Food and Drink Feed

Countdown to Halloween ~ Beignets and Broomsticks

Bayou collage

 It's Samhain. My favorite time of year when and if I had my way I would be in New Orleans completely naked , drinking chicory laced, milky Cafe au Lait out of a antique silver pot and eating beignets dressed with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar, having never moved even a toe from out of an enormous duvet covered bed. That bed would be canopied of course and the sheets would be silky Egyptian cotton and the duvet would be silky and as airy as marshmallows. The pillows would be embroidered and lavish and the curtains would be a deep bottle green velvet.  There would be pralines dripping with brown sugar and sass and there would be gardenias in bunches everywhere.  There would be a bewitchingly beautiful man with an equally devastating mask waiting for me to finish breakfast so that he could draw my bath, liberally laced with Frederic Malle's Carnal Flower.   I know that none of these thoughts will come as any sort of surprise to those who know me well, especially the lusty man that I was smart enough to marry. I cherish food, perfume, magic and passion equally with a fervor that some women reserve solely for diamonds, shoes and pearls.  Gift me with truffles, tarot or tuberose on any given day and I will be properly enslaved ! 

 The thing about New Orleans is that she's a completely sensual, captivatingly sexual creature who's literally dripping with the sweet fleshy smell of the morning after a marvelous night with the naughtiest man.  The carnal and sardonic vibe of the deep south spells trouble for me with a capital T, but you have to experience it for yourself. You'll never ignore her haunting sirens call although you might hate yourself in the morning for heeding them..remember that I said  "might". Those beignets and gardenias blended with a soupçon of bloodlust can produce some very powerful magic. New Orleans produced the incomparably beautiful and tortured Louis Ponte du Lac, Anne Rices first beloved vampire. New Orleans is also the home of some of the finest burlesque in the world. Where else can you take a walk late at night with a Sazerac  in your hands and discover  just as many beautiful antique stores , strip clubs and tarot readers open all on the same block?

Burlesque

 I can never forget the all of the flowers, jasmine vines and dripping wet gardenias in the courtyard outside of Brennans Restaurant, where their pungent aroma mixed with the chicory and cinnamon coffee was about as heady a scent as a woman like me could ever ask for. I still revel in the memory of a sweet and sticky Banana’s Foster dripping with hot caramel and the flowering Jasmine climbing the wrought iron fences. I remember the candlelight and the hauntingly flirtatious laughter from women heard but never seen. The sticky Tuberose that grew everywhere was as stunning as a full moon and as narcotic as an opium den. Then there were all of the women, gorgeous hot house flowers with slickly coral lips , caramel skin and curvaceous bodies that were a promise of something that took me years to understand.


Southern women just astonish me with their ability to entice and enchant. I’ve never met a man who didn’t just love them, even if they love them only in secret , but I’ve met lots of women who absolutely hated them although I’ve never understood why. Not me…..I’ve always wanted to be one of them because they literally smell of orange blossoms, sex and white chocolate. They're the ones who really know how to wear stockings, gloves and hats...and they know how to take them off just as well. Their powers of seduction are legendary and who wouldn’t want some of that? Their magic is alive all year round....They love to have a cup of afternoon tea and I've never met one who couldn't read the tea leaves.  But truly? I think that the magic lies in the Beignets and Cafe au Lait! 

 

 

 Here's the best Beignet recipe that I've found yet from none other than Emeril Lagasse!

Beignets and Cafe au Lait

Ingredients
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups warm milk (110 degrees)
1 egg, beaten
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Oil for frying
Powdered sugar for dusting
5 cups of Chicory Coffee, hot
5 cups whole milk, hot
Directions
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a dough hook, add the yeast, sugar, shortening, and milk, mix for 2 minutes. Add the egg. Mix well. Add 4 cups of the flour and salt. Beat at low speed until all of the flour is incorporated, about 1 minute. Then beat at medium speed until the mixture forms a ball, leaves the sides of the bowl, and climbs up the dough hook. Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat the vegetable oil a deep fat fryer to 360 degrees F.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Lightly dust the surface of the dough. Roll out the rectangle to 12 1/2 inches long by 10 inches wide and about 1/4-inch thick. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into twenty 2 1/2-inch square beignets. Fry the beignets, a couple at a time until golden brown and crispy on all sides, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towels. Sprinkle the beignets with powdered sugar and serve. Fill each cup with 1/2 cup of coffee and 1/2 cup of the hot milk. Stir well.

Serve the coffee with the beignets.

In Bed. 


