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May 2010

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. 


 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!


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


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 



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.  


 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!

May Flowers: Lighting the Beltane fires


Today is Beltane, and I am honored to be the one to light the fires and begin the fabulous dancing that will be done around this circle. My thanks to my darling Roxana Villa for the opportunity to play amongst such fabulous bards and what a month of May Flowers it will be. Be sure to check back at her Illuminated Journal  every day to sees who is weaving our lusty May magic!  


 Beltane or Beltaine as the Irish speak of it is a lusty and passionate holiday full of surprises and all kinds of wonderful. None of us know what the Goddess has in store for us today, but I can promise you that if you are open to her magic you will enjoy every minute of it. Do be careful though…lots of sweet little babies are conceived today. That’s my only warning ,but you'd be wise to heed it....not that you'll really be able to control the outcome.  Trust me she will always have her way!

I first became aware of the importance of the Beltane fires  in my life through a dream. I awoke one morning ,  in the arms of my husband and he looked at me in surprise and asked me about the fires. “What fires “ I said… and then I remembered.  In my dream we had been standing together in a place that seemed to be a castle of sorts.  I was wearing some sort of night dress and he had come up behind me. I knew that it was him in the way that time and place meld together in the dream state , but he was blond with longer hair that was flowing back in the wind.  He looked at me with the same deep blue eyes that he has now with a gaze that at that moment transcended lifetimes and said “they are lighting the fires and are in the fields…he wants the fires to be gone, he is sending them”.  All I remember is the night falling and hearing the passion and sighs from the plowed fields beyond. I remember saying “Tell him that I said that he WILL allow the fires to burn” and shortly after that I remember falling into his arms and wandering out towards the pastures.  I woke up naked and in a cold sweat.  I knew that the mysterious “he” was someone of the church, who was trying to destroy my beloved “old ways”.  I knew then that I’d known my husband in some other time or place where we’d been bound together by a spirituality that had its roots planted deep within the earth.  I promised myself at that moment that for as long as it was in my power, the fires would never be allowed to go out.  

May Day is the turning of the wheel in the Celtic year that we celebrate love and fertility, passion and life in all of its forms.  Lambs and calves are born, trees are blooming, flowers and wild potherbs are appearing all over the fields and forests as if by magic.  The honeybees have reappeared and are busy making love to the   blossoms so that we can find our trees filled with ripe fruits come fall.  We till our gardens and plant the seed that we’ve saved from last years harvest and we take long walks outside, grateful that the sun has finally come again and brought  with it a deep rich warmth.

You needn’t go to far back into your imagination to see that centuries ago, these simple things would have appeared to be so magical to our ancestors. Sometimes, I think that science has destroyed the simple wonderment that comes from enjoying a life of following the seasons simply and passionately.  For me, this time of year is marked by so many things that I look forward to , knowing that  they will not pass through again until the wheel comes full circle again. The beautiful  fragrant violets, the precious lilacs and vibernums…wild ramps with their deep oniony flavor and fiddlehead ferns. What about asparagus? I can’t think of anything more wonderful than a meal of fresh asparagus and a silky béarnaise sauce. Now with faster transport methods we can get so many different  foods during times of the year when they don’t make any sense….Asparagus in September? Cherries in December? Fresh young lamb in January? Living as locally as possible and respecting the   seasons and the presents that each one brings to us is not only a healthy way to eat, but a holistic way to live and when we are in touch with the earth’s rhythms  it  leads straight into the pathway of our souls.


For me one of the greatest joys of the month of May has always been the flowers that bloom in my parents gardens. So many of them like the asparagus and the wild forest herbs only come time each year and their fragrance is fleeting and beautiful. I think that if I could have them all year round it would be a disappointment to me, because the yearning is almost every bit as wonderful as the reality.  Crabapple trees and their fragrant blooms can only come in May, but their fruits are August’s treasures. The old fashioned roses that bloom so abundantly produce generous rosehips for my tea in September. I live for the days that I am so present in this life that I know that everything and every season has its purpose and none are more precious than the other. The joy that spring brings is the renewal of life and passion. We do well to remember to make love and give love generously on this day. Gifts of flowers and bright May Baskets are traditional and gifts of passion are perfect. Grab your lover and dance....the possibilities are endless and I’ll leave it up to you to choose.


