I once shared with a friend how pairing a good mystery with a glass of wine makes for a great rainy night in. She then asked, “And what’s on the menu?” I laughingly replied, “That depends on the book.”
Of course, that got me wondering what does pair nicely with some of our favorite reads? So, to get answers and inspiration, I turned to the experts. Lucky for me, I have a four-star chef and the co-owner of a simple syrup empire within my family. And yes, they were gracious enough to take time away from their busy lives to create a few cocktail and appetizer recipes exclusively for readers of Books Uplift. Thanks to Tim and Leah Monaghan, a talented husband and wife team and co-owners of ROOT 23, you now have the perfect pairings to accompany your next read.
Literary. If you’re planning to indulge in a classic read by Poe, Eyre, Steinbeck or Lee, you’ll want to pair it with something that not only complements the prose but elevates the experience. Recommended for your literary palette is a plate of Vegetable Tikka Masala Wonton Cups that go nicely with a Highball.
1.5 oz. Bourbon
.25 oz. ROOT 23 Grapefruit Basil Simple Syrup
3 oz. sparkling water
Add syrup and bourbon over ice in a Collins glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with lemon.
Vegetable Tikka Masala Wonton Cups
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups cauliflower florets
1 cup vegetable broth
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
24 Wonton Wrappers
Directions: Spray the inside of a muffin tin and push wrappers into the pan to form individual cups. Bake in a 350F degree oven for about 5-8 minutes till wrappers are crispy and hold their cup shape. Set aside. In a large skillet or pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, ginger, garlic, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper and cook until well combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower florets, diced tomatoes, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the cauliflower is tender and sauce has thickened. Stir in the chickpeas, coconut milk and lemon juice and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Fill the Wonton cups with the vegetable tikka masala. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
Thrillers. Of course, all spy fans like their martinis shaken, not stirred; But if you really want to offer up a drink to die for at your next mystery party or book club, try out the Manhattan 23. And to pair nicely with this killer drink, plate some Goat Cheese, Fig and Arugula Flatbread.
2 oz. Bourbon
.5 oz. ROOT 23 Pear Rosemary Simple Syrup
.5 oz. Vermouth
2 dash Angostura bitters
Pour over ice in a rocks glass and stir.
Garnish with Luxardo cherry.
Goat Cheese, Fig and Arugula Flatbread
2 rounds of flatbread (Chef Tim recommends Naan)
4 oz. good quality goat cheese, crumbled
6 oz. fresh figs, cut into 1/4 inch slices (about 6 figs)
1 Tbsp chives, minced
Kosher salt and pepper
1 oz. baby arugula (about 2 handfuls)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Directions: Preheat the oven to 425F degrees and line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Place the rounds of flatbread on the prepared sheet and divide the goat cheese evenly. Sprinkle the flatbread with the cheese.
Scatter the fig slices and chives over the flatbreads, dividing between the two. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake until the flatbread is golden and toasted around the edges and the cheese is melty, about 10-12 mins. While the flatbread bakes, drizzle the arugula with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Finish the flatbread with the arugula, cut into pieces and serve warm.
Romance. If you’re in the mood for love, start with a romantic read that ignites your passion. Romance writers know how much words can stimulate the senses and propel you on an amorous journey. This is also true for culinary wizards. They excel at delighting the senses with their indulgent creations. So now that you have your romantic read in hand, couple it with The Bee’s Sting and Vanilla Crème Brulee with Strawberries and Whipped Crème for a night of bliss.
The Bee’s Sting
2 oz. Gin
.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
.75 oz. ROOT 23 Cucumber Habanero Simple Syrup
3-4 drops of Bitterman’s Hellfire
Combine all ingredients and shake with ice in a mixing set. Strain into a Coupe glass. Garnish with a fresh edible flower.
Vanilla Crème Brulee Topped with Fresh Strawberries and Whipped Crème
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
2 quarts hot water
8 strawberries diced tossed with 1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup Heavy cream whipped with 2 Tbsp sugar
Directions: Preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the crème brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. Remove the crème brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes and top with diced strawberries and a dollop whipped of cream before serving.
Science Fiction. From George Orwell to Ray Bradbury, science fiction books challenge you to imagine the possibilities. But you don’t have to teleport off to a parallel universe to conjure up some fantasy treats. Pair your favorite sci-fi read with these out-of-this-world concoctions, and you’ve got the formula for a perfect evening.
It’s All Greek to Me
1.75 oz. Ouzo
.5 oz. ROOT 23 Vanilla Ginger Simple Syrup
1 oz. lemon juice
1 egg white
Shake all ingredients with ice in a mixer set and strain over fresh ice in rocks glass. Garnish with bitters.
Grilled Shrimp and Feta Filo Baskets Topped with a Kalamata Olive Tapenade
For the Tapenade
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 Tbsp capers
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions: Place the garlic cloves into a blender or food processor; pulse to mince. Add the olives, capers, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil. Blend until everything is finely chopped. Season to taste with salt and pepper and chill till needed.
For the Filo Baskets
½ pound peeled and deveined shrimp
1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
1 8 oz. container plain yogurt
1 8 oz. package feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup oil-packed, drained, chopped sun dried tomatoes
1 tsp Greek seasoning
¼ tsp each salt and pepper
12 sheets filo dough, thawed in refrigerator
¼ cup butter, melted
Directions: Toss the shrimp with olive oil and grill to give good char marks and cooked through. Cool and chop into small pieces. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Combine shrimp, spinach, yogurt, feta, sun dried tomatoes, Greek seasoning, salt and pepper in large bowl. Brush each sheet of filo with melted butter then cut stack in half widthwise. Mist a 12-compartment jumbo muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place 4 sheets in each compartment, gently flattening the excess around edges to make a rim. Fill with shrimp mixture and press down to level. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until edges begin to brown and center is hot. Top each basket with a small amount of the olive tapenade and serve.
To get more mouthwatering food and cocktail pairings, and of course, to purchase theses awesome elixirs, visit the ROOT 23 website.