ESPRESSO … “stronger than all the religions of the world”

“The voodoo priest and all his powers were as nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself.” Memoir From Antproof Case, Mark Helprin

What is more delightful than an espresso (that’s eSpresso, not eXpresso) to help move through the day or a caffè correto to end a good dinner and aid digestion? This is an easy-to-learn process using a Bialleti Moka Express, a stove-top espresso maker.  It’s well worth the negligible effort.  I prefer the moka pot to a machine because I feel more connected to the process and the product, it takes up less real estate in the kitchen, and it’s budget wise.

As always we start with the freshest ingredients: water – clear, cold, and filtered – and freshly ground dark-roasted coffee.  Buy it when you know you will use it right away, even if you purchase beans and grind them at home.

The Bialetti Moke Express comes in three parts: the reservoir for water, a coffee filter with funnel for the grounds, and a top piece to capture the espresso as it bubbles up from the bottom.  This coffee pot comes in various sizes to make coffee for just one person or for up to twelve.

Directions:

Fill the reservoir with water to just below the steam valve. Put the coffee filter in place and fill it with grounds, tamping them lightly with the back of the spoon. Screw the top piece in place.

Put the Moka Express on the highest heat.  Watch it because it is quickly done.  The espresso will gather in the top chamber. Serve immediately.  Sweeten with xylotol if you like.  If you care to, you might add either a lemon peel or, for a caffè correto, a little grappa. Caffè latte: One shot fresh, hot espresso for each six ounces of steamed organic dairy or nondairy milk.

This video demonstrates the process. (If you are view this from an email subscription, it’s likely you’ll have to link through to the site to watch the video.)

Photo credits: The header photo and the Bialetti are courtesy of Bialetti. The espresso cup is courtesy of Lemone under GFDL.

“An old American who lives in Brazil is writing his memoirs. An English teacher at the naval academy, he is married to a woman young enough to be his daughter and has a little son whom he loves. He sits in a mountain garden in Niterói, overlooking the ocean. As he reminisces and writes, placing the pages carefully in his antproof case, we learn that he was a World War II ace who was shot down twice, an investment banker who met with popes and presidents, and a man who was never not in love. He was the thief of the century, a murderer, and a protector of the innocent. And all his life he waged a valiant, losing, one-man battle against the world’s most insidious enslaver: coffee. Mark Helprin combines adventure, satire, flights of transcendence, and high comedy in this “memoir” of a man whose life reads like the song of the twentieth century.”

 

The Language of My Grandmother’s Hands; يانسون‎‎ Yānsūn (Anise Tea)

I hold the imprint of her hands as they stirred her homemade yogurt-starter into warm milk for labna لبنة‎‎ , yogur árabe, wonderfully thick and sour. She’d pour the mixture into a jar and wrap the jar in a military issue blanket, placing it next to the radiator to ferment the yogurt. All six of her sons and one of her daughters had served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II. My thrifty grandmother saw no reason to toss the blankets they brought back from their service in Europe and Africa.

Clearly, frugality ruled in my grandmother’s house. Soap chips were sowed into pieces of clean rag and used until their lather was spent. Newspapers were exchanged with the junk man for precious pennies. Even when I was too old for a stroller, she’d have me clamber into an ancient one, my weight allowing it to serve as a walker when we went out. No need for medical equipment. Really, I suspect my grandmother would put today’s recyclers to shame.

I can remember my grandmother’s hands as they served us cinnamon-scented chicken and rice,  gray steam rising from soup bowls.  I see her hands buttering khubz خبز‎‎ (bread) to go with tea or coffee, and I see them packing loose yānsūn يانسون (anise) tea into a jelly jar for my Uncle Anthony to take on a business trip. For sure she expected hotel food to cause stomach upset. No need for Tums™ and other such when there’s a delicious healing tea to drink. After all, as far back as their Phoenician progenitors, yānsūn has served the Lebanese people well for both pleasure and health.

The health benefits are not just an old-wives tale. In fact anise or aniseed – used for teas, sweet and savory dishes, and arak عرق (Leventine spirits) – does have healing properties. It’s a diuretic and a carminative. It’s a digestive. It is even said to be good for colicky babies and nursing mothers. Like its flavor-cousin, fennel, it’s a breath freshener. For those of us who avoid sugar, it’s sweet enough not to need any.

These days I like my anise combined with camomille, which is also a tradition and not just for the Lebanese. Tasty! Relaxing! Calming! Lovely after dinner  …

… and here’s today’s poem:

The Taste of Baklava

Honestly, there are times
when the taste of baklava
finds my tongue and speaks to me
in the language of my grandmother’s hands,
when the honey and fresh mint in tea
vitalizes my very being ~
and I remember everything
. . . . . everything
even the scent of you, your eyes
the way we lingered over dessert,
tapered candles flaming wisps of hope,
your red roses wilting in a crystal vase,
dropping velvet petals like dreams
on the white damask of our forever

© 2017, post, poem and family photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved;  photograph of Arabic tea courtesy of wallla3a under CC BY 2.0 license.

