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January 2010

Perfume Illuminated : Lemon



Ah...California. My second home at this point, to me it's an absolute oasis of beauty, the "Left Coast" to some and the perfect place for a foodie like me to live. Everywhere I turn there are farmers markets and luscious stands of fresh fruits and vegetables. The seafood here is incredible and and it seems that any ingredient that I long for  can be found at the corner store. Artisanal bakeries and cheese shops line every block and how can you not be enchanted by a place that allows your dog to enjoy life with you at every cafe' and espresso shop! 

Del Mar is where we make our home,  in a beautiful condominium that's about 700 feet from the beach surrounded by eucalyptus trees and rosemary bushes the size of rhododendrons! It's been storming here for a week now, gorgeous extraordinary rolling thunderstorms that are whipping up the waves and making the air fragrant with flowers and torn bark. 

Del Mar is also the home to my favorite farmers market of all, Chino's, up in Rancho Santa Fe. One of the oldest and most revered organic markets in the United States, Chino's Farmers Market is a pleasure on any given day, but in the winter time, they have the most amazing citrus fruit  that I've ever tasted. Today I'm dreaming about Meyer lemons and Chino's are among the finest that I've ever had. Small, juicy and sweet with a rind the color of sunshine,they find their way into many of my recipes including a delicious and refreshing lavender lemonade, chilled fruit soup and my favorite Buddha's Hand Martinis!

Essential Oil of lemon plays a huge role in my healthcare arsenal. Mixed with oil of Vitamin E it becomes my first "go to" formula for lymphatic cleansing and I use this remedy liberally during the times of the month when I feel a bit "cloggy" around my breasts, underarms and neck. Lemon essential oil was also a lifesaver when my son Alex was about 7. Unknown to us he had contracted "Cat Scratch Fever", a discovery made when one day I bent down to kiss him and found that the glands on his neck had blown up into the size of grapes! Terrifying to be sure and especially because the doctors could do nothing about it except for scare us with threats of surgery in the event that the glands didn't come down! 

I took matters into my own hands, giving him liberal glasses of my favorite " Master Cleanser", a drink of freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with spring water,  maple syrup and a touch of cayenne pepper and dabbed the lemon essential oil onto the infected glands several times a day. Within a couple of weeks, the frightening hard glands had softened and gone back to their normal size and he was feeling great. To this day, when I feel a cold coming on I do the same thing for myself and very quickly I'm feeling quite as good as new!

Because the lemons are so beautiful  right now I can't resist bringing you a couple of fun and easy recipes! The first is a chilled fruit soup that I've made today for my son. It's vegan and gluten free and requires  a vitamix or a very high powered blender to work it's magic on the ingredients! Serve this soup as a first course before a savory meal or a palate cleanser in between courses! 

To make this refreshing soup you will need:

1 and a half cups of brown rice
1and a half cups of vanilla rice milk
3/4 cup of agave nectar
2 heaping tablespoons of ginger marmalade
Juice of three fresh Meyer lemons
1/2   block of silken tofu
2 heaping tablespoons of coconut oil
Peel of 3 meyer lemons

1/2 cup of fresh Opal Basil
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 ounces of  limoncello liqueur

Put all of these ingredients into the pitcher of the blender or Vitamix and blend for at least 4 minutes on the highest speed until silken and pourable. Adjust the sweetener level for you may want to add a bit more according to taste. Chill and then pour into individual bowls ,garnishing with fresh raspberries and a bit of tarragon!  

 Meyer lemonsoup
 Enjoy this refreshing soup with a glass of chilled champagne!

 Now.... Are you ready for martinis? If it's happy hour in your neck of the woods try this recipe for a really delicious twist on an old favorite! It's very easy to make and if you use the freshest ingredients you'll be rewarded with a wonderful cocktail that you can serve happily at your next party!

 It features my favorite Hangar One "Buddha's Hand" Vodka, which I purchase in San Diego! The "Buddha's Hand''  is that incredibly beautiful lemon that looks for all the world like a strange alien flower, with a large base and fleshy fragrant fingers pointing upwards. They make beautiful centerpieces but equally delicious vodka. If you can find Hangar One Vodka's in your neck of the woods they are well worth a try. If not, go ahead and substitute any great citron vodka. It will work out just fine!

BUddhas Hand

You will need for each drink:

1 jigger of Hangar One "Buddha's Hand" Vodka

1 jigger of Limoncello

juice of one half of a fresh Meyer Lemon

1 tablespoon of amber agave nectar

Fresh Tarragon for garnishing and muddling

Place the tarragon in the bottom of a shaker and press a bit with flat edge of a spoon. Add several ice cubes and the rest of the ingredients. Shake until blended and strain into your favorite cocktail glass. Garnish with strips of tarragon and fresh lemon rind and serve!

