Tuesday, September 30, 2008

can you can? canning, preserving and "putting up"

it is "last call" at the everyday food & away to garden food fests...we have been at this for 10 weeks (10 weeks!!!)..and will move to sporadic fests instead of a new one each week...the term "last call" reminds me of the way i feel regarding food at the end of each season. when we bought our farmhouse, it was the first time i had a yard in my adult life. we lived in a condo in southern california when we first got married...and, when we moved to san francisco, we bought a flat and lived there for 15 years. our flat was the entire second floor of a three story building..large and really sunny..tons of light...but no yard to speak of. i have always wanted to garden..so when we moved to napa i immediately took advantage of the opportunity.

we do not have a large yard by any means...but we inherited a massive fig tree, persimmon tree and lots of big rosemary and lavender bushes. we planted a meyer lemon tree, a lime tree and a mandarin orange tree our first year. this year we planted a pear tree ( see my pear tree post) and a small pomegranate tree. one thing about napa..it deserves its reputation for terrific growing conditions..we pretty much plant something and it grows, and grows and grows. i am still shocked at how much fruit a single tree can produce..and we go through the same cycle each year...first, a particular fruit will be in season..take our persimmon tree for example..the persimmons are beautiful...i start making everything persimmon..breads, pancakes, cookies, cakes, salsas, drinks, puddings etc..we reach the point we can not take any more...we give away tons..still have more coming...donate to food banks..more fruit ripens..i finally start making jam..and more jam..and more jam...then it is meyer lemon season..and the cycle starts again..so preserving aways reminds me of the end of a season. and..later in the year..takes me back to the parts of each season that i love...

i now look forward to the process of preserving..there is something really beautiful about walking into the pantry and seeing rows and rows of these amazing jewel colored jars...and i love knowing the origins of each and every ingredient used in the food i feed my family and friends. throughout the year..when each of these items are in season... i will share a number of my recipes on this blog..all the persimmon dishes described above,the many, many, many meyer lemon recipes..including the oft requested meyer lemon marmalade..and the equally popular limoncello.

i will post about oranges and limes..rosemary, lavender, pomegranates..more pears..etc..along with the seasonal items i plant. as always, i will ask for your ideas, suggestions and, of course, your recipes...today, i will leave you with two fig recipes...please let me know what you think...

if you have not canned before, please make sure you are totally familiar with each step of the process...canning is very easy..but to ensure your preserves are safe, each step must be followed. also, be sure to follow a recipe that states it is safe for canning... there are many sites which explain the process..i have listed one that is written in clear, concise and easy to understand steps..homecanning.com..but follow your favorite recipe's instructions if you wish...
i have made fig jam for years..ever since we moved into our farmhouse. i shared my usual recipe in my first fig post "do you like fresh figs?" . this season, i decided to make 2 versions..the plain jam..and, after a suggestion from my twitter pal lelonopo, one with orange liqueur added...i used grand marnier. it turned out delicious..perfect on biscuits, sandwiched between cookies, added to a cheese plate..i even served it alongside a roasted pork dinner...really good. try both..if you are a fig lover you won't be able to choose..do what i do..make them both!fresh fig jam with orange liqueur
4 pounds very ripe figs
4 cups sugar
large pinch kosher salt
1 large orange
3/4 cup orange liqueur (i use grand marnier)

remove stems from figs and discard. chop figs (do not peel) and place in stockpot. add sugar and salt, stir to combine. remove peel from orange using a grater..i use a microplane. (orange part only..no white pith). add orange peel to fruit mixture, stir and let sit for 1 hour(stir every 10 minutes). add orange liqueur and let sit for an additional 1/2 hour.

cook over medium heat until they come to a boil.( stir frequently) reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until jam thickens (about 35 minutes). when stirring, use the back of your spoon to mash the figs..you want small pieces of fig in the finished product. you will know it is ready when you can place a spoonful of the jam on a plate..tilt the plate..and the jam sticks..does not run... transfer the jam to sterilized jars and process if you wish..i do..or keep refrigerated for up to one week.
i love balsamic vinegar..have posted a number of recipes using this ingredient, along with balsamic reduction...my blog friends white on rice couple posted a delicious sounding fig/balsamic vinegar reduction. i tried it and it is fantastic..have made vats of the stuff trying to use up more figs...will be giving some to everyone i know this fall...if you can get your hands on fresh figs..after you have made the jam..give this one a go..you will be delighted you did...

fresh fig & balsamic reduction
about 1 cup ripe fig pulp
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp pure vanilla (i like tahitian)

