Diana’s Divine Fudge

Admit something:

Everyone you see, you say to them,

“Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud:

Otherwise,

Someone would call the cops.

These lines by the 13th Century poet Hafiz (translated by Daniel Ladinsky) seem especially meaningful as Valentine’s Day approaches.

Have you noticed how men are looking like deer in the headlights?

“It’s just a marketing ploy,” they protest, dreading the occasion because they feel they must do something special, something just right—my husband Ted included. Who can blame them?

My single women friends feel pressured to have a date or romantic plans that day. They feel excluded if they don’t.

Enough! I believe there is a secret to filling a life with love. And so does our poet Hafiz as he continues . . .

Why not become the one

Who lives with a full moon in each eye

That is always saying,

With that sweet moon

Language,

What every other eye in this world

Is dying to hear.

No matter how much love comes our way, unless we ourselves cultivate a capacity to openly give others the very feelings we seek, no amount of obligated fawning or admiration can satisfy.

I’ve learned that to be a happy, healthy human being, I must be the source of my own buoyancy and joyful feelings. So here is what I’m doing to make my Valentine’s Day feelings special.

Today, I’m in my kitchen making a double batch of my Divine Fudge. I’m stirring my best wishes into the rich, molten mixture while my favorite love songs play in the background. I’m pouring it into a pan lined with wax paper.

When cool, I will cut the fudge into pieces and place two squares in each of many little clear cellophane treat bags available at craft stores.

I will tie them with a ribbon and give these to everyone I meet tomorrow—even the check out gal at the market, the postman, and put some in my all my neighbor’s mailboxes.

And, you must absolutely do something romantic for yourself this Valentine’s Day! My best suggestion this year is to order one of the fragrant candles made of real scented wax that are flameless! (Click on the link to order.)

Batteries need replacing only once a month. They come in all sizes and shapes, and they make a most romantic flickering bedroom night-lights.

You always look your very best in candlelight!

DIANA’S DIVINE FUDGE

 

Here is the epicurean fudge recipe I have more requests for than any other. I continue to tweak it, trying all kinds of nuts and other ingredients. Because it doesn’t require a candy thermometer, it is easier than the old-fashioned kind and much more dependable.

For approximately 64 squares

14 ounces dark chocolate, broken up or chopped (see Note)

1¼ cups finely chopped walnuts, or other nuts, lightly toasted (optional)

10 tablespoons soft butter

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

4 cups sugar

1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk

22 large marshmallows

Note: Today my preference is to use 4 (3.5 ounce) bars of Valrhona chocolate (2 bars dark bittersweet, 1 barsemisweet, and 1 bar dark bitter), purchased most economically at Trader Joe’s.

Combine the chocolate pieces, nuts, butter, and vanilla in a large heatproof bowl, preferably one with a spout for easy pouring.

Combine the sugar, evaporated milk and marshmallows in a heavy-bottomed 5- to 6-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly with a large wire whisk or a sturdy wooden spoon or large whisk. When the marshmallows melt and the mixture comes to a boil set your timer for 8 minutes. Stir almost constantly until the buzzer rings. Now is a good time to stir in your wishes or prayers for those who will enjoy your Divine Fudge.

Remove from the heat and very carefully (it is super hot!) pour the marshmallow mixture over the chocolate, butter and nuts. Whisk or beat constantly until the chocolate and butter have melted and the mixture is very smooth. Quickly pour into the prepared pan(s) or onto a cold surface, using a rubber spatula for spreading the fudge evenly and making a few decorative swirls in the top.

Cool overnight before removing from pans. If not making in mini-loaves, cut into pieces. For best flavor, serve fudge at room temperature.

To prepare in advance: Fudge becomes firmer the longer it is stored and keeps beautifully at room temperature for up to a week, in the refrigerator up to a month, or in the freezer indefinitely.

Cooking with the Divine Mother

I am blessed to be in the gentle presence of Shree Maa of Kamakhya, one of India’s most beloved and respected saints.

Worshipped by millions as the living incarnation of the Divine Mother, she lives on twenty wooded acres in the wine country of Northern California. Through her kitchen window we watch peacocks roam the grounds surrounding the Devi Mandir temple.

A willowy, delicate woman, her name means “respected holy mother.” In India, where saints are so much cooler than film stars, crowds of thousands swarm to greet Shree Maa when she returns to visit.

So how is it that a cookbook author and her husband came to be considered family members in the kitchen of the Mother of the Universe?

Ted and I met her over ten years ago through mutual friends. On that most memorable day she cooked and served us a delicious welcoming meal. I was impressed not only with the exquisite flavors but with her reverence while serving us.

