Tablescaping

Spirited


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My grandmother would wake up before everyone in the house to take long aromatic baths that left the house smelling like a bouquet of flowers.  She would then float around in her gown doing one thing or another.  It wasn’t until I was older did I realized that she was performing a morning ritual that was preparation for her day’s work.

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My grandmother once owned a candle shop, among many other ventures, called Wickies.  I knew that she practiced magic.  She was paid to perform and prepare spells.  But it wasn’t something that we really talked about.  It was just known.  When she did speak of it, she said that she practiced “white” witchcraft.  She was a keeper of the witches’ oath to “do no harm to others”.  Her mentor, “The Chicken Man”, lived in New Orleans, La.  She would often make road trips to visit him.  The drives from Denver to New Orleans consisted of road trip games, fried chicken, white sliced bread and music by the Gap Band (can you hear Charlie Wilson’s signature coo?) , I love road trips to this day.  We took a lot of them.  Once in New Orleans, there would be hushed conversation between her and the Chicken Man in his House of Voodoo followed by bags filled with anointed supplies she needed to practice her craft.  Back at the candle shop she had all of the things one would imagine a witch to have.  Candles, oils, stones, teas and herbs, sachets and such things.  The candles, in particular, fascinated me.  Black skulls, wax molds of naked male and female bodies, pillars of all colors and sizes and various designs of candle snuffers kept me intrigued.  Her counseling sessions; however, seemed to be held more so at home than at the shop.  I did my best to eavesdrop, but mainly I would just see people leave from the living room couch with enchanted sachets and very specific instructions on how to carry out the spells she cooked up for them.

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The kitchen was also sacred space.  As it were, the practicing witch was also an amazing cook.  I loved her cooking.  In my opinion, no one’s cooking could compare.  There was a close second though; my daughter’s paternal grandmother can throw down too!   But ultimately, my grandmother’s cooking ruled supreme for me.

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I was her right-hand girl when it came to kitchen responsibilities.  This included preparation of shopping lists, grocery shopping, cleaning, and assisting in the kitchen.  She was very well organized and structured in the way things were done.  Canned goods were always organized with the items having the earliest expiration date in front.  All labels faced forward.  All jars, wiped clean.

I knew I had been blessed with the kitchen wand when she called on me to make her breakfast.  It consisted of only one egg, over-medium, with a slice of toast.  The egg whites had to be cooked through, but not crispy and the yolk runny, as for the toast, it had to be golden brown and perfectly buttered from edge to edge.  It is a gross mistake to assume that cooking eggs properly is a simple task and for a young teen this was daunting.  Others had tried and failed.  I’m a perfectionist by nature and a people pleaser so I wanted nothing more than to show the matriarch that I could manage the kitchen.  This would be how I proved it.  I passed her test and was the only one of her children and grandchildren “allowed” to cook for her.    To have this seal of approval was an honor and I have been charming people with food ever since.

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I certainly have inherited many of my grandmother’s ways.  After all, she raised me.  Drawing candle lit baths is a cherished practice I’ve adopted as my own as is making enchanted meals.  My ceremonial dress is a simple white Williams-Sonoma half-apron with crisp borders and double front pockets.  After my apron strings are tied into a neat square knot, I am bound to link my energy to the task at hand and cast my cooking spell.  Confections are the “easiest” to enchant because of their versatility.  They can be made with any flavor, formed into any shape, made into any color and decorated innumerously.  It’s plain to see the work being done.  With a few select ingredients, I’m working roots almost unconsciously.

the-dark-side-table-settingMy tabletop is my “cook’s altar”, I adorn it with sacred “artifacts” appropriate for whatever the eating occasion.  My tricked out Halloween theme this year honors the season of the witch and in particular my grandmother.

She enjoyed celebrating and having a good a time.  In that spirit, my daughter and I went to see the musical “Wicked” at the Gershwin theater in New York City.  We equally enjoyed the reading the book and the performance about the true story of the witches of Oz.  On Halloween night, however, I took my son to the midnight showing of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.  Something my grandmother did with us.  It literally horrified him.  It, along with the production team involved in the experience, far exceeded his threshold for vulgarity.  He admitted that he had never experienced anything like it before and he could just as well do without.  He couldn’t believe my grandmother took us to see this show.  I could, Tim Curry was brilliant in this film.