Eeyore’s Thistle (Artichoke); featured tea, Lady Grey; featured poet, Pablo Neruda

“Welcome to my little thistle patch.” Eeyore’s Thistle Patch by A. A. Milne

Artichokes are a starchy veggie but high in Vitamin A and potassium and. . .The artichoke’s spiny green flowers, which are eaten like a vegetable, contain a substance called cynarin. A recent study showed that this compound may help rid the body of artery-clogging cholesterol and lower triglycerides, thus reducing the risk of heart disease.” CBS Better Nutrition

It’s probably easier to pick out a good artichoke than it is to pick out a good melon. The leaves need to be tight and green. When you squeeze it, it should make a squeaky noise. That lets you know its fresh and moist.The choke should feel heavy for its size. My own preference is for artichokes that still have some stem attached, which is good to eat and helps the choke retain moisture.

To prepare the artichoke for cooking:

  • With a sharp knife tip and top the choke; that is, cut the stem off so that it will sit flat in the pot and on the plate; trim the top.
  • Peel off the smaller lower leaves on the outside of the choke. Usually just one layer will do it.
  • With a kitchen shears or other sharp scissor, trim the thorny tip from the top of each leaf.
  • Pressing down on the choke, spread the leaves open a bit. Or, you can do it my own eccentric way, which is to take the ball of the choke in my hand and bang the top of it against the side of your clean sink.
  • Rinse well inside and out under cold water. If you use a veggie wash, which is a good thing to do, make sure you run water though the inside to clear it all out.

To cook:

 Fill a pot large enough to accommodate your artichokes with enough water to come about half-way up the chokes. Set them in the pan. Peel and sliver one or two large garlic cloves per artichoke. Slip the slivers in between the leaves. Top with a spoonful or two of extra virgin olive oil and some freshly grated Himalayan pink salt and black pepper.  Toss the stems and some extra garlic cloves into the water. Bring the water to a boil. Cover. Lower heat. Simmer for approximately one hour. (Timing will depend on the size of the artichokes.) To see if they’re done, test with a butter knife, which should easily move through the center of the choke.  When the artichokes are cooked through, remove them from the pot – holding each over the pot for a minute to let the water drain out and then place them on individual serving dishes.

How to eat an artichoke:

As the video notes, some like to dip the leaves in butter. I have known people to use garlic mayonnaise, Hollandaise sauce, or an array of other sauces that suit their taste. I am a purist.  A bit more salt maybe for me, but that’s it. I don’t want or need anything to mask the artichoke flavor.

Now my peasant roots will show. A quick grain-free soup:

Don’t waste the cooking water. It’s full of flavor and nutrients. Leave the stems and garlic in the pot. Add a cup or two of minced carrot, onions, celery and cauliflower rice. Simmer until the veggies are tender. Taste for seasoning. Add cayenne pepper to taste. Ladle this soup into serving bowls and top with a dollop of extra-virgin olive oil and some freshly grated parmesan cheese or vegan parma.

Featured Tea:

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Enjoy with a hot cup of Lebanese style Lady Grey tea. What makes it Lebanese? Serving it with a spring of fresh spearmint. If you like to sweeten it, I would suggest using only Xylotol made from birch. This is what I use.

And with that here’s the poem and poet of the day.

Ode to the Artichoke

The artichoke
With a tender heart
Dressed up like a warrior,
Standing at attention, it built
A small helmet
Under its scales
It remained
Unshakeable,
By its side
The crazy vegetables
Uncurled
Their tendrills and leaf-crowns,
Throbbing bulbs,
In the sub-soil
The carrot
With its red mustaches
Was sleeping,
The grapevine
Hung out to dry its branches
Through which the wine will rise,
The cabbage
Dedicated itself
To trying on skirts,
The oregano
To perfuming the world,
And the sweet
Artichoke
There in the garden,
Dressed like a warrior,
Burnished
Like a proud
Pomegrante.
And one day
Side by side
In big wicker baskets
Walking through the market
To realize their dream
The artichoke army
In formation.
Never was it so military
Like on parade.
The men
In their white shirts
Among the vegetables
Were
The Marshals
Of the artichokes
Lines in close order
Command voices,
And the bang
Of a falling box.But
Then
Maria
Comes
With her basket
She chooses
An artichoke,
She’s not afraid of it.
She examines it, she observes it
Up against the light like it was an egg,
She buys it,
She mixes it up
In her handbag
With a pair of shoes
With a cabbage head and a
Bottle
Of vinegar
Until
She enters the kitchen
And submerges it in a pot.Thus ends
In peace
This career
Of the armed vegetable
Which is called an artichoke,
Then
Scale by scale,
We strip off
The delicacy
And eat
The peaceful mush
Of its green heart.
– Pablo Neruda
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Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), Parral, Chile
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), b. Parral, Chile

