Rose Petal Spread

With a bounty of roses in our front yard I decided to make an Ayurvedic recipe for Rose Petal Spread, also known as Gulkand, Read More

Monastery Jam (Armenian Rose Petal: Varnatush)

There is a tiny Armenian Benedictine Monastery off the coast of Venice, Italy where the monks tend roses and make small batch Rose petal Jam.

Originally a leper colony run in the 12th century by Italian monks, The Monastero di San Lazzaro deli Armeni has been an Armenian monastery since the 18th century and it is now a treasure trove of Armenian history. The name San Lazzaro comes from Saint Lazarus, the Patron Saint of lepers.

In 1717 an Armenian monk, Manug de Pietro, known as Mechitar (the Consoler) was forced to flee from the Turks and upon his request, the rulers of Venice gave him the island as a place for shelter and refuge. Mechitar founded an order of Armenian monks which was separate from both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The order he founded built the monastery, church, library, study, living and communal rooms and planted the gardens and orchard. It became a center to which young Armenians would come to study. Today the monastery lies amid gardens with flowers, cypress trees, and peacocks. Its residents include 10 monks, 10 seminarians, and 15 Armenian students who study Italian language and culture.

The Monastero di San Lazzaro degli Armeni has an extraordinary collection of treasures, including:

A 150,000-volume library.

More than 4,000 Armenian manuscripts, some nearly 1,300 years old.

A Koran created after the death of Mohammed.

An Indian papyrus from the 13th Century.

A Egyptian sarcophagus and mummy from the 15th Century B.C.

Thrones, tables, statues, paintings, tapestries, gold, silver, jewels, and other items that the monks either bought or received as gifts over the centuries.

I have long been a student of monasteries and California missions.  There is something enchanting to me about the history of ancient religious and other historical buildings, even abandoned and decrepit ones.  My imagination wanders with curiosity and longing into the past.

I am also drawn to all things Benedictine, since my husband and I are members of the Camaldolese Benedictine Lay Order (“oblates” — translates as “friends” of the monastery), connected to the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California.  We took our vows 2 years ago of (1) Stability (the importance of community and commitment in life; stability of the heart and mind; the vow of stability also speaks to our current environmental crisis—being good stewards of the gift of life and nature); (2) Conversion (openness and dedication to change); and, (3) Obedience (commitment to a disciplined, intentional life) two years ago atop one of the most stunning pieces of land in the Country.  Oblates follow the Benedictine Rule which offers a plan for living a balanced, simple and prayerful life, and as laypersons we do our best to organize our lives around five practices: Prayer, Work, Study, Hospitality and Renewal.  For more on these practices, read here.

One of the marked traits of a Benedictine Monastery is Hospitality, which is why at Benedictine monasteries all over the world you can take a private retreat for the fraction of the price of a hotel room, and stay up to a month or longer, depending upon your needs.  Most often two very simple meals are provided, and they are taken in silence.  In order to earn a livelihood for their needs, many of the monasteries make foods like jams, preserves, fruitcakes, cheese, beer, syrup, breads and other goods and sell them to visitors or even online.  Our Big Sur monastery makes an exquisite date-based fruitcake, both a non-alcoholic one and one soaked in brandy.

The monks at San Lazzaro make a Rose Petal Jam which allegedly is almost always sold out.  I found a recipe for it from the lovely Emiko Davies who writes for Food52 and spent a brief time living at the monastery while she was student and restoring art.  I have adapted her recipe by substituting half of the sugar with honey and adding 3 black peppercorns.


150 g sugar

150 g raw honey

100 g of rose petals, preferably red or dark pink with a strong perfume

300 ml water

The juice of one lemon

3 black peppercorns

Very gently rinse and drain the rose petals and place them in a large bowl with 50 g each of sugar and honey grams and the lemon juice. Lightly massage the rose petals with this mixture until you reduce the petals to a sort of “paste.” The petals should remain whole, not torn, but with the sugar and lemon they will release colour, perfume and wilt.

