"Gather ye rose-buds while ye may." Robert Herrick

"Gather ye rose-buds while ye may." Robert Herrick

Hello Friends!

Friends, Romans, countrymen...y'all. Foodies, gardeners, artists and collectors - let's gather together to share and possibly learn a thing or two in the mix.

Donna Baker

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lemon As Medicine

Some of my lemons for this past year.  Meyer is what I grow the most of, but I also grow softball-sized Ponderosa and football-sized Etrog (the nubby one in the bottom right picture).  I recently happened across a spot on tv where a man who makes healthy juice concoctions on the streets of Jerusalem said the most important juice of all was that of the Etrog so I researched it.  Appears that the Etrog, aka the Persian Apple, is prized in the mid-east for its medicinal qualities.  With over 70 medicinal chemicals, it is used for its juice and zest in cooking.  Cultivated back in 4000 BC, it was also known as the Paradise Apple as it was believed to be the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  Today, it is used in the Jewish festival of Sukkot.  I know very little about keeping kosher, but in reading about Etrog (pronounced atrog) the fruit has to be unblemished, grown from actual tree, not a seed or cutting, and in fields that are watched over under strict observation by rabbis.  The lemon therefore must be used from a tree called/considered Hadar, named in the Torah from the days of Moses.  Wow!

Known for an antidote for snakebite, a cure for seasickness, and used as an antibiotic in times past, some other lemon remedies are used for:

Reduction of body fat
mouth ulcers and throat infections
stomach upsets
cold relief

Lemons have also proved to be a blessing for  mountaineers.  In the case of insufficient oxygen or difficulty  in breathing, lemon comes to the rescue. Sir Edmund Hillary has admitted that his victory over Mount Everest was greatly due to lemon.

I think I'll grow more Etrogs this year.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Keith Jarrett - I Loves You Porgy

Keith Jarrett is a living legend.  No one does improvisation like he does.  You gotta watch Keith, not only for this tune but also to watch how he plays. From slow and low (like this piece) to something akin to musical chaos, Keith can't sit still; he becomes the instrument, becomes the music, levitates and cries out at times in ecstacy.  I saw the movie Porgy and Bess when I was young and never forgot this song. The piece was from his 100th performance in Tokyo.  His Sun Bear concert recorded in Japan is where I first heard of him in the 1970's.  Also heard him on Pacifica radio then saw a PBS piece that used his music. His Koln concert would be a good CD to start out with. My music was never the same after hearing Keith...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


When you have a greenhouse full of lemons (nearly 175lbs. of the golden gems), what do you do?  Make everything lemony you can think of.  This year, I will be freezing most of the juice, but I am trying something new - goat cheese, or as they say in France, chevre.  It is easy to make and delicious I might add.  I used Meyer lemons in this recipe and zest shavings.  It doesn't have quite the bite or tang that some chevre has.  Though I tried it atop crackers with a savory pepper jelly, I think it would also be good on toast points with a delicious sweet jam or marmalade and of course atop salads.  I believe in France, they eat it for the dessert course.  There are so many recipes on the web to choose from, and many call for rennet (you can purchase at Whole Foods) or Junket which can be purchased at most grocery stores near the pudding section.  These are what give the cheese more tang and help it set up.  I used buttermilk since I had neither of the aforementioned.  I'll be trying feta next.


1 quart goat milk (I used the pasteurized since I don't have a goat)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. buttermilk

In a large non-reactive pot (stainless), slowly warm the goat milk to 180 degrees.  Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.  Let the milk cool for 20 minutes, then add lemon juice and buttermilk.  Stir, then let the milk sit for 2 hours. 

