Monday, June 30, 2008

do you like fresh figs?

i love fresh figs..for many reasons..the obvious reason..taste..and the memories they evoke for me... i have written about the love i had (have) for my grandparents..the love i had for their home..and the memories of summers from my childhood spending vacation time with them. my grandparents had two massive fig trees in their back yard. those trees produced enormous quantities of fruit..actually, did you know that figs are not actually a fruit? they are an inverted flower that includes both the male and female flower parts...the fig seeds are technically the fruit..ok, i just learned this..and i may be off a bit with this explanation..so any "fig" experts out there..feel free to correct me in the comments section..but, as usual, i digress... so back to my grandparents...my sisters and i spent hours each day playing in their back yard..we would climb the fig trees..and eat tons of figs all day long...the days were really hot in southern california..the figs really warm straight off the tree..and i was in heaven.

fast forward many years...when my husband and i saw our farmhouse for the first time, i immediately noticed there was a fig tree in the yard. this was one of the reasons i feel in love with our house..the fig tree, the other fruit trees, and all of the herbs reminded me of both of my grandmothers...they both loved to garden..and peter's grandmothers also always had big gardens..so the house felt like home from the beginning. we moved into the farmhouse the month of september and that first year we had a bumper crop in september and october...more than i could eat straight off the tree. i began experimenting with fig recipes..and to be honest..went a bit overboard..we had fresh fig cakes, cookies, tarts, bread, poached figs, baked figs, roasted figs, stuffed figs, caramelized figs, figs in salads, figs with pork, with chicken, fig salsa, fig jam, fig marmalade...do you see where i am going? peter finally said.."enough! i cannot eat another fig this year!" well, i think he put a hex on my tree.... the next june our tree was fully leafed out with tons of fruit (or inverted flowers if you guys call me on my "fun fact"). who knew fig trees in napa had two harvests? june and sept/oct.... one morning around 6:00 am, we were still in bed and were awakened by a very loud crash..the ground was shaking...i almost thought it was an earthquake. we got up..walked through the house..didn't see anything..went outside and saw our fig tree split in half. my heart sank...peter took one look and said "it's gone..we will need to have it pulled up and hauled away. " i burst into tears..said there must be something we could do and so we called an arborist. happily, he said he thought the tree could be saved..told us to prune it way back..and to not let it get too full for a few years... he was right..four years later, our tree is producing as many figs as before..although we are much better at pruning..and despite an ugly gash in the middle of the trunk...the tree looks really good.

see the gash?

so it is the end of june today..we have a ton of figs..and are ready to begin the fig recipe onslaught once again..however, i do make much more jam and marmalade..and less daily fig dinners..no more hexes from my darling husband!


here are a couple of really easy fig "recipes"... so easy..not sure they count as recipes...


fresh fig appetizer..determine quantities based on the number of people..and how much you love figs...

fresh figs
prosciutto, thinly sliced
parmigiano reggiano cheese

slice figs in half lengthwise and arrange on a platter. mound up the prosciutto and cut the parmesan into small chunks..add to platter. drizzle with the aged balsamic vinegar and serve with bread..i serve this with bruschetta.

my sister susan and i wanted to create a not-too-sweet fig jam or marmalade..we read tons of recipes and decided to keep it really simple..just figs, a bit of sugar and meyer lemon zest(cause i have a meyer lemon tree) . some recipes suggest adding rum or brandy to this..i keep mine straight.. also, i do like to can so i make large quantities of this recipe, can it and keep on hand all year. if you want to do this..and have not canned before..i recommend using the process described on the bell or kerr mason jar boxes...otherwise..just keep in your refrigerator.
fresh fig marmalade
2 1/4 pounds figs
2 cups sugar
zest from one meyer lemon

wash the figs, cut them in half and combine them with the sugar in a large pot. ..do not peel! cook over medium heat until they come to a boil.( stir frequently).. add the lemon zest, reduce the heat and simmer, skimming away the foam occasionally until thick (about 25-30 minutes). you will know it is ready when you can place a spoonful of the marmalade on a plate..tilt the plate..and the marmalade sticks..does not run... transfer the marmalade to sterilized jars and process if you wish..i do..or keep refrigerated for up to one week.

fresh fig bruschetta
again..this is not really a recipe..just use the best and freshest ingredients you can... and adjust ingredients quantities to your liking...

