May is a big month at our house. May 23rd is our Anniversary, this year we celebrated 27 years together. The 29th is my hubby Neil’s birthday, this year he is away for it in Brisbane Australia. He left on Monday so Sunday night we had a very quiet dinner together with our friend Debby.
This was also a significant month because a very dear old friend of ours passed away, Ilse von Glatz, who was a great influence on me in many ways, but especially when it came to cooking. Ilse had many careers, her first one was as a chef, she studied at (I think I have this right) Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Of course by the time I met her she had already moved on from cooking to career number 2: the theater (and she was still in her twenties!). Even though she was no longer wanting to make a living from it she was an amazing cook.
The first time she ever made anything for me was at her apartment with her then boyfriend, my good friend Cliff. I’ll never forget what she made for dessert that night: a Lemon Mousse that was so over the top rich and luscious that struck the perfect balance between sweet and tart. I’m doing some research into Lemon Mousse and I am hoping to find the recipe she used and will share with you here when I do.
The other Ilse dish was something she got me the recipe for (from, I think, her Le Cordon Bleu cookbook) was a rabbit stew. The cut up rabbit pieces were marinated overnight in a bottle of Pinot des Charentes and prunes. Then slowly cooked the next day with aromatics resulting in a sweet savory stew with melt in your mouth rabbit meat on the bone. That must have been over 30 years ago and I can still remember it like I ate it yesterday.
Thinking about Ilse and my early days with Neil made me nostalgic and reminded me of my favorite fancy dessert I used to make all the time back then: Fresh Fruit Tart. A brilliant combination of flaky sweet pastry, baked till golden brown, then coated in melted chocolate, filled with pastry cream and topped with berries. Even though it went against my locavore nature I bought some out of season organic berries and made this special dessert to celebrate the love of my life on his birthday and remember one of my earliest cooking influences and dearest friends whose joie de vivre inspired all she met. She may have left us, but the time she spent in my life made an indelible impression, her memory, her talent in the kitchen and her unbridled passion for sharing good food will remain with me for ever.