Monday, October 08, 2007

Of Talladega, rosemary, and the last granita before Samhain

I love Talladega. I grew up near the Daytona Superspeedway, and Talladega's the other superspeedway on the NASCAR Nextel Cup schedule, so it's what racing looks like to me. One day I'll party there again. It's the drinking track with the racing problem! I know some people are happy at how yesterday's race there turned out. Jeff Gordon won it. Well, he earned it this time, so he didn't get beer cans thrown at him. My man Tony Stewart made a valiant effort, but he didn't have enough drafting help. It was annoying how drivers (especially little Kyle Busch) kept getting dinged by NASCAR executives for being overly "aggressive", which resulted in a 20-lap parade of cars in which hardly anybody moved. Then people remembered they were at a race, in Talladega, and forgot that nonsense. Jacques Villaneuve, a French-Canadian Formula One star, is coming in to NASCAR next year and made his debut at 'Dega, which I thought was rather like teaching someone to swim by throwing them into Shark Encounter at Sea World, but he held his own. He and Juan Pablo Montoya will be factors next year, I know it.

Now for an issue that has come up in my marriage. If I were feeling fair, I'd have to admit that I got a bit carried away with the rosemary. Likewise, if I were feeling fair, I would probably mention that while my wife will eat anything that doesn't eat her first, at least once, she has an unusually strong sense of smell that I have to take into account. But my rosemary shrub is doing so *good*! In *Brooklyn*! And I nursed it from a little stick that looked like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree before the decorations, so I am proud. I used to have a brown thumb, but Ex-Boy was awesome with plants--he doubled his property's value with landscaping--so there's a good thing I got from him. I'm still surprised when a plant actually stays alive for me.

Not only that, I really love rosemary. Being a Witch, I sprinkle herbs and spices all over the place, and love herbal and spicy flavors best of all. So I was making rosemary bread, rosemary biscuits, rosemary green beans, rosemary carrots, and lots and lots of rosemary simple syrup. I believe it was Saturday, when I showed my good friend Yemaya O'Reilly how we can add chilled rosemary simple syrup and a few clippings to heavy cream and sugar in my cream whipper/sprayer, that L'Ailee lost it. I am now banned from using rosemary until I come home from Samhain weekend with my former coven in Orlando. (Yemaya and I could find a coven up here, but we still feel at home with that particular group. The others who moved come back, too.) L'Ailee is tired of the stuff, even though the cream looked so pretty and was really quite delicious on Yemaya's pear tart. Incidentally, Yemaya is a pastry chef, and a damned awesome one too, so you can look for rosemary whipped cream all over NYC's restaurants in the next few months. :-)

I'm trying to cope. I know I've tested L'Ailee's patience with my food phases and experiments before. I bake rather conventionally except for the egg substitutes, and she thinks I make the best salads in the world, but for everything else, I tend to get all inspired by interesting kitchen gadgets, new products, and whatever’s at the farmer’s market. L’Ailee doesn’t think the saleslady at Williams-Sonoma who sold me my cream whipper/sprayer, which is just the most fun, did her any favors when she suggested adding flavorings. She enjoyed the raspberry, but didn’t appreciate lavender-black pepper or my attempt to make a vegan “whipped cream” using soy milk and ripe bananas. She worries when I get out the blowtorch. I have cleared her out of the house by making zhoug, a delicious Lebanese condiment that’s sort of like a pesto made with chopped green chiles instead of basil. TTG I can get that pre-made here.

There was the time I wondered why I'd never seen vanilla extract used as the flammable liquid in a flambe, and found out when I singed the ends of my bangs. I took prenatal vitamins for a month after that one, and wore hats more often than usual. There was my fresh-tomato-and-basil jag this summer. (But the tomatoes were so *good* this year!) There was my agua fresca obsession, and it got particularly out of hand when I tasted a cucumber one and realized that they don't always have to be *sweet*. There was the green pepper granita (but it looked so cool when I spooned it over hot tomato soup and got that puff of steam! Tasted pretty decent, too.) There was the vanilla lime ice cream I made because I smelled that combination in a Yankee Candle and got inspired. The month when no vegetable entered my kitchen without being roasted and caramelized. The attempts at an eggless pecan pie to accommodate both my favorite part of Thanksgiving and my allergies. And I am only scratching the surface.

