Food & Fragrance : Favorite Flavors and Signature Dishes

Cassatasm
Do you like to cook? What are your favorite flavors and do you happen to have a signature dish in your repertoire?

Let’s talk about food today! I have been enjoying the summer very much, especially for the abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits, hence this topic. I do not remember when I first learned to cook. Since I come from a family of great cooks, I have always taken for granted that it must have happened naturally as I spent time with my grandmothers. My mother and aunt still talk of their grandmother’s cakes and pastries, while I treasure her handwritten recipe books more than any other possession. My paternal grandmother’s crepes with wild strawberries are among my strongest food memories, and I can recall their taste and texture even today, despite having tried them last more than 20 years ago. In other words, I love gastronomy just as much as I love perfumery, and I find that these two pursuits are quite complementary.  Even if during an average work week, I tend to cook simple meals, I enjoy more complicated projects on the weekends or whenever I have more time.

My favorite flavors are as much Eastern European as they are Mediterranean. I love dill, sour cream, tart lingonberries and wild mushrooms. Apricots, saffron, pistachios, pomegranates, thyme, and artichokes never fail to seduce me. I enjoy trying new things and experimenting with unusual flavor combinations. One never knows what might inspire the next quest!

Photography © Bois de Jasmin, cassata, a Sicilian ricotta and candied fruit cake.

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20 Comments

  • Ines: I seem to be surrounded by people who love to cook so I rarely get my chance but when I do, I enjoy it a lot.
    So, as I’m not the one doing meals, I’m the one doing most of the sweet stuff and my signature is crepes. I still wonder why people don’t like doing them, I enjoy the process a lot (so I get asked to do it a lot as well). 🙂 June 18, 2011 at 5:06am Reply

  • Alexandra: A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.-Elsa Schiaparelli. When we cook with love, we transmit this energy and it has an immediate impact on others! June 18, 2011 at 9:27am Reply

  • Acrossbee: Hi, I’m more interested in baking than cooking, and I have a lot to learn. I enjoy baking cakes and cookies and I want to master making rose turkish delight. I also love breakfast so I bake muffins, scones, egg dishes and a variety of pancakes from buckwheat to oatmeal. My mother was a quintessential 1950s American housewife with a Fannie Farmer cookbook as her guide. Dinner parties featured Chicken a la King or Beef Stroganov, which were popular dishes at the time. Because of my dad’s job, we lived in Argentina a number of years, so the local cuisine made its way into my mom’s repertoire, including milanesa which is thinly sliced beef, chicken or veal, breaded and fried. My fondest memories of Argentina are the pastries like alfajores which are shortbread cookies with dulce de leche or fruit paste sandwiched in between, which probably influenced my fondness for baking! June 18, 2011 at 10:01am Reply

  • Elizabeth: My favorite flavors are those that are characteristic of Greek cuisine: Herby and citrusy. A lot of Americans think of Greek food as greasy and unhealthy, ie Gyros, but that is not what Greek people eat every day! Real Greeks traditionally use a lot of greens and olive oil. I love lemon, lime, oregano, dill, basil, and rosemary. I also love pistachios, blueberries, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, honey, rosewater, cardamom, and anything made with heavy cream. My favorite dish to make is a Greek spinach and rice pilaf called Spanakorizo. June 18, 2011 at 10:20am Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: Beautiful cake!!!
    Strawberries are embedded deep in my memory, from picking them, sharing them with my kids fresh, my grandmother serving s’berry jam for breakfast on toast (with coffee!!) to shortcakein’ it with lots of whipped cream, or even , vanilla ice cream!!! Even attempting to grow them, once, in my ninth month of pregnancy…

    I have been loaned an ices cream maker, and my daughter wants to make date ice cream from a recipe she found online.

    real indian chai amde with fresh ginger smashed with a rock, and served dark,rich, and sweet in a glass that had never seen soap. the fresh milk was from the goat tied up under the table!

    i am guessing the heat of months in India has mingled with my summer senses to bring me there… June 18, 2011 at 11:00am Reply

  • Irina: I do not like cooking. I really like to eat tasty things, but never I’ll do something that take more time to cook than eat. 🙂
    My favorite cuisine is Tibetan, which is not widely available in USA. Unfortunately. This is much lighter and simpler than Chinese, and has home-made character. Also I like Polish cuisine, and Mediterranean. I am Russian, but I do not favor Russian cuisine a lot, except pastry and bakery, kashas and vegetable dishes.
    My favorites are cherries (can eat everything with cherries), mushrooms, hard cheese (parmigiano type), smoked fish, rye bread and dark chocolate. 🙂 And real Russian pies, with apples, cranberries, or cabbage. June 18, 2011 at 1:17pm Reply

