Lavender Light Me Up

IMG_5135Well, it’s certainly been way too long since I shared a cocktail recipe (ahem, or anything) here! It’s high time we said cheers and there is no better time for a refreshing, potent, and well-balanced drink like the lemonade pictured here, but now. My amazing sestra (that means sister in Ukraine; if you watch Orphan Black, the best show on television right now, you’ll know what I’m referring to) and I invented it together.

She and lavender are having a major moment and she simply can’t get enough of the fragrant light-hued purple flower. At Della Fattoria, our favorite bakery in our hometown, Petaluma, they serve the most delicious lavender lemonade. (They also have a lavender latte that’s pretty tasty.) Last summer when we were at a street festival, I got to talking with the Della team and they said that they roasted the lavender buds before making a simple syrup to use in the lemonade. The roasting technique results in a rich pink color.

When a friend recently presented my sestra with a thick bouquet of freshly cut lavender stems, all she wanted to do was make the lemonade. There wasn’t much time, we were heading to the local lake in a few minutes, so instead of roasting the lavender, we toasted it in a sauté pan. However, the key to making a good lavender syrup is to let the flower buds steep in dissolved sugar and water for several hours.

This recipe was absolutely perfect with bourbon, but gin or vodka could work equally well. We used homemade lemonade (which ironically my mom described as tasting “just like crystal light,”) however any not-too-sweet lemonade is fine.

IMG_5133Lavender Light Me Up
From Tricia Sweeney

2 ounces bourbon (we used Bulliet)
1/2 ounce lavender simple syrup (recipe below)
4-6 ounces lemonade
Lavender sprig, optional for garnish

  1. Fill a stemless wine glass half way with ice.
  2. Add bourbon, syrup, and top with lemonade.
  3. Stir well to combine, garnish with a lavender sprig, and enjoy!

Makes 1 cocktail.

Lavender Simple Syrup

1/4 heaping lavender buds
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

  1. Toast the lavender buds in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, stirring to ensure they don’t burn, about 4 minutes.
  2. Place the lavender, sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir to ensure that sugar is dissolved. Let boil for one minute.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside to steep at room temperature for 4-8 hours.
  4. Pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a pretty container. Use to favor the aforementioned cocktail or other beverage. Store at room temperature for 2 weeks.

Makes about 2 cups.

Salad, Two Ways

photo 3I’m always trying to come up with more interesting salads. Sometimes I’ll think about every ingredient and what each one adds to the salad be it a crunchy texture, salty bite, or burst of fresh acidity. Other times I take ‘the more the merrier’ approach to the salad and toss everything imaginable into the bowl not caring that it has green onions and roasted red onions.

I record my salads by writing out the list of ingredients on scraps of paper, backs of envelopes, and bottoms of grocery lists. I literally have tens (I wanted to write thousands instead of tens, but that would a gross exaggeration!) of these salad lists. Sometimes I name the salad; other times I don’t. Same goes for the dressing. I either do a special creation to compliment the salad’s components or my signature garlic dijon vinaigrette. Sometimes, if I’m making the salad for myself, I don’t use any dressing — crazy, right?!

Below I’m sharing two recent salads. Note that I don’t include the amount of each ingredient. This is on purpose. Alter the quantity based on how many people you are serving. The first salad I’m dying to make again. It’s full of Italian favors and lots of antipasto ingredients. The dressing base is Ina Garten’s basil parmesan mayonnaise which I’m currently obsessed with. I’ve made it twice and a third time with rosemary instead of basil. Totally bomb!

The second salad was born out of the need to clean out the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator. Sometimes you gotta throw it all in there! As long as there is the aforementioned texture, bite, and acidity, you’ll be in for a treat.

photo 2Italian Antipasto Salad

Lemon halves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fennel, thinly sliced on a mandoline
Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
Kidney beans
Pepperoncini slices
Basil, roughly chopped
Shallot, thinly sliced
Roasted red pepper, diced

Parmesan Dressing (made with 1:3 ratio of Ina’s parmesan basil mayonnaise whisked with olive oil)

Start by tossing the arugula with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and a little of the dressing. Toss to coat. To serve, mound the arugula onto a large round platter and top with the antipasto mixture. Drizzle some of the dressing over the top of the arugula and enjoy!

photo 1Deli Salad

Mixed greens
Roasted quartered mushrooms
Roasted broccoli florets
Tomato, diced
Roasted red pepper, diced
Garbanzo beans
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Deli turkey, julienned

Dijon vinaigrette

Combine all of the ingredients in an extra large bowl and toss well to combine. Enjoy immediately.

