Grilled Nectarines with Honey, Almonds & Orange Blossom Ricotta

Our fruit bowl lives on the counter right at the entrance to the kitchen, just underneath the knives and the light switch. Each time that I walk in, the sweet scent of ripening summer fruit hits me and makes me weak in the knees. Right now there are peaches, nectarines, plums, and avocados all nestled together getting sweeter and softer in the warmth of late-June afternoons.

I usually don't eat the fruit. The sugar, natural though it is, hits me hard and makes me sleepy within the hour. I love it, but since I have to be picky about it, I admit that I prefer my sugar as cake or bread or ice cream. The fruit I leave for Eugene who would eat it all day long if he could.

But yesterday the scent was too strong. I want this, I thought, but it has to be worth it.

So I made it worth it.

I split the nectarine--a ripe, white one--and grilled it on a coconut oil-brushed grill pan, letting the heat char and caramelize the outside of the fruit while the inside softened into something hot and jammy.

While the fruit cooked, I whipped up some good ricotta (a homemade goat version, though any "fancy" kind will work) with a bit of heavy cream and a splash of orange blossom water. This went in the bowl first topped with the grilled nectarine, some mint and almonds and dried pomegranate. A drizzle of honey. A sprinkle of salt and black pepper.

The flavors came together for a dessert that tasted ambrosial, almost Middle Eastern.

It was worth it.

Grilled Nectarines with Honey, Almonds & Orange Blossom Ricotta
Serves 2, multiply as needed

2 ripe nectarines, cut into quarters, pits removed.
Coconut oil
1 cup homemade-style ricotta (the thick dryer kind you buy in a deli or cheese counter, not from the containers in the dairy case)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon honey, plus more for drizzling

Garnishes: 1/4 cup toasted almonds, fresh mint leaves, dried pomegranate seeds, flaky sea salt, black pepper, fresh lemon zest

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and brush with coconut oil. Arrange nectarine quarters on pan and let grill 1-3 minutes per side until slightly charred and heated through.

While the nectarines grill, whisk together ricotta, cream, orange blossom water almond, and 1 teaspoon honey until smooth. Spread in the bottom of a bowl or serving platter and top with grilled nectarines.

Drizzle with more honey and sprinkle with garnishes. Serve immediately.

Spicy Herbed Salmon Salad with Kale, Bacon, and Avocado

Well this is basically all I want to eat during the summer. OK, maybe not THIS specifically, but things LIKE this.

A Weekend in Michigan (The Fresh Coast Retreat)

There is a lot about blogger life that is totally delicious. Setting your own hours and schedule. Working from home (especially on those nasty weather days!). Tasting and trying and traveling and creating. It's a whole lot of magic, and I am so thankful that I am able to make my living this way.

(With the exception of a couple instagram photos, all images in this post are by Alejandro Photography. )

That said, working in a little solo bubble can sometimes get frustrating. I find myself craving colleagues to bounce ideas off of, learn from, or even just to vent with on the days when things don't go quite right. We have Facebook groups and often chat via social media, but nothing beats in-person interaction.

Fortunately last month, I had a chance to get away and experience a few exhilarating days surrounded by some of the most talented and inspiring bloggers, photographers, and entrepreneurs I ever met.

And I'd love to share a bit about it with you! Scroll down to see and learn more about my experience:

Hotels I've Loved: The Charlie Hotel in West Hollywood, Los Angeles

Work has been bringing me to Los Angeles more and more lately, and I've been using each trip as an opportunity to explore different neighborhoods and hotels.

Pickled Ramps Escabeche (Puerto Rican Style Picked Ramps)

I was 20 minutes late to meet a friend for lunch last week. We've been friends since college, so he knew well enough to order a cocktail to sip until I arrived.

"Oooh, what's that?" I asked as I finally arrived, tossing off bags and sunglasses and waving the waitress over to put in my own drink order.

It was a martini. Served cold and garnished with pickled ramps instead of the usual olives.

"I've been all about the pickled ramps lately!" I exclaimed.

I know ramps are an annoying sort of thing to write about. They only grow in some parts of the country and even then only for about 5 minutes (give or take). But when you try them? You get it.  The look and texture of a scallion or spring onion, they're garlicky and grassy and majorly flavorful. I like them whipped into salad dressings or chopped in with the greens. I saute them and add to omelets and pastas and all sorts of other simple dishes.

This year was the first time I pickled them, and I chose an easy recipe by Puerto Rican chef José Enrique, who prepares them escabeche style.

Escabeche is a simple olive oil and vinegar pickling sauce that's served a lot in Puerto Rico (and much of the Caribbean). It's common with fish, plantains, and now...ramps!

Make a big batch to keep in a jar in the fridge. You can add them to your salads, as a garnish on top of grilled meat or, yes, in an ice-cold martini!

Like this recipe? Try my Easy Soy Sauce Vegetable Pickles or these Quick Pickled Red Onions!

Puerto Rican Style Pickled Ramps
Adapted from a recipe by Jose Enrique, Saveur

1 pound ramps, rinsed and patted dry, root ends trimmed
1/2 cup olive oil + more for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
3 whole bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat (cast-iron works perfectly). Drizzle with olive oil and arrange the ramps on the skillet, cooking a few minutes on each side until charred. Sprinkle with kosher salt, then transfer to a glass jar or bowl.

In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil, vinegar, honey, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the hot vinegar sauce over the ramps. Cover and let cool completely before serving or refrigerating. 

Warm Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad with Chicken and Crispy Bacon "Croutons"

I was at lunch with an old friend when I spotted the dish that inspired this salad recipe. It was on the appetizer menu and listed as a Warm Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad. My friend was talking and I was pretending to listen, but in my brain I was just like YES YES YES!

Fresh Ginger Margaritas

I require that my margaritas be very strong and very sour.

I actually prefer all my cocktails this way. I want practically no liqueur or sweetener or anything--just the good top shelf booze, tons of citrus, and a fun addition like ginger or cucumbers or jalapeños. I like my drinks fresh and herbaceous and bursting with bold flavor.

If you ever go out to drinks with me, you'll probably hear me quizzing the servers about the sweetness level of their drinks. I'll often skip the house menu and just flat-out order a mojito with no sugar or a margarita with no triple sec or just plain old good tequila with soda and lots of limes.
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