Claires Herbs ~ Rose Geranium Punch

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“ I should have felt much too guilty at this exploitation to enjoy my bath, but I didn’t. I wallowed luxuriously, scrubbing the salt and grime from my skin with a loofah sponge and lathering my hair with a shampoo made from chamomile, geranium oil, fat-soap shavings, and the yolk of an egg, graciously supplied by Mrs. MacIver.
Smelling sweet, shiny-haired, and languid with warmth, I collapsed gratefully into the bed I was given. I had time only to think how delightful it was to stretch out at full length, before I fell asleep.
When I woke, the shadows of dusk were gathering on the veranda outside the open French doors of my bedroom, and Jamie lay naked beside me, hands folded on his belly, breathing deep and slow.
He felt me stir, and opened his eyes. He smiled sleepily and reaching up a hand, pulled me down to his mouth. He had had a bath, too; he smelled of soap and cedar needles. I kissed him at length, slowly and thoroughly, running my tongue across the wide curve of his lip, finding his tongue with mine in a soft, dark joust of greeting and invitation.”

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Voyager.”  

 

The lovely Rose Geranium  or Pelargonium Graveolens is just one of my favorite plants in the whole world. It's easy to grow, lovely to look at and smells absolutely wonderful. I've used rose geranium essential oil mixed with spearmint in my diffuser for years to calm my hot flashes and I love using it in my bath as it's a wonderful toning oil to use on the skin. Rose geranium oil mixed with an egg yolk beaten with a bit of olive oil and combed through warm, wet hair is a wonderful deep conditioning and follicle treatment. ( just make sure to rinse it off with shampoo and warm, not hot water so the eggs don't scramble!) It is said to have anti- inflammatory properties, so be sure to keep some around during the winter months when the cold begins to make your joints ache. 

1 teaspoonful almond oil and a vitamin E capsule with a few drops of Rose Geranium essential oil AND Rose absolute is one of the best massage oils that I know of. Emotionally, rose geranium essential oil is a wonderful oil for promoting balance, tranquility, conviviality and relaxation. This could be why the following punch recipe from The Western Reserve Herb Society cookbook  is just so very delightful!

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2 Cups Rose Geranium leaves, washed
4 Cups cold water
In a saucepan place leaves and water. Bring just to a boil, but do not allow to boil. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain into a large glass jar/bowl. Discard leaves.


Add: 1 cup sugar
8 Cups cranapple juice
4 Cups orange juice
1 2-Liter bottle of any lemon-lime soda
Serve over/with ice.

 

If  I didn't have a rose geranium plant handy, I would use a few drops (start with 4 and add more to taste )  of Mandy Aftel's Geranium Chefs Essence  in  4 cups of cold water. Be careful and start with fewer drops than you think. It's very concentrated. 

 

The following picture is of the ice ring that I made to go into this punch . Instead of going through the normal process of freezing a little bit of water and adding a layer of fruit, and freezing some more and ading more fruit, I tried something new. I got pre-frozen fruit , a mixture of peaches, cherries , grapes and berries. I added many cups of these into the ring mold and poured cranapple juice over the top. The ice ring was frozen solid within 4 hours...almost unheard of! I unmolded it by putting the ring into hot water for a minute and then turned it upside down into the punch bowl.

All the fruit went to the top and the ring had a beautiful Della Robbia look that made it incredibly festive. The only thing that I'll do differently next time is to layer some pretty edible leaves in first! this is a wonderful mocktail to serve for anytime of the year but it's definitely very pretty to serve on a Yule or Solstice table accompanied by a sugar cookie or two!

Elegant Entertaining~ Rose Geranium Punch

 

 

 

All pictures are mine with the exception of the Rose Geranium which is from wikipedia!

 


Bubbling in the Cauldron: Slainte' ~ It's a Scottish Witches Brew!

Turn It Up Loud!

        

Every year I try to come up with a different Witches Brew for the neighborhood Halloween Party that I throw. This year, I got a head start as we were invited to a Chagrin valley Trails and Riding Club clambake and of course wanted to bring a wonderful beverage for everyone to share.

I wasn't at all sure what to do so I went into to Pat O' briens Fine Wines in Pepper Pike to ask my good friend Bret Schwartzman if he had something new and fun for me to play with. With a huge grin and a gleam in his eyes that was definitely mischievous he plucked bottle of a wicked looking alcohol off of the shelf and said "How about some Junior Johnsons Apple Pie Moonshine?"