  • Alexandra: Yes Elizabeth, spanakorizo with lots of dill and feta cheese by the side! June 18, 2011 at 1:23pm Reply

  • MaryAnn Hardy: Favorite flavors…or flavors I couldn’t live without…or flavors without which life would hardly be WORTH living:
    English thyme in all my roasted meats
    Rosewater in all my baked goods. Especially wonderful combined with orange extract and a tiny bit of vanilla. This melange makes the lowliest pancake taste like heaven. It’s indispensable in my crepes.
    Garlic. Robust, powerful, sooo sexy.
    Fresh cracked black pepper. I’ve learned to enjoy this as an essential oil too. Layered with rose it gives just enough “dirt” to send my senses back out into my garden.
    Lemon….on anything…everything! June 19, 2011 at 1:29am Reply

  • minette: i thought i didn’t like cooking, but when i do it, i sometimes have moments when i’m in the zone and really enjoying what i’m creating. but living alone, i cook very rarely. maybe in another phase of life i will. you’re lucky to have been taught by great cooks – my mom cooks well, but she kept me out of the kitchen. she doesn’t like to do it, maybe that’s partly why.

    favorite flavors — unexpected hints of things like putting coriander in my apple pie spices; cheese; mushrooms; hard black cherries; strawberries; actually, any fruit that has some tartness; mango with sweet coconut rice; foods with a little heat but not so much that it’s all i taste; mediterranean flavors and spices; and probably anything that hasn’t been pickled. the only cuisine i’ve encountered where i didn’t like anything was korean — everything was pickled. don’t like bitterness much, either. and of course, i love potatoes, especially fried potatoes. ha. an orthodox archbishop i know once said that if there were no God, he would worship the potato. loved that. the potato IS pretty darn amazing.

    great article! love when you write about food, cooking, and how you grew up. always makes me want to go on a trip. June 19, 2011 at 12:02pm Reply

  • Katrina: I do love to cook and really enjoy using fresh herbs from the garden especially, coriander and Thai basil. A friend has started a cooking blog and I am on a mission to cook every recipe she posts which has added a bit of variety to the kitchen. June 19, 2011 at 9:21pm Reply

  • Andrea: Lovely cake; did you make it as well as photograph it?

    My grandmother’s cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite things to make and eat. I often wonder if there is a link between this and my love for Ambre Narguile. I haven’t met a cheesecake I didn’t want to inhale, or try to replicate. In the savory department, Swedish Meatballs (another family recipe) rank pretty high, as do homemade green chili, tamales, and tortillas. Artichokes and avocados, maybe not together, but I’m not sure I could trust someone who hates these. 🙂 But the number one spot has to go to Indian Curry, of almost any kind. June 19, 2011 at 9:35pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, I made this cake myself. Very delicious and not as difficult to prepare as it looks. 🙂
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile June 19, 2011 at 10:05pm Reply

  • Vishishta: I love to cook but unfortunately am too busy these days. I recently was in New Orleans and had a delicious potato galatte. I am also a great fan of the tomato sandwich–but only in summer with lovely garden tomatoes. My favorite sandwich is sliced pickled beets (baked first and kept in vinegar)on rye with honey mustard. Beyond that I love cooked apricots with ricotta cheese and a tiny bit of chocolate sauce (layered as parfait)(this also can be eaten on a diet and does wonders for your skin (without the chocolate)).

    Thanks Victoria for your wonderful food articles! I too, link perfume with food! June 19, 2011 at 11:43pm Reply

  • Reese: Fresh raw fruit and vegetables. I’m from California and grew up eating the best organic produce on earth, straight from the farmer’s markets. Incredible local cheeses and breads as well. I love roasting and grilling my vegetables, but nothing beats eating them raw for the truly incredible flavors. June 20, 2011 at 9:59am Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Great photo, Victoria; it’s making me hungry! Alas, I cannot cook myself, but as far as I am concerned that is just one more of the many reasons why god created gay friends! All the men I know can cook, bless them, and they very charitably keep me fed! I think my favorite food in the world is fettucine alfredo (swoon!) but I am also very partial to the incredible bon-bons of Madame Chocolat and Voges-Haut Chocolate. I’d be lost without cheese, and Veuve Cliquot is divine beyond words, but, I am a loyal Queen fan, so “She keeps Moet et Chandon, in a pretty cabinet…” June 20, 2011 at 6:41pm Reply

  • Andrea: Wow, Bravo!… on the cake and photography! June 20, 2011 at 9:07pm Reply

  • Miss Conduct: I think I’d like to eat some of everything that’s been mentioned so far, but what sprang to mind was my mother’s incomparable chicken stock. Besides the chicken and bones, onion, celery, carrots, and a bit of garlic, she always added generous amounts of tarragon because she liked the way it made the house smell. It gives a sweet smell and a most delicious flavor to the stock. I just made some this weekend for soup. Nothing evokes a stronger sense of my mother than this. June 20, 2011 at 9:29pm Reply

  • Sandra Levine: I like to cook and bake. I don’t think I have a signature dish, but I do think of myself as “the salad queen.”

