The Lady in Red

Mark and I miss Susie every day. Actually, any-and-everyone who knew her misses her.

Susie was our Auntie Mame. Our partner in giggling. A truly dear friend, and the epitome of elegance.

Red was her color: red lipstick, red nail polish, red (Ferragamo) shoes, red handbags, red-on-white toile de jouy upholstery. Red, but never garish, tempered by black, white and a touch of gold - Susie had impeccable taste. 

White was her color for wine. She loved nothing more than sitting in her study, gabbing over a glass of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio before dinner.

After cocktails, we'd head out to dinner, tell stories, and laugh the night away. Often we'd ask her to retell our favorites of her tales, because we knew someday she wouldn't be here to recount them: interviewing Gregory Peck for her radio show; entertaining the young, then unknown, Ronald Reagan and Rhonda Fleming for a pool party when they were filming in Tucson; the opening night of South Pacific in New York; seeing Leo Slezeack miss his swan boat in Wagners Lohengrin... 

On occasion, we'd go to a restaurant where there was a piano bar. She would send one of us over to tip the pianist... and, of course, request some of her favorite songs.

Cole Porter. Jerome Kern. Rodgers and Hammerstein. "And that song from Phantom, darling. You know the one."

She'd sit there, in her favorite corner booth, all cozy and "intimes," singing along with the piano with the biggest smile on her face. She found such joy in those songs, songs that brought back wonderful memories spanning her almost 90 years.

Susie and food. She absolutely abhorred large portions; nothing turned her off more than an overflowing restaurant plate. She'd often ask a server to bring her just a half portion, explaining she would gladly pay for the full one.

She really loved a good steak - always cooked medium rare - but wanted it served with only five French fries. Once, the chef at her club sent out six fries and she sent back word (with a giggle and a wink) that she was not pleased.

Her favorite dessert was peppermint stick ice cream with chocolate sauce, and ordered it almost every time we dined out.

A couple of years ago, for what turned out be our last Valentine's Day shared with her, I made her favorite meal - rack of lamb. For dessert, I combined her favorite flavors - peppermint and chocolate - in these little peppermint love bites.

She also had a favorite saying - a motto or an attitude, really - by which she lived. It was a great way to look at life... "Ah, the hell with it..."

We all turned out in red to celebrate Susie – she wore black and white!
Missing you this Valentine's Day... missing our lady in red.

~ David

Chocolate Peppermint Hearts
made for Susie, 14 February 2012

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, in 24 pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
4 teaspoons plus 2/3 cup heavy cream
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips, at least 62 percent
2 tablespoons chocolate liqueur
1 candy cane or several peppermint swirl candies, crushed, for topping

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, cocoa powder and sea salt. Pulse in the butter and vanilla until the mixture just comes together into a smooth mass. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment or wax paper. Press the dough into the pan. Prick all over with a fork. Chill for at least 20 minutes and up to 3 days.

Heat the oven to 325°F. Bake the shortbread until firm to the touch and just beginning to pull away from the sides, about 35 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Mix remaining 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, extract and 4 teaspoons cream spread evenly over shortbreads surface and let cool thoroughly.

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  In a saucepan, bring the remaining 2/3 cup cream to a simmer. Pour over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the chocolate liqueur. Spread over shortbread. Sprinkle candy cane pieces on top. Cool to room temperature; cover and chill until firm. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut the love bites out and place on a platter or individual serving plates. (Any leftover scraps should be eaten right away, and have no calories) You can also cut them into small squares.

Labels: , , , , ,