By the time I'd gotten home I still hadn't quite figured out what kind of drink that I wanted to make, so I took the lid off of the mason jar with the wicked looking brown liquid in it. Unbelieveable...it smelled and tasted just like a fresh cinnamon spiked apple pie. For some reason it also made me crave a mug of Atholl Brose, that wonderful Scottish drink of oatmeal brose, honey ,whisky and cream.  I grabbed my copper kettle and filled it with 3/4 of a gallon of apple cider, 3 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice and 1 stick of butter. I let that simmer for a bit, whisking frequently and next added about 1 1/2 cups of blackstrap molasses and a sachet of one cup of oatmeal tied in the foot of a brand new pair of stockings that I'd cut the foot off of. (I keep cheap pairs around for that purpose) After that simmered for about 45 minutes there was still plenty of liquid but it was syrupy and wonderful and the molasss and oatmeal gave it a very  earthy flavor.  Then I added one and a half jars of the moonshine, 1/1/2 cups of Buttershot schnapps, 1 cup of Drambuie, 3/4 of a cup of vanilla brandy and two teaspoons of vanilla extract. I brought it to temperature, filled a camping thermos with boiling water , dumped it out and then added the hot Witches Brew. I took it to the clambake and my friends really enjoyed it ~ I was thrilled! The next day  I took the remaining Witches Brew out to the barn where we enjoyed it with piping hot coffee and brown sugar whipped cream! 

Trust me, this is alot easier than it sounds and well worth the trouble. Just be careful though...this drink is very strong and it's so delicious that it's next to impossible to stop drinking! I served it in little plastic shot glasses and if I'd had the whipped cream that evening a little dollop would have been  just the right bewitching finish.

Have fun, be safe and Be~Witching! 

Bubbling in the Cauldron ~ Witches Brew

Bubbling in the Cauldron ~ Witches Brew

Bubbling in the Cauldron ~ Witches Brew


Fruited Salsa with Cinnamon Chips!

Fruited salsa

I love Sundays. I usually get up and go for a trail ride first thing in the morning and then lazily wind my way home happily contemplating an afternoon of gardening , cooking and writing.  Usually in the warmer months dinner’s a simple feast of fresh vegetables and maybe a lovely piece of fish and a sausage or two cooked out on the grill. There’s always wine or a lovely icy cocktail and because my herbs are so abundant they’re always sneaking their way into several of the day’s delightful dishes.

I was contemplating this morning what dinner might be and as I checked my email I saw an interesting sounding dish from one of the recipe sites that I subscribe to. Fruited salsa with cinnamon chips…hmmm, now that sounds good! Sadly when I opened up the recipe I was disappointed. White sugar, brown sugar, no seasonal fruit and far too much oil for my liking.  That didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for   the  idea of it though so I set about to make my own version. The result was amazing! My husband who turned his nose up at the sound of it has now eaten half of the bowl!

 As I began to cook I was immediately taken back to one of my first vacations to Mexico when I was about 8 years old. We’d traveled all over Mexico City and found ourselves out one day in a very old little city  named Cuernavaca. I remember being hungry so we stopped for dinner at a lovely little hotel  called Las Mananita’s  that had  the  most elegant walled garden that I had ever seen, complete with regal strolling peacocks and Spanish wrought iron wonderful enough to take your breath away.  We ate our meal that evening within the walls of that gorgeous garden and it was  there that  I tasted my first avocado and  I also enjoyed enchiladas made with a mole of pepitas (green pumpkin seeds) tomato and cinnamon.  The smell of that mole still stays with me to this day as it was green , spicy and sweet all at once with a touch of something musky.  It was still one of the loveliest days of my young life, the sky was a cloudless sea blue and the lilting and sensual tones of a beautiful flamenco guitar permeated the air on occasion, just relaxing everyone close enough to enjoy them.  There was hardly any English spoken, but we didn’t care and I truly would have been happy to never leave. It was that special…absolutely paradise.
 
This fruited salsa is  based on my memories of that amazing meal and it is truly a dessert, so don’t let the addition of avocado throw you off. Avocado is after all a fruit and will lend all of the oil and creaminess that this dish could ever need.  This  dish is easy to make and I’ve lightened it up a bit using ambery agave nectar instead of sugar. You could make a sweet creamy dip for it if you wanted by whisking a bit  of sour cream with some crème fraiche and adding just a touch more of the agave. If I’d had some I would have topped the whole thing with freshly shredded toasted coconut. That would make it perfect!

The original recipe called for homemade pita chips with cinnamon ,but there was still too much oil in the recipe  for my liking. There’s a perfectly delicious store bought cinnamon sugar chip made by Stacy’s and you can get them at  your local Whole Foods,  so why waste the time making them when these are even better!

