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

Simple White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Apologies for the radio silence here over the past week – it’s been a busy one full of new projects and just like that project numero uno was shifted to the back burner. Which is sad because it means I’ve been withholding this fantastic recipe for a simple cassoulet from you for weeks. I realize we’re coming to the end of winter and maybe you’re reaching the end of your bean-eating rope, I know I couldn’t stand the sight of another bowl of chili.

But here’s the thing – winter hasn’t really let us go yet, I swear every time I even think about leaving the apartment without a hat it goes rainy and cold here. So, an amazing dish (that takes almost zero effort) is a good thing to have in your back pocket for those busy weeks when there’s just no time to cook, let alone grocery shop, and dinnertime has arrived. Here’s your solve:

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Simple White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet (serves 4-6)

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups (1 medium) finely chopped yellow onion, finely chopped
3 teaspoons (2 medium cloves) finely minced garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 pound kielbasa, cut into 1-inch slices
1 can (28 ounce) crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 can (15 ounce) chicken broth
2 cans (15 ounce) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil and chopped onions in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté the onions for 7-8 minutes or until they soften and turn translucent.

Reduce the heat to low and add the minced garlic. Cook 1 more minute taking care not to let the garlic burn. Add the kielbasa slices and thyme leaves to the pot and stir to combine.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth and stir in the drained and rinsed cannellini beans and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Bring the cassoulet up to low boil over medium heat.

Partially cover the pot and turn the heat down to lo. Simmer for at least one hour stirring occasionally, to allow the liquid to reduce and the cassoulet to develop its flavors.

Check the seasoning and add salt to taste as well as the chopped parsley. Serve with toasted multi-grain bread or baguette.

Recipe re-written and adapted from Real Simple’s Slow Cooker Kielbasa and White Bean Cassoulet by Rachel Soszynski.

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
100% I used a 5.5qt dutch oven, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, sieve, and measuring cups and spoons. Throw in a wooden spatula and you’re good to go!

The Verdict:
I’ve mentioned before that the way I know a recipe is a winner is when Mike is willing to eat it more than once in a week or even have leftovers the very next day. This was such a recipe – hearty, satisfying, and with a different flavor profile than spicy chili. I always think of cassoulet as a French dish, but this one leans heavily on Italian influences too, just veering away from basil at the last second back into Provence with the addition of thyme. Save this one for the next cold weekend and cross your fingers that you won’t need it until October!

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Provençal Lavender and Lemon Roast Chicken

Provençal Lavender and Lemon Chicken   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Provençal Lavender and Lemon Chicken | Image: Laura Messersmith

One of the reasons I love reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows is for inspiration. I’m continually amazed at the creativity I see and it’s an opportunity to learn something new. I recently saw an episode of Rachel Khoo’s Little Paris Kitchen where she made a roast chicken with dried lavender and was I intrigued by the use of lavender in cooking.

In Provence lavender is a staple of the kitchen spice rack and it seems like the bakers on the Great British Bake-Off are constantly infusing things with it, but I was having trouble wrapping my head around an ingredient I associate with linen closets. So, I decided to give it a shot and take a little culinary adventure to southern France with Rachel’s recipe as my guide.

Lavender has a strong herbal flavor that when combined with lemon zest and thyme reminded me of rosemary - a little astringent, a hint piney, but not at all reminiscent of a sachet, unless that sachet is full of herbs de Provence. Since it is powerful, a little goes a long way and I particularly liked it with the balancing sweetness of the wildflower honey, which also has a delicate floral note.

This recipe is so simple and takes just a few minutes to assemble, but the unique flavor elements make it feel special all the same. Perfect with some pureed potatoes or sautéed asparagus.

Provençal Lavender and Lemon Chicken   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Provençal Lavender and Lemon Chicken | Image: Laura Messersmith

Provençal Lavender and Lemon Chicken (serves 4)

2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender buds
2 lemons, zest and juice
3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup wildflower honey
4 pieces of bone-in, skin-on chicken, either breast or leg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Place the lavender in a large ziptop bag and lightly crush using a rolling pin. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil, honey, thyme leaves, lemon zest and juice. Pour into the zip top bag with the lavender then add the chicken pieces. Seal the bag pressing out the air and turn a few times to coat all sides of the chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (or up to 4 hours).

