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?
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
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
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.
“ 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!
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!
All pictures are mine with the exception of the Rose Geranium which is from wikipedia!
“Well, it’s no usually the first thing in my mind when I take ye to bed, Sassenach. Far from it. But then…” His hands cupped my breasts softly, and his lips closed on one nipple. “I’d no just say she was completely wrong either. Sometimes…aye, sometimes it would be good, to be inside again, safe and…one. Knowing we cannot, I suppose, is what makes us want to beget. If we cannot go back ourselves, the best we can do is to give that precious gift to our sons, at least for a little while…” He shook himself suddenly, like a dog flinging water from its coat.
“Pay me no mind, Sassenach,” he murmured. “I get verra maudlin, drinking elderberry wine.”
Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Outlander.”
When I was a little girl my mother made me become a Brownie in the hopes that I would follow in my sisters footsteps and become a Girl Scout. My mother was a beloved troop leader and was just thrilled that she had one more chance to do it again! She spent my Brownie year choosing amazing things for us to do and wonderful places to go. I don’t remember most of it because it was all overshadowed by the one place she chose that was perfect.
One of her best friends when she moved into the Orange School District was a woman named Dolly Temple. My mom was the youngest PTA member and Dolly was the oldest, but the two looked at each other and became instant friends. It was because of the huge Navajo Squash Blossom necklaces that each was wearing around their necks in a community that was a hotbed of diamonds and Mikkimoto pearls. As my mother told it, she walked into this thoroughly stuffy group of very fine 50’s housewives and then there was Dolly. She and mom gravitated to each other immediately because of those necklaces which at that time absolutely no one understood or valued. My mother looked amazing when she wore her Indian Jewelry and so did Dolly. Both were incredibly strong women, with striking features and even stronger personalities. The Indian jewelry that neither of then were ever without simply mirrored the strident boldness that each of them carried within. Both wore black during the day way before it was acceptable to do so!
They were just fabulous , the last of a generation of the “they just don’t make broads like that any more”. (Sort of like Claire!)
Dolly was a transplanted southern girl who owned 36 of the most incredibly beautiful acres in Moreland Hills Ohio, complete with a gorgeous Georgian mansion, horse barns, orchards and pastures. She raised the most beautiful Arabian horses and had several lovely little Welsh ponies that she drove as teams.
Dolly Temple was my first mentor, the very first women who ever put me on a horse. My mother in an attempt to keep her youngest daughter interested in the “Silly Brownie Stuff” as I called it took us out to Dolly’s farm. She should have known ...I took one look and was smitten. The day came to cross the Brownie Bridge and approximately 5 minutes before it was to be my turn I looked at my mom and said, “I don’t EVER want to be a Girl Scout…I want to go back to that place with the horses and learn to ride. “ My mother simply smiled and called Dolly. If she was disappointed she never let it show. Her generosity that day completely changed my life. I don't live well without horses. My mother knew that and let it be.
From that day on I practically lived at the Temples and at least 4 times I week I would go there after school, catch and brush the horses, saddle up the ponies, have my lesson and then go riding around her woods. I’d come into her house afterwards for homemade hot chocolate and huge slabs of crusty warm homemade bread with her home churned butter. Sometimes I’d walk in and she’d be plucking a duck or a chicken that she’d just killed herself and the end result that day would be the most incredible homemade chicken and dumplings which she served on lavish Royal Worcester plates with her mothers gorgeous sterling.
Once or twice I accidentally walked in on her in the middle of the butchering process, but I actually didn’t mind because she walked her talk. Nothing was wasted. Dolly was very wealthy, but she did everything herself. She used everything that she raised from fruits and vegetables to the animals that she kept. She taught me to forage on her property for food and was the first woman to teach me about the value of eating wild plants. I adored her. She had blueberries everywhere and raspberries and plum tree surrounding the riding ring. There were French chestnuts that lined one of the lanes and the pastures were filled with apples tree. Everything had a purpose and was in just the right place. She let me explore all of it as if I were her own child.
One day in the spring when I was riding I noticed one of the most beautiful bushes that I’d ever seen. It was growing down along the driveway and it was the filled with the heaviest clusters of creamy flowers that I’d ever seen , draping on beautiful purple stems with thick green leaves. It was also emitting a very strange musky sweet aroma that reminded me a bit of my grandmother not in a bad way, but more like a bottle of vintage violet perfume that’s turned a little bit dark and dirty. I later learned that the beautiful blossoms were Elderberry flowers and that the plant although most parts are filled with more than a little bit of cyanide was one of the most beneficial of the wild tonics. Dolly made wines , cordials and syrups out her Elderberries and she also took some of those flowers and made wonderful fritters, covered in a very light batter and dusted with a bit of confectioners sugar. They were amazing, the heavy flowers were delicious prepared that way although definitely not for anyone who suffers from a battle with seasonal allergies!