Meyer Lemon Martini

This is a drink that is absolutely made for alfresco dining.....Serve with fragrant curries,  chicken satay or thai lettuce wraps outside under the setting sun!

Please be sure to visit my darling friend Roxana at her wonderful Illuminated Journal for her incredibly FRAGRANT portion of this weeks "Perfume Illuminated!" 

The  picture of the "Buddhas Hand" lemon is courtesy of the LA Times!

Perfume Illuminated Photo by Roxana Villa. All other photos courtesy of Beth Schreibman Gehring

Introducing "Perfume Illuminated" by Beth Schreibman Gehring & Roxana Villa

I am honored to introduce a collaboration that I am truly very excited about! Many of you have read the articles that I've written about Roxana Villa, of Roxana Illuminated Perfume who is in my mind the undisputed queen of the art of Botanical Fragrance!  Her perfumes are lovely on all levels ,  good for the earth and fruitful for all things mind, body and spirit. 

After watching the movie Quantum Activist with her family on New Years Eve, she was hit with the question, "What are you doing to participate in the creation of the reality that we all share?" Well, the answer is going to be alot of things given that she has more creative energy than almost anyone that I've ever known , but luckily for me, this new project that she's invited me to be a part of is one of them!

Perfume Illuminated is our effort together to bring you fragrance and flavor from a new perspective; at the same time earthy and ethereal, practical as well as spiritual. Every Friday we will be addressing a different scent and because she is a botanical perfumer her scents easily translate into my language which is the language of food as well as perfume. 


Roxana's no stranger to lovely things to eat though...upon our first meeting I was offered homemade Macorons and a glass of fresh spring water which had been exquisitely laced with Jasmine. I was instantly tranfixed and became her willing participant in almost any project that she throws at me.  In this first edition of Perfume Illuminated you will discover recipes for tincture of Orris and Violets, Violet ice cream as well as a few stories and other such things to help thaw your toes on this chilly midwestern morning!

Both of us  truly hope that it will inspire you and bring you abundant enjoyment!

 Violet Ice cream[1]


Creating Enhanced Winter Health and Vitality through Diet not Drugs!

  Once again it’s flu season and this year it’s taken on a whole different meaning as we face the possibility of a worldwide pandemic of swine flu. I’m no different than anyone else and I worry endlessly about my families health and wellbeing, but I’m not about to rush out and take a vaccine that I’m not sure is at all beneficial. I really avoid most drugs, unless its imperative that I take an antibiotic for my survival!  Instead, I prefer to hedge my bets by strengthening my immune system through the foods that I eat and the supplements that I use. I'm a firm believer that real health is inextricably linked to good digestion and elimination. Keeping those systems healthy is truly your first line of defense against most virulent strains of staph , strep or influenza. You owe it to yourself right now to begin to eat foods that move quickly through you,  strengthening you and helping you fight off infection powerfully  as a result of the natural ability that our bodies have to fend off disease. 

During the winter I’m constantly replenishing my stores of Echinacea and goldenseal, Vitamins B and D , zinc tablets and  essential oils. Oil of oregano is a must as it's not only a vital germicide, but can help to control a stubborn candida infection. I’ve discovered that if I begin to take zinc tablets at the beginning of the flu season that I feel very well protected, no matter who I come in contact with. Drinking steaming mugs of green tea sweetened with agave nectar instead of my usual coffee always helps me to replenish the much needed moisture robbed daily from my skin by the bitter dry winds and artificial heating sources found in my home.

I also make a fragrant yet powerful blend of oils that I love, equal parts clove, cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary, white thyme and oregano to use in many ways.  This is my own variation of the famed 4 Thieves Vinegar, which is legendary  among herbalists and perfumers! Rumor has it that during the Black Plague,  the most successful corpse robbers were the perfumers who figured out that the essential oils that they used rendered them impervious to the virulent germs.  They were later caught and hung, but not before they were forced to give up their secrets!

Try to make this for yourself because mixed with white vinegar and put into a spray bottle it will become a potent antibacterial to use either as a room spray or surface spray for your entire home. Used in a diffuser, this oil blend creates a continuous line of defense against most airborne viruses that it comes in contact with. It’s a little to strong for most forms of personal use, but I will mix a few drops with some fresh vitamin E oil and massage the bottoms of the feet with it and then putting a pair of clean cuddly socks to help the oils soak in.  That treatment coupled with a bowl of garlic miso soup with a bit of tofu and a warm mug of tea can have me up and out again in a day!

Because there is so much temptation to overindulge during the holidays, our bodies can become very overloaded with sugar and complex carbohydrates, the end result being an overload of yeast that builds up in the body, causing some very difficult problems including skin rashes, joint aches and pains and a heavily compromised immune system that is even more susceptible than usual to the nasty bugs that are generously present in our daily environment.