1 onion..sliced..sauteed in 1 tbsp good quality olive oil until onion is dark brown
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
6-8 fresh figs sliced lengthwise into 3 or 4 slices each
aged balsamic vinegar
6-8 pieces freshly made bruschetta..drizzled with best quality extra virgin olive oil

spread some of the mascarpone cheese on each bruschetta..1-2 tbsp. top each bruschetta with some of the onion and 3-4 fig slices. put on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler..broil until the cheese begins to bubble..just a minute or two..watch carefully to ensure they do not burn. take out of oven, put on a serving platter..drizzle with the balsamic vinegar..and serve while hot

note..sometimes i sprinkle on a bit of freshly minced rosemary or lavender before the vinegar...


romaine salad with roasted figs and pine nuts
6 fresh figs
2 tbsp. good quality olive oil
8 cups washed and dried romaine lettuce, torn into bit sized pieces
4 oz. parmigiano reggiano cheese (cut into small, bite-sized chunks)
1/3 cup shelled pine nuts..roasted in saute pan until light brown

vinaigrette
6 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
grey sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

preheat oven to 400 degrees. cut figs in half, place on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. roast in oven 10-15 minutes until hot and tender. cool to room temp.

make dressing..here is my trick..i always use a mason jar for my salad dressings... combine the olive oil, vinegar and salt/pepper to taste in a mason jar..cover with the lid..screw tightly..and shake away! very easy and quick. if you wish, you can whisk the ingredients together..but my way is much more fun...
place the lettuce, cheese and nuts in a salad bowl and gently toss. add just enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves..toss again..taste and adjust seasonings if needed. place on a serving platter and arrange the roasted figs on top..serve immediately...note..i sometimes use gorgonzola cheese instead of the parmesan...

so enough recipes for today...please let me know what you think of them...and..this is really, really important...i always am on the hunt for terrific fig recipes..i will share some more with you throughout the season..but i always need more..remember peter's hex? so i invite all of you to share your recipes with me..and with the other readers..please post your favorites in the comments section of this post....my fig tree and i will be eternally grateful...

best,
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"™

Saturday, June 28, 2008

can you say "martha stewart rocks!"?

so i opened my blog tracker site this morning to get an update of the number of visitors for thursday and friday..there was a huge spike in hits as compared to most days... i wondered what was happening and clicked on the page that shows the site referrers.. i noticed that a majority of the visits were coming from the martha stewart website... i clicked on the referrer site and was taken to the everyday food, dinner tonight page...well!! i am shocked, flattered and very, very happy to tell all of you that this blog has been listed under the "sites we like" section of this page... how cool is that? now, i am not sure if this is temporary or permanent..but..whatever..i am very grateful!!

martha stewart has been a teacher, guide and source of inspiration to me for most of my adult life.... i have learned so much from her via her shows, books, videos, magazine (i, of course, was a charter subscriber) and website..this is truly an honor.

so..for all of the new visitors coming from martha's site..welcome!!

and to the editors of everyday food, dinner tonight (especially deb!!)..thank you from the bottom of my heart!

best,

napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"™




Tuesday, June 24, 2008

popcorn and olive oil?



it was over 100 degrees each day last weekend...that usually means we will have loads of friends over to eat, hang out..and just chill in the pool...and this weekend was no exception.. sometimes our friends phone first..sometimes they just show up... in any case, i usually plan ahead to have enough food to feed a crowd... this is easy if the pantry is full of really good quality ingredients..and if the kitchen has plenty of fresh, organic..straight from the farmer's market...produce and bread... i made a ton of food..but, as usual..one of the favorites was easily the simplest..popcorn!! however, my popcorn is different because..instead of butter..i always use extra virgin olive oil.

the popcorn and olive oil thing has been a staple in my family for as long as i can remember..so i always forget it is unusual. but every time i make it for someone new they rave! i even made this recipe (if you can call it that) for wine auction last year..representing a local company.... the event featured some of the finest chefs in the napa valley preparing tastes of their signature dishes..yet the popcorn was one of the big hits of the day. the key is the ingredients...the ingredients you chose will always make or break your dish..so..use the best quality products you can find..it is so worth it. now on to the popcorn..here is the "recipe"... organic popcorn, extra virgin olive oil, grey sea salt...that is it. here is what you do for the complete version. pop the corn in olive oil..you do not need an expensive version for this..just make sure it is high quality and fresh....as soon as the corn is popped, drizzle with a really good, high quality extra virgin olive oil.... i recommend the prato lungo from long meadow ranch in the napa valley...and a really good grey sea salt... i use the grey salt from napa style... how simple is that? yet the taste is amazing..try it and let me know what you think..you can say it is an old family recipe too!
here is a bit about long meadow ranch...from their website..
"LONG MEADOW RANCH. Welcome to our 650-acre historic ranch nestled high atop the Mayacamas Mountains above the Napa Valley. Here we produce award-winning wines and handcrafted extra virgin olive oils - as well as grass-fed beef, eggs, and heirloom fruits and vegetables. Our extraordinary food products have been featured by America's top chefs.Our family - Ted, Laddie, and Christopher Hall - has re-established vineyards first planted on our ranch in the 1870s and we have resumed producing estate-bottled wine from the ranch's distinctive mountain "terrior."
Our vision is to make wines as food - to create world class wines that truly complement a meal - using sustainable, organic farming methods..However, our integrated organic farming system is built not only around
wine making, but also includes world class estate-produced olive oil, a substantial herd of grass-fed Highland cattle, an organic vegetable garden, and an egg-producing poultry flock. We even breed and work our own Appaloosa and POA horses.
Taken together, we are creating a modern, commercially successful, version of the family farm - one that is widely acknowledged as a purveyor of fine food. All of our crops are organically produced and are certified by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Our wines, oils,
beef, and vegetables have been featured by America's top chefs.
Our award-winning, earth-formed, wine and olive oil
facility and the adjacent moist, cool caves allow us to produce handcrafted wines and olive oils entirely on our own estate under carefully controlled conditions. Led by winemaker, Ashley Heisey, our staff is committed to pioneering modern approaches to their centuries-old crafts. "
their property is beautiful..i highly recommend a visit on your next trip to napa.. and enjoy your popcorn!..oh..and here is a tip..if you do not have time to pop your own corn..try using the paul newman organic microwave popcorn..pretty close!! one more thing..don't forget to vote for your favorite summer fruit..poll is on the right hand side of the blog..about half way down...
best,
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