1. scoop out fig pulp
2. in saucepan, add vinegar, fig pulp and simmer on low heat until mixture reduces down to about half. Stir occasionally (every 5-8 minutes). this will take 30-45 minutes.
3. allow fig/balsamic reduction to cool. place mixture in blender or food processor. blend thoroughly until mixture combines and becomes smooth. this step will also help release the seed from any pulp that has not cooked down. in separate bowl, strain out fig seeds. depending on your strainer, you might need to strain it at least two times to remove most of the seeds.
4. add 1 teaspoon vanilla to reduction, combine well
5. the reduction is very concentrated. use about 1 tsp at a time (or to taste) to your favorite marinades, sauces, dressings and drizzles.

to be clear..just the food fests with everyday food are on hiatus..i will continue to hold a weekly food fest of my own...if you would like to participate...or have ideas regarding what you would like to see featured..please use the comments section of this post..or feel free to email me directly...
have a good week..and happy october!
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"
follow me on twitter

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

what does an apple a day keep away?

for me, apples keep away the fall blues..i actually love fall..but am not crazy about winter..need sun and warm weather..clearly i was born and raised in southern california..the first few weeks of winter are great..love the snuggling and winter clothes and hot cocoa and the holidays etc..but, to me, it seems like winter lasts forever..and summer passes by in the blink of an eye...o.k., i know..i am way off topic..this post is about apples..but every now and then i need to rant a bit...do you love winter..tell me why?

back to apples..last week during the winter squash post i told you about california's indian summer..the day i wrote the post it was a cool 72 degrees..today, the second day of fall, it was 92 degrees...felt like i should be making a full-on summer menu..but it is apple week at the everyday food and away to garden food fests and..since i love apples...decided to prepare and post some summer-into-fall transitional dishes. i picked three recipes to feature..a soup, a salad and a dessert...how about roasted apple & caramelized au gratin soup, salad with apples, cheddar cheese & walnuts with balsamic/dijon mustard vinaigrette, and apple crostata with walnuts and dulce de leche sauce?
fresh apples are the perfect ingredient. they taste delicious on their own..last a long time..look beautiful in the fruit bowl, are good for you..high in vitamins/low in fat , have a high fiber content and are extremely versatile in both sweet and savory dishes..there are so many varieties that i find i never get bored. when i was a child my family used to love driving to the town of julian, located about 150 miles southeast of los angeles, and visiting the u-pick em apple orchards..of course we always had to have hot apple cider..even during the 95 degree indian summer octobers...we picked apples, ate apples..and always had lunch at the restaurants featuring apple dishes. for a so cal kid..it felt like fall was supposed to feel...

i made the apple crostata yesterday so peter could photograph it for this story..the smell of cooking apples and cinnamon instantly brought back those childhood memories (one day i will write about my grandmother's apple pie..the best ever!)..we had the crostata for dessert..then (don't tell anyone)..we had it again this morning for breakfast...apples rock!
the following soup is my vegetarian version of a classic french onion soup. the roasted apples provide a hint of sweetness, the caramelized onions are rich and buttery and..what can you say about the melted cheese/bread topping but delicious? i use a vegetable stock in place of beef stock, but the butter, olive oil, sherry and other ingredients give the soup amazing flavor and keep it vegetarian. this is one of my favorite soups either as a starter or as the main course for dinner.

roasted apple & caramelized onion au gratin soup
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 golden delicious apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
1 large yellow onion (peeled, cut in half, and then thinly sliced)
2 cups organic vegetable stock (if homemade is not available, i recommend the imagine brand of organic stocks)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dry sherry (i use a light manzanilla from spain)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 sourdough baguette, thickly sliced
extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
3/4 cup swiss cheese, shredded

preheat oven to 375 degrees. place 1 tbsp butter in small roasting pan and place in oven until butter melts. add apples and 1 tbsp olive oil and stir to ensure apples are coated in the butter/olive oil mixture. roast in oven until apples are lightly browned and very tender.(15-20 minutes). while apples are roasting, melt remaining tbsp butter in medium stockpot. add 2 tbsp olive oil and onions and stir to ensure onions are thoroughly coated. cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions are browned and caramelized..about 15 minutes. add apples, stock, water, salt and pepper to stockpot and bring to a boil. lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. add sherry and cook another 10 minutes. while soup is simmering, toast bread in oven until lightly browned..remove from oven and let cool. set oven to broil..assembly.. fill 4 heat proof/oven proof bowls 3/4 full. place a slice (or slices, depending on how large the pieces are) on top of soup and drizzle with olive oil. sprinkle with cheese to cover soup..and place bowls on a cookie sheet. place in oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbling..and slightly browned..watch carefully and do not let cheese burn. serve immediately.
apples and cheese just seem to go together. i do not know who first paired up apple pie with cheddar cheese but what a perfect combo. i love to eat apple and cheese slices together as a snack. this salad combines both ingredients perfectly. as always, i make my salad dressings in a mason jar. quick, easy and delicious. try it..you will never go back to the bottled, store bought versions again...