If you’ve access to some elderberries of your own you should try to make the fritters and at the very least the syrup! You can buy elderberry syrup in any health food store and it’s absolutely indispensible during cold season for helping to beef up your immunity. One of the best tonics that I know of is a simple tea made from the syrup and a bit of chopped up crystallized ginger. I use this when anyone in my house is recovering from a nasty upper respiratory infection and it was my staple drink when I was stricken with a bout of pneumonia 15 years ago. Elderflower has been documented by herbalists for centuries as possessing the ability to be able to inhibit a virus and truly shorten the duration of a very nasty flu by several days. I always keep some form of it in my stillroom.
The very same syrup makes a wonderful iced tea in the summer laced with cinnamon and a bit of fresh mint. You can also use it to make a marvelous martini and a bit of elderberry syrup drizzled over berries and homemade vanilla bean ice cream is a wonderful treat. One of my favorite finds of the last several years is a golden liqueur from France made of Elderflowers named St. Germain. Although not nearly as heady and wild tasting as the homemade syrup it’s a delightfully fragrant addition to a glass of champagne.
If you’d like to try to make your own syrup you should definitely do so but remember that all parts except for the flowers and berries (including the seeds) are potentially toxic. Start with a lot of the ripe berries (about 2 lbs of them) and cook them gently in about 4 cups of water until they are soft. Some people put them through a food mill but I prefer to GENTLY mash the berries and let the weight of them strain the juice through a chinoise or a fine mesh strainer. Put the juice back into a saucepan , add a cinnamon stick, some crystallized ginger and a cup or two of maple syrup. You can also use honey if you’d like or plain old sugar. Gently reduce the syrup until it’s as thin or thick as you like, taste and bottle. That’s it. Make this once and you’ll never reach for another bottle of Robitussin again!
Elderberry Photograph courtesy of ThriftyLiving.net
St. Germain Poster courtesy of St. Germain
Lavinia Platter Courtesy of Replacements
I value the winter farmers markets so much. They keep me connected to a food supply chain that would normally dwindle during the cold months and they regualarly inspire me. Yesterday was one of those times. I have a dear friend Jane, who is 75 plus and magnificent , we work the Dye garden together down at The Western reserve Herb Society gardens which are housed at The Cleveland Botanical Gardens. Because WRHS is a group full of herbalists and cooks, every meeting culminates in a magnificent luncheon potluck. Last week, Jane showed up with the most magnificent loaf of bread and a pot of fromage blanc. She said.." this is the best bread I've ever eaten" to which I replied, "I can't eat it unless it's gluten free". She smiled in that twinkling Irish way that she has and said..."you can eat this dear, it's gluten free!"
I was taken back. This didn't look like any gluten free bread that I'd ever seen, nor did it taste like any gluten free bread that I've ever eaten. It was chewy and stretchy, with a perfect crust. It was absolutely delicious and gave me absolute bread eating pleasure and those of you who absolutely can't live without a perfect baguette and brie know exactly what I'm speaking of!
She gave me the rest to take home, which I spent the next few days spreading with goat cheese , lettuce, tomatoes and avocados and dipping into soup. I vowed to meet her at the Shaker Square indoor farmers market so that she could introduce me to the vendor. Fast forward to yesterday. I'm taking care of my grandcats this weekend and they live right around the corner from the market. Jim went to Tai Chi yesterday morning and I drove to the market. Of course I ran into Jane right away, who grabbed me by the arm and took me over to a table of the most glorious gluten free baked goods that I've ever seen all made by a small local company neamed Uncommon Grains.
I immediately bought a baguette of rye bread and a parmesan rosemary boule. I also bought tow vegetable tarts and wonder of wonders...two peanut butter cookies that I knew that Jim would love. We both feel ever so much better not eating gluten, but giving up cookies has been tough for him:) i also bought a bag of pizza crust which it turned out didn't have a direction label on it. The gentleman took my name and email and promised to send me directions in a day or two. 4 hours later I had them in my inbox along with a lovely personal note. That's such a pleasant way to buy your food, don't you think?
At any rate, I'm not clear what they do that makes this bread (and the tart crust ..oh my god!) so wonderful. I know that very clearly it's not your normal mixture of pasty looking gluten free grains and they must use some kind of well aged starter, because this bread has the holes and crevices that rival the loveliest French loaves.
To say that I'm blown away is an understatement. As a health coach, I'm constantly looking for wonderful gluten free sources for my clients and until now I've not found a bread that I felt that I could recommend. For all of you who aren't local Clevelanders, maybe there will be cookbooks someday.This is bread worth waiting for! This is kitchen alchemy at it's finest...the transformation of alternative grains into something that is so rich , dense and chewy that you don't even realize that you're not eating bread made from wheat and added wheat gluten (yes, they add more gluten to quick rise bread to compensate for having to make it faster.)
The delightful gentleman from the Uncommon Grains table at the Shaker Square indoor farmers market!
The loveliest gluten free rye bread...Who knew that such a thing could ever exist!
