Sour Cherry French 75 | Umami GirlHappy Friday! Here’s a red, ice and blue cocktail for your July 4th weekend: a Sour Cherry French 75. There’s gin. There’s champagne. And there are sour cherries and sugar, simmered into a ruby-colored, sweet tart syrup. This is my kind of sour cherry recipe, and my kind of cocktail.

The sour cherry syrup, with its bright, tart vibe, works nicely to replace the typical lemon and sugar in a French 75. But don’t stop there. It’s also great in everything from Shirley Temples to Italian sodas. (It’s so like me to drag half of Europe into American Independence Day, but what can I say? I am who I am.)

The syrup is ready in 15 minutes, and you can spend the weekend drizzling it with abandon. Enjoy it. See you soon. 

Sour Cherry French 75 | Umami Girl

Sour Cherry French 75 | Umami Girl

Carolyn xx

{CLICK FOR THE SOUR CHERRY FRENCH 75 RECIPE.}

Easy Potted Herb Centerpieces | Umami GirlAnd now for something completely different: easy potted herb centerpieces for your next big event. In other words, food on the table that’s not for eating. What? Why?

My first inclination is to feel about this topic the way I used to feel as a kid about erasers that smelled like cupcakes: how DARE you? How dare you make something that seems like food but isn’t allowed to get in my belly. What kind of monster are you, sir or madam?

But sometimes you have to stop and think and remember that: (a) you’re turning 40 in September and (b) honestly, you could probably sneak a little sprig of one of these into your mouth without causing too much of a fuss, depending on the crowd and (c) in any case, these herbs are for eating eventually.

My wonderful oldest friend Dina (friendship est. 1983!) got married a few weeks ago — more to come on our trip to Colorado for the wedding one day soon. Even though my live plant record is GRIM at best,  I volunteered to put together the centerpieces for the Not a Shower.

Each table had a cluster of different sized pots, some galvanized metal and some terra cotta sprayed with matte white spray paint to look slightly aged. I filled them with rosemary, thyme, sage, lavender and oregano and put a tea light candle (not pictured) in the smallest galvanized pot. At the end of the party, the guests each took a pot or two home as party favors. I promptly killed mine of course, but the idea is that they could live on as a delicious reminder of the event.

Easy Potted Herb Centerpieces | Umami Girl

How to Get it Done

Here’s all you need to make easy potted herb centerpieces — and trust me, if I can do it, you can do it:

  • Flower pots and saucers ranging from 1″ to 6″ diameter. I got plain terra cotta pots and galvanized pots and buckets all from the A.C. Moore floral section, and they weren’t expensive. Buy enough that there’s one pot for each guest plus a handful of extras. Make sure to think through how many tables there will be and create an interesting looking cluster with varying heights and diameters for each table. I opted to create basically the same arrangement on each table so I didn’t break my brain trying to plan it all, but you don’t have to.
  • 4″ and 6″ potted herbs from the garden center, some of which you’ll keep intact in the larger pots, and some of which you’ll need to split, so think about that when you’re choosing. Varying heights, colors, shapes and general vibes (flowy or pokey?) will make it look interesting, if not amazing.
  • Matte white spray paint, also from A.C. Moore. I used it to put a thin, uneven layer of white here and there on the terra cotta pots. It makes them look vaguely like you’ve aged them in your garden for a month or two. This sounds like more of an ordeal than it is. It took 10 minutes, and the paint dries pretty much instantly.
  • A bag of potting soil
  • Tea light candles

I’m not going to give you step by step instructions, because I don’t know anything about proper plant potting, and you’ll know everything I know just by looking at the photos. Just go nuts, basically. Try to honor your special guest(s) by going exactly as nuts as she or he or they generally do in real life. That’s when you’ll know you’ve nailed it. Or not — I obviously have no idea. Have fun and see you soon.