Anyway, I know in some parts of the country there are a few warm days left. I know Florida's got quite a few more coming. I also know that it's Monday, but we're not doing Recipe Saturday at Blogspot anymore, are we? So for those of you who have not yet burned out your poor spouse's sensitive nose and tongue on one particular herb, I offer a wonderful, very refreshing, not too sweet granita recipe that I arrived at after seeing a complicated take on the appletini in House and Garden magazine. I think the combination of flavors is perfect for late summer and early autumn, and even I am not fanatical enough to keep making granitas in cold weather, hence the name "Last Granita Before Samhain." Probably most of y'all would think of it as "Green Apple and Rosemary Granita" instead.

I already tried regular "red" apple juice. It must be green apple, all green, with that nice pucker. If you can't find bottled green apple juice--and I've only seen pure Granny Smith or otherwise green apple juice two or three times--you'll need to make some, and hopefully your juicer's aggressive. Now, I only take recipes as suggestions and they never turn out the same way twice. So I won’t take it personally if you tweak mine. I’m also pretty bad at writing recipes--my step-grandma and great-grandma taught me to eyeball and taste everything rather than write it down--so please bear with me. It's work, but it pays off.

Last Granita Before Samhain
(a/k/a Green Apple and Rosemary Granita)

Juice from 5-7 Granny Smith apples, depending on size. (Or buy green apple juice and use 2 1/2 cups of that if you're lucky.)
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup rosemary simple syrup

And how do you make that? Well...

Rosemary Simple Syrup:
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
5 sprigs fresh rosemary

Boil for two minutes. Cool and remove the rosemary. Pop into refrigerator, let chill while you peel, core, and juice your apples.

Got the juice? Good. Get the rosemary simple syrup out. Combine it with the apple juice and extra 1/4 cup of sugar. (It will be bitter without it, but you just want a twang to your granita.) Pour it all into a non-reactive 9 1/2 by 13-inch baking dish and freeze it until firm, preferably overnight. Just before you serve it, scrape it into fine crystals with one or two forks. (I like one in each hand.) Spoon granita into glasses and serve.

Now, who wants to have dinner at *my* house? :-)

Got some links, too!

Air America now has an atheist talk show, for all you cute and cuddly freethinkers!

And there’s a quiz about your inner Goddess for us Pagans! Mine is Isis.

Two Florida high school kids got suspended for a T-shirt that *opposes* drunk driving.

What people who grew up during the Depression can teach us about environmentalism

Lastly, Sinead didn’t sing on Oprah, but she did give a decent interview. See here. Some comments were distressingly mean, about how she “hasn’t aged well.” I disagree—that’s what no Botox or surgery and hardly any makeup at 40 look like, and it’s fine.


BostonPobble said...

Oh TTG! I was so worried you were going to blog all about it and NOT give out the recipe for rosemary simple syrup and I was going to have to stalk you! Rosemary is my favorite herb and I love doing ANYTHING with it! (Dinner at mine after dinner at yours!) Thanks.

Except I couldn't link to find out my inner goddess. :( I suspect she would be Artemis, however. ;)

alan said...

I remember a while back Kath put up one for lavender sugar that I planned on trying...

I have to get back into the kitchen again for more than just sustenance!

Wondered how you'd feel about Jacques; I'm glad he kept it together!


Kel-Bell said...

I caught part of Sinead's interview with Oprah too.

Told my tweenkin all about her. It was great.

ConnieJane said...

Loved the race Sunday as well! Jeff Gordon's my guy so was also thrilled with the outcome. But it was a really good race!

I've never been to a live race at Talladega but hubby has. He was with one of Bobby Labonte's sponsors. To get to their section the bus drove them through the camp ground... OMG, Redneck Mardi Gras!

Carie said...

the race was great...I love Michael Waltrip so I was so so so happy for him...I also respected the fact that Jeff won by racing them was truely a good race, but I to was bummed on how much they kept calling and reeling the boys in...

I love herbs I am just not good at using them right, so I am taking a class to learn all about herbs, its been pretty cool so far

I watched Sinead as well, I have always admired here and loved her music, the song nothing compares has always been my fav song :) its on my cell phone