I am five days into my Martha's Vineyard beach vacation and am very relaxed. After less than a week, the stress of Manhattan life has completely faded from my memory. Or, maybe that is just the Dark & Stormy's talking. Either way, I crave the simpler life in the summer. I am happy to trade the heat and grit of the city, for sand castles and boat rides. I find the country air therapeutic, and greatly enjoy waking to the sounds of birds chirping, instead of honking horns.
Since I am traveling with a toddler I don't get much down time on vacation, but, when I do, I love to pick up a good book. Reading a great story while sipping lemonade is easily one of my favorite ways to relax in the summer. To help you all relax this season I am pleased to share my summer reading list. These are books I have greatly enjoyed and hope you do, too. I have also included my favorite recipe for summer lemonade (that can easily be spiked with vodka!). I usually whip up a fresh batch when my daughter goes down for her nap and enjoy it all afternoon. Happy Summer!
The Naptime Chef's Recommended Summer Reading List 2009:
1. A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg: It is no surprise that this popular food blogger wrote a fantastic memoir, complete with delicious recipes. I reviewed the book here last winter, and recommend you consider picking up a copy if you haven't already. Gosh, food bloggers really are the next generation of great authors aren't they?!
2. Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin: These two books are oldies but goodies. I never tire of Laurie's warm inviting voice and stories from her NYC kitchen. Reading one of her books is like talking with an old friend. I also use her recipes a lot, they are fantastic.
3. The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman: A fiction novel set in Long Island, this coming-of-age story of three sisters is dark and moody. Within the first chapter I was sucked into the Story's sinister imaginative world and couldn't put it down. Those of you who appreciate good storytelling and aren't afraid of the scary depths of a child's imagination, will love it.
4. The Cook and The Gardener by Amanda Hesser: This book isn't necessarily beach reading, but it is my favorite seasonal cooking reference, and might become your's as well. Hesser wrote this after spending a year living and cooking from the garden at a chateau in France. A chapter is written for each month and includes recipes and guidelines about seasonal produce. I recommend reading about each month before it takes place where you live, so you are prepared for what to include on your own menu. I love cooking from this book, especially this week when I am surrounded by farm stands.
5. The Ex-Mrs. Hedge Fund by Jill Kargman: I am always a sucker for a good chick-lit novel, and Kargman's writing never disappoints. Her latest novel follows a hedge-fund wife through the break-up of her marriage and subsequent reawakening as an Upper East Side divorcee. Witty to a fault, I laughed through each chapter and was sad when it came to an end. If you haven't already, pick up Jill's earlier novel, Momzillas, you will love that, too.
6. The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones: Ever wonder who Julia Child went to for help when she wrote? The answer, Judith Jones. As Julia's lifelong editor Judith has loads of interesting stories about everyone's favorite french chef. Additionally, Judith shares her own stories about becoming a culinary expert and an accomplished editor. Just wait until you read about the time she pulled the manuscript for The Diary of Anne Frank out of the 'reject' pile and begged her boss to publish it.
7. Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton: I am raising a toddler I hope will become an adventurous eater and, thanks to Amster-Burton, now I know what to expect. Over the past four years Amster-Burton has thoughtfully recorded his own experiences cooking, eating and laughing with his now school-age daughter. His writing is sharp and witty, causing me to laugh out loud and recite several passages out-loud to my husband. Based on this lightheartered book now I know there are lots of laughs, hilarious questions, and grilled cheeses in my future.
8. The Walking People by Mary Beth Keane: Newcomer Keane has written an fantastic novel about an immigrant family from Ireland. I just finished reading this the other day and am still replaying the story in my head. I am going to be watching for more of Keane's work in the future, she is bound to become one of the next big writers of our time.
Naptime's Summer Lemonade with Mint
inspired by the flavors of summer
2 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 12 lemons)
1 c. superfine sugar (or more, if you want it sweeter)
1 c. crushed ice
8 c. water
*Add 1 c. (or more) of Vodka if you would like a more "adult" beverage
Yields 3 quarts
For Mint Syrup:
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
1 c. fresh mint leaves, chopped
1. Pour all ingredients into a blender and puree until completely smooth. You may have to do this in two batches if your blender is small.
2. To make simple syrup, pour water, sugar and mint leaves into a small saucepan over medium heat. Swirl (do not stir!) water around until sugar is completely dissolved. Turn off heat and allow to cool.
3. Pour mint syrup into lemonade and stir until completely combined.
4. Serve over ice.