I’ll probably reinvent this dish again in the Autumn when fresh apples, grapes  , squashes and pears are abundant and one more thing! Salsa’s were originally created to use as  a  condiment for cooked meats.  To transform this lovely dish from sweet to savory, simply add some freshly chopped red onion, minced garlic , lemon or lime juice and a bit of sea salt to this recipe.  You will be delighted when you see just how quickly this fabulous salsa turns into an absolutely appropriate condiment to serve alongside your favorite grilled meats or seafood!

For a generous bowlful of fruited salsa you will need:
1 cup of diced ripe papaya
1 cup of diced ripe mango

4 sliced fresh peaches or nectarines…so ripe that the juice runs down your chin when you are eating them.

1 cup of diced watermelon
1 cup of diced pineapple
1 cup of diced strawberries
1 cup of diced avocado
Juice of one lime
1 cup of sliced kiwi fruit
1 tablespoon of Chinese Five Spice powder
½ cup of agave nectar
1 and a half cups full of  fresh herbs (chiffonaded), such as mint,  Thai basil and  pineapple sage, pineapple mint
½ cup of pepitas (salted and roasted green pumpkin seeds)
 
For this salsa if you’ve got a ceramic knife, it will be your best friend. The ceramic blade keeps the fruit from turning color and because it’s SO sharp, lends itself to a perfect hand cut dice! The rest of the recipe is very simple. Stir all of the ingredients together gently , place into a fabulous bowl and serve with the  cinnamon chips. That’s all you’ll need…Well all you’ll need  besides a lovely glass of sangria or two!

So, I’d love to know. What are your favorite cooling summer recipes? It’s warming up quickly here in the northeast…how about where you are?


 

This was originally posted at my favorite perfume blog Perfume Smellin Things when you're done here, why don't you run over and read the very latest reviews on all of your favorite scents!


Food Alchemy: Alex's Concord Grape Sorbet

  Grapes

Is there anything more fragrant and lovely in the fall than an arbor full of Concord grapes? Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around the picking of them first with my sister at a lovely farm in Hunting Valley and then in the old abandoned orchard in the back behind my store where the vines tangoed wildly with the overgrown honeysuckle and lilac bushes that had been allowed to flourish for years without interference. Some of the best memories that I share with my son are of the many NEOTA days that we spent together. There was never any question. As soon as that free friday in October rolled around we'd head off to one of the many "pick your own" orchards in the area and we'd go hunting for indian corn, pumpkins and grapes. We'd take along a picnic and stuff more grapes then we could possibly eat at once into our mouths. Goddess, there is nothing like the smell of them. They are sweet and fruity but manage to be musky and sensual, all at the same time.

Alex was home-schooled so the year he got his temporary license, we drove out to the farm to pick them together but then we went to Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland which is where I taught him to drive.  Lakeview is one of the oldest cemeteries in the midwest and is a vast swath of acreage filled with magnificent old gravestones, tombs and mausoleums. It is also home to an arboretum so the seasonal displays are gorgeous. It is also the best place in the city to teach a kid to drive; filled with hills and steep turns everywhere there's no better place.  Accompanied by our fresh grapes, cheese sandwiches, cameras and Anne Rices "The Vampire Lestat"  , we spent one whole season perfecting the art of of driving. By the time the leaves had all fallen and the first snow was dusting the headstones Alex had turned into a very dashing young motorist.  

Alex



I think that in the above pic he's about 15 ,but now Alex is grown and lives in Southern California. We still share the love of those grapes and that gorgeous cemetery. It may seem weird , but it's our place. If he's got something he's thinking about we'll meet up there on the hill that overlooks the entire city to talk.

He grabbed my heart when he texted me last week from San Diego..."Mom, I just bought some Concord grapes and they made me think of you and Anne Rice...I'm glad she's not crazy any more". Those of you who are diehard Anne Rice fans will know what he means.....

So when last week I came across a recipe for Concord Grape Sorbet I immediately thought of him. He'll be home in October for a few days so I'm planning on going grape picking and pumpkin hunting and I can't wait to serve him this sorbet. True to form because I can't leave anything alone I completely changed the recipe. It's absolutely luscious, full of grape-iness and my sister the Goddess of Chocolate who's making her own batch using the original recipe has suggested that we enhance it with crushed Reeses peanut butter cups. At first I thought she was nuts, but now I can't get the thought of that out of my mind.  She's such a bad influence! 

