the porch swing


i mentioned earlier that i had slipped some of that strawberry lemonade into something boozy. that’s it up there, a drink called the porch swing. it’s a swill of equal parts gin and pimm’s no. 1 cup, plus the lemonade and a splash of 7 up – and it’s mighty delicious. i’m so glad it actually tastes good, too, because i had already loved it terribly for its name alone. i’m a sucker for things like that.

i have to tell you, i’m pretty much a pansy when it comes to alcohol. my friends make fun of me because, like a typical girl, i like all the stuff that tastes like juice. the list is short: moscato d’asti, lindeman’s framboise, pear cider, malibu and coke, sangria. every once in a while, though, i can handle something stronger… it just has to go down easy. so, um, long island iced teas and shots of soco and lime. let’s not get into what those extremes say about me.

this drink would fall into the latter category. it’s a drink that’s got some muscle, but without that unpleasant burn or the aroma of sharpie. this recipe calls specifically for hendrick’s gin, which apparently is just about the most expensive gin they have at bevmo



…and pimm’s no. 1 cup, which was new to me. it’s a syrupy brown liqueur the color of tea that is supposed to have citrus and spice flavors. it is bri-ish. (say that with an accent. my friends do it all the time.)


the result is quite lovely. it’s fresh and clean tasting with a pretty, floral flavor (perhaps because of that pricey gin, which is “infused with rose petal,” among other things). i served it at the cocktail party over the weekend, and it paired so well with the summer evening and its slow breezes.

…i’m adding it to the list.

note: i might consider making it with strawberry lemonade from now on. i’m fairly certain it tasted prettier that way.


Porch Swing
{for a crowd}
Quantities multiplied from this single-serving recipe
Makes about 7 cups

1 ½ cups Hendrick’s Gin
1 ½ cups Pimm’s
No. 1 Cup
4 cups lemonade (1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, ½ cup sugar, and 2 ½ cups water) or
strawberry lemonade

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and stir. Pour by the glass, adding ice and a splash of 7-Up to each just before serving.

roasted roma tomatoes


i had friends over this past weekend for a quiet little cocktail party. some brought fresh mint to muddle into mojitos and whole peaches to slice and plunk into the blender, i made lots of little appetizers and miniature desserts, and it was a grand time. i don’t live in the best neighborhood – think bars on windows and sirens at night – but i tell you, twilight and christmas lights can make just about any venue charming.


i brought out one of my favorite recipes to headline the menu: roasted roma tomatoes on toast. it is a recipe that i’ve got bookmarked in an old issue of sunset, glossy pages wrinkly from spills, i’m sure, and probably still wedged into the bookshelf at home between some jane austen books and even older issues of national geographic. but since i don’t live at home anymore, i did some figurative bookshelf browsing and found the recipe online. it is here.


i first came across it during my balsamic vinegar kick. i used to go through these phases when i’d browse through recipes or restaurant menus with certain choice ingredients on my radar. i had a period when i loved roasted red bell peppers in just about everything, another when i had my eyes bright and open for anything with goat cheese, other times for caramelized onions, grilled sourdough bread, roasted garlic… come to think of it, all those things would make a really good panini right now.

anyway. roasted roma tomatoes.

in the recipe, the tomatoes get halved and roasted for a little over an hour in the oven, basted all the while in a sauce made of balsamic vinegar, finely chopped onion, brown sugar, and just a bit of olive oil.


at the end, the tomatoes get kind of melty – soft and rich with the caramelized flavor. it’s the perfect topping to go with a smear of creamy goat cheese on some crispy toasted baguette.

we moved the party in by the end of the night, and as we were sitting in the living room, i heard a crunch and an “mmmm” behind me. one of my friends had gone into the kitchen for a second round, it turns out. that noise is just about the best sign of gastronomic approval, i think.


Roasted Roma Tomatoes on Toast
Adapted from this recipe {Sunset, June 2003}
Makes 8 appetizer, 4 main-dish servings

8 Roma tomatoes (equal size, 1 ½ lb. total), rinsed and cored
½ onion (about 4 oz.), peeled and finely chopped
¾ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Goat cheese (about 5 oz.)
Baguette, sliced crosswise, brushed with olive oil, and toasted

1. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Lay halves cut side up in a single layer in an 8- by 12-inch oval or rectangular casserole (rim should be at least ½ in. higher than tomatoes).
2. In a 1 ½- to 2-quart pan, combine onion, vinegar, sugar, and
olive oil. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Pour over tomatoes.
3. Roast in a 400° oven (convection not recommended) until tomatoes are dark brown and sauce is browned and thickened (bubbles will be large and shiny), about 1 ¼ hours; baste tomatoes with sauce and onions about every 15 minutes at first, then more frequently as mixture begins to thicken, to avoid scorching. Use hot, warm, or at room temperature.
4. Spread goat cheese equally on oiled sides of the olive-oil toast slices. Spoon tomatoes and juices equally onto toast slices. Add salt to taste.