My parents grew many beautiful flowers in their gardens but none were more precious to me than the beautiful patch of lilies of the valley that grew back behind the terrace in a secret place that few knew about. Every year on the 1st of May I run into the back and there they would be pure little bells of white with strong green leaves just begging me to bury my face into the ground and inhale their sweet green scent. When my mother died we sold their home and this year was the first that I have not been able to see my beloved Lily’s.  But today I was amazed to receive a truly precious gift from my son’s lovely girlfriend who had overheard me lamenting the loss. My father is in the hospital and Alex flew home to see him, so the four of us were going out to lunch. To my amazement, Cassie stopped me and said that she had a gift for me in her car.  She ran back to me with the most beautiful bunch of Lily of the Valleys that I’d ever seen, nestled in a lovely bud vase and spring green tissue paper.  She said that she’d overheard my sadness about my mother’s   garden and that it would never do.  I guess that she called all over the city to find the one and only bunch left. I was just so completely touched by her generosity and her passion for a love story that we can now share. These Lilies are my first ever May Basket, given to me by the women who loves my son. It is our connection to his grandmother whom she never knew and to me whom she does. My heart is full of the mystery of this lovely girl who shares his passions and our hearts.  Life is sweet … so very sweet.  The fiery circle is once again complete.


Today is the day that we light our fires once again with the intent to create life, celebrate our passion and ensure the fertile harvest not only of our fields , but of our souls.  Feed each other juicy fruits and luscious things and make love with abandon, spend time in the fields, wander into the wilderness of your hearts and get lost there for more than a little while.  Keep a little magic with you always and more than a touch of mystery.  Remember that it’s the very things that we don’t really know that can bring us the most joy and above all remember to be glad...very glad to be alive. Life is juicy, fragrant and sometimes bittersweet. Life is also all about taking risks with your passions. Be a little naughty and enjoy your wildness. But remember what I said, because the Goddess WILL always have her way……..

   Blessed Be.

Postcard and May Flowers Images are courtesy of Roxana Villa 

All other pictures are courtesy of Beth Schreibman Gehring

Painting by William Waterhouse

Perfume Illuminated: Fire and Smoke


Beltane is the most passionate, fertile and fiery of all of the Celtic holidays and all manner of wonderful things can happen while you're dancing amongst the flames but do be careful. Today as they say "The Goddess is alive and magic is afoot". She loves to have her way and there are always plenty of babies that were conceived in May......

         Waterhouse - Ofelia
                                                  Flavor: Fire and Smoke

Today it is  Beltane, the time that marks the beginning of the most fertile season of the year.  Cattle were driven up to higher, greener grounds and passions burned on May the 1st like the ancient ritual fires that were lit to celebrate the sowing of seed, both physically in the newly plowed fields and during the times of the old religions through an ecstatic sexual union  of the sacred feminine and her masculine counterpart,  the great horned God.  Every year on this day , the great wheel of the year would turn once more towards summer and  bonfires would be built. Men and women lay together in the fields cloaked only in the smoke, exhausting their passions over and over again with the intention of creating a potent ritual that would ensure an abundant harvest.  There would be feasting as well as dancing around a beautifully beribboned May Pole (no imagery there!) and it was a time of celebrating all forms of fertility, love and lust.  Babies conceived during the sacred Beltane union were considered blessed by the goddess herself. Centuries later we really haven't changed all that much.  Bonfires, gardens and woodsmoke can still stoke our passions as well as insure our very survival. We still plant our vegetables every spring and wish for enough rain and sun to help our gardens grow.  Although we have long since harnessed the power of the flame and made it manageable, I've yet to find any oven that stirs my food lust like the warmth of an open flame . I long for a wood burning clay oven in my kitchen where I can bake fresh crusty bread, clafoutis aux cerises and fresh pizza!



