Sunday, April 17, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #8 - Literary Foods

The Proud Little Apple Blossom, adapted from a story by Hans Christian Andersen
It was the month of May, but the wind still blew cool, for the sun was not yet ready to shed his warmest rays on the waiting earth.

Yet some of the birds had come, and more were on their way, and many beautiful blossoms were already showing their pink and white blooms, so that from bush and tree, field and flower, came the glad cry, "Spring is here! Spring is here." Now, it happened that a young princess rode by a beautiful orchard in full bloom, and she stopped to pick a branch of apple blossoms to take to her palace. All who saw the apple blossom praised its dandelionbeauty and fragrance until the blossom became proud, and thought that beauty was the only valuable thing in the world. But as the apple blossom looked out upon the field she thought: "Not all of the plants are rich and beautiful, as I am, some seem poor and plain." And she noticed a little, common, yellow flower, which seemed to lift up its sunny head and grow everywhere.

The apple blossom said to the plain little flower, "What is your name?"

"I am called the dandelion," replied the little flower.

"Poor little plant," said the apple blossom. "It is not your fault; but how sad you must feel to be so plain and to bear such an ugly name."

Before the little plant could reply a lovely little sunbeam came dancing along and said: "I see no ugly flowers. They are all beautiful alike to me." And he kissed the apple blossom; but he stooped low and lingered long to kiss the little yellow dandelion in the field.

And then some little children came tripping across the field. The youngest laughed when they saw the dandelions and kissed them with delight. The older children made wreaths and dainty chains of them. They picked carefully those that had gone to seed, and tried to blow the feathery down off with one breath, making joyous wishes.

"Do you see," said the sunbeam, "the beauty of the dandelion?"

"Only to children are they beautiful," said the proud apple blossom.

By and by an old woman came into the field. She gathered the roots of the dandelions, out of which she made tea for the sick, and she sold others for money to buy milk for the children.

"But beauty is better than all this," still said the proud little apple blossom. Just then the princess came along. In her hand she carried something that seemed like a beautiful flower. She covered it carefully from the wind. What do you think it was? It was the feathery crown of the dandelion. "See!" she said, "how beautiful it is! I will paint it in a picture with the apple blossoms."

Then the sunbeam kissed the apple blossom, and as he stooped low to kiss the dandelion the apple blossom blushed with shame.

Source: "A Child's Story Garden," Compiled by Elizabeth Heber

Historical Food Fortnightly - Challenge #8 - Literary Foods (April 8 - April 21)  Food is described in great detail in much of the literature of the past.  Make a dish that has been mentioned in a work of literature based on historical documentation about that food item.

It is spring here in North Carolina and both the apple blossoms and the dandelions are in full bloom.  The book I'm using for all the 2016 Historical Food Fortnightly Challenges is Twenty Lessons in Domestic Science by Marian Cole Fisher Copyright 1916.

Lesson Number Fourteen in the book is Edible Weeds with a nice description of dandelions.

With colander and trowel in hand I walk the property to find the nicest stands of dandelions and find the first along the roadside slope.   While some have gone to seed there are still many young with a few just beginning to bloom.

When I dig these dandelions I find their root system deeply intertwined with the surrounding grass and the main root is quite small.

My recipe book states that the dandelions will be "in much finer condition when found in sheltered places" and that is exactly the case in my yard.  Under a stand of pines I find this nice grouping of larger and very nice looking dandelions.

These plants have larger leaves, larger roots, and are easily harvested.

In no time I have a nice colander full of my edible weeds.

The dandelions are washed under cold water and allowed to dry slightly on a cloth.

First, I try the dandelions with flower, leaves, and root sprinkled with salt and pepper, and then a few with some drops of lemon.

The flavor is a bit sharp and I can imagine they would be an excellent addition to a more bland green such as iceberg lettuce.  The flowers are slightly sweet, especially those that have not yet opened.  The root is softer than a radish but has some of the flavor of a white radish.  I quite enjoy them!

Then I cook a few clusters and serve them with a light dressing.  Excellent!  This would be my preferred way to eat them.  I also taste the water from the cooking and can understand that it would be a very soothing tea.

A green in plentiful supply, free for the taking, and very much considered a weed in 1916 as it still is in 2016.  But the acceptance of this little plant may be changing.  Some research indicates that the 1916 book stating that "These form one of the most wholesome of all greens." is very correct.  Dandelions have at least 10 health benefits:

1.  Cancer prevention
2.  High in antioxidants
3.  Diuretic
4.  Diabetes
5.  Liver health
6.  Bone health
7.  Digestive aide
8.  Skin health
9.  Weight loss
10.  Lowers blood pressure

Perhaps this lowly little blossom is more of a beauty than even Hans Christian Andersen knew!!

Love always,

Monday, April 4, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #7 - Pretty As A Picture

Challenge #7 - Pretty As A Picture (March 25 - April 7)  If you're a fan of cooking competition shows (like I am!), you know how the saying goes:  we eat first with our eyes.  Make a dish that looks just as spectacular as it tastes.  Extra points for historically accurate plating - and don't forget to post pictures!

The hosts of our Historical Food Fortnightly are so correct - it's always incredibly interesting to watch cooking competition shows and see how food is prepared and plated. You can imagine the smells and sounds as everything sizzles and bakes. Thinking about how preparation can be enjoyable I chose a recipe from the 100-year-old book I'm using for the Challenges this year:  Twenty Lessons in Domestic Science by Marian Cole Fisher.

The recipe is Café Noir or After Dinner Coffee.

The ingredients are a cup of black coffee, sugar cubes, and Cognac.

In my state of North Carolina all alcohol sales are regulated and only sold in separate stores.  I truly had no idea there were so many different brands and grades of Cognac so a little research was in order.  I chose D'Usse VSOP Cognac.  Cognac is a variety of brandy which begins its life as a white wine.  The grade VSOP means "very superior old pale" and designates a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least four years in a cask.  So why did I choose this particular Cognac?  I really love the bottle!  Since this Challenge is all about feasting for the eyes, I'll begin with a wonderful bottle to set before my dinner guest.

Now it is time for the presentation of the recipe.  I turn down the lights slightly to set an atmosphere and begin.

Hot coffee ready for the ritual.

A sugar cube soaked briefly in Cognac.
 And the beautiful burning of the sugar and cognac:

The crystallized sugar. 

Blend the sugar into the hot coffee.

Smells heavenly!

Tastes heavenly!!

Another video of my Café Noir presentation:

Hoping all your coffee moments are this fun!