Carolyn xx

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Battleview Orchards Sour Cherry Picking | Umami GirlEarlier this week we spent a fantastic morning with friends picking sour cherries at Battleview Orchards in Freehold, NJ. Their sour cherry trees are lovely, petite little creatures just perfect for kids to…get all up in. While I was picking in a leisurely fashion, chatting with my friend Rachel, the girls collected 13 pounds of fruit in under 45 minutes. As all fans of pick your own will know, the limiting factor in these expeditions is not the picking itself but the processing at home afterwards, which can be time consuming and, in the case of cherries, a little messy. I’m lucky to have a small, cute team of eager (and these days very capable) cooks and bakers on hand to help. Still, 13 pounds. Blogger that I am, before we’d even left the farm my brain was forming a question that doubles as a post title: What to Do with Sour Cherries (?!?!).

Now that you’re inside my blogger brain, I’ll mention too that this post is jumping the queue because if you need sour cherry recipes, I’m thinking you need them NOW. All right, carry on.
Battleview Orchards Sour Cherry Picking | Umami GirlSour cherries are seriously tart, but the littlest picker and I both really love eating them out of hand. So some small percentage of our haul went straight to our bellies. After that, pie. Obviously. Then some more creative endeavors: sour cherry corn muffins and, in a moment of necessity, sour cherry syrup to be subbed for grenadine in special-occasion Shirley Temples. The good news is that pitted sour cherries freeze beautifully. So not only is there no need for panic, but we’ll get to continue playing with these fleeting beauties in the weeks and months to come. 

Take a scroll through our picking and baking photos, or click here to fast forward to the recipe section.
Battleview Orchards Sour Cherry Picking | Umami GirlBattleview Orchards Sour Cherry Picking | Umami GirlBattleview Orchards Sour Cherry Picking | Umami GirlBattleview Orchards Sour Cherry Picking | Umami GirlBattleview Orchards Sour Cherry Picking | Umami Girl

Domenica Marchetti

Sour Cherry Corn Muffins | Umami Girl-2Sour Cherry Corn Muffins | Umami Girl

Sour Cherry Shirley Temple | Umami Girl

Talk to you soon.

Carolyn xx

{CLICK FOR THE SOUR CHERRY RECIPES.}

Simple Massaged Kale Salad | Umami Girl
So. There’s no easy way into this conversation. We’re massaging our salads now. You’re looking at a picture of a massaged kale salad, and that’s a fact. I haven’t had a massage in years. But my greens can’t do yoga to keep themselves supple, so I give them what they need. That’s the life of a mom. Always putting the needs of your family first.

We love kale salads around here. You can find my go-to recipe for a hearty kale salad that makes a whole meal in my cookbook, along with my magic blender dressing. There’s halloumi, olives, roasted potato croutons, and more. You need that salad.

Family Favorite Kale Salad | Umami Girl

I’ve also found that I need a kale salad without so much fanfare. One that’s happy to sit alongside the rest of a meal. One that’s ready in five minutes and doesn’t require a magic blender. (Heh.) That’s where this simple massaged kale salad comes in. We’ve been eating it many a night, and honestly I can’t wait to eat it again tonight. Maybe with another of these Caprese sandwiches, which I also can’t stop eating. Summer is the best. That is all.

See you soon.

Caprese Crazy| Umami Girl

Carolyn xx

{GET THE SIMPLE MASSAGED KALE SALAD RECIPE.}

Caprese Sandwich Mozzarella Tomato Basil | Umami GirlIt’s the last day of school for our sixth grader and second grader, and, like every year, I’m filled with that special emotional cocktail of nostalgia, pride, relief and mild dread about how the summer will unfold. I’ve told the girls there’s only one rule this summer unless they prove we need more. All they have to do is, “Be Cool,” but the lone rule will be strictly enforced. (Be Cool is a positive spin on the silent little ritualistic chant I perform when dealing with both my kids and avocados: “Please don’t suck… please don’t suck… please don’t suck.”) We’ll see how it goes.

In other departments, like cooking, I’ll be attempting to get out of my own way. Shop at the farmers’ market. Favor simple, high-quality ingredients. Compile as much as cook. Stove and oven only when necessary. 

In other words, be cool.

This simple, classic Caprese sandwich on a multigrain baguette fits the bill perfectly. It’s made from the best, simplest ingredients, requires no cooking, and takes only five minutes to put together. As the second grader would probably say, “Mozzarella. Tomato. Basil. BOOM.” That kind of cool she already has in spades. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the other kind.

Happy summer, all. See you soon.

Carolyn xx
{GET THE CAPRESE SANDWICH RECIPE.}