 Several years after we bought our farm in Burton, we installed a magnificent woodstove and I learned to cook with fire as my source.  During the cold winters pots of spicy chili and stews full of aromatic herbs would simmer away for hours and I scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast.  It was a very soul satisfying way to cook and I always missed it come spring, when we’d give the beautiful cast iron stove it’s well deserved rest.  But come the warmer months, Jim would build large bonfires on our back hill and we’d wrap potatoes and corn in foil, cook hamburgers, steaks and roast marshmallows over the coals while laughing well into the night.  I still don’t think that there is anything quite as wonderful as an ear of fresh sweet corn, sweet and grilled then dressed with salted butter, chili and garlic.  Something alchemical about the fire and smoke turns this simple vegetable into something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s bliss to eat such a thing when it's piping hot , smoky and buttery. I’ve always believed that cooking the foods that we grow with fire is one of the most primitive, elemental things that we can do to connect us to the world around us. I may be simple that way, but I truly want that earthy , lusty connection to my food.  The smell of woodsmoke totally turns me on, yes.....I'm a pretty simple sort of girl. I love the feel of sweet butter dripping down my neck.



Although they are so convenient, gas grills don’t really provide the same pleasure for me because  I desire the flames and the sweet wood smoke dancing around me while I cook.  It brings  me a lot of joy to hand wrap  large bundles of rosemary stems and fresh lavender with string to dip in olive oil, red wine and garlic and use as a brush for steaks , thick pork chops and vegetables.  If I’ve only a gas grill though I love to use wood chips to flavor the food. You can buy them everywhere already in bags or use some of your own fresh branches like I did when we still had the farm. Soak the wood chips in water or wine and put them in a cast iron skillet and pull down the lid of the grill while you slowly cook the meat.  Mesquite wood , apple wood , cherry and peach wood chips create a beautiful , sweet smoke that  flavors pork,  wild game and poultry with the subtlest of  flavor. You can even buy oak chips soaked in wine that I think would be fabulous used to smoke a pork tenderloin or leg of lamb.   I personally think that mesquite smoked fresh trout is one of the most delicious of dishes, especially when accompanied by a chili chutney and some smoked gouda grits.


My favorite thing to grill  is a simple porterhouse steak (free range please!) , that’s been lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and marinated in fresh lemon juice.   While the steak is marinating, mash up some garlic, fresh rosemary, and olive oil with a bit of white truffle oil and set aside.  While you’re at it make sure that you have several long branches of fresh rosemary to bundle together as this will make a very aromatic grill brush.  Preheat your grill to high or get the wood coals to the right amount of glow and grill your steak to the desired doneness, brushing occasionally with the garlic and olive oil mixture.  Place the steak on a platter and drizzle with the rest of the herb/oil mixture and let it rest for a few minutes so that the juices can settle. Carve the meat into thin slices and serve with roasted plum tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and basil salad.  And to drink ? Any deep rich red wine of your choice will do! How to eat it....with your fingers of course and naked in the arms of your lover. By now you know I'm completely serious. Take the whole feast outside and feed it to each other. Play with your food and build a Beltane fire of your own.  This is the day to celebrate all of our passions and the joys of simply being alive.                                            

 When you've finally exhausted each other, dance over to Roxana's Illuminated Journal for her  gorgeously scented musings about the fragrances of Fire and Smoke!

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Photograph of Clafoutis courtesy of : http://cuisine.elle.fr/elle/Elle-a-Table/Recettes-de-cuisine/clafoutis-aux-cerises-et-a-la-rhubarbe 

Photograph of Bistecca Courtesy of: http://www.tuscany-cuisine.com/images/bistecca-fiorentina.jpg

Photograph of Corn courtesy of Martha Stewart .com