I've been on a cooking streak this summer, stubbornly doing my best to avoid takeout and prepared meals from the gourmet market despite the string of 90-plus degree days we've had. (Since my kitchen has no AC, many nights "cooking" really means mixing together ingredients using as little heat as possible.) Each week's recipes seem to have ended up with an accidental theme; one week was mostly Italian dishes, another week almost every meal contained some form of cheese. This past week, the theme ingredient was alcohol—vodka in a pasta sauce, a splash of tequila elsewhere, and wine in a dessert.
Blackberries in Muscat Jelly, from Nigella Lawson's Nigella Express (Hyperion) cookbook, is basically a grown-up version of Jell-O with fruit in it, a cool, summery treat turned elegant by serving in wineglasses. You make the gelatin using some form of Muscat, from a light fizzy Moscato to a rich Muscat Beaumes de Venise—the weight and style of the wine shape the character of the dessert. Not wanting to spend more than 10 bucks on a weeknight treat just for my husband and me, I popped into a corner liquor store on the way home and simply used what I found there: a nonvintage, lightly sweet Barefoot Moscato from California.
This light white's pretty, uncomplicated floral, peach and citrus aromas spoke of summer days lounging in a deck chair with a beach read. Turned into "jelly" form, and set against the sweet-tart berries, it took on a refreshing ginger ale character—a nice way to end a hot, sticky day. And the unfinished half of the bottle was perfect for another simple dessert the next day, sliced fresh peaches soaked for a few hours and served in a glass of Moscato.
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