hyacinth + vintage vessel = chic, simple arrangement

Flowering bulbs are the great harbingers of spring, beginning with small-but-mighty crocuses and snowdrops pushing through the last vestiges of snow, hinting at what’s to come. As the season progresses and the soil warms, muscari, hyacinth, daffodils, and tulips follow in their footsteps. I’ve spied the last three in local markets recently, all vying for the attention of shoppers seeking a shot of spring of color.

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CHICKPEA AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH TAGINE WITH SAFFRON AND LIME

This week’s winter wallop, with its thick blanket of snow and subzero temperatures, brought serious cravings for a body-and-soul warming dish. Tagines are deeply spiced North African stews, traditionally slow-cooked in a clay vessel also called a tagine (the stew is named for the vessel in which it is cooked, but a Dutch oven works well as a replacement). Lamb, fish, chicken, and beef often take center stage in tagines, but the dish is endlessly adaptable. My nourishing vegetarian version is anchored by hearty chickpeas and butternut squash, and layered with warming ginger, earthy-sweet saffron, and the Moroccan spice blend ras el hanout.

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A LATE WINTER’S LUNCH

Spode flower plates + anemones + Deborah Madison’s Black Rice with Mixed Beets Salad

I fell hard for these vintage Spode plates while antiquing in Three Oaks, Michigan last fall … but in a rare move, I reined in my impetuousness and did not buy them. Thanksgiving was around the corner and another set of plates by Wedgwood—equally beautiful but decidedly autumnal in a mustard, brown, and aubergine palette—felt like the better choice. So I left with those, reminding myself that I have almost as many floral motif plates as I do striped shirts and sweaters. But I could not stop thinking of the Spode beauties, with their modern feeling, oversized florals and simple rims, each depicting a different flower.

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Sip | Julia’s Martini + Wild and Wonderful Travel in 2019

Still Life with Fruit, oil on panel , 1675, by JACOB VAN WALSCAPELLE
Dutch, 1644-1727
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

TRAVEL MORE. That was my main 2019 resolution. It was a wise one, it turns out, as this has been one miserable winter in Chicago! Though we’ve barely entered March, I’ve been out of town more than I’ve been home. In the last four weeks alone I’ve spent long stretches in Colorado, the Keys, and Washington D.C. All regular haunts for me, but OH MY is that about to change.

Beaver Creek with the birthday boy
Ocean Reef antics
Rye Manhattans and cat bingo…Saturday night with my sister and three-year-old nephew
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Crispy Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Calabrian Chili Ricotta

Crispy Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Calabrian Chili Ricotta, fletcher and fork

Gigantic, pillowy snowflakes cartwheeled from Sunday afternoon’s sky, blanketing the landscape with a quiet that reflected my mood. Hours earlier, our Thanksgiving house guests had departed, I’d dropped our children at O’Hare for their return flights to school, and my husband had scooted off for a business trip. The house echoed with emptiness.
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Small Bite Dessert | Chocolate Hazelnut Tassies

Every Christmas I couldn’t wait for my mother to make her Pecan Tassies, the bite-sized pecan tartlets with a simple cream cheese pastry crust. For my pop-up event at the Lake Forest Bookstore, I put a spin on her traditional recipe, swapping hazelnuts for pecans, and adding chocolate and hazelnut liqueur to the filling. The next step was creating a chocolate pastry crust to up the chocolate ante. If you’re looking for something to take along to a Thanksgiving feast, these little gems make a great addition to the dessert buffet. With or without the dollop of Nutella and toasted hazelnut crown, guests too stuffed for another piece of pumpkin pie will appreciate this sweet little nibble with a cup of coffee. Continue reading “Small Bite Dessert | Chocolate Hazelnut Tassies”

Sip and Nibble | Recipes from Lake Forest Bookstore Event

fullsizeoutput_763Last Thursday evening, I was delighted to share a few of my favorite recipes and tips for an autumn cocktail party at the Lake Forest Book Store’s fletcher + fork pop-up event. Guests sipped Fletcher’s Harvest cocktails and nibbled on hors d’oeuvres I’d prepared while we chatted about all things entertaining. The menu, below:

Cocktail
Fletcher’s Harvest

Hors d’oeuvres
Parmesan Polenta Stacks with Oven Dried Tomatoes
Braised Hoisin Short Rib Crostini with Kimchi Blue Cheese Remoulade
Roasted Rosemary Shrimp with Creamy Lemon Garlic Dipping Sauce
Chocolate Hazelnut Tassies
Spiced Pear Cakelets

Party Favor
S’Mores Cookies

Thank you to all who attended! I loved your questions and look forward to your visits here at fletcher + fork. As promised, I am sharing the recipes here. Seven recipes in one post would leave you scrolling for miles, so you’ll find two in today’s post and the remaining over the following weeks.

The cocktail, below, works beautifully for Thanksgiving, and was created for serving with or without alcohol so all will feel festive and included.  Continue reading “Sip and Nibble | Recipes from Lake Forest Bookstore Event”

Autumn Entertaining | Fireside Cocktail + Lake Forest Book Store Event

Manhattan

Is autumn your favorite entertaining season? It is mine, by far! And on November 1st from 6-7pm, the Lake Forest Book Store will host a Fletcher + Fork Pop-Up where I’ll discuss everything from crafting a cohesive menu and curating a playlist to creating beautiful tablescapes and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. It will be a relaxed hour filled with tastings, tips, and recipes for a late autumn gathering. Please come! You can click here to read more about and register for the event. in the meantime, enjoy my classic, perfect-for-fall, Manhattan recipe. Continue reading “Autumn Entertaining | Fireside Cocktail + Lake Forest Book Store Event”