salad with apples, cheddar cheese and walnuts
8 handfuls romaine lettuce torn in large (but bite sized) pieces
2 fuji apples..cored and large chop
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cut in matchstick sized pieces
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp italian parsley, chopped
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper

combine first 5 ingredients in large salad bowl. toss. add approx 1 tbsp of vinaigrette per serving to bowl. toss. add additional vinaigrette to suit your preference but do not allow salad to get soggy. add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

balsamic & mustard vinaigrette
1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

place all vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar. cover tightly and shake until well blended. store remaining vinaigrette in refrigerator. bring to room temperature before using to allow oil to mix with other ingredients.
i love this apple crostata recipe. it is not very sweet, so it is perfect after dinner with the rest of your wine. i even have leftover crostata for breakfast the next day..perfect with a latte. if you prefer a sweeter dessert, increase the sugar by 1/4 cup.

apple crostata with walnuts and dulce de leche sauce
1 crostata crust (recipe follows)
6 green apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

juice from 1/2 lemon

1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup bourbon
2 tbsp unsalted butter, chopped
1 jar dulce de leche **

preheat oven to 375 degrees. place apples and the next 9 ingredients in a mixing bowl (everything but the butter and dulce de leche) stir to combine. place a silpat sheet or parchment paper on a rimmed cookie sheet. roll one disk of dough to a circle 11 inches in diameter. place dough in center of cookie sheet. spoon apple mixture to center of dough leaving a 1 1/2 inch border. fold sides of dough up and over to cover the dough border. this will keep apple mixture and the juices from spilling out. dot top of apple mixture with butter and bake for 40-45 minutes until dough is golden brown and apples are bubbling. place desired amount of dulce de leche in microwave safe bowl and heat until warm and runny. serve crostata warm or at room temperature drizzled with dulce de leche.

crostata crust (note, this recipe is from the barefoot contessa..i have used it for years..and it always turns out perfectly. if you have your own favorite recipe, feel free to use it here instead)
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated or superfine sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) ice water

"for the crostata crust... put the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. pulse a few times to combine. add the butter and process until the butter is the size of peas (between 10-15 pulses). with the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together. turn the dough out onto a well-floured board, roll it into a ball, cut in half, and form into 2 flat disks. wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour. if you only need one dough, freeze the second disk." instructions from the barefoot contessa..
**a note about dulce de leche** if you have never tried this stuff you have no idea what you are missing..go out and buy a jar immediately..dulce de leche is a south american version of milk caramel sauce..but it is nothing like caramel sauces i have had before. most people i know have a hard time actually using it in recipes..they open the jar, take a spoonful..swoon..and keep eating it until the jar is empty.. (i have been known to do this on occasion!!) try some on the crostata..you could use another kind of caramel sauce..or skip it and eat as is..it is delicious plain..but adding the dulce de leche takes it to another level..try it..and please let me know what you think...
enjoy these apple recipes..and please share your favorites in the comments section of this post.
happy fall everyone!

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™
follow me on twitter

Monday, September 22, 2008

am i an "experienced" blogger??

when i started blogging earlier this year, i had absolutely no idea what i was doing. i knew i wanted to write about my post corporate life, but website design, hosting, html code etc were foreign concepts...i am by no means a "techie". i did a bit of research and found out there were a number of blog hosting companies that allowed a sort of "plug and play" concept. i actually launched the blog in an afternoon..

i wrote my first story..an overview of my life and reason for the blog...and really thought it would just be read by family and close friends..i was shocked when i started getting comments from complete strangers. the first few comments were terrific..warm, friendly and complimentary... i also received a number of direct emails asking for additional details about my life, my experiences and especially questions about living in the napa valley. i kept writing and found i really enjoyed telling stories..and emphasizing the important things in my life..family, friends, "giving back", cooking, gardening and my journey with starting a small business. i also write about my dog, mose, and he is by far the most popular subject..people all over the world comment or email me about my golden retriever..the happiest dog that ever lived...

