Simplify, I keep telling her. Especially when she lays around the house all day like a sick dog. The leaves aren’t the right color, she argues. It shouldn’t be this way. You don’t get to say that, I tell her. You don’t ever get to say that. There’s no such thing as how things should be. There is only are. So, simplify. We make a list together and both believe that list is where serenity lives. The list isn’t a list. It’s a place. She imagines that place as she falls asleep in the early morning hours, the birds chirping in looming blue dawn.
She dreams of her feet on the floor. Shower steam, kettle whistle, wet hair, whirring grounds, French press. Cup, her favorite ceramic cup. Duvet billows onto smooth sheets. Morning white. Car keys, yoga mat. Breathe. The fantasy goes on. The birds chirp. Her bones are getting heavier, and maybe she’ll sleep in spite of the conspiracies of sparrows. It could be real. Pots and pans and shutter clicks. Steam, hot baking sheets, and boiling things. Vitamins. Computer cords and filing, her glowing screen. A long lunch, reading, salad greens and salty cheese. Egg and pickled things. On the porch. The clean porch. Upholstery & living flowers. Afternoon gold. Clattering keyboard. Pot of tea. Load of laundry. Dinnering. Dish soap and prattling. Toothpaste, clean sheets peeled back, reading light or movie time. Necking. Sleeping. No dust. No clutter. Everything is always clean. Repeat.
It’s my life. It was my life. It slipped away for a few weeks this past month. The laundry got wet and it just never would dry. Three weeks of wet laundry & too many water glasses amassing, forming a militia at the head of the bed. I felt like it would never end. But it always does. It, that dull gray sludge, always ends and animation returns. Successfully treated bipolar (which is ultimately no different than having asthma or a bum knee) is not without it’s dips and unbecoming whorls. It’s hard not to blame yourself when you can’t quite sleep, can’t quite get going. But I have found that if I do what I can & never say nasty things to myself, it just passes. It’s weather. Summer storms.
I’m awake and alive again now, and maybe I enjoy it more than someone who doesn’t have occasional bouts of what my grandmother called “the blues”. Before I fell into a sort of waking slumber, I picked an awful lot of honeysuckle. I made batch after batch of syrup, storing up for the months when the buds would turn brown & fall. This post is a little unfair. I should have given it to you sooner, but there’s always next year full of flowers. So tuck this recipe away. The same principles can be applied to any fragrant flower. Just make sure it’s food safe. Lilac, elderflower, honeysuckle, jasmin.
So right before I fell asleep for a few weeks all I thought about was different ways to eat this flower, to taste it. It was a childhood dream come true. To bottle up that smell. So what can you do with the cordial? I’ve thought about this. A lot. So here’s what I’ve come up with. I’m like Bubba from Forrest Gump going on about shrimp. But honeysuckle.
• Honeysuckle Soda: Mix with sparkling water to taste. Viola!
• Honeysuckle Cocktails: I hear it’s particularly good mixed with champagne
• Honeysuckle Sorbet
• Honeysuckle Vinaigrette. Recipe below.
• Honeysuckle biscuits/scones, recipe below. Baked good in general. Substitute some of the liquid in a baking recipe with the cordial as I have in these biscuits. Or scones. Depending on from where you hail. Adjust sugar in a recipe accordingly.
• Honeysuckle Marshmallows. 1 cup of cordial = 1 cup of water & 1 cup of sugar.
• Honeysuckle Ice cream. Instead of steeping your blossoms in water, steep them in milk & cream.
• Honeysuckle Tea. Pour some cordial in your tea!
• Honeysuckle Sugar. Make honeysuckle sugar by stuffing your blossoms into some sugar as in this lilac sugar.
• Honeysuckle Buttercream. Add a few tablespoons to a basic buttercream. Fill macarons with it. Be a total girl.
• Honeysuckle Jelly.
• Honeysuckle Butter. Mix it with butter, y’all!
• Whatever else you can dream up! Crème brûlée? French toast? Who knows!
Lastly, before the goods, a few bits & bobs I’ve been up to from around the internets:
– A Pinterest oriented interview I did over at Design Conundrum.