Preheat oven to 400°F. Put chicken and marinade into roasting pan with the skin side down and sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast chicken for 45 minutes, turning pieces over halfway.

Cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F or when thickest part is pierced with a skewer and the juices run clear (not red or pink). Serve the chicken with cooking juices spooned over the top.

Rewritten and slightly adapted from Rachel Khoo’s Poulet au Citron et Lavande via PopSugar.

Provençal Lavender and Lemon Chicken   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Provençal Lavender and Lemon Chicken | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Absolutely. All I needed for this recipe was a gallon sized zip top bag, a small cuutin board, chef’s knife, microplane zester, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons and a medium baking dish (2 qt.)

The Verdict:
I really didn’t know what to expect since I’ve never made a Rachel Khoo recipe before – that requires trust! – but I have to give credit where credit is due, this is really, really good. The lavender is subtle and in combination with the lemon and thyme it brings a beautifully summery flavor to the chicken, like the toasted warmth of a golden hay field in August and so simple to put together at a moment’s notice.  Just the thing now that freezing temperatures have taken hold in New York and we need a taste of summer to see us through.

Provençal Lavender and Lemon Chicken   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Provençal Lavender and Lemon Chicken | Image: Laura Messersmith

Scallops Provencal & Herbed Basmati Rice

Scallops Provencal & Herbed Basmati Rice  | Image: Laura Messersmith

Scallops Provencal & Herbed Basmati Rice | Image: Laura Messersmith

Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa, and her cookbooks are already a source of guidance for basic recipes but her show serves as my inspiration for more adventurous culinary efforts.  I’ll follow along with an episode of the Barefoot Contessa, then choose a recipe to try in my tiny New York kitchen. We’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Shore Thing”

The Set-up: Ina and Jeffrey are spending a day at the docks in Montauk. They’ll watch the boats and pick-up some seafood for dinner

The Menu: California BLTs, Scallops Provencal with Herbed Basmati Rice, and Vanilla Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

0:55 – Before Ina and Jeffrey head over to the marina, Ina’s getting a head start on dinner by making Vanilla Panna Cotta for their dessert.

1:37 –The panna cotta recipe calls for heavy cream, plain yogurt, vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a vanilla bean in the grocery store, yet Ina seems to use them all the time. My mission is clear: locate whole vanilla beans!

2:10 – The process for this recipe seems a little complicated – a warm mixture (cream, gelatin, and sugar) is added to a cold mixture (cream, yogurt, vanilla, etc.)

3:07 - What is it about things that have to ‘set’ that make me nervous? Ina says they need at least 8 hours in the refrigerator. I’m not as organized as she is and I’d probably have to do them the day before.

4:01 – Next up: California BLTs for a picnic lunch on the dock. Pro Tip #1: cook the bacon on a tray in the oven and avoid the splatter of sautéing on the stovetop. I concur 100% with this advice, so much less stressful.

5:17 – Ina seems mildly guilty over her love of BLTs and says that using “really good” ingredients is her excuse. Neither statement makes sense to me – when did the BLT become passé?

5:49 – The bacon is out of the oven and it looks absolutely perfect, like the pictures in an IHOP menu.

9:12 – Ina is slicing avocados for the California part of the BLTs. Pro Tip #2: buy avocados a day or two in advance of when you want to use them so they have time to ripen. I have such a hard time getting the timing right – if only there were a way to accurately predict!

10:16 – At this point she makes a reference to BLTs as a “mayonnaise delivery system.” I have new insight into the reason an excuse to make them is required…

10:48 – Ina is tossing the avocado slices in lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. Like with apples; avocado + air = discoloration.

11:07 – I think I need to send in an Ask Ina question  about avocados, because this is something else I have trouble with. The acid in the juice seems to break down the avocado – too early and I have mush, too late and they’re brown.

11:55 – Back to sandwich assembly – Ina is using large slices of toasted bakery bread, Bibb lettuce, bacon, thick slices of tomato, the aforementioned avocado, and salt/pepper for seasoning. These sandwiches are not messing around.

13:01 – As she wraps up the sandwiches Ina gives us some words of wisdom on marriage. It sounds like she’s an equal opportunity proponent of the “happy wife/husband, happy life” axiom. Seems to be working for the Gartens so far!