All that I did to make this sorbet was take two dry quarts of fresh Concord grapes off of their stems and put them into my vitamix with the juice of one lemon, about 1 cup of fresh anise hyssop (flowers and leaves) and 1/2 cup of honey ,a pinch of sea salt and 1/4 of a cup of agave nectar. Then I added 1 and a half cups of spring water and blended on high for about 1 minute until everything was completely pulverized and lusciously purple. At that point I put in the refrigerator and let it steep overnight! In the morning I strained the whole thing through a chinoise and put the remaining juice mixture (about 4 cups) into my ice cream maker. 25 minutes later I had the most incredibly fragrant and delicious grape sorbet. I wish that I could say that I slaved over the whole thing for hours but I didn't. The grapes are so perfect right now that it doesn't take much to bring out their flavor. If you don't have hyssop then try the toasted fennel seed and fennel pollen like my sister is using. I'm sure that it will be wonderful and whatever you do, don't forget the Reeses! 

 grape sorbet




 All pictures and writings are owned by Beth Schreibman Gehring and are protected under my copyright.    Please don't use them in any form without my permission.


Perfume Illuminated: Lime

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"You put the lime in the coconut, you drink 'em both together
Put the lime in the coconut, then you feel better
Put the lime in the coconut, drink 'em both up
Put the lime in the coconut, and call me in the morning"


There has always been something about the gorgeous lime fruit that has always seemed a bit exotic to me. One of my best friends who was a bit of a pirate at heart introduced me early on  to his Royall Lyme cologne, a  fragrance that I still love with the same passion that I reserve for a fine Bay Rum. I love to buy huge bottles of it and use it for a summertime splash because it's such an undeniably refreshing limey fragrance and doesn't smell terribly masculine on me at all. Many of my favorite natural fragrances have lime in them, but I'll let my partner in crime Roxana Villa talk to you about that in her fragrantly Illuminated Journal ! For now, I'm just going  to talk to you about using the delicious lime in fresh cocktails and food...two of my favorite things!

Fresh limes produce a magnificently flavored juice which I love to use in so many different ways, especially in the summer when it's almost bitter bite can transport me to nirvana by way of a tall and refreshing gin and tonic or when used as one of the fresh juices that I love to squeeze into my guacamole. In California I can get wonderful things called Sweet Limes which are yellow in color, musky and sweetly flavored and when mixed with the juice of the green ones make the most perfect limeade that I've ever had. Last but not least of course, is the lusty menage a trois'  that the lime has always carried on with flaked salt, mezcal or tequila.....

Mezcal-and-cocktail2  

Midnight Margaritas anyone?

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My love for the lime isn't limited only to the summertime and in the winter I like to fill my Solstice punch bowl with a simple and delicious mixture of Skye Vodkas's Raspberry infusion , Skye Ginger infusion , Roses lime juice, ginger beer , simple syrup and tons of fresh raspberries for a really festive version of a Moscow mule!  Be careful with this one though, like it's namesake, it does have a bit of a kick but it's a wonderful recipe and can be freshened easily throughout the evening.  For large parties I serve it in pretty plastic punch cups with skewers of sugary candied ginger which really make the drink special!


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Besides being an amazing addition to my favorite cocktails, the juice of fresh limes will mix beautifully with many foods, from pork to seafood and can be combined with tomatoes, onions, cilantro,garlic, olive oil and sea salt for a magnificent salsa fresca which can instantly turn a simple piece of grilled fish into an exotic mediterranean feast or raw fish into ceviche! There are Mexicans salsas and enchilada sauces flavored with lime that turn fajitas and fish tacos into into true gourmet fare and then there is the Indian hot lime pickle, which is actually a chutney made of dried limes that turns a simple curry of any type into an ambrosia with its zestiness.

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I admire the taste and fragrance of the lime for the complexity that it adds to Thai and Vietnamese cuisine and yet the simplest and most seductively luscious thing that I've ever tasted using fresh lime juice came to me by way of the wonderful farmers market that I frequent on Sunday mornings whenever I'm in  La Jolla. This farmers market is always filled with the most beautiful fresh produce and there are many vendors preparing wonderful things to eat from French crepes to the freshest chili cheese tamales that I've ever tasted, but my favorite stand belongs to the group of Mexican women who sell large cups of sliced papaya, mango and watermelon that they slice and dust with sea salt, chili and fresh lime juice. It is possibly the simplest combination of flavors that I've ever tasted, but also one of the best.

These is very easy to reproduce at home and I've made this salad many times for it's an easy and  wonderful dish to serve on a hot summer evening. I usually add cucumber spears and avocado for a more complete meal. Just arrange slices of fresh papaya, mango, avocado, cucumber and melon on a pretty platter and dust with ground sea salt , chili powder and squeeze fresh lime juice all over the top. If you'd like, sprinkle some chopped marcona almonds over the top for a bit of additional flavor and a satisfying crunch!

