Tuesday, June 28, 2011

strawberry cream soda

when i think of summer picnics
my mind wanders to
a scene from oklahoma
the one where they were raising money for the schoolhouse
the gals made picnic hampers
the pals bid on them

while we never actually saw the food
we were told
that under the kitchen cloth, the baskets overflowed with
food. so. good.

it made people break out in song

i wish my picnics were as magical

i'm betting
if i whipped this cream soda out of my hamper
hubster would whisk me away
in a
surrey with  fringe on top
white horses and all
strawberry cream soda
makes 1 serving
1 Tbs mashed strawberries or strawberry puree
sugar *
1 Tbs cream
1/2 cup ice cold ginger ale
ice cubes
*summer strawberries are so sweet the don't need extra sugar, but if you like a really sweet soda, use at your discretion.
place the strawberries and cream in a glass and give it a good stir.  add several ice cubes and then pour ginger ale to fill the glass.  serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

sugared roses

 it has been mentioned before
that our mountain cabin was once owned by 
the character actress dodo denny
by all accounts
she was a lover of roses

her rose garden is the talk of the neighborhood

who collectively
may have been
a bit disappointed in our attention to it
i personally believe
dodo is a bit put off too

let me explain
we purchased the home after dodo passed
4 years after
the grounds had been neglected
and the prized roses left to die
i am not fond of taunting the dead
i pruned the bushes back
to almost nothing
retrained the trellis roses
pulled those that were not going to make it
and then
 i let them be
while we worked on the rest of the garden


2 summers later
dodo's rose garden
is making a comeback

we are enjoying the scent and beauty of the flowers
i couldn't resist
cutting a few 
to make sugared rose petals
please don't snitch
dodo is just starting to like us
Sugared Roses
freshly picked, pesticide free roses*
granulated sugar (about 1 cup per rose)
wash the roses while whole gently, and allow to dry.  i swish them in a bowl of cool clean water.  once the roses have air dried, carefully remove the petals. discard any that are discolored or are browning (or set aside to dry and use as potpourri). spread the petals out on paper towels while you work on the other flowers.
place about a 1/4 cup of vodka in a bowl.  pour sugar in a shallow dish about 1/2 inch thick. you will need more sugar, as it will get damp and become difficult to work with. do not pour in all your sugar at once. 
prepare a sheet pan with wax or parchment paper on it to be used for your sugared petals.
dip each petal in the vodka, then lay it on the sugar.  you can do 4 or 5 at a time, but work quickly, as the vodka evaporates.  once you have 4 or 5 petals resting on the sugar, spoon more sugar on top.  gently press the petals and turn once to coat evenly.  remove from the sugar and place on parchment lined sheet pan.  resist the urge to move/touch them. allow to dry about 12 hours, but can take up to 48. store in an airtight container, lined with paper towel in a single layer until ready to use.
note: i used vodka rather than egg white, for ease. you can use powdered egg whites with a bit of water and have a great result. if you choose to do it this way,  use a paint brush to get the whites on the flower.

*it is very important that you know firsthand that your roses are free of pesticides

Monday, June 20, 2011

chocolate eclairs

while in paris last fall
hubster and i made a quick stop
a beautiful pastry shop known world-wide 
gorgeous confections and beautiful tea salon
only in paris for the afternoon
via chunnel from london in the morning
and scheduled
on a sleeper train to barcelona, later in the evening
we were making a whirl-wind day of it
while waiting in a very long taxi queue, i spotted a gentleman
with a car for hire
because it was hubster's first time in paris
we wanted to see as many sights as possible, in our short stay
i made a unilateral decision 
a hired car was definitely the way to go
pierre was a good sport
negotiated fairly with me
despite my butchering of his beautiful language

as i waved hubster from the taxi queue, i saw a look i have never before seen 
one that perfectly combined the relief he felt that we would be on our way
worry that i had blown our entire travel budget on a frivolous luxury
he was partly right

the day was perfect
we climbed the eiffel tower, stood under the arc de triomphe
glided down the the champs-elysees, spent hours in the louvre
relished in a languid lunch with a bottle of wine
shared afternoon tea with well dressed dames at laudree

drunk with culture and satiated with sweets
i eagerly purchased the laudree sucre cookbook
a beautiful tome with a cover of suede
presented in a gift box
so beautiful and full of promise
i tucked it away for the rest of our journey
and promptly forgot about it
recently i discovered this little jewel
and became inspired
which is why
on a whim
i made eclairs

Thursday, June 16, 2011

strawberry harvest

this evening
i worked my way through our strawberry patch
delicately cupping clusters of
sun warmed crimson fruit

hunched like a greedy troll
while on tip-toe
may have looked like a mountain dancer

while in reality
i was minding the space underfoot
careful not to crush
those berries not yet at perfect pitch

last year
we planted 4 varieties of strawberry
two june bearing
chandler and sequoia
one everbearing
and finally
which we grew from seed
direct from italy

the berries grow different sizes
at different rates
each with its own flavor profile
but equally sweet
very sweet
with strawberry flavor
saturates your tongue

our first harvest
is strictly for eating
one by one
until our bellies are full
and our lips
rosy red
i'll let you know if there are any left for sharing

