When we first started looking at apartments to rent in Miami, we knew having a view of the water was a non-negotiable. Luckily, we ended up scoring a two-bedroom gem in a 16th-floor high rise complete with a large patio overlooking beautiful Biscayne Bay. It might be the start of spring, and I feel a tad bit guilty saying this, considering some parts of the country are still experiencing snow storms, but here in Miami it feels like spring all year long. Full disclosure: I completely understand that the disgusting humidified heat of summer will no doubt descend upon us soon enough.
Last Saturday I invited my longtime childhood friend Erika over for a day in the sun on our patio, and I had some fun putting together a menu of light bites for us to enjoy. I knew we’d be sunning in our bikinis and so I put together a simple yet scrumptious appetizer of fresh pears wrapped in salty prosciutto, which only comprises a few easy steps: Core and cut the pears into bite-size pieces; slice store-bought prosciutto pieces in half; wrap one prosciutto half-slice around one piece of pear and secure with a toothpick.
I feel as though lying out in the sun just wouldn’t be the same without a cocktail in hand, so I whipped up some white wine-based sangria using a recipe I grabbed off Pinterest. There are tons of variations one can use to make sangria, but we especially enjoyed the refreshing bite that was added from the scored basil leaves in this one. Not to mention, the bright red hues of the strawberries and apple really catch your eye. This recipe calls for Chardonnay; we used Pinot Grigio, but you can use any white wine you like.
Strawberry Basil Sangria
½ pound fresh strawberries
1 ounce fresh whole basil leaves
1 bottle white wine
½ cup organic sugar
1 cup club soda
1 cup white grape juice
Trim and thinly slice the strawberries. Slice and dice the apple into very small bits. Score the basil leaves with a fork by rubbing the basil leaves gently to release their flavor. Layer the fruit, sugar and basil in a large pitcher and let sit for about 10 minutes to let the sugar absorb the juices from the basil and the fruit. Add the club soda first and then the remaining liquids. Stir well and serve. Yields one pitcher.
Once the rays of sunshine and white wine soaked in a bit, we had worked up an appetite. We nibbled on a Southern classic: pimiento cheese sandwiches. While a bit more on the indulgent side, I cut the crust off the whole-wheat bread for these delicious tea sammies and used a lighter rendition courtesy of Bobby Dean’s (son of butter queen Paula Deen) From Mama’s Table to Mine cookbook.
I will admit that I used an entire eight-ounce cream cheese block instead of the two ounces it calls for (oops!), but I think it made for a creamier and less pungent cheese mixture. This recipe makes about two cups of pimiento cheese, which can be spread on sandwiches or also served as a party dip with veggies.
Bobby’s Pimiento Cheese
2 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened (I used 8 ounces)
2 cups grated low-fat cheddar cheese
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped pimientos, mashed with a fork
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
pinch of onion powder
freshly ground black pepper to taste
In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer (which is what I opted for), beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in the cheddar, mayo, pimientos, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder and pepper until well blended. Spread on bread or serve with any vegetable you like.
We of course needed a beverage to wash down those sandwiches, so we went for round two with the cocktails, and this time I shook up some homemade caipirinhas (pronounced: kai-pee-reen-yas), which is the Brazilian version of a mojito and perfect for a hot day in the sun. You’ll first need to grab a bottle of cachaca (Brazilian rum pronounced: cah-shah-suh) at your nearest liquor store – we used Cuca.
To make two cocktails, slice up one entire lime into wedges and add equal parts to two glasses (we used whiskey glasses, you could also use highballs). Add two teaspoons of granulated sugar into each glass. Muddle the limes and the sugar together using a wooden spoon (or a muddler, if you’re fancy!), then top with ice (crushed is best, but I only had cubed). Pour in two ounces of cachaca in each glass and then top with club soda. Stir all ingredients together.
Stick a neon-colored straw into the glass, sip on the refreshing cocktail while overlooking the pool or ocean, and then recline into some serious springtime relaxation.