honey: 6 posts

Cucumbers and Honey

Have you ever tasted a slice of cucumber dipped in honey? The combination reveals that at its heart, cucumber is  a fruit.

While the pairing of cucumber and honey may sound like an invention of young Danish chefs, it’s a classical Ukrainian duo and the ultimate taste of summer. By the time my great-grandmother was ready to harvest the first batch of cucumbers from the vines, the mild acacia honey would become available at the market, and the two went perfectly together, an earthy green and floral fragrance and the taste of sea and violet leaves in one mouthful. I couldn’t even unravel which nuance was of the cucumber and which of the honey.

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Honey Marinated Peppers

My grandmother Valentina’s approach to food is simple–if it doesn’t taste good, it can’t be good for you. She doesn’t have patience for the self-induced sufferings of health food devotees, and she remains suspicious of green juices, raw beet salads and salt-free cabbage soups. I once loved to experiment with all of the above. To my credit I even convinced a friend to try a raw food diet for a week. Such an idea in the Soviet Union during winter wasn’t for the fainthearted. Our food supply was ideal for Park Slope locavores–seasonal. It meant that once we got fed up with last year’s apples and carrots, we moved onto raw potatoes. There is a reason–and I suspect, evolutionary sense–why humanity has chosen to give potatoes some form of thermal treatment.

pepper salad

After that infelicitous experience,  I’ve remained immune to most food fads, preferring instead to follow Valentina’s logic. Above all, it must taste good. Although Valentina doesn’t care for raw lettuce, she has a repertoire of vegetable salads, many of which she makes during the summer and preserves for the winter. Her pantry shelves are lined with jars of pink cabbage, eggplant slices in a spicy sauce, pickled zucchini or honey marinated peppers. Since Belgian markets have peppers all year round, the latter is an effortless dish to put together, summer or winter. I skip the canning part.

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Miso Grilled Salmon with Honey and Orange

As much as I love experimenting with new foods, there are times when all I want is comfort. If I’ve had a tough day and need a hug, I make a bowl of mashed potatoes with a side of cucumber salad. Or I whip up lacy crepes and eat them with plenty of sour cream and cherry jam.  These dishes are old childhood favorites, and they always make me feel better. But over the years, I’ve added a new set of comfort foods to my repertoire. They range from my mother-in-law’s Indian sour lentil soups and vegetable stews to Vietnamese grilled pork on rice. And anything made with miso immediately qualifies as comfort food.

salmon-miso1

What is it about miso that makes it so comforting? It might be its intensely savory flavor or the velvety, suave aftertaste; I’m not quite sure. All I know is that I love it. Miso paste is made by fermenting soybeans and/or other grains with salt and koji, a special starter. The result is the unique vitamin and protein rich condiment that has been used in Japan for centuries. The proportions of soybeans to other grains in the miso recipe will determine its flavor and color. There are numerous miso types, but the white (shiro) and red (aka) varieties are the most common. White miso, which is really golden yellow in hue, contains more rice than soybeans and has a mild, sweet flavor. By contrast, the soybean rich red miso is meaty, bold and salty.

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Tisanes : Fragrant Caffeine-Free Teas

I have a tea drawer, which is hard to explain to those who either don’t drink tea or don’t drink so much that they actually need a designated tea drawer. “What do you do with it?” ask bewildered guests suspiciously eyeing the dozens of packages that I keep in a credenza in the corner of my dining room. (Those guests become even more bewildered when they see my perfume shelf, but that’s another story). Although all tea comes from the same plant, camellia sinensis, it exists in such a range of flavors and tastes that one box of Earl Grey simply doesn’t cover all of my cravings. But since high-quality tea is best bought in small quantities and drunk as quickly as possible, the bulk of my tea drawer is made up of herbs and dried flowers that I use for tisanes.

tisane-gingertisane-rose3

Tisane usually refers to a non-caffeinated beverage made by steeping flowers, herbs, or spices in water. I’m very sensitive to caffeine, and after 6pm I don’t drink anything caffeinated. For this reason, linden blossom or cinnamon and honey tisane is one of my favorite ways to wrap up the day. Some infusions like linden, sage and ginger have health benefits, but I drink them for their aroma and taste. It takes less than 10 minutes to brew rose tea, but the boost you receive from a steaming cup that smells like summer itself lingers for hours.

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Pasta di Mandorle : Cream For Lily Soft Hands

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is sitting down in front of the TV in the evening with a cup of cafe blanc and a jar of Santa Maria Novella Pasta di Mandorle. I sip my orange blossom scented drink and slowly rub the speckled brown cream into my hands, knowing that in the morning I will wake up to lily soft hands and shiny nails.

almond-paste-cream

It’s a guilty pleasure, because at $50 for 1.6 oz, Pasta di Mandorle is the most expensive cream I own. When I look at the ingredient list–sweet almond oil, grape seed oil, egg yolk, virgin beeswax, and glycerin, I think that my grandmother’s home made version might just be  as good. For the price of a couple of jars of Pasta di Mandorle, I can pay for a trip to Ukraine from Belgium so I finally decided to make my own cream.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Elisa in Top 10 Summer Picnic Scents: I do love Eau de Reglisse! It’s the only truly summer-appropriate licorice scent I can think of. June 25, 2017 at 6:07pm

  • Elisa in Top 10 Summer Picnic Scents: I absolutely love the smell of grilling peppers too! And roasting green chiles 🙂 June 25, 2017 at 6:05pm

  • kpaint in Top 10 Summer Picnic Scents: Mmm, yes they take on that jammy smell when they’re roasted. I also love the smell of grilling peppers – heavenly. June 25, 2017 at 1:34pm

  • Aurora in Top 10 Summer Picnic Scents: Good idea to have a mood board: picnic is perfect to evoke summer and it’s an enticing list with some choices I’m not familiar with. I will wear a lot… June 25, 2017 at 11:42am

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