Friday, June 10, 2011

strawberry cake


it wasn't that long ago
so i am sure you remember 
you may also remember
that part of my bounty was
a strawberry cake
which was amazing

the only other strawberry cake i had ever eaten
was while in culinary school
one of the gals
brought it in for a birthday celebration
it was good and very popular

 i about died
when she started listing the ingredients
box cake
cool whip

i do give her credit

it takes major
(yes I know that isn't the word and it is spelled with a j)
to bring a
less than semi-homemade cake
to culinary school
i was training to be a pastry snob
so i never made it

and then i went to mississippi
where they know their cake
and i found myself
on a whole new quest
i had to
develop a great recipe
for completely homemade
strawberry cake

i think i got it
and now
i give it to you

strawberry cake
*inspired by rose levy birnbaum's white velvet butter cake*
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 Tbs powdered sugar
mix together and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients
4 oz egg whites (about 4 1/2 egg whites)--at room temperature
1 cup milk--at room temperature
2 1/4 tsp vanilla
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbs + 1 tsp baking powder
12 Tbs butter--at room temperature
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup good strawberry jam
combine egg whites and 1/4 cup milk with vanilla in a bowl.  in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix together the flour, sugar and baking powder.  add to it the butter and mix until crumbly.  turn the mixer to low and add the remaining 3/4 cup milk stirring until completely moist.  increase the speed to medium and beat for about 1 minute.  add egg white mixture 1/3 at a time, scraping down the sides between additions.  stir in strawberry jam and sugared strawberries by hand.  divide mixture between 2-8" pans that have been greased and lined with parchment paper. bake at 350 for about 30-40 minutes (use the skewer test to ensure the cake is baked properly). remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
strawberry-pecan icing
1 lb cream cheese--at room temperature
3/4 lb unsalted butter--at room temperature
6 cups powdered sugar (more or less)
1/2 cup good strawberry jam
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup pecans--toasted and chopped
beat the cream cheese and butter together. if using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment.  add the jam, vanilla and salt and beat until fully combined.  add the sugar 1 cup at a time. check for preferred sweetness after the 4th cup of sugar--add more if you like. i like it with the 6 cups. stir in the pecans and use to generously frost  your cake.
(i don't split the layers...this is a 2 layer cake with a 1/4" thick of icing as filling)

Monday, June 6, 2011

when things don't go exactly as planned

i don't know how to tell this story
without sounding a bit
but i want to tell it
so i'll take that chance

it all started when the priest didn't check into the hotel
or maybe 
it all started when the weather suddenly changed from
partly sunny
mostly rainy
or maybe
 it was when i threw my back out

things were getting so out of hand
upon smelling the wood in the pizza oven
i went into a mild panic
i imagined
the house was burning down

wouldn't that have been
icing on the cake

i'm pretty good under pressure
i was always a last minute lulu in school

saturday night tested me good
tested us all

saturday was the big day
a celebration
50 years in the making
dinner and dancing
with the pacific as the backdrop
my parents planned to
renew their wedding vows
followed by
a huge party
in the garden of their new home
at half past six

at three it was all on track
smooth as silk
drama free
with a slight chance of rain

by 3:30 it had all changed
slight chance turned to you betcha
not enough time to tent
plan B was scratched
and we punted

we were moving it all inside

2 hours until show time
frantic stashing commenced

jars full of candied nuts, crammed into linen closets
antique match strikers in warming drawers
plants in the dishwasher
pots under the sink
sorry mom
we were punting

butler's pantry became a wine bar
kitchen island, five feet of antipasti
cocktail tables were moved into the foyer
the band relocated to the living room

space was at a premium
which meant the
brazilian bbq and pizza oven
remained outside
under a canopy of umbrellas

and then
an hour before the ceremony
and me in my grubbies
we hear from the priest

not coming
had the wrong date on the calendar
no show

here come the locust
or was that just me
nervously humming

let me recap
no priest
no outdoor party
 120 people
a band
in the house

a happy 50th anniversary indeed

so here is what happened

i grabbed a bible
pulled some passages
wrote some intentions
found traditional vows via the internet
wrangled the grandchildren to be readers
ran a comb through my hair
put on some lipstick
and pretended
that this is exactly how it was supposed to be
i figured
if i didn't acknowledge it was a disaster
the guests would be too polite to mention anything

here is how i sold it
with a glass of champagne in my hand
and a smile on my face
and this conversation starter

isn't this just so italian
drinking great wine
eating in the kitchen
laughing with friends

here's the thing
when the last guest left
in the wee hours of the morning
i looked at my parents
and i thought
this WAS how it should be
this party
just like a long held marriage
did not come off without a hitch
left within its wake
echoes of joy

here's to the next 50
mom and dad
cin cin!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

sea glass

my parents celebrated

50 years of marriage

 memorial day

this coming weekend
family and friends
are gathering at the shore
celebrate them
the decades of their union

i have been working on this party for months
finishing the final flourish
this evening

edible sea glass

i promise
recipe and technique
to follow soon


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