Now we’ve been guests in her kitchen many times and have studied how Shree Maa follows sacred rules of worship while cooking. She teaches that food holds the vibration of the cook and the environment in which it is prepared, and that all who partake will be affected by those vibrations.

Maa’s sense for seasoning seems magical as she stirs blessings into whatever is bubbling or braising, yet she won’t taste until the food is offered on the altar to the Supreme Divinity then served to her devotees. In this way, all dishes are actually prepared with the intention that our Higher Power will partake first, and those who receive the food afterwards receive it as prasad, blessed food.

When Maa cooks, she sings. Her voice is pure and lyrical as she sings the Gayatri Mantra, the most sacred Hindu mantra, while she cooks:

Om buhr bhuvah svah

Tat savitur varenyam

Bhargo devasya dhimahi;

Dhiyo yonah prachodayat

(translation)

(Through the coming, going, and the balance of life

The light of Wisdom is the essence of nature that illuminates existence.

May all perceive the brilliance of enlightenment through that divine radiance.)

I love to sing this blessing while cooking in my own kitchen. Thank you, Shree Maa, for your delicious recipes and your beautiful example of women as keepers of the heart and hearth!

Adding soulfulness to every recipe

makes cooking a holy art.

Today, I am making one of the basics in Shree Maa’s kitchen–ghee, the clear golden, slightly toasty-tasting clarified butter used in Indian cooking. Because all milk solids are removed, ghee won’t burn when frying, so I use it instead of oil to sauté eggs, meats and vegetables. Ghee won’t spoil like fresh butter, so it may be stored, covered, at room temperature.

GHEE

Melt one pound of unsalted (sweet) butter in a heavy, medium-size saucepan over very low heat. Some of the milk solids will rise to the surface.

Simmer, uncovered, over the lowest possible heat, letting the butter foam and sputter, stirring once in a while, until all the water is dissipated and any remaining milk solids have turned a pale brown and cling to the sides or have fallen to the bottom of the pan. This will take 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the amount of water the butter contains.

Line a strainer with several layers of white paper towels and pour the clear golden liquid through to remove all milk solids. To prevent contamination, be sure to use a clean spoon each time to remove ghee from the jar.

TO PREPARE IN ADVANCE: Store at room temperature or in the refrigerator indefinitely.

Please visit Shree Maa’s website

You may click on this title: Shree Maa’s Favorite Recipes to order a little cookbook I edited for her.

A Cushion for Your Head

Let’s be honest . . .

There are times when we just don’t have the energy to do what we should do. Times when we, or someone in our inner circle has just gone through surgery. Times when an elderly pet isn’t feeling so well.

Times when our heart simply aches.

And, that’s okay. We’re human, after all.

These are times when it is good to just stop and grieve a little. To wipe our tears and surrender to the poignancy of having a body and being alive on this earth.

No pretending. No striving. No beating ourselves up for not feeling perky or perfect. Truly, there are times when perfection sucks.

This is one of those days for me. Maybe it is for you, too.

In the words of the great Sufi master and poe,t Hafiz (translated by Daniel Ladinsky in his book The Gift):

Just sit there right now

Don’t do a thing

Just rest.

For your separation from . . .

Love

Is the hardest work

In this

World.

Let me bring you trays of food

And something

That you like to

Drink.

You can use my soft words

As a cushion

For your

Head.

Can this be a day when you cozy into your favorite chair with some tea and a book? Perhaps thaw something comforting, a bowl of soup, from your freezer to enjoy while you rest?

Here is what I will enjoy today (along with a good healthy dose of self-care):

TUSCAN BEAN SOUP

For 6 to 8 servings

3 (15 ounce) cans Great Northern or cannellini beans

8 cups cold water

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 sage leaves

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)

5 cloves garlic, minced

3 leaves fresh basil, rolled and thinly sliced (or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil)

Salt, pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine or dry Vermouth

1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I love San Marzano tomatoes)

4 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved

Drain and rinse the beans. Bring beans, water, rosemary, sage and bay leaf to boil in soup pot. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until beans are very soft, about 15 minutes. Remove and discard herbs.

Set aside 1 cup beans. Puree remaining beans in a blender (or with an immersion blender), adding broth from pot as needed. Return beans to pot and cook over low heat while you prepare the tomatoes.

For chopping garlic, I find it super-easy to use my Alligator.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. When hot, add onion, garlic, basil, 1-teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and sauté until soft, about 7 minutes. Add wine and cook until pan is almost dry. Add tomatoes and simmer over medium-low heat 5 minutes.

Add tomato-onion mixture to pureed beans in pot. Add reserved whole beans and cook, covered, over low heat 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with a few shavings of Parmesan cheese.

TO PREPARE IN ADVANCE: Refrigerate for up to five days, or freeze soup in single-serving containers for just the right moment.