Wednesday, June 4, 2014

L is for Litha

Summer is here!  Time for grilling, catching (and releasing) lightening bugs, and handfastings.  Winter was long and harsh. Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure it was going to end.  But now, it’s summer, finally!  Oh, summer, I am so glad to see you.  Bring on longer days. Bring on the warmer (hotter) temperatures. Bring on the thunderstorms!  We’ve been having a lot of those lately.

Litha, or Midsummer, celebrates the longest day of the year and the power of the sun.  The crops are flourishing from the power of rain and sun.  The earth is alive and kicking and we come together to give thanks for the food that is growing and for a break from the long, dark nights of winter. 
Litha honors the power of the sun and of the God.  Fire figures prominently into this sabbat, and the Oak King currently reigns supreme.   

Summer is my second favorite season, after autumn.  I love this time of year because of the variety of fruits and vegetables that are available.  As Litha approaches, I begin to think more about the strength of the sun and the power of the God.  Without the sun, there would be no life on earth.   This is a time when the Earth Mother depends upon the Sun to help bring forth life.  Litha is a time to honor father gods and mother goddesses.  Fertility is still in the air (and in the ground).

Herbs collected at dawn are especially potent.  Some believe the fairies come out to par-tay at Litha as well.
Colors of Litha are the colors of the sun, of flames, and of the growing plants – red, gold, blue, green.  These colors decorate altars and tables in the forms of candles and summer flowers.  Symbols include fire, summer greenery, and representations of the sun.

My Litha
As a kitchen witch, I delight in coming up with ideas that use the amazing produce this time of year provides us.   I like to use the sun/fire theme in my cooking for this sabbat and make meals that have some SPICE to them!  I want to feel the heat of the sun on my skin and in my bones, to warm myself from the inside out. 
I recommend decorating with strings of dried red chilies and oranges to represent flames and the sun.  Pick a yellow, red, or gold candle to burn in the kitchen on this day.  Put on some lively music – pipes, for example.   The goal is to bring the vibrancy of the season into the kitchen along with the rest of the home. 

Smudge anything and everything with sage first to get it ready to really welcome the God into your home. 

The menu calls for fresh food, food cooked over a fire (grill), and spicy dishes to reflect the heat of the 
summer sun.   Think fiery Indian or Thai cuisine for your menu plans.  Spices and chilies not only kept food from spoiling in the tropical heat, it also stimulates the appetite and the sweat glands, helping you cool off a bit. 

Grilled and chilled vegetables with curry dip
Beef curry  - I am (in)famous for this dish
Mango lassi

Grilled and Chilled Vegetables
3 bell peppers – green, red, orange – seeded and quartered
1 lb asparagus, trimmed
12 green onions, trimmed
2-3 small zucchini, cut into slices
2 Japanese eggplant, cut into slices
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat your grill or use a grill pan on medium-high heat. 
Brush the washed, trimmed vegetables with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper
·         Bell peppers:  8-10 minutes on the grill, turning 1-2 times
·         Asparagus and green onions:  4-6 minutes on the grill
·         Zucchini and eggplant:  7-8 minutes
Work in batches.  Keep the peppers together, and so on.
Remove the vegetables from the grill and allow them to cool to room temperature or chill them in the refrigerator.

Curry Dip
½ cup plain yogurt or sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
Juice of ½ lemon
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons curry powder
Salt and pepper

Combine ingredients in a food processor, beginning with the garlic to chop it finely.  Chill and serve with grilled vegetables.

Beef Curry
2 lbs boneless chunk, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 red chili peppers, finely sliced (Serranos work nicely)
1 inch ginger, grated
½ teaspoon ground cardamom (or about 3 whole pods)
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon  (or two whole sticks)
1 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 whole cloves or 1/8 teaspoon ground
3tablespoons oil or ghee
1 to 1 ¼ cup water

Heat oil or ghee on medium-high heat.
Cook onions 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and cook 10 minutes.
Add garlic, ginger, and chilies.  Cook until garlic is soft and fragrant, 3-4 minutes.
Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves.  Toss to coat everything with spices.  Cook 2-3 minutes.
Add beef and stir again to coat.
Pour in water.  Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for approximately an hour.  Stir occasionally.
Remove lid, stir, and allow beef to finish cooking until tender, another 20-30 minutes.   If whole spices were used, remove cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks before serving.
Serve with steamed rice.

Mango Lassi
1 cup plain yogurt
½ cup milk of choice – dairy, almond, whatever
1 ¼ cup mango, cubed and frozen
Sugar or honey to taste, optional

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Sprinkle with cardamom before serving, if desired. 

No comments: