Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Summer Garden Bowl

I (Spindle's mother) love Madame Benoit.  I first discovered her when I got her book, Madame Benoit Cooks at Home, as a promotional freebie.  I call it a book, rather than a cookbook, as it was filled with stories.  She wrote of growing up as a child in the early 1900's, of her time doing a cooking show, of her own family and, of course, tidbits of history and anecdotes connected with individual recipes.  It's a gold mind of information.  Over time I picked up The Canadiana Cookbook and all but one volume of her Library of Canadian Cooking, which turned out to be the English translation of the French version my mother-in-law has the original of.  It had been released a section at a time and, once complete, she had it bound into a single volume.

Madame Benoit  Cooks at Home remained my favourite.  Unfortunately, after many moves, my hardcover copy disappeared.  So I was thrilled to find the paperback copy at a recent library book sale.  If you get the opportunity, I recommend picking up a copy.

The following recipe is from this book.  She writes:

Summer Garden Bowl
So called because it was made as needed, with basil or marjoram or mint freshly cut in the garden, and it was served in a punch bowl set on a tray in a bed of herbs or wild flowers.

We decided to go with basil and picked up some fresh organic basil at the grocery store, my not having been able to do any herbs on our balcony this year.  Unfortunately, the next day, they had gone black and slimy.  So back to the grocery store we went.  The other basil didn't look to good, so we went with mint.

Here is the original recipe.

8-10 sprigs of basil, marjoram or mint
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sugar
1 bottle dry white wine
2 bottles rose wine of your choice
1 large bottle of soda water
3 limes or 2 lemons, thinly sliced

We decided to do a half recipe.

We're not big wine drinkers, so we weren't sure what to get.  We decided to go with wines from the same vintner.  They were only $10.99 a bottle.  I wasn't sure if I should consider that a good thing or not. *L*

The first step is to put the herbs and sugar in a punch bowl (we don't have one, so we used a salad bowl) and mash them together with your hands to release the oils.

Then a cup (or for our half recipes, 1/2 cup) of white wine is added and it's set aside for 1 hour.

After sitting for 1 hour, the rest of the wine is added.  We had tasted the white wine on its own (it's all right) and, with the half cup already out, there was little more than half a bottle left, so we used the whole thing.

This made up for the amount of rose we used up to give it a taste (better than the white).


At this point, it was getting late, so we were going to let it sit in the fridge overnight. When we found ourselves staying up late anyhow, we did end up trying it after 4 hours.

At which point, the soda water is added, the herbs removed (we used a small sieve to scoop them out) and the limes added.

To serve, ice the glasses (not the bowl) and fill with punch.

And there we are!

It is definitely a pretty little drink.  We could both smell the mint strongest, but I could also smell the lime a bit.  The smell of wine was pretty faint, competing with the soda water smell. 

For flavour, it went over well with my daughter.  She found it refreshing, not overly sweet, and it went down easy (as she shakes her glass with nothing but ice left to demonstrate).  None of the flavours overpowered the others, which she liked. 

Me, I'm not so sure.  I don't like soda water, so that didn't help much.  Still, it didn't overpower the other flavours.  The mint and lime went well with the wines, and the two types of wine mixed together worked out just fine. 

We both liked it, but not necessarily enough to make it again.  It's nice, but not really a drink that seems to warrant the length of time needed to make it.  It's just not interesting enough.  We'd order it in a restaurant, though.

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