My Favorite Things May 2014

IMG_4120Recently, one of my oldest friends called me out like only someone who has known you since fourth grade can call you out. She pointed out that I keep saying I’m going to post more here on the website, but then I never follow through. She wasn’t saying it to make me feel bad, she was just stating the facts, but ugh, she is totally right. So I’m not making any promises — however know that it’s a goal to be consistent with my articles here while also implementing some fun changes. Take my favorite things for example. I’ve decided to start including places I’ve enjoyed checking out and dishes that I can’t stop thinking about. Here’s what caught my eye over the past thirty-one days.

IMG_4370Turkey burgers. It’s grilling season and I’m obsessed with turkey burgers. I’m working on a recipe for a super delicious Italian meatball-inspired version with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and crispy olive bread; stay tuned!

IMG_4473Mission Bowling Club. I’m a little late to jump on the bandwagon, but I finally went to Mission Bowl and it was fabulous with a capital F. My sister’s boyfriend works there and a group of close friends went on a Sunday night, so it wasn’t crowded. Even though I had the lowest bowling score, the cocktails were lovely, the patio large and airy, and the atmosphere festive. I’m already looking forward to going again.

IMG_4348The Giants. I went to two Giants games with my parents and both nights were unusually warm. It was so fun to embrace the team spirit, sip an icy cold beer, and snack on a bunch of peanuts. Plus, we are winning!

IMG_4483Workshop. Last week, I went to an event for Auchentoshan at Workshop this cool space that offers classes in everything from floral crowning to screen printing. I’ve been wanting to learn something new, so I plan to sign up for a few classes soon.

IMG_4123Roses. It’s a complete cliche, but this time of year, I love going on walks and checking out the beautiful roses that are in bloom. It’s inspiring for someone who hopes to have a rose garden of her own one day!

IMG_4505Lillet. My current spirit obsession is the French aperitif known as Lillet. It’s refreshing in a simple spritzer and excellent as a component of a more complex cocktail.

IMG_4145RN74‘s kale salad. Kale salads have become way too ubiquitous, yet at a lunch for Lasseter Family Winery, I had a kale salad that was mind-blowing. RN74′s rendition had delicate baby leaves of kale tossed with paper thin croutons and a creamy lavender yogurt dressing. It was different, memorable, and scrumptious.

How I Transform My Studio For a Dinner Party

IMG_5448In an ideal world, I would live in a three bedroom cottage across the street from the beach (pictured above) in Southern Spain. This imaginary house would have an amazing kitchen, separate dining room, my bedroom with a view and massive walk-in closet, a guest bedroom with a view and massive walk-in closet, a creative studio (for me to write and do projects in), and an expansive outdoor space with a garden, pool, dining area, and pizza oven.

Obviously with so much ample space (each of my tables would seat 14 comfortably and 18 uncomfortably), I would host memorable and fabulous dinner parties all the time and everyone in Southern Spain would talk about my dinner party prowess. Alas, this gorgeous house essential for entertaining is a mere fantasy. The reality is I live in a 700-square foot studio with a galley kitchen, dining table that seats 6 uncomfortably, a fire escape that you’re not allowed to walk or grow herbs on, and virtually no extra space for chic and sophisticated suppers.

main changeBut extreme times call for extreme measures and four years ago when I moved to my current apartment, I was thrilled to finally have a small, but separate kitchen area that allowed me to have a dinner table (albeit a hand-me-down Ikea one) that allowed me to host many a dinner party. At first, I kept the invite list small with no more than a total of 6 guests squished around my tiny table. But like most things, once I mastered the 6-person dinner party, I wanted more — bigger, better, greater! So I decided to invite 10 people to a half birthday celebration with a Moroccan theme that involved everyone sitting on the floor while eating. It was a smashing success and only increased my desire to host a proper seated dinner party with 10+ people. In order to do this, I would have to transform my entire house, which may seem crazy at first, but luckily, I’ve developed a scheme for throwing intimate meals for 10-14 people. Here’s how I do it:

bedchange1. I start by turning my bed from perpendicular to the wall to parallel to the wall (as illustrated in the above photos). This creates a couple feet of free space in the middle of the studio. I change the pillows to make the full bed look more like a day bed (a genius idea from my clever mom).

2. The kitchen table gets moved out of the kitchen and into the middle of the living room.

3. I move my pink sitting chair from the living room area into a corner of the kitchen.

IMG_43184. I put the coffee table against a wall in the kitchen, next to the pink chair, creating a small sitting room in the kitchen, which is perfect for hanging out while I’m preparing the last few items for the meal.

5. I have a square folding card table that I keep hidden behind my dresser in the closet. I pull this out and use it as an extension of my regular dining table. Cover the whole thing with a big tablecloth and no one knows that it’s a ramshackle table!

6. There are four regular chairs, four folding chairs, a storage bench that can seat two, and two small stools. When I need more space, I pull the bed up and have guests sit on that.

7. Finally I set the table, light the candles, and viola: My apartment is dinner party ready! Yes, it’s insane, but trust me, once you attend a dinner at my place, you’ll get it. It just works.