13:30 – The picnic is packed and they’re on their way to Montauk to watch the boats. Jeffrey is trying to pitch Ina on the benefits of boat ownership, and she is not buying it.

18:16 – The boat-watching is over and the Gartens have stopped into the local fish shop where Ina chooses sea scallops for dinner, noting that she’d much rather buy them than be out on a boat catching them. I have a feeling the only yacht Jeffrey is getting will fit in the bathtub.

19:37 – We’re back in the kitchen with Ina to make balsamic strawberries for the panna cotta. Pro Tip #3: Balsamic vinegar is like wine, the more it ages the better it tastes.

20:14 – Ina has selected Herbed Basmati Rice as the accompaniment to the Scallops Provencal and has set the rice and water on the stove to simmer. Looks fairly straightforward, so good news there!

20:38 – Now to un-mold the panna cotta that’s been chilling (like a villain? Sorry.) Ina dips the ramekins in hot water and running a knife around the edge.

21:03 – Ina sets the panna cotta on the sweetest plate decorated with little purple flowers and spoons the macerated Balsamic Strawberries in a circle around each custard. A final sprinkle of lemon zest and we’re done. This looks so good and summery, mmmmmmm.

25:43 – Time to prepare the Scallops Provencal – first a quick seasoning with salt and pepper, then tossed in a tablespoon or so of flour and into a sauté pan with a little melted butter.

27:11 – While the scallops cook, Ina chops fresh parsley, garlic, and shallots, which then go into the pan too.  She must be really fast with her knife work; I’d need to have the veggies prepped in advance or risk some burnt scallops…

28:37 – The scallops cook with the herbs and vegetable for a minute or two and then Ina adds some white wine to de-glaze the pan and make the sauce. I love a white wine sauce and this whole recipe looks delicious.

28:55 – Ina is finishing up the Herbed Basmati Rice with fresh parsley, dill, and scallions forked into the fluffy rice. She doesn’t say this, so I’ll help a sister out and suggest my own Pro Tip: a fork is the right tool to lighten cooked rice, a spoon just presses the grains together and makes a gummy mixture. Eww.

29:16 – The scallops, rice, and panna cotta are all ready and plated, so Ina and Jeffrey head out to the garden for dinner on what looks like a perfect late summer evening. Ahh heaven.

29:51 – Jeffrey chooses this blissful moment to make one last play for a boat. Ina’s reply: “Not on my watch.” Jeffrey hangs tough, though and they finish their dinner toasting to a “(distant) future boat.” And, scene.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve only made panna cotta one time, but the Vanilla Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries looks so good. I kinda want to try again…

We took exactly zero picnics last summer, which is a travesty I will have to remedy in 2014.

Jeffrey is DYING for a boat, people. Will no one take pity on him?

Scallops Provencal & Herbed Basmati Rice  | Image: Laura Messersmith

Scallops Provencal & Herbed Basmati Rice | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned: In our household Mike is the one who has mastered the technique of searing scallops, but I’ve never made them and they’re one of my favorite dishes. Right before we left on our trip I decided to test my self by making the Scallops Provencal with Herbed Basmati Rice. First up, the rice is incredibly easy – if you can make a box of Near East pilaf, you can make this no problem.

The scallops proved a little more challenging to me. Forgive me cooking gods, for I have sinned! I chalk my difficulties up to two factors. One – I had a ton of small bay scallops and violated the cardinal rule of pan spacing by putting too many in at one time which lowers the temperature and prevents searing. Two – I further muddied the waters by not getting the butter hot enough (I was worried about burning it) in the first place.

I managed to salvage the dish by turning up the flame (thank goodness for gas stoves!) but it never looked quite as good as Ina’s. I will have to try again and be strict with myself so that my scallops sear instead of steam.

The good news – there is very little prep involved and it is definitely a small kitchen-friendly dish. To make both the Scallops and the Rice I used one medium sauce pan, one large sauté pan, a cutting board, chef’s knife, tongs, a measuring cup & spoons. That’s really it!

The Verdict: Despite my somewhat inept approach to this dish it still tasted quite good – so it must be fairly forgiving, hooray! The flour-dusted scallops create a rich, creamy sauce, which makes this a nice cold weather dinner, and we both thought that the herbed rice was nice, light compliment. I would definitely make Scallops Provencal again – Mike and I liked the flavors, and it’s a unique version of comfort food.