Monday, June 11, 2012

An herbal life

My love of herbs can be traced back to my adolescence and that first herb that put a tolerable haze over those years – I go stoned.

I glided home in order to be on time for dinner – for it was both a requirement and the pot was working its hunger producing magic. I was so grateful that my father was working late and would not to be home for the evening meal for I was sure he would sniff me out – he has the nose of a bloodhound. My eyes were beet red, and I thought very word I spoke at the dinner table was being scrutinized with great relief I got through the meal undetected. That night’s meal glowed, and yet it was the usual salad; my mother made a mixed salad nightly accompanied with an array of dressings, hamburgers and canned French cut green beans. I inhaled five hamburgers before I started to slow down with my sixth.

My friends and I had the habit of pooling our resources in order to secure an ounce of this sweet aromatic burning herb. I did try to grow my own, a frugal attempt, which was thwarted by the gardener who spotted my struggling, pathetically leafy stems by the chimney on the side of the house – they got yanked -- so much for gardening. One weekend some friends headed into Manhattan to get into innocent teenage trouble, and hopefully cop some pot. With their wallets endowed with our collective funds they made a beeline to Washington Square Park where you could not spend a minute without being propositioned. Personally, I was a bit suspect of this public wholesale market, and my suspicions were borne out when the group returned to Long Island with a bag of oregano. Now, if they had the culinary aptitude I possessed they would have easily recognized that that plastic bag was filled with the wrong herb – we all ate pizza how could they that not recognize the contents of the shaker that was always found next to the grated cheese and chili flakes. For me, I returned my resource of a sure thing – my next-door neighbor.

Today, the herbs I score are just as potent except today their addictiveness is due to their heady aromatic presentation then an inhaled chemical released by smoke. 

Verbena-Mango Cake – yields 10-inch cake

8-ounces unsalted butter
2-cups sugar
4 whole eggs
1-egg yolk
1-1/2 teaspoons minced verbena leaves
1-teaspoon rose water
3-cups all-purpose flour
1-teaspoon baking powder
1/8-teaspoon salt
2-ripe mangoes – peeled and sliced (tossed in 1-tablespoon of flour)
1-heaping tablespoon apricot preserves

Butter and flour the cake pan.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a standing mixer mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

In another bowl beat the eggs, egg yolk, rose water and verbena together to combine.
Once the butter/sugar is very fluffy add the eggs to mix well.

In a separate bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt through a sieve. Then on a low speed add the flour to the butter mixture.

Pour half of the batter in to the cake pan and then distribute the sliced mangos over the batter. Spread the remaining batter over the mangoes, and bake for about 40 to 50 minutes until set and a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove to a wire cooling rack and cool the cake completely before inverting.

Once the cake has cooled combine the apricot preserves with ¼-cup of water and over a medium heat stir to completely dissolve. Brush the warm apricot preserves over the cake allowing it to soak in. 

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