Our Gluten Free Brunch! Absolutely delicious tarts with fresh beets, zucchini and mushroom duxelles, farmstead blue cheese and goat cheese, organic pork rillettes, smoked trout , rye bread and parmesan rosemary bread...all gluten free...all delcious!
One incredibly happy husband!
As an aside...Today I went to my local coffee shop (Phoenix Coffee) to pick up some tea for Jim. I looked in the pastry case and there were gorgeous gluten free baked goods from Uncommon Grains. I brought home a chocolate peanut butter tart that was to die for and a cheddar chive scone that one bite of erased the memory of several gluten free home prepared scones that were absolutely disgusting. Life is truly a miracle:)
My husband loves pancakes. Actually I do too but they don't love me. It turns out that they don't love him either , a fact he discovered when we swore off gluten for a few weeks. All he did was eat one slice of toast and the pain he'd grown used to not having came roaring back. Enough said!
So one day on a trip through Costco I came across a huge bag of Wild Roots pancake mix. He could barely contain his excitement! That Sunday we prepared it according to the recipe. They were well .. Ok but he swore to carry on. We tried several more times, each time adding something and last week we finally did it! Perfect, moist pancakes, golden brown and no crumbly texture, in fact they were better than most pancakes I've ever had. Fry up few strips of thick smoky bacon, add the Burton maple syrup that I buy by the gallon and voila! These are cooked in butter so they don't need more. I wouldn't blame you though if you added it!
The only thing that I'm going to add next week is some cinnamon and a touch of bourbon to the warm syrup. How's that for gilding the lily!
You will need for 6 pancakes:
1 cup of the Pancake mix
1 large Egg
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup of buttermilk
1/4 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup pre-cooked 365 supergrain mix
Blend first 6 ingredients together with an immersion blender. Add the last 2 solid ingredients into the batter and blend again for about 30 seconds. Melt a little butter in pan before you cook each pancake ( about the amount you'd spread on a piece of toast). Cook each pancake until golden on both sides. Keep warm in low oven. Serve immediately with lots of warmed Maple syrup!
I love corn pudding and this is my favorite recipe. It's much lighter than most, using corn as it's primary ingredient and not too much filler! It smells so good when it's cooking and tastes even better. Corn pudding is the perfect midwinter dish and can be served by itself with a salad or with a pork roast, ham or sausages. Hard cider or winter beer is the perfect accompaniment. If you can find the dehydrated corn use it..it's absolutely delicious, sweet as sugar and feels very rustic. I reconstitute it in buttermilk and it's almost better than fresh!
Two bags of frozen sweet corn( I use one white and one yellow) or reconstituted dried corn (about 6 cups)
2 cups of diced onion
2 tablespoons of fresh minced garlic
3 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 cup of diced sweet peppers
1 tablespoon of dried sage
1 large wedge of hard cheddar (shredded)
1 bunch of green onions (Chopped)
2 cups of organic buttermilk
4 organic eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the eggs and buttermilk in a bowl and whisk until frothy. Add the remaining ingredients and fold together. Place the blended ingredients into a baking dish and bake at 350 until firm, approximately 45-50 minutes. My preference is that you use a cast iron skillet or baking dish because for some reason cast iron bakes the pudding very evenly. Serve with slices of country ham or sausage.
Picture of corn from http://www.thespicehouse.com/
City Witch News ~ Garden Spells, Kitchen Alchemy & Sexy Secrets from my Urban World ~ Weekly Edition
A bumper crop of tomatoes means a lot of things to me. Pasta Sauce,tomato and goat cheese tarts,tomato sandwiches, BLTs AND FRIED GREEN TOMATOES!
If you've never had a fried green tomato then you're missing out on one of lifes greatest treats. This is seasonal food at it finest... FGT's just don't taste right at any other time of the year. I was making a slow cooked garlic chicken for dinner tonight and the dish was just crying for a crunchy fried tomato dipped into a creamy Parmesan Sriracha sauce!
Out into the garden I went and brought in several fine specimens. I sliced them and dipped them into a trio of deliciousness ..first a buttermilk and Sriracha mixture, next a beaten egg and last but not least cornbread mix blended with chili seasoning .
To fry them I filled my cast iron skillet 1/4 of the way full of Canola oil and turned the heat on underneath it. I waited until it was hot enough ( the tomatoes should begin to fry as soon as they hit the oil!) and fried the tomatoes in several batches, flipping them several times until I got the right shad of golden brown. Take them out of the pan and lay them on paper towels to soak up the excess oil .
You could serve them with horseradish sauce but I mixed up a sauce of buttermilk, mayonnaise , garlic, shredded parmesan, cayenne and Sriracha .
Serve these while hot... I promise that there's nothing like the creamy taste of the tomato bursting through underneath the crunchy cornmeal coating. Be sure to make enough... They disappear quickly! A platter of these and a ice cold IPA is a summertime feast!