Last but not least, for the best shrimp cocktail to be had this side of the border take a jalapeno pepper, remove the seeds and mince it up. Put it  into a bowl and add 2 cloves of minced garlic, some diced red onion,  green onion and fresh cilantro. Then stir in several chopped heirloom tomatoes with a bit of their juices,1 tablespoons of clam juice,a tablespoon of tequila,  a teaspoonful of white horseradish and salt, chili powder and extra cumin to taste. When you're done the mixture should be the consistency of salsa.  Take a martini glass and put a couple of teaspoons of the tomato mixture into the bowl of the glass and then put several shrimp around the rim of the glass. You can use boiled shrimp, but I like to use grilled shrimp because I love the flavor and texture more! Garnish with a thick crispy slice of very good bacon cooked the way that you like it. The formula is simple.....Dip the shrimp  and take a bite mixed with a bite of the bacon. Be sure to eat this with a lover..it's messy!

Now how about those Midnight Margaritas!

Mezcal Photograph courtesy of : www.amountainofcrushedice.com

All other photographs by Beth Schreibman Gehring


Perfume Illuminated: Nasturtium

Nasturtiums at Giverny

                                                  Flavor: Nasturtium

 The home where I grew up had acres of lovely gardens and when I married and   able to buy my first home it was a small farm in Geauga County.  That first spring, eager to begin to live the sustainable lifestyle that I’d always dreamed of my husband and I planted fruit trees, masses of vegetables and  even a patch of asparagus. 5 years later our son Alex was born and together the three of us lived a fairly idyllic life until we moved back into the city 21 years later, choosing to rent an apartment because we weren’t sure what our next real move would be. I’d given up a life that I loved for the reality of caring for my aging parents and although I never regretted the choice I’m sure that you can imagine my dismay when spring came the following year and I had no place to plant even one tiny heirloom tomato. I found a  wee bit of unused earth  in the area behind our apartment building but was told that it needed to be kept landscaped ,which actually meant   only a lawn and completely devoid of all other flowers . Ick!  

 

That year not long after Easter  I walked into a bookstore and went longingly over to the gardening section.   I was simply browsing but then I saw a beautiful book on container gardening, something I’d never really tried before.   Suddenly a whole new world was opened up to me.  I had a beautiful but very small third floor patio with a southwestern exposure and when I say small it was literally no more than 8 feet long and perhaps 4 feet deep. But I was determined to find a way to have fresh tomatoes and basil that summer …nothing was going to stop me! I really didn’t know what I was doing which was probably a good thing because   if I had really followed the rules I would never have attempted to grow so many of the vegetables that I did. Determined to learn more and help pay for this new found hobby, I took a job at the local garden center doing what? Creating container gardens! I had a blast mixing all of the herbs and flowers to create gorgeous hayracks and window boxes that my customers loved.  The best part was that I was given free rein and I learned about all of the likes and dislikes of the plants in the process.

That was the first spring that I ever planted nasturtiums! I had met them before growing wild along the fence at my sisters home in La Jolla, giant orange and golden mutants of flowers that tasted sweet and peppery hot like the California sunshine that I taught my son to enjoy simply because he could have a wild snack whenever he passed them by!  The  nasturtiums that I planted cooperated happily and transformed that  little balcony into an abundant garden that helped feed us incredible salads all summer long. I lined the railing with flower boxes and planted all of my herbs in them and masses of nasturtiums   both yellow and gold.  I grew lettuces all along the bottom of the railing in boxes until they bolted with the summer heat. I had hanging baskets of strawberries and cherry tomatoes and I grew paste tomatoes for sauce by planting them against the metal railing and using the rails for support.  I grew beans by running them up an old bakers rack that I was using for potting supplies and I used every bit of ceiling space that I had for flower baskets. I even grew a blueberry bush in one of my containers.   It was an amazing experiment and I couldn’t believe just how much food I was able to grow in that small space. The fun continued when I woke up one morning to find sunflowers beginning to grow in several of my containers. I didn’t plant them myself, so I can only assume that they were a gift from the Mourning Doves that used one of the unplanted clay pots to nest in. 