“You can say anything you want, yes sir, but it’s the words that sing, they soar and they descend ….. I bow to them . . . I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them . . I love words so much … The ones I wait for greedily … they glitter like colored stones, they leap like silver fish… They are foam, thread, metal, dew … I stalk certain words… They are so beautiful that I want to fit them all into my poem… I catch them in mid-flight, as they buzz past, I trap them, clean them, peel them, I set myself in front of the dish, they have a crystalline texture to me, vibrant, ivory, vegetable, oily, like fruit, like algae, like agates, like olives… And I stir them, I shake them, I drink them, I gulp them down, I mash them, I garnish them …. I leave them in my poem like stalactites, like slivers of polished wood, like coals, like pickings from a shipwreck, gifts from the waves … Everything exists in the word.” Pablo Neruda in his Memoirs

Photo credits: California artichoke courtesy of Karen Fayeth; Neruda photo is in the U.S. Public Domain, 1966, Neruda recording his poetry

Buttered Coffees and Teas: Everything they’re cracked up to be …

Like me, you’ve probably seen them: all the articles touting buttered coffee and – less frequently – tea for both health benefit and heavenly flavor.

The idea of buttered tea wasn’t new to me, but …

I’d read about the Tibetan custom of drinking black tea with salt and yak butter, often with tsampa (roasted barley flour) as well. Nonetheless, the thought of drinking buttered coffee or tea held no appeal until it became clear that I had to up the fats in my diet and eliminate fast carbs (sugars, grains and starches) in order to transition my brain from running on glucose to running on ketones and my body from carb burning to fat burning. This meant focusing primarily on healthy fats (organic extra-virgin cold-press olive oil, organic coconut oil, grass-fed butter, medium-chain-triglycerides [MCT oil]), moderate vegetables, tidbits of berries, a modicum of seeds and nuts, and adequate protein from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals.

Such transitions also involve intermittent fasting.  I have a six-hour window for “feeding” and don’t eat for eighteen hours. This allows the body to rest and regenerate. It controls insulin production and inflammation and – nice bonus – it facilitates clear mind, physical energy and weight loss.  I lost eighteen pounds in two months. Buttered coffee or tea makes fasting easy. It’s delicious and satisfying and, since there’s no insulin spike, it doesn’t break the fast. I find I never feel deprived.

Buttered coffee drinks were popularized as “Bulletproof Coffee™” by Dave Asprey, an entrepreneur self-described as a bio-hacker, someone who hacks his/her body for the sake of good health, high energy and peak physical and mental performance.  Hacking is tech-speak for gaining access to a system, so bio-hackers experiment with their body-systems to target the best ways to eat, sleep, exercise, and supplement.

Because I’m a writer, I think of it more as reframing, as in reframing a scene or a story line, or as a sort-of physical version of cognitive reframing. Instead of reframing the irrational and maladaptive, we reframe neurodegenerative disease and dysfunctional metabolism.

There are three caveats for the switch to high fat:

  • Go slowly.  If your body is used to a low-fat diet a sudden increase in fats will result in uncomfortable and embarrassing gastrointestinal issues.
  • A high-fat diet MUST be combined with low carbs. High fat and high carbs will put the pounds on and damage your lipid profile, putting your health at risk.
  • Consult with your doctor.

Since I’m not a medical professional, that’s enough said by me. If you’re interested research: Low-carb High-fat (LCHF), Ketogenic, Whole 30, Paleo, and Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diets.

Meanwhile, to the point of this site: here’s how to make delicious frothy buttered coffee. I promise you, it’s addictive.

  • using filtered water brew eight-to-ten ounces of coffee
  • use two heaping teaspoons of your favorite beans, freshly ground – NO instant coffee

Additions:

  • over a few weeks work up to two tablespoons of MCT oil (start slowly and start when you have a few days off from work)
  • one tablespoon unsalted butter from grass-fed cows

One or more possible additions depending on your taste preferences:

  • one tablespoon organic heavy whipping cream (grass-fed if you can find it)
  • alcohol and gluten-free vanilla or almond flavoring
  • one teaspoon organic cocoa powder
  • quarter teaspoon organic turmeric
  • xylitol made from birch to taste.

I actually like my morning coffee with just a pinch of nutmeg or cardamom.  To make buttered tea just substitute your preferred morning tea for the coffee.

Lastly, be sure to whip up your blend in a personal blender or Bullet.

And with that, here’s todays poem:

Over His Morning Coffee

Over his morning coffee he sat,
dreaming of yesterday’s spring
and the hill country of his youth,
remembering summers of peace
and autumn days when he thought
life a forever thing. The world lay before
him then, a ripe field awaiting harvest.
Now beside this sad cup, a winter hand,
so withered and so gray, an old man’s
hand he barely recognized as his own.
Then his gaze found her playful smile.
In the hazel warmth of her eyes he
felt like spring again, the rich loam of
her love yielding a gentle harvest of joy

– Jamie Dedes

© 2015, poem and post, Jamie Dedes;  Bowl of Tibetan Buttered Tea courtesy of Yosomono under CC BY 2.0 license.

 

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