart than I realized. We’ve all laughed about how peaches look like little bums, well the seam is the uh, crack of the bum and demarcates the two half sections of the fruit and corresponds to the ridge around the pit. Doing this alone will help you immensely.

·      Ripe Fruit – high risk, high reward. The riper the fruit the more easily the fruit is to de-pit, but also bruises more. I’d recommend a firm and persistent, but gentle approach, especially when twisting the two halves apart. Resist pressing your finger tips in too hard and grip more with the palm.

Sweet Dough: Most of the crusts I’ve made so far have involved very little or no sugar at all just flour, butter, water, and salt. This one called for a moderate amount of white sugar; a great compliment to the juicy fruit resulting in a dessert that hovered between sweet and fresh. Fantastic.

Patience: Alas, even though I know that keeping the dough cold is an essential part of the process stubbornness and a short window for baking had me rushing. Couple a lack of time with a hot afternoon and you have a recipe for sticky dough and a frustrating rolling experience. I managed to patch the crostata together, but ideally I’d take note of the sky high temperatures outside and remember to leave myself an extra 30 minutes for chilling time.

Summer Fruit Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Fruit Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes indeed, but clear the counter so you have a place to roll the crust. For the pastry, I used a large bowl, pastry cutter, measuring cups & spoons (all reused later for the topping), a liquid measuring cup, and a rolling pin. For the fruit, I needed a separate medium bowl, serrated utility knife, and small cutting board.  (I skipped the orange zest and washed the peaches carefully so I didn’t have to take off the skin.) A baking sheet, plastic wrap and parchment paper round out the “kit.”

The Verdict:
I made Summer Fruit Crostata for friends as a post-dinner treat and based on the silence after the wedges were served, and the speed at which it was consumed this was a hit. This is a dessert that lets the fruit shine without a lot of extra business and when beautiful peaches, plums, and blueberries are in season you really don’t need to gussy them up with a ton of sugar and spices. A simple scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’re off to the races with a perfect slice of summer. Do make this crostata immediately.

Summer Fruit Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Fruit Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith