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July 2010

Perfume Illuminated:Cilantro


 Cilantro : Flavor

Cilantro, the leafy part of the coriander plant  is one of the most loved or reviled herbs that I've ever eaten.  I adore it now, but I really had never loved it much myself until about 20 years ago when I walked into my kitchen and found a dear old friend making me a fabulous bowl of guacamole for our dinner that evening. Until that night I'd thought of Cilantro as a very musky, moldy substitute for fresh parsley and I didn't have much use for it. But upon tasting Haas's absolutely scrumptious guacamole I became convinced that I'd been completely wrong about the stuff and set about learning to use it in as many ways as possible. Fresh chutneys, Pico de Gallo, pesto,  fruit and tomato salsa's...all of these brighten when a bit of fresh Cilantro is added to the mix! Last weekend I made a fresh Chimichurri sauce to serve over a grilled sirloin steak. It could just as easily be served over chicken or even a marinated and barbecued tofu, but with the medium rare steak it was absolutely wonderful. Just take a handful of Cilantro, fresh green onions, garlic , spinach , fresh rosemary, basil,  bell pepper, a tomato and an ancho chili and throw the whole mess into a vitamix with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Blend until fairly smooth and pour over a freshly grilled steak before you slice it. If you slice the meat on the grain each slice will have a bit of the sauce and will taste absolutely wonderful!


Fresh Cilantro has a wonderful flavor that's a cross somewhere between celery, mint and mate' and it brings a bit of a refreshing bittersweetness (is there such a word?) to any dish that you use it in. The key with Cilantro is to use it raw in cold salads and salsas, because like parsley it loses it's punch when its been heated. The contrast between Cilantro's intensity and the rich creamy sweetness of a perfectly ripe avocado is exactly what your looking for to stay cool on these hot summer evening. My friends guacamole is a true work of art. Just take several perfectly ripe Haas avocados and mash them with chopped and dried seedless cucumber,chopped fresh red onion, a couple of minced FRESH garlic cloves, the juice of a fresh orange and fresh lime, salt and pepper and at least a cup of torn cilantro leaves. Forget fancy designer versions with blue cheese, bacon, sage and other such affectations....this is what you want guacamole to taste like! Serve it with fresh corn chips and a pitcher of Patron margaritas and you'll find yourself licking the bowl!


I discovered the other night that fresh Cilantro brightens up  the saltiness of feta cheese and mixed with small chunks of fresh watermelon, cucumber, red onion, mint, raw pecans and feta makes a superb cold salad that you simply need to dress with a bit of rice vinegar and a touch of walnut oil.

After enjoying the salad I thought to myself...well, how about a martini? Watermelon and Cilantro in a cocktail? Why not! Take several chunks of fresh sweet watermelon and muddle them in the bottom of a shaker with a bit of fresh Cilantro, mint , a pink peppercorn or two and some agave nectar. Add a generous jigger of Hendricks Gin, a tablespoon or two of organic limeade and a bit of branch water and pour the whole thing over some cracked ice in a cocktail glass and Ahhhhh. Perfect for these drenching summer days. You could also use  your favorite vodka, but the Hendricks is  a completely wonderful brew, infused with cucumber and rose which creates a luscious love spell when mixed with the sweet juicy melon! Just go to http://www.hendricksgin.com/ to learn more! Roxana Vila has woven a wonderfully fragrant Cilantro spell at her gorgeous illuminated journaI. I know  that you'll enjoy her luscious fragrant wisdom!

                               Now for a little British wit from our friends at Hendricks Gin!

Photograph of Cilantro courtesy of:  http://www.foodshareregistry.org 

The Storm Chaser.........

               Storm Chaser

Last night I tasted the best cocktail! We decided to go to one of our favorite restaurants for dinner , a place called "Red" which is a pretty fabulous steakhouse with  French onion soup that is so good that  it can reduce me to tears! It was a lovely evening so we decided to dine alfresco. "Red" has a great cocktail menu and I was in the mood for something refreshing so I decided to try something called "The Storm Chaser" which our waiter said that he'd never tried. It promised muddled fresh strawberries and lime juice so how bad could it be?