Line a colander with several layers of cheese cloth.  Place the colander over a large bowl and pour the milk into cloth.  Let it sit for 2 hours (I actually let mine drain for 6 hours) or until the liquid whey has drained leaving the curds.  Now is the time to season with a small amount of sea salt (approx. 1/8 to 1/4 tsp).  The curds will then be placed in a mold or tin and covered with plastic wrap.  Keep chevre in refrigerator for several days, if it lasts that long.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Day of Days

I reached a new decade back in December.  One that didn't really bother me all that much as I am not very vain.  What are you gonna do?  Nevertheless, it was the best birthday ever.  I went to lunch with my daughters and friends, got the nicest gifts and had the best time.  And, nobody said a word about my surprise birthday party that night at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant, sneaky little devils.  They were all there having fun, grinning like Cheshire cats and no one had even let it slip.  I've never had a surprise party before.  It was wonderful.  All my children, husband, sister and her significant other, friends and their children were there.  I love them all.  My cake was a beautiful cake/mousse concoction covered in cherry blossoms ( this because my daughter knew how much I was moved by the movie) and I got a copy of the movie too.  My daughter had even sent out printed invitations with cherry blossoms inscribed and on the back a picture of me in the field and a line from the poem THE ROAD NOT TAKEN by Robert Frost that I quote from time to time.  My friends and family are so thoughtful, so wonderful.  I adore them. It was the best day and night.  "someday I shall be telling this tale ages and ages hence, two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."  I, I took the one less traveled by and now I'm lost on the farm.

Friday, January 13, 2012

It's Chili Time

It was a balmy 61 degrees yesterday and a winter killing 18 degrees this morning.  So, it is chili time.  Not just another bowl of chili, mind you.  This chili recipe is the best chili ever.  But, don't just take my word.  Capital Punishment Chili won the 1980 world championship chili.   Bill Pfeiffer, a native Texan, won a $20,000 first prize at the International Chili Society's 14th annual cook-off in LA.  As all of you serious cooks know, your riffs on recipes is what makes them sensational.  A word of caution here - for the first time you cook this,  I suggest you use the original recipe so you know what it is supposed to taste like. 

Texans don't mess around with their chili.  I have heard of ashes, cocoa and other exotic ingredients in their chili recipes.  If memory serves me well, I believe beans and even tomatoes are banned ingredients in Texas chili.  Having said that, beans are in mine and tomatoes.  I also love it topped with fritos, cheese and a dollop of sour cream.  My riff on Capital Punishment Chili is cornbread dumplings cooked on top during the last 20 minutes of cooking.  I think that back in 1980, the meats used were very inexpensive.  Imagine my surprise when I made this recently.  Enjoy!

Capital Punishment Chili

4 lbs. extra lean chuck, flank or round steak, coarsely ground (chili grind)
1 lb.  extra lean sirloin, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 lbs. pork loin, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 large onions, finely chopped
8 to 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
7 heaping tablespoons chili powder (new bottle as spices only last 6 months)
4 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground oregano
2 tablespoons paprika (Yes, I bought all new jars of spices and herbs)
2 tablespoons flavor enhancer
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon mole powder (I omit this)
1 or 2 tablespoons flaked chili peppers
1 6oz. can tomatoe sauce (I used a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes)
2 cans beef broth
2 cans beer
1 tablespoon masa harina (corn flour)

Brown meat and onions in large stock pot.  Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, flavor enhancer, sugar, mole powder, and pepper flakes.  Mix well.  Add tomato sauce, broth and beer.  Mix well and simmer 2 hours.  Mix masa with enough hot water to make a light paste and add to chili 30 minutes before serving to thicken.  At this point, I also added a tablespoon of salt, but you can add as much as you want.  I also added canned beans.  This really is the best chili ever.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Just Thinking

Birdie and I are sitting in front of the monitor, drinking orange juice, just thinking about life and nearly everything else under the sun.  I've told my family that my epitaph should read, she thought too much - perfect for me.  I think maybe the old saying, ignorance is bliss, would be a preferable one.

Happy New Year to all my friends out there.  I have so enjoyed your thoughts and dreams in 2011 and look forward to another year of reading your blogs.

This photo was taken at the rear of the Rodin Museum in Paris.