Monday, April 20, 2009

A Green Space of One's Own

Over the years, whether I was living in a college dorm, at home with family, or alone, I have consistently agreed with Virginia Woolf's assertion that a woman (or a man – an individual, in my opinion) must have a space of one's own. This, ideally, is a quiet space that is set apart from where the routine of day-to-day life takes place. It cannot be a kitchen or a bedroom, because in these places it is impossible to truly separate one's self from the entrapments of everyday life, and the roles that are played there; to find peace, and to allow creativity to flourish, there must be a specifically designated area where one can go: a spare room, a bench in a garden, a tree stump in the forest. The examples are endless, though still not always easy to find – especially when living in a city.

I'm still searching for the perfect space of my own here, but I'm pleased to find that I did not need to travel far to find a green space of my own. Luckily, my apartment had a delightful, small balcony, perfectly sized for a bistro table, a couple of chairs, and a selection of plants and herbs (although it is just the right size for a small bee hive as well, which would be simply ideal for me, the location isn't quite suited for it). But the herbs seem to be thriving in my little green space.
It was with a superfluous amount of excitement that I first brought home a lavender plant a couple of weeks ago, and my thrill hardly diminished as the lavender was followed by sage, thyme, and then rosemary. They go well with the potted pea plant, and I'm brainstorming on what else I can add to my pseudo-garden.

The reason, naturally, for my burgeoning herb collection is to have a host a fresh herbs at my disposal for spring and summer baking. My inaugural expedition into baking with fresh-picked herbs was with the following Rosemary Shortbread. Even if these cookies had turned out to be inedible (which was not the case at all), the fragrance that filled my kitchen as these baked in the oven would have been solely worth the effort. Fortunately, the cookies turned out wonderful – crumbly, buttery, aromatic. One sampler even gushed that these were, quite literally, some of the best cookies he had ever tasted.

If this recipe is any indication of what I have to look forward to with my herb garden, it is going to be a splendid season.

Rosemary shortbread


3/4 sticks (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp. honey
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Garnish: small rosemary sprigs

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. and butter a 9-inch cake pan.
2. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat butter and honey with sugar until light and fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and rosemary. Beat flour mixture into butter mixture until just combined.
3. On a lightly floured surface knead dough about 8 times, or until it just comes together. With floured hands press dough evenly into pan or mold. Press small rosemary sprigs on top.
4. Bake shortbread in middle of oven 20 to 30 minutes, or until pale golden, and let stand in pan for 10 minutes. While shortbread is still warm, loosen edges from pan with a small knife and invert onto your hand covered with a kitchen towel. Invert shortbread onto a cutting board and cut halfway through round along score marks. Cool shortbread on a rack.

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