When he brought them to us and we took our first sips we were completely bewitched. "The Storm Chaser" is a fabulously refreshing and seductive vodka cocktail with all of the right components to make it more than just a wee bit sexy. I knew that you'd want to try them too so I went home and mixed them up!  Warning....these cocktails go down way too easily. Warning number 2...Make sure that you're drinking them with  someone that you're comfortable bringing to your bed.  Something about the mixture of strawberries, ginger and lime will cause you to quickly feel very hot all over....

To make a Storm Chaser you will need:

A lovely tall glass

Three ripe juicy strawberries

A jigger of very good vodka

The juice of half of a fresh lime

One and a half tablespoons of Simple syrup

several mint leaves

1/2 cup of ginger beer

1/2 cup of branch water

1 dash of Cointreau

Place the Strawberries in the bottom of the glass and add the mint leaves and the simple syrup and muddle them with either a "muddler" or the back of a spoon. Add lots of cracked ice and pour the lime juice, ginger beer, branch water, Cointreau and vodka over the ice, stirring gently. Enjoy!

Perfume Illuminated: Mead


To drink a glass of Mead on a warm summers eve is one of romantic things that I know and to drink it under the spell of the Mead moon is one of the most magical rituals that you can share with a lover. I am completely in love with the taste of fresh mead which in its  simplest form is a delectable wine made of honey, water or juice, spices and yeast that have been allowed to mingle with absolutely unbridled passion. A true gift from our friends the honeybees, the discovery of mead had to have been a happy accident because no doubt some lucky farmer stumbled upon a jar of honey that had perhaps been filled with rainwater and forgotten. Wild yeasts would have found their way into mixture and impolitely had their way with it and voila', the first taste of Mead would have been enjoyed! 


 You can usually  find commercially made mead (I quite enjoy Chaucer's!) at any good wine store or you can attempt to make it at home which  I've found to be quite alot of fun and often better than what you can buy!  If you have a home-schooled child like mine was, you'll find the making of any sort of wine or brew to be a wonderful lesson in organic chemistry! Alex and I spent one entire autumn making beer and wine and I'll never forget my husband coming home to our farm to find huge carboys sitting on the kitchen counters filled with the yeasty beginnings of cidre' and mead. I think that he thought we'd gone mad, at least until he tasted the fruits of our labors!  Every day Alex and I would check the fermentation locks  and then the time came to siphon it into bottles. We made fancy Windesphere Witch labels and gave it all away as Yuletide gifts ,  given that he was was way to young to drink more than a wee dram of any of it. It was very good and seriously potent and came with the satisfaction of knowing that we had created it ourselves using simple  and good organic ingredients combined with alot of love and patience. 

You can go through the process of making you own mead like we did, or you can cheat and create a simple mead type beverage blend which is what I've done for the 7 or so years that I've been an apartment dweller. Just take a room temperature bottle of May Wine or a delightful Reisling and decant it into a carafe. Add  at least 3/4's of a cup of raw honey and stir until infused. Strain and pour the wine back into a clean carafe, adding any spices that you enjoy and let the whole thing steep for a day or two. I love to add fresh berries and basil flowers in the spring and sweet windfall apples and cinnamon sticks in the fall. Eaten with with a sharp Manchego or Cheddar cheese, a loaf of bread, sweet sausage and thou, it turns into the most romantic of feasts. In the fall with a hearty soup made from cheese and ale, a glass of mead is a wonderful accompaniment alongside a crackling fire. I think that you'll find this recipe to be a suitable substitute and perhaps even better than any mead that you can buy with the exception of what's served at your local Renaissance Faire! However, now that I own a house again with a wonderful old basement that my husband has promised to turn into a stillroom , the huge glass bottles and locks will be coming back out and my friends and family will be getting gifts of delicious mead and ale this Christmas.  I can't wait!

Now fly over to Roxana's Illuminated Journal to read more about the fragrance of mead from the honeybee mistress herself!

Picture of the Medieval BeeKeeper courtesy of : http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Mead

Chaucers Mead Label courtesy of : http://www.chaucerswine.com/mead.asp