– Quite honored to have my photo taken as part of the beautiful inside & out Rebekka Seale’s portrait series
– Food52 provisions. I picked out some stuff I like. This shop is going to be dope.
– A Rhubarb & Grand Marnier tart in a sea salt & rose shortbread crust I did for Design Love Fest.
– Aaand you can find me all month giving wedding food tips & ideas over at Lonny!
– Also, if you don’t know already. I was on Masterchef! Was. Ha! I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it later. I have crazy eyes in the photo. Because I was feeling crazy then. Pay no mind.
– This post over at Gardenista gives you tips on how to recreate the look of this dinner party!
– Lastly very excited to tell you that a column over at Food52 is in the works…coming soon!
yields 3 cups
So here’s the basic building block recipe, it’s basically a honeysuckle simple syrup with the addition of citric acid & lemon. The citric acid acts as a preservative and also cuts the sweetness with a pleasant tart taste. The flavor of the finished product when mixed with sparkling water is very reminiscent of elderflower pressé if you’re familiar with it. Except honeysuckle flavored, naturally!
4 cups honeysuckle blossoms, picked over & rinsed
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 tsp citric acid (I found this in the supplement section at Wholefoods)
1/2 a lemon, zested & sliced thin
Bring water & sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve all the sugar. Pour hot syrup over the flowers in a heatproof container. Stir in the citric acid, lemon zest, and the thin slices of lemon. Let steep, covered, on the counter until it reaches room temperature then place it in the fridge and let it steep over night, totaling 24 hours. Strain through cheese cloth or a very fine mesh sieve. Store in the fridge.
Honeysuckle Scones a.k.a. Honeysuckle Biscuits
yields about 12 2-3″ biscuits
250 grams (2 cups..get a scale!) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
76 g (1/3 cups) buttermilk
152 g (2/3 cup) honeysuckle cordial
1 egg, lightly beaten Or a couple Tbs butter melted, for brushing (optional)
sugar for sprinkling (optional)
Heat oven to 425°.
Grease a baking sheet.
Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Cut in butter with your fingers until no pieces larger than a pea remain but there are still plenty of bits of butter. You don’t want to overwork it.
Stir in the buttermilk & cordial until just incorporated, careful not to overmix as this will build gluten and make your biscuits tough. At this point you can let your dough proof for up to 30 minutes or just proceed with the rest of the recipe.
Turn biscuit dough out onto a well floured work surface. I, for one, like to just use my counter. Sprinkle a bit of flour on the top and form dough into a rectangle with the narrow end facing you. Lightly bounce the dough out from the center with a rolling pin. Fold in half towards you. Rotate the dough counter clockwise and repeat 2 more times.
After the third fold roll dough out (gently, you don’t want to crush your flaky layers) to about 1″-3/4″ thick. Cut with a floured biscuit cutter. Don’t twist the cutter or you’ll seal the edges and inhibit rising. Gently place biscuits on the greased baking sheet. Brush tops with a lightly beat egg or melted butter if desired. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake biscuits 10-15 minutes. They should be golden on top and cooked through. It takes about 12 minutes in my oven.
Let cool on racks. Eat warm. Preferably with this sea salt, honey, and marjoram peach butter.
Sea Salt & Honey Peach Butter
yields 1/2 cup
1/2 a very ripe peach, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tsp honey (to taste)
1/2 tsp finely chopped marjoram
1/4 tsp flaky sea salt (or to taste)
Mix all ingredients with a mortar & pestle. Taste & adjust as needed. Chill & Serve. Can also be made by a whir in a mini food processor or a blender. Or by whipping together with a fork in a bowl. I just love to use my mortar & pestle! So tactile.
Honeysuckle Mint Vinaigrette
yields about 1/2 cup
An extra extra recipe because I love you guys. And honeysuckle.
2 Tbsp honeysuckle syrup
1 Tbsp champagne vinegar
3 T good olive oil
1 T chopped apple mint (regular is fine too)
1 T chopped fennel fronds
1/4 tsp crushed fennel seeds
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until combined or alternately shake in a jar. Excellent on a “flower power” salad of edible flowers, apple, fennel, and cabbage along with a bit of celery seed & salty cheese.