In the meantime, add the rest of the sugar and honey to the water and peppercorns and heat in a large saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Add the rose petals and bring to the boil. Allow to boil until the syrup thickens and the petals no longer float (about 30 minutes).


This jam is not thick, but more like a viscous syrup, and it is very sweet.  It is best stirred into yoghurt or atop cottage cheese, goat cheese or even some nice cheddar or parmesan shavings.


Mulberry Pancakes Mike-style


Mike-style is kind of hard to describe with one word so I’ll give a little illustration. My chosen adjectives carry a somewhat negative connotation (heavy-handed, overdone, excessive) and I’m trying to change my perception. After all, we all have our unique style, right? Aren’t we all, after all, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights including the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness??  Aren’t the most unusual of our eccentrics often endearing???  Perhaps you can contribute your ideas for a proper descriptor for Mike-style.
Here’s the illustration:  Okay, so let’s say you prepare a homemade strawberry galette, with homemade dough and using the berries you grow in your back yard. It needs no embellishment because the individual elements are so pure and flavorful.
So you bring it to the table and he takes a bite and says, “Oh my gosh this is SOOOO good! WOW!”
Quietly he gets up from the table and says “I’ll be right back.”
And then he comes back with some sliced strawberries on top and some strawberry jam. It’s Smuckers from a couple years ago, but, well, there it is.
Then shyly he says, “You don’t mind if I run a quick errand, do you . . . I’ll be right back!!!”
And he returns with some strawberry ice cream. Now the galette’s got fresh strawberries on top, some jam, and ice cream. Now his galette is Mike-style.
Since it’s Mike’s Birthday I’m trying to cover all my bases with this pancake creation.  The mulberries are fresh and uber-seasonal.  They are a unique and delicious berry delicious as is.  However, if you add them into the batter, they warm up a bit and “bleed,” along with their flavor, ever so subtly into the pancake.  Then, if you throw a few in a pan with some water & cornstarch, you can create a “quick jam.”  You might even puree a few berries with some softened butter to melt over the pancakes.  See what I mean?
Since you may not wish to venture into Mike-style, I offer only the recipe for the pancakes.  I use a mix of homemade buttermilk (but of course store bought is very good), eggs, baking soda, rye flour, polenta, ricotta and lemon zest.
Here’s the Recipe:
1 cup rye flour
1/2 cup cornmeal or polenta
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese, drained for at least 1/2 hr
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sale
3 Tbsp sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1/2 teaspoon for griddle
1 cup fresh mulberries
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
Mix all ingredients together LIGHTLY, except 1/2 cup mulberries and the lemon zest.  I like to also add a couple of tablespoons of my sourdough starter to the batter, so if you keep a starter, add a little bit into the batter.  Let sit in a bowl overnight.
Bubbling Up Pancake Mix
Bubbling Up Pancake Mix
Adding the Little Mulberries
Adding the Little Mulberries
Heat griddle to 375 degrees.  Test griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If water bounces and spatters off griddle, it is hot enough. Of course if you don’t have a griddle, just proceed as you normally do with a non-stick or cast iron or other pan when making pancakes.  Using a pastry brush, brush remaining 1/2 teaspoon of butter onto griddle (or pan). Wipe off excess.
Using a 4-ounce ladle, about 1/2 cup, pour pancake batter, in pools 2 inches away from one other. When pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.
Cooking Up
Cooking Up
Repeat with remaining batter, keeping finished pancakes on a heatproof plate in a 175 degree oven. Serve warm with maple syrup, butter, and fresh mulberries.
Tall Stack, Mike-style
Tall Stack, Mike-style
Bacon Makes a Nice Addition to a Birthday Meal!
Bacon Makes a Nice Addition to a Birthday Meal!
The Pursuit of Happiness -- Complete!
The Pursuit of Happiness — Complete!