This was a harvest season to be remembered, apron strings 10-30-2016-gina-and-mani-elphaba-pillarreleased, my work is done.

Bewitchingly yours,

Gina

 

 

 

 

 

 

10-16-2016-the-dark-side-witch-finger-cookies-rackWITCH FINGER COOKIES

YUMMY CHOCOLATE MUMMY CUPCAKES

ENCHANTED CARAMEL APPLES

MEATBALLS & MARINARA SAUCE

A Man’s Heart


Cafe L'Amour - Tablescaping - Table - Little Italy

The well-known adage, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” is on the kitchen table for deeper understanding.  By practicing the ways of a seductress, studying human sexuality and drawing parallels between food and sex, the true wisdom in this old wives’ tale is revealed. 

Cafe L'Amour - Tablescaping - Placesetting and Center - Little Italy

Culinary art is like a seduction, both involve stimulation of all of the senses.  This is as important as the meal itself.  My favorite seduction supper was inspired by the ambiance of an old school Italian restaurant.  Everything was red.  The color of passion.  I built the tablescape using a red and white checkerboard table cloth.  The center of the table glowed with red pillar candles, red roses, a classic bottle of Chianti in a raffia basket, a bottle of Pellegrino sparkling water and scattered tealights.  A round, red placemat, with a white plate and a playing card, representative of each diner, marked our spots.  The cards had double meaning.  Not many people know the esoteric interpretation of playing cards.  They have meaning related to your birthdate, similar to the zodiac, but moreover, the playing cards foretold of events destined for the evening.  While the artichoke stuffed chicken finished baking, my guest and I nibbled on an antipasto platter that I prepared, caprese salad, bread sticks, sipped on wine and played strip poker with the Kama Sutra designed playing cards.  Simple 5-card draw.  It was clear to see that I won.   But in the final hand, my opponent laid down all four kings and the ace of spades, which is his birth card, let’s just say that dessert was done before dinner.

Cafe L'Amour - Tablescaping - Placesetting - Little ItalySeduction is 99% psychological as is our number one erogenous zone, the mind.  Seduction Suppers are designed for pleasure and the indulgence of a good appetite.  Take into high consideration the things your beloved enjoys and include them in abundance.  Their favorite food, colors, scents, and music will arouse their senses, assure their good time and make you irresistible.

 Monteleone's Cannoli

Whatever the recipe, the basic ingredients of a seduction supper are always the same and rooted in sensuality.  With a heavenly aroma filling the air, a gorgeous tablescape, candlelight flickering, and a glorious melody playing in the backdrop, the lovecraft, that is amorous cooking, indeed fills the heart with love and satisfied cravings.

Sensuously yours,

Honey L’Amour

RECIPE

Stuffed with Amore by Moll Anderson, “Seductive Tables for Two”

I prepared Moll Anderson’s artichoke stuffed chicken because of the aphrodisiacal lore of artichokes and the bold flavors that comprise this recipe.  Aside from this wonderful dish, Moll’s tablescapes are inspiring and her sensual decorating tips charming.

  •  1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons drained, chopped roasted red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons pesto (Moll has a recipe, which I made, but you can also use Dorot’s basil cubes)
  • 1 tablespoon thawed spinach, squeezed dry
  • 2 (5-ounce) boneless, skin skinless chicken breasts (I used bone-in, skinned chicken breasts)

 MARINADE

  • Artichoke marinade
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt to taste

Additional olive oil for sautéing

Combine the artichokes, cheese, pepper, and spinach in a small bowl.  Cut a pocket into the side of each chicken breast, working the knife along carefully.  Divide the artichoke mixture between the pockets.  Press the edge together to enclose the filling.

Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a shallow baking dish.  Add the chicken and turn to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Turn the chicken.  Refrigerate for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute the chicken for 2 minutes.  Turn the chicken.  Put the skillet into the oven and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for 45 minutes for bone-in chicken breasts, they are generally thicker or    to 15 minutes for boneless

TABLE ELEMENTS