Though she died in Santa Fe in 1986, Georgia O'Keeffe seems to be having a bit of a moment right now. The artist, known as the mother of American Modernism, left her mark on the world with her famous colorful paintings of New Mexico landscapes and big, beautiful flowers. The spirit of O'Keeffe is alive and well at the Brooklyn Museum, which held the renowned artist's first-ever exhibition in 1927, thanks to the new show that launched this month titled "Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern." While the exhibition provides an never-before-seen look in to the artist's wardrobe and her style of dressing, a new Assouline book, titled "Dinner With Georgia O'Keeffe," delves into the meaning of food and nature in her highly celebrated work.
"What fascinated me was how the three elements of food, art and nature worked together both visually and philosophically in O'Keeffe's life," writes Robyn Lea, the book's author, in the preface.
The book is sprinkled with 50 recipes collected from O'Keeffe's favorite cookbooks, images of the artist's paintings, and photographs of her time in New Mexico as well as Lea's wildly colorful shots of the food, and a preface by Christine Taylor Patten, who was one of the artist's caretakers in her later years.
The recipes range from soups, such as the brightest borscht with sour cream and dill, to whole whole wheat waffles and drinks like Tiger's Milk. "O'Keeffe used fresh, high-quality ingredients to make the drink, with fruits and vegetables straight from her garden. And for dairy-fresh milk, she would send a local man from Trujillo, a ninety-minute round-trip, every alternate day," said Lea of O'Keeffe, who was way ahead of her time on the healthy eating front. She was even juicing, regularly drinking celery, carrots, parsley and turnip top juice for lunch. (The recipe was created by controversial food scientist Gayelord Hauser, who was popular with the Hollywood starlets like Greta Garbo in the 1930s and 1940s.)
But that's not to say she didn't like to indulge in a good pastry or sweet every once in a while. (She was known to scold the staff for eating sugary foods, however, Lea found many rich desserts in the artist's recipe notecards.) For dessert, the cookbook includes a chocolate and walnut brownie, French Vanilla ice cream, a date and walnut loaf, and more.
Here, one of O'Keeffe's favorite recipes, Farmhouse Rye Bread, from the book to try out at home.
FARMHOUSE RYE BREAD
Bread making was a ritual O’Keeffe learned in the farmhouse kitchen of her childhood on the cook’s day off. Baking days infused the O’Keeffe family home with a special atmosphere. “The whole house would breathe the sweet, generous smell of warm bread,” noted biographer Roxana Robinson. Baking became a lifelong passion, developed to a fine art when O’Keeffe moved to New Mexico. Even when she was 96 years old and almost completely blind, making bread with Christine Taylor Patten gave her profound pleasure. “She pushed the dough very slowly and firmly with her open hands, then carefully folded the flattened mass, turning it slightly to one side as she did, the memory of past ritual firmly ingrained. Her face softened, color came to her cheeks,” recalled Patten. O’Keeffe seemed to sense the life in the bread and had “respect for the fact yeast is ancient, a ubiquitous, continuous fungus that properly handled can create the fermentation necessary to make bread. She was aware of the nature of yeast itself, alive,” added Patten.
This rye bread recipe, adapted from Cook Right—Live Longer: The Lelord Kordel Cookbook, is delicious served warm with butter or toasted and spread with honey or marmalade. In her Ghost Ranch pantry, O’Keeffe had orange marmalade made with Seville oranges by English company James Keiller & Son. She also stocked Rice’s Lucky Clover Pure and Unfiltered Honey5 from Colorado. The bread is not baked in a pan but arranged freeform on a tray, creating a pleasing round loaf.
Makes 1 loaf
2 cups rye flour, sifted
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 tsp whole caraway seeds
1 tsp ground anise seeds
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
1 ¾ cups lukewarm water
3 Tbsp honey
1 (2-tsp) packet instant dry yeast, or 1 (1-oz) cake yeast
Vegetable oil, for the bowl and pan
• Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a bowl, combine the flours, salt, caraway seeds, anise, fennel, and orange zest. In a separate bowl, combine the water, honey, and yeast. Let stand for 4–5 minutes, or until the yeast activates, then add this mixture to the flour mixture. Mix with hands, then knead the dough on a floured surface for 5–6 minutes. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough inside, then cover it with a dish towel. Set in a warm place for about 1 hour, until risen by half.
• Knead the dough for 2–3 minutes and shape it into a round loaf. Place on an oiled sheet pan and cover with a lightly dampened dish towel. Let stand for 30–45 minutes, until risen again by half. Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and check for doneness by tapping the bottom of the bread with fingertips or a wooden spoon—the bread will sound hollow when ready. Cool on a wire rack.
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