    One of my favorite savory spices is nigella, also known as charnushka or kalonji. I make a whole-wheat cracker using it that I serve with aperitifs, usually Cava, for a dinner party.

    My favorite sweet spice is nutmeg, which I use often in preference to cinnamon, even in apple pie.

    The herb I use most (after parsley, of course) is thyme, but my favorite is coriander. I find it odd and interesting that the herb is widely used in Mexican, Chinese and Indian cuisines, even though they are so far apart, geographically.

    I love cookies. One of my favorites is strawberry blondies, which I make only in years that I can find tiny, very sweet and strongly flavored strawberries. June 21, 2011 at 9:36am Reply

  • Mauro: The polentina of Asti …… a maraschino (italian cherries liqueur) marvel that smells of almonds, corn, holiday ……
    Simple flavours and fragrances that remind me of the weekends and summer vacations, the fantastic three months after the closing of schools.

    The most beautiful months of the year when we were all, uncles, aunts, cousins​​ ​​… and sometimes in passing, even friends, in a country house in a village near Asti, Serra Perno, a fraction of the town of Castell’Alfero.
    Along the way we always stopped at a patisserie in Asti to buy this delicacy ……..; but these are my memories, to you as I prepare the recipe for this cake.
    POLENTINA OF ASTI
    125 gr. butter
    150 gr sugar
    three whole eggs plus three yolks (the three egg white you need later)
    125 g corn flour (even if you do not find that can use pre-cooked)
    80 g potato starch
    2 tablespoons Manitoba flour
    grated rind of one lemon
    50 gr. raisins
    a stick of almond paste (250 gr.)
    sponge cake finely crumbled
    apricot jelly
    maraschino ( or other white cherries liqueur)
    PROCEDURE
    soak the raisins with a glass of maraschino
    with an electric mixer whisk the whole eggs plus three egg yolks with sugar, when fully assembled (well fitted),
    add flour sifted together the lemon zest and
    melted butter, add the drained raisins and flour;
    mounts at steady snow the remaining three egg whites and add them
    to the egg and flour, stirring from bottom x-up or disassemble the egg whites.
    Pour the mixture into a baking pan (24/25 cm. diameter) greased and floured.
    Put in hot oven (150 °) x one hour … even less, try the classic peg if the cooking is finished.
    When cooked, turn the cake on a serving platter and let cool.
    Meanwhile, prepare the syrup to soak it with a soft brush.

    SYRUP
    Put in a saucepan a glass of water, sugar to taste (50/100 g) and then dissolve the sugar once the sugar has melted, remove the pan from the heat and we’ll add you the maraschino advanced by the raisins soaked (If you want a wet non-alcoholic just add the maraschino immediately with the water and sugar, so that the heat makes the alcohol evaporates);
    with this syrup soaks the cake must be good quite wet (very wet !!!!), possibly increase the amount of syrup.

    Now take two good spoonfuls of apricot jelly and melt with a bit of water in small saucepan at medium heat , brush the whole pie, well, well, the edges must be covered by a thin layer of jelly.
    Apart from take the cake with almond paste, make a ball and put it on the floured surface with icing sugar of the pastry; if you do not have the pastry use the kitchen top covered with a piece of parchment paper that you hold on the plane with tape.
    Stretch out your ball of almond paste with a rolling pin into a sheet of such magnitude that allows you to cover the whole cake (even the edge) ,for help you in this cover also the rolling pin with icing sugar. Spread the dough with the help of the rolling pin (rolled on the same rolling pin) and get the Roll Out on the cake.
    Can you wrap tightly pressing lightly with your hands
    and cut with a knife that is in excess.
    Brush again the cake, so covered with almond paste,
    with apricot jelly, dusting thoroughly with the sponge cake finely crumbled.
    Mouth-watering

    on my blog can you see a photo sample June 21, 2011 at 3:41pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! It does indeed sound mouthwatering and it contains many of my favorite flavors too. I will definitely try making it. Thanks again. June 21, 2011 at 3:51pm Reply

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