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 That was the year that I learned that no matter what and no matter where I found myself, I could feed my family easily. My husband and I spent evening after evening sitting with glasses of wine on that tiny porch while we ate fresh salads and bowls of  pasta topped with tangy farmers cheese that I made myself from raw goats milk, and nasturtiums and pesto that came from the many varieties of basil that I grew in my containers.  Summer came and went, but not without gifting me with lots of herbs,   the occasional tomato through autumn and when Thanksgiving finally arrived I was still able to pick fresh sage  for my chestnut stuffing and fresh Nasturtiums for my salad! Believe me when I say that I was more delighted with that small harvest than I ever was with the large gardens that I left behind.

Extremely high in Vitamin C and used by many herbalists as a natural blood cleanser  and antibiotic, Nasturtiums are so easy to grow in containers and if you plant some you’ll be rewarded with more beautiful flowers than you’ll know what to do with so here are some really simple suggestions! Take a wedge of Boursin or any other herb filled soft cheese and cream it even more with a bit of butter and half and half. You can even add some finely minced nasturtium petals for flavor and color! Put the mixture into a piping bag and pipe just a bit into the center of a nasturtium blossom for a wonderful hor d’ oeuvre. Make sure before you fill them that you’ve checked each blossom  for bugs! If you’ve grown them organically you won’t need to worry about washing them which is better anyhow because the flavor IS better. Just dust them off with a soft vegetable brush and use.

You already know that I love to use them in  green salads, but they are also incredibly delicious chopped into egg salad with fresh chives and a bit of apple and curry. I’ve also used the same mixture for deviled eggs and I love to add currants and sliced almonds for a satisfying sweet/ spicy flavor!

I also love to make a  dipping sauce for fresh asparagus and artichokes using mayonnaise (Hellmans please) or Vegannaise as the base. Put about a cup of it into the blender and add fresh lemon juice , a bit of  Braggs liquid amino acids (like soy sauce without the soy!) and lots of fresh herbs and nasturtium flowers. Blend it all up and serve!

Nasturtium buds are delicious also and you could pickle them like they do in  South America or just toss them straight into your salads. Just be sure to pick the young green ones because as they get older they will be too hard to eat. They are wonderful, peppery like the flowers but with a very satisfying crunch. Nasturtium leaves are edible as well and tossed into a wonderful salad with some fresh dandelion , violet leaves and chickweed make a wonderful wild salad that is rich with minerals , vitamins and sunshine.  Speaking of salads, you can make a wonderful nasturtium vinegar by heating some white wine vinegar to almost a boil and then adding lots of the blossoms and letting them steep for a few days. Your vinegar will be colored depending upon which color flowers you use, but I find that the bright red makes the loveliest vinegar. Decant into clear bottles and enjoy  the warm peppery flavor all year round !

One of my favorite recipes for soup is a wonderful gazpacho that I make with fresh tomatoes, pineapple, cucumber onions, garlic ,about 4 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, Green , red and gold peppers, a bit of smoky chipotle, about a cup and a half of fresh almonds and nasturtium blossoms.  Place all of the ingredients (you decide how much of each you'd like!) into a blender with about 1 cup of half and half and two cups of water and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chives, goat cheese , fresh basil and enjoy!

Soup1

Nasturtiums grown in containers don’t like to have their feet too wet and they will enjoy  being fed with a time release fertilizer like Osmocote at least once every month. For containers choose the trailing variety and give them a space where they can stretch their legs and get really bushy and blossom-full!

You'll enjoy them all summer and if you have a wonderfully sunny exposure you'll probably have some blooms through autumn.


Perfume Illuminated: Mimosa

             Mimosa
                                                             

This weeks  Perfume Illuminated features the delicate and fragrant Mimosa  and though for my end of things there is no real flavor connection, there are many wonderful memories and some truly delicious cocktails that come along with them! When you're done here, make sure that you float on your long stemmed glass of bubbly over to Roxana's Illuminated Journal to read what she has to say about the Mimosa : Fragrance! I know that you'll love

 Flavor: Mimosa

It's Mothers Day and what better cocktail to enjoy on such a day than a delicious mimosa! Ever since I was a little girl I've loved them  ( yes, my fabulous and very worldly mother let me enjoy  a little one even then!) and from my first sip at my brothers graduation brunch at Brennans in New Orleans I was hooked on that combination of fresh juice and great champagne. To this day there is nothing that says celebration to me quite as much as a Mimosa, not even a Bellini, that luscious combination of peach juice and champagne which I love but doesn't conjure up the same lovely gardenia soaked memories! My mother and I traveled together several times a year for business and often we'd start the day with a Grand Mimosa at the Ritz Carlton or sometimes if the day was too busy we'd wait until tea. She loved the Mimosas with Chambord served at the restaurant on the 7th floor of Bergdorf Goodman and she adored drinking them at breakfast while sitting by the window in the Park Lane Hotel restaurant.  She really was so much fun to travel with! I'll never forget the time that we were in Atlanta and she hired a carriage driver to take us from our hotel to the restaurant where we were having our dinner simply because she thought that it would be so much fun! She loved to enjoy her life, even in the later years when it all got a bit tougher and she never missed an opportunity to enjoy a party or a glass of wonderful champagne! 