i began to research everything possible about blogging..how to promote, market, link, and share my blog. i discovered a ton of helpful sites that provided tips, help and advice. i began to explore social networking sites in earnest..and have met many fellow bloggers.. the professional ones who do this for a living..and, without fail, have found this community to be selfless in their willingness to teach a "newbie" the ropes. i learned a lot..but spent a ton of time with my research. throughout my learning process i kept wishing there was someone or someplace that i could get tips, advice, feedback and be able to ask questions..a one stop resource..it would have made the first 6 months of blogging so much easier.

my twitter friend kristen at dine & dish has started a terrific program to help new bloggers..i so wish i knew her when i started...she matches up experienced bloggers with people just starting out so that they have a mentor to coach them during their first three months. kristen asked a bunch of us if we would be willing to help. i laughingly volunteered..would not consider myself "experienced"..but kristen took me seriously and paired me up with a very nice person named sarah. she just started blogging..her site is sarah's sweet somethings..and i have the pleasure of acting as her mentor...but i think true mentorship is a two way benefit..i suspect i will learn as much from sarah as she will from me..i envision this exercise as being more about brainstorming sessions than anything else...having someone who will listen to your ideas and goals..and then asking the proper questions so you can figure out the answer yourself...

so here goes...a three month mentorship. i am really looking forward to this..and i will post updates to my blog regarding what we learn. i would love to have all of you help us out...if you have a blog now, please share any learnings, tips or experiences you have had...if you don't currently blog..but have always wanted to..what questions would you like answered to help you get started? please share your thoughts, ideas, suggestions or feedback in the comments section of this post...and thanks in advance for helping us out.

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

follow me on twitter

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

is it time for winter squash yet?

the start of fall is always interesting in california. the weather at the end of august/early september is usually pretty hot..then, overnight it seems, there is a change and we have foggy mornings, cool afternoons and chilly nights...all the foodie magazines are touting hearty fall dishes, halloween decorations and autumn harvest produce. then..just as i start thinking about sweaters and jackets after a summer of tank tops and flip flops...we get "indian summer". for a couple of weeks the weather turns really hot again and it feels like summer...you would think that as a native californian i would be used to this phenomenon..but every year the weather fakes me out. today in napa, it is overcast and foggy. they say it will get to 70 degrees by this afternoon..not sure i believe it. so, my thoughts turn to fall dishes..something warm and cozy..something like winter squash. happily, it is squash week at the everyday food and away to garden blogs...perfect timing. some people are going to use summer squash..but since it feels like fall..i am going with fall dishes...and, since i love winter squash, the timing is perfect.i was at the market yesterday..and filled up a basket with a beautiful looking assortment of acorn, delicata and red kuri squash... a woman came up to me and said.."oh, what a beautiful display..are you using that for your fall decorations?" i told her..no..and said i was cooking them for a blog story on winter squash...she immediately asked for the blog address and confided that she bought squash every year..displayed it throughout her home during fall..and then threw it away because she had no idea how to use it! no, no, no..winter squash is beautiful..but it is also really easy to cook..extremely versatile..and good for you due to the high fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin a and vitamin c content...most importantly to me though..winter squash is absolutely delicious.

so today, i am going to feature 3 types of winter squash with three recipes...roasted red kuri squash; acorn squash and pinto bean chili with chipotle; and fusilli pasta with roasted delicata squash & fresh sage brown butter sauce...while i am using a specific type of squash for each of these dishes, feel free to experiment with different types. i find winter squash very versatile, and pretty interchangeable...some are a bit sweeter than others..so experiment and adjust ingredients as you like...let me know what you think..and please feel free to share your favorite winter squash recipes in the comments section of this post...

fyi..the easiest way to peel winter squash is with a vegetable peeler..however, for the "ridged" squashes like delicata, i cut the squash in half lengthwise, then i cut each half in half again..lengthwise. using a sharp knife, i carefully cut the peel from the flesh of the squash..then i cut the squash into bite sized pieces...

fusilli with roasted delicata squash & fresh sage brown butter
2 delicata squash
1/2 onion thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 lb dried fusilli pasta
8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup diced shallots
15-16 fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
freshly shredded parmigiano-reggiano cheese

preheat oven to 400 degrees. peel and seed squash and cut into bite sized pieces. place on cookie sheet, add onions and drizzle with olive oil. add nutmeg, salt & pepper and, using your hands, toss the squash and onions with the oil to ensure evenly coated. place in oven and roast for 30 minutes stirring occasionally until squash is tender and onions are caramelized. remove from oven and set aside. meanwhile cook pasta in boiling, well salted water until al dente. drain well and set aside. melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. cook butter until foamy and slightly brown..do not burn! lower heat to simmer, add olive oil, sage leaves and shallots and cook until shallots are softened and translucent. add squash mixture (including the oil from the pan), pasta, and pine nuts , combine all ingredients and cook until pasta is hot..add additional salt and pepper..taste and adjust seasonings if needed. serve immediately with plenty of cheese.

