Heavens to Betsy (what?). It's Labor Day. Again. Already! I keep letting out long, exaggerated sighs in hopes of proving a point (to no one, as I sit here, alone). I'm not happy Summer is over. In fact, I'm angry. Arms crossed. Lips pursed. Crinkled forehead. A look of overall stern disappointment clearly written across my face. My indisputable favorite time of the year is coming to an end and I'm not the least bit ready to let go. Have I mentioned I'm not good with change? Oh. You've noticed? Ok, then. I'm okay with that. I don't mind my flaws out in the open on display for all to see. [Hard swallow.]
As I wipe away the solitary tear rolling down my tan, freckled cheek, I want to bid adieu to the glorious and fleeting Summer with a menu that was as carefree, blissful, and spirited as the season itself.
crab crostini with cucumber and jalapeno
pomegranate-lemongrass vodka cordial
or Grower Champagne
sweet soy-grilled short ribs
coconut sticky rice with cilantro
mango-red cabbage slaw
Sparkling Rosé or Syrah
"Because crostini are often served as finger food at large parties and celebration, my mind automatically goes to bubbles. The pairing works well. One, because you'd be hard pressed to find a time when Champagne doesn't fit a situation. Two, because shellfish and buttery vessels, like crostini both scream for Champagne. Check out "Grower Champagne," produced by small family farmers. They deliver big time value when compared to better known brand names. (Read more here.)
Syrah is a killer pairing for richer beef dishes like short ribs. Go for New World styled Syrah--something from either the U.S., Australia, or South Africa. These wines tend to have brighter fruits, which pair nicely with the sweeter-styled marinade. Need some specific pairings? Hereare a couple of Syrahs to look for."
And if you need any convincing as to why sparkling rosé and ribs are quite possibly one of the best pairings, well, ever, click here and read up.
This crab crositini was one of the most memorable parts of my meal at Locanda Verde and I mentioned it again in April when I tried to recreate it in Vieques. Long story short: seek out good quality jumbo lump crab meat. The less expensive canned stuff just doesn't really cut it (though can be used in a pinch). The execution is simple: toss the crab meat with a tiny bit of mayo and lime zest. Slice a baguette on the bias into rounds and grill them. As soon as you've taken them off the grill, rub with garlic and a cut tomato. Then top with a spoonful of the crab and a razor thin slice of cucumber and jalapeno. The combination is other-worldly. No doubt that you'll agree.
Pomegranate-Lemongrass Vodka Cordial
In a small pot, combine a stalk or two of fresh lemongrass (chopped into 3-inch pieces or so) and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil then remove from heat and allow to cool. Discard lemongrass and pour the "tea" into a large pitcher. Add pomegranate juice (I suggest a regular-sized bottle) and stir. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add 1 jigger of vodka and then pour in the pomegranate-lemongrass tea. Shake, strain, and serve immediately.
The sweet soy-grilled short recipe is courtesy of Stephen Raichlen of Barbecue University. Trust me when I say: Trust him.
Mango-Red Cabbage Slaw
1 small head of red cabbage, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
2 mangoes, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine the red cabbage, mango, and red onion. For the dressing, in a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, rice wine vinegar, and sugar. Slowly whisk in the canola oil. Pour dressing over the cabbage, mango, and red onion and toss. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
Coconut Sticky Rice
Serves 4 to 6
4 cups unsweetened coconut milk (about 2 cups, supplement any shortcomings with water)
2 cups of white rice
1 3-inch nub of peeled fresh ginger
1 tbsp. salted butter
1 tsp. salt
fresh cilantro, roughly chopped, for garnish
In a medium-sized pot, combine the coconut milk, ginger, and butter, and bring to a boil. Add in the rice, stir, put the lid on and turn down the heat to low. Set the timer for 18 minutes and allow to cook, untouched. After 18 minutes, stir any excess liquid sitting at the top into the rice (it should be very creamy) and taste for seasoning. Place in a large serving bowl and top with fresh cilantro.
1 stick of salted butter, melted
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 nectarines, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 small container of blackberries
1 tsp. grated orange zest
Heat oven to 375F.
Pour melted butter into a 2-quart baking dish.
In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar, the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to blend. Stir in the milk and vanilla until blended. Pour the batter over the melted butter.
Toss the nectarines and blackberries with remaining 3 tbsp. of sugar and then pour on top of the batter.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. The top will be browned and the cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Serve with a little heavy cream, whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.