Now is the time for a good cleansing, but generally not of the fasting sort. If you’re anything like me, the bitter chill of the January winds make that nearly an impossibility.   Instead I prefer to treat my body to simple meals based upon mostly seasonally available foods and herbs that are designed to gently cleanse and invigorate .  For example,  I love to poach leeks and serve them with homemade mustard sauce and I make a homemade raw beet borscht with fresh dill, diced onions, cooked turnips and rutabaga that is a surefire remedy for adding iron to your diet and  cleansing the blood. Vegetarian curries with cumin, ginger, garlic and tumeric  can provide the warmth needed to rebalance the digestion and hot spicy salsas and moles made with chiles , dark chocolate, cinnamon and chipotle are another winter treat that those of us north of the border can use to fend off the blues of seasonal affective disorder and stay warm as toast all winter!  I love a simple roasted chicken  or Gardien (a delicious meat substitute) cutlet dressed with a spicy mole sauce and  served with cumin scented black beans and a salad of fresh blood orange, jicama, pomegranate seeds with a red wine vinegar and oil dressing.  A meal like this can bring the sunshine back to me in an instant!

Soups are really easy to make and a good homemade broth is a wonderful foundation for creating all kinds of foods that promote healing. To make a good stock , start with fresh spring water or chicken broth and either a chicken cut into pieces or a pot roast. Organic  and free range please!!!!!!!  Then add onions, garlic, carrots, celery , beets, leeks, root vegetables, garlic, kale…you get the picture. It doesn’t have to be pretty to be delicious and fortifying.  Quite often depending upon my mood I’ll add a bottle of red wine or some fresh apple cider.  Many times I’ll use a chicken and pot roast together and sometimes I won’t use meat at all choosing instead several varieties of seaweed, seafood and shellfish.

The rest is simple.  Put it all into a stockpot and simmer for several hours. Making a good meat based stock does take some time but its well worth the wait. You’ll have to skim what is known as the “scum” off of it several times, but this added step will result in a clearer stock. I love to add herbs and spices to mine, particularly cinnamon sticks, ginger root and star anise for warmth.  When it’s done remove the meat and the vegetables and put them aside to reserve for a later meal. Serving either the chicken or beef with a sauce of fresh horseradish or mustard is another way to raise the digestive fires needed for warmth at this ever so chilly time of year. Then strain the stock and give yourself the pleasure of putting some of the hot broth into a mug with a bit of salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Bon Appetit' !

 Vegetarian broth will cook faster and you won’t have as much “scum” to remove but the end result will be just as delicious and fortifying! Add a bit of miso , green onion,  cubed tofu and shitake mushroom to a vegetarian broth to make a satisfying tonic to revitalize and replenish the vitamins and minerals that are lost through the simple stress of everyday living.  Either of these stocks can be used as a base for many different delicious soups like a spicy chicken chili, lentil or white bean with kale, squash and sweet potato.

 The only other thing needed  for either of these meals could be a simple green salad with a bit of lemon juice and oil and a lovely glass of wine.  If you’re really cleansing, avoid heavily processed cheese and bread for now and any other complex carbs like rice or pasta which can really clog up your system and during this time I try to stay away from regular white fleshed potatoes because they convert to sugars so quickly and without the more complete nutrition of  yams or sweet potato.  You won’t regret abstaining from them for a week or two and you might discover that your body doesn’t rely on them as much to create it’s energy after a time.  See if you can avoid coffee or black tea for this time period and allow your body to begin to rest and heal for a bit without artificial stimulation. Your stress may even go away, enabling your body to begin to relax and regenerate.  

 For some, green tea may even be too much, so instead drink a cup of hot water with a teaspoon of good olive oil, agave nectar if you like with some lemon squeezed into it to cleanse, nourish and revitalize your liver.  I would be willing to bet that after a week or two of eating  clean , nourishing meals that  you begin to find renewed stores of energy and creativity as well as vastly improved immunity and health.  Eating simple wonderful food that you've prepared brings you in contact with your native wisdom and intrinsic needs. Although I don't eat much meat anymore because it depletes my energy, it may be the very thing needed to help you heal. Listen carefully to your body, feed it well and it will reward you with many years of balanced energy and health!


Now for more fun! If you enjoyed this post, please know that it's part of a wonderful January event put on by my old friend Yael Grauer , fellow herbalist and all around exceptionally interesting human being! She's generously gathered a few of us together to participate in her January Blog Party! I hope that you enjoy her reviews as well as the many other wonderful thoughts about some of your favorite herbs and spices that are being shared here today!  Heres the link!  http://www.dirttime.org/2009/12/30/january-blog-party-warming-herbs/

 And for even more fun, here's my favorite Kitchen Goddess Julia Child teaching David Letterman how to make a very proper hamburger!

Copper pot