             New YOrk Program 

 

 

Although my mother died in August of 2008 my taste for Mimosa's did not, because for the last two years my niece Kacy and I have gone  to New York City in October  for the Food Network Food and Wine Festival. I'll never forget  when she called me.....I was sitting in my mother's hospital room where she lay in a deep coma and my cell phone rang. "Aunt Bethie .....guess what! I know what we should do.There's  this food festival in New York in October and after Grandma dies you're going to need something to look forward too, so we're going!"  I couldn't say no...not with my mother laying there! She would have never passed it up!

That weekend turned out to be a dream come true...one my favorite cities enjoyed with one of my favorite people, in fact possibly the only other person that I know who loves the glamourous aspects of New York City as much as my mother and I did ! It's a wonderfully madcap weekend , filled with fabulous New York Parties, incredible food and more alcohol, wine and champagne than anyone should ever drink. There's a million opportunities to meet your favorite Food Network stars (and aren't they the only ones that count these days!) and last year Paula Deen even invited the two of us to be her honorary daughter and grand daughter. Nigella was there , Ina and Anthony too and Kacy and I just have the best time experiencing it all together. We act like ridiculous food groupies and since my mother died it's become our favorite time to spend together! We spend the entire weekend shopping and eating, flirting,drinking and bonding. We exercise every food demon that we are possessed by and thank goodness for those darling yellow cabs.....

 Kacy and Beth 

 My niece and I share the sensibility that there is absolutely no excuse deny oneself an extraordinary glass of  Champagne! Last year we discovered the Mimosa's at Sarabeth's, the delightful brunch restaurant three steps away from our door at The Park Lane. They were absolutely delicious in the traditional sense, made with champagne and freshly squeezed orange and blood orange juices and absolutely perfect with my Eggs Benedict and her eggs with smoked salmon. The whole feast was made even better by the fact that we were sitting outside practically on the street right next to the Central Park watching the carriages come and go and enjoying the NYC fashion parade on their way up to 5th. We ate and drank and then of course we went shopping to exercise the whole thing off! That evening was the Grande Dessert Party sponsored by Duff of the Ace of Cakes , Perrier Jouet and Gilbeys Gin. What a feast...freeflowing Champagne and desserts  everywhere from the finest pastry chefs in the city. Kacy's boyfriend joined us and we ate, drank and laughed until the early hours when I took my cab back happily to my hotel and fell into bed, but not without first a bit of room service to nullify the effects of all of that      Perrier Jouet 


         romservice 

 

The next day was Sunday so I spent wandering the streets of the the city just taking it all in. Before I flew out, I stopped at The Champagne Bar at The Plaza to have one final Champagne cocktail. The Champagne Bar at the Plaza is a gorgeous, intimate affair, with a marvelous menu of bubbly by the glass and divine green velvet "affaire de coeur" chairs to sip it in. As I sat there truly relaxed and enjoying myself after such a satisfying weekend, I felt the presence of my mother sitting across from me, smiling and just drinking it all in.  

        PLZ223_Champagne_Bar 

 A perfectly mixed, traditional Mimosa generally consists of freshly squeezed orange juice and champagne. Actually if you want to be precise, it's about 2 ounces of freshly squeezed orange juice in a flute champagne glass and then you'll fill the rest of the glass with Champagne.  But if you want to drink my mother's favorite, here is the recipe. I love giving away her secrets because she was so much fun! If she was still with us today, I'd have brought this to her already with one of the Bluebells from her garden that she loved so much.

You'll need one perfect long stemmed flute champagne,  a bottle of well chilled Taittinger and some freshly squeezed orange juice, preferably a mixture of blood orange and navel oranges. 

Pour about 1 and a half ounces of the juice into the glass and add a dash of orange flower water, a dash of Chambord and a couple of tablespoons of Grand Marnier into which you've muddled some very fresh, juicy raspberries. Fill the rest of the glass with the champagne (be careful not to overfill!) and enjoy. 

                 Happy Mothers Day Mom! I always miss you, but today I miss you more .......

All photographs belong to Beth Schreibman Gehring except for the Plaza Hotel, which is courtesy of The Champagne Bar at The Plaza Hotel!