what is your favorite summer fruit?


summer fruit is here!!! we are taking a poll to determine the napa farmhouse 1885 favorite organic fruit to be used in a signature recipe. please vote for your favorite. the poll is listed along the right hand side of the blog..about 1/2 way down.... vote away..but hurry..the poll closes the 5th of july..we want to have our answer by july 4th... thanks... ( and if we have forgotten your favorite, please list it in the comments section of this post)
best,
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"™

Sunday, June 8, 2008

whoops...feral or domestic kittens?







so here is a story parents, grandparents and aunts/uncles will appreciate..and perhaps provide some advice...my stepson, peter's son eric, got married two weeks ago in colorado. we went..had a terrific time..and brought my 10 yr old step-granddaughter allie back to napa with us the day after the wedding. the plan was to have her stay with us for 10 days while her dad and new stepmom were on their honeymoon. (o.k...no more "steps" used in this story..everyone is family). we stayed in a hotel the night of the wedding..left really early the next morning for the airport...of course had mechanical problems with the plane resulting in a 4 hour delay (thank you, united) drove from the airport to napa..went out to dinner cause by then it was 6:30 p.m....and...finally...made it home.
allie loves napa, and our home, so as soon as we walked in the house and put down our luggage she immediately went out the back door...ran through the yard and, of course, spotted a cat sitting in the rose garden. btw...mose was at a dog "resort" while we were away so i guess the cat felt comfortable making herself at home. i will tell you more about mose's luxury spa vacation later...he really is a spoiled dog!! anyway, allie ran over to see the cat...the cat ran under the porch...allie followed...only to see the cat poking her head out staring at allie. just as i got close enough to warn her about making sure this was a friendly cat a kitten popped his head out next to the cat.  before i could react 3 additional kittens also popped out next to mom. uh oh...can you feel it? 10 yr old girl and 4 kittens?? yikes.  within 5 minutes they were named!!! lucky, cleo, mumu and fluffy. before the night was through she was begging to take one back to colorado....and ensure we found homes for the rest. now we were really in a bind..cause mose was coming home the next day and 1 dog, 1 cat and 4 kittens in our yard was not a mix that was going to work out. we needed some help.
the next morning, peter and allie left to go pick up mose. i went to the gym. upon my return, i was met at the door by a sobbing allie. apparently, mose came home and started barking his head off. big surprise.  the cats went deeper under the house and allie was afraid mose would hurt them.  he wouldn't because he is just a big goofball.  i was actually more worried about what the cat would do to him while protecting her babies. i calmed allie down, phoned the napa humane society and pretty much said HELP!! they told me that we needed to determine whether or not the cat was feral or domesticated. a domesticated cat and her kittens could be trapped and brought to them for adoption..chances would be pretty good because the kittens looked to be about 6 weeks old..and honestly they were cute!...but if the cat was feral, they could not help us and suggested a non-profit group in the area that places feral cats with farmers and vintners to help with the rodent population.

o.k. folks..getting the picture?..10 yr old girl wanting kittens, husband not going for the "trapping the cat and checking to see if feral approach" and golden retriever not accepting animals under the porch...loads of action at the napa farmhouse!! so here is the current state of affairs...the cat/kittens seem to have disappeared! either they are so far under the house, and only come out at night, that we cannot find them..or.. the mom cat has relocated her family somewhere safe..good for mose..but not good for the cat population..i was hoping to at least be able to spay/neuter them..so i would really appreciate your thoughts, ideas and/or suggestions regarding this situation. what should we do? i can not believe this cat had the babies under my porch and they lived there for 6 weeks without us knowing. i suspect the cat moved her kittens in while we were in colorado thinking it was a nice, quiet, safe place.. it this possible?
what do you all think? one thing though..life is never boring at napa farmhouse 1885!!! please post your ideas in the comments section of the blog..or feel free to email me..
best!
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"™