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Eating my own words on Pope’s perfume | WHIDBEY RECIPES

Eating one’s words.

It’s not the first time nor, I suspect, will it be the last, but I am here today to eat my words; not all of them, just a paragraph or two. Corrections are in order whether or not you even care about the topic.

It’s all the fault of Pope Benedict and his personal perfume, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at the responses I got; it happens virtually every time I write about a pope — any pope. I was surprised, however, when one of those email responders directed me to a website where I found that I could, after all, purchase the scent I’d just told everyone would never be for sale to the public, which is what I had read in Time magazine. Mea culpa number one.

An email from Dr. Fred Hass, a physician who lives and practices in San Rafael, Calif., directed me to www.ExcelsisUSA.com, and there it was, “Our new scent, for Benedictus, created expressly for His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.”

If you perchance read that previous column, you’ll recall the conjecture about what the pope’s specially created perfume might be called. Well, now we know; it’s simply “Benedictus.” And, it’s not, technically, perfume; it’s cologne, or more accurately, aftershave.

According to the description given on the website, the cologne is a “marriage of linden blossom from Benedict’s native Germany, with frankincense from the Holy Land and bergamot from Italy.” It goes on to say that the aroma is “understated elegance, a soothing and refreshing aftershave.”

So, besides telling you it would never be for sale, I now take back any slight slur I may have made about a pope needing his own personal perfume. As it happens, I have always very much appreciated a man wearing great-smelling aftershave. Mea culpa number two.

Benedict, however, isn’t the only pope for whom a personal scent was created.

I also learned on that website that more than 100 years ago, a personal cologne was concocted for Pope Pius IX, and a reproduction of that scent, called simply “The Pope’s Cologne,” is also available.

 

So heads-up, all you male readers (three or four?). For $27 (2 ounces, with no shipping and handling if you live in the U.S.), you, too, can smell like a pope. And that, I promise, is the end of that subject.

 

RECIPES

Personally, most of my favorite fragrances originate in the kitchen; freshly chopped basil, simmering cinnamon, melting chocolate, browning butter; cumin and curry, fresh rosemary, oregano, thyme; fresh out of the oven apple pie or rhubarb crisp, roasting beef, simmering spaghetti sauce; I wouldn’t mind spritzing any of those or many other scents I love behind my ears. At this time of year, though, it’s all about the aroma of lemons — fresh lemons, the essence of spring.

 

Quick and easy, this delicious chicken soup can be on the table in less than 45 minutes; it serves two, but is easily doubled.

 

LEMON VELVET CHICKEN SOUP

1 lemon (I prefer Meyer lemons any time I can get them)

2 chicken breast halves

2 ¼ cups chicken broth

10 or so fresh snow pea pods

2 T. unsalted butter

2 T. flour

¼ cup cream

2 T. minced fresh Italian parsley leaves

 

Use a vegetable peeler to remove two strips, two-inches long or so, from the lemon and squeeze juice into a small cup. In a saucepan, simmer the chicken breast and lemon zest in the chicken broth, covered, about 20 minutes, or until chicken is just cooked through.

Transfer chicken to a bowl and pour the broth through a sieve into a quart measuring cup. Chill the chicken until cool.

While the chicken is cooling, trim the snow peas and cut them diagonally into thin slivers.

In a 2-quart saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat until foam subsides; stir in the flour and cook the roux, stirring constantly, two minutes. Add the broth and cream in a stream, whisking, and continue whisking two minutes, or until soup thickens slightly. Remove from heat.

When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones and cut or shred chicken into thin strips. Add chicken and pea slivers to the soup, put back on heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 1 to 2 minutes, or until peas are crisp-tender. Stir in lemon juice, parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves two.

 

My favorite lemon soup is the classic Greek Avgolemono — often served cold, but delicious hot or cold — on a spring evening. There are many versions; this is the basic, which you can dress up by adding fresh snipped dill, or fresh chopped mint, or fresh slivered basil, a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt on top (my personal preference, with mint), etc.

 

AVGOLEMONO

4 cups chicken broth

¼ cup uncooked orzo

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 eggs

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Shredded cooked chicken, or slivered prosciutto or ham, optional

Bring the broth to a boil and cook the orzo according to package directions, until just al dente. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and keep at a simmer.

Whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until smooth. Add about ¾ cup or so of the broth to the eggs to temper them, whisking as you add the broth, then return the egg mixture to the saucepan with the broth, stirring until the soup is just thickened. Adjust seasonings to taste; serve. Or add any other ingredients such as mentioned above, heat through and serve. Serves four.

 

How about something lemony for dessert? I have so many recipes for lemon bars and I’ve given a few in previous columns over the years. Here is yet another, one I like a lot because it is easy but always turns out perfect.

 

LEMON BARS

½ cup sliced almonds

1 cup flour, divided (see instructions)

1/3 cup powdered sugar

½ t. almond extract

¼ t. salt

6 T. unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

½ cup fresh lemon juice

2 t. lemon zest, finely grated

Powdered sugar for dusting top

Lemon slices and/or mint sprigs, for garnish

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil.

Toast the almonds in a skillet over medium heat until lightly browned, three to five minutes. Set aside 3 T. to layer on crust later, chop the rest to mix into the crust.

Whisk together ¾ cup of the flour, powdered sugar, almond extract, salt and chopped almonds. Cut in the butter with a fork until mixture is dry and crumbly; press into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with reserved almonds, pressing them into the crust. Bake until the edges are golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.

Combine remaining flour and sugar, then whisk in the eggs. Add lemon juice and zest, whisking until combined.

When the crust is baked, pour the filling over the warm crust, dust with powdered sugar and return to oven. Bake until the filling no longer jiggles in the center, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

Remove from pan by lifting the foil from the edges. Remove foil and cut into squares. Dust with more powdered sugar, garnish with lemon slices and/or mint springs. Serve.

(If you refrigerate any leftovers, bring them to room temp. and redust with powdered sugar before serving. The number of bars depends upon how large or small you cut them.

Margaret Walton can be reached by email at falwalcal@msn.com.

 

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