The Grape Gatsby

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The first time I went to France and tried a crepe was during my early high school years. My family spent several days in Paris, and one day we went to lunch at a small hole-in-the-wall creperie with limited seating and a loudly singing proprietor. I ordered a simple ham and cheese filling, followed by a strawberry and nutella for dessert. I was amazed that the same foundation, a simple crepe batter with only four or five ingredients, could be a vehicle for such different and unique flavor combinations – sweet or savory, creamy or fruity.

Around the same time, I was assigned to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. In middle school, I did not have a very good relationship with reading. I would lazily skim for school assignments – getting the gist of the plot but missing the beautiful character descriptions and the subtleties in the language. The Great Gatsby reminded me of the wonderful creativity of literature. It lifted me out of my reading slump. I read it slowly, taking my time with each chapter. I listened to the dialogue in my head, and pictured the Gatsby mansion and its lavish parties. Like my first experience at the Paris creperie, I was amazed by the variety of the book and how different it was from any literature I had ever experienced.

Fitzgerald’s writing style is light and crisp, full of dynamic characters and elegant surprises. Any crepe can parallel these themes – never becoming too heavy or unmanageable, but providing enough variety in texture and flavor to be interesting.

I am always looking for parallels between my passions, and cooking and reading intersect in their endless possibilities. One can never run out of books to read or recipes to try. If ever in a slump, look for something different from anything you’ve tried in the past; it will surely revive you!

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Crepe batter:

4 eggs

2 cups whole milk

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, unsalted and melted

Filling:

1 cup red grapes, halved

1 cup goat cheese, crumbled

3 chicken breasts

Basil

2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp butter

2 cups whole milk

Salt, pepper

Juice of 1 lemon

1 cup white wine

Instruction:

1. Combine flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk milk and eggs in separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in portions, whisking in between additions so as to avoid lumps in the batter. Whisk in melted butter. Cover batter in cling film and allow to rest for 20 minutes. (You can mix these ingredients in a blender, but I like to whisk by hand to have more control!)

2. Season both sides of chicken breast with salt and pepper. In a sautee pan over medium-high heat, sear chicken breasts on either side for a golden brown color. Finish in a 350 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes (until firm and cooked through). Remove from oven and cover  with tin foil to retain moisture as the chicken cools a bit.

3. For cream sauce: melt butter in small saucepan. Add flour and stir over medium heat, allowing flour to cook out for a minute or so. Add heated milk bit by bit, whisking between additions to avoid lumps. In a separate saucepan, bring lemon juice and white wine to a simmer and reduce by half. Add lemon wine mixture to the milk pan; season with salt and pepper.

4. Halve red grapes, crumble goat cheese, cube chicken, and chop basil.

5. Assembly of crepes: grease a non-stick frying pan with butter on medium-high heat. Spread a ladle-full of thin batter in the pan, creating an even layer. Allow first side of crepe to cook for about 45 seconds; flip with spatula and allow second side to cook for about 30 seconds. Add fillings (cream sauce, grapes, goat cheese, cubed chicken, basil) to crepe and fold to contain all elements.

Enjoy your crepe with The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and check in at warandpeach.wordpress.com for future recipes and book reviews!

This Side of Peared Ice

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One of my favorite things to do during summertime evenings is put on jazz and enjoy a refreshing cocktail. In so many of his books, F. Scott Fitzgerald paints the Jazz Age as a time when the hand was perpetually holding a champagne glass and the foot was constantly tapping along to a syncopated tune. But Princeton student Amory Blaine in This Side of Paradise reminds me how cocktail hour and the luxuries of adulthood are not a privilege; they are an earned right that can only be enjoyed after the ever-bumpy ‘coming of age’ progression.

This Side of Paradise is a novel that, though written and set almost a century ago, describes every college student’s slog. Throughout the novel, Amory learns to occupy the space between parental impact, proper mentorship, academic vocation, and relationships stopping and starting. Just as the punch of lemon zest blends with mature thyme and elegant pear, seemingly different components of Amory’s (and any eighteen-ish year old’s) life slowly come together and begin to make sense.

I am able to compare my own time at college with Amory’s from the calm of my back porch as a jazz melody softly plays from inside. Though my roaring twenties are far from over, I am able to enjoy a side of paradise that can only come from cocktail hour.

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Cocktail:

1 pear

1 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

5 sprigs thyme

1 lemon (zest and juice)

1 1/2 cups vodka

1 bottle champagne

Instruction:

1. Use a melon baller (also known as a Parisienne scoop) to make small pear balls. Put in freezer on parchment paper and leave for at least an hour.

2. In a small saucepan, add water, sugar, thyme, remaining pear trimmings, and lemon zest. Heat until sugar has dissolved, then set aside to cool down and infuse.

3. Strain simple syrup and shake over ice with vodka and lemon juice.

4. Fill about a third of your cocktail glass with the vodka mixture. Top with champagne. Garnish with frozen pear balls and lemon zest.

Enjoy this summery cocktail with This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and check in at warandpeach.wordpress.com for future recipes and book reviews. Cheers!