the chili recipe below is perfect for a cool, fall day. i serve it with a big salad and either corn bread or corn/flour tortillas...i do not think it needs anything else.
acorn squash and pinto bean chili with chipotle (made in a slow-cooker)
2 1/2 cups dried pinto beans
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite sized cubes
1 large white onion, diced
2 anaheim chiles, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then thinly sliced
2 dried poblano chiles, diced
1 canned chipotle chile, minced
1 tbsp adobo sauce (from chipotle can)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chile powder
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 cups water

place dried beans in large stockpot and cover with water. soak overnight. in the morning, add olive oil to a large slow-cooker. drain beans and add to slow cooker. add remaining ingredients in the order listed. stir gently to combine all items. cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 5-6 hours. taste and adjust seasonings..it will probably need additional salt.
*note, my husband, peter, sometimes asks for a heartier version. he loves this chili with buffalo meat. i season cubes of the buffalo with salt and pepper then brown in a skillet with olive oil. add to rest of ingredients at beginning of recipe, stir and then follow the directions above.
this easy, breezy version of roasted squash is perfect for cool nights because it is quick, delicious, a perfect side dish for roasted meats or chicken..or anything really..and the entire house smells lovely while the dish is roasting...
roasted red kuri squash
8 cups red kuri squash, peeled,seeded & cut into bite sized cubes
1 white onion, peeled and cut in quarters
extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup organic honey
1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar

preheat oven to 375 degrees. place squash and onion on baking sheet. drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper over the vegetables and, using your hands, mix together to ensure everything is evenly coated. roast in oven until vegetables are tender and beginning to caramelize..about 20 minutes. remove from oven and place in serving bowl. top with honey, walnuts and balsamic vinegar..stir and serve..

please do share your favorite squash recipes in the comments section of this post..and don't forget to check out the everyday food and away to garden blogs for additional recipes and gardening tips if you want to grow your own winter squash.

have a good week!

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™
follow me on twitter

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"how about cornmeal pancakes with fresh blueberries?"

for the past two sundays we have had friends over for brunch..different people each time..but very good friends nevertheless. both weeks i planned a tentative menu and created my shopping list only to get a phone call from said friends asking what was on the menu..as soon as i told them what i was thinking, there was a brief pause..and then this question.."how about cornmeal pancakes with fresh blueberries?" i mean really..two weeks in a row..i started thinking about favorite recipes..and friends who felt comfortable enough to ask for their favorites..i went from being a bit put out by not being able to try something new..to very happy and pleased that i have a large collection of dishes that people enjoy and request prior to coming to my home. not all the time(sometimes i can do the "new" recipes)..but often enough. to me, my favorite times..and my favorite memories..are those spent with family and friends around the dinner table... eating, laughing, talking, telling stories, continuing traditions or creating new ones...and knowing the food will be thoroughly enjoyed adds to the feeling of contentment..

so, for today's post, i thought i would share this recipe with you. maybe these pancakes will be added to your collection..and shared with your family and friends..i hope they will become a favorite in your home too.
i have made these cornmeal pancakes for years..i like them because they are not too sweet, taste really good..and offer a bit of a difference from more traditional pancakes. they are also really easy which is always a plus for me when having guests for brunch..not tons of work first thing in the morning.
cornmeal pancakes
1/3 c unbleached flour
1 1/4 c cornmeal
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 c buttermilk*
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking soda, sugar and salt in large bowl. add egg, buttermilk and olive oil. stir just until lumps disappear..do not over mix. pour batter onto hot skillet or griddle forming pancakes. **note..this batter is thinner than a more traditional batter so form pancakes carefully. cook until bubbles form and tops of pancakes look a bit dry. flip and cook until second side is golden brown. serve immediately. we serve with butter, maple syrup and fresh blueberries. ** i never have buttermilk on hand..so for spur-of-the-moment pancakes..use milk with 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice**

what are your most requested recipes? do you have "go to" dishes that you use whenever you want to make something delicious..and not experiment with something new? if so, please share the recipes with all of us in the comments section of this post..thanks in advance.

o.k...so i can hear the questions.."what about the weekly food fests?" this week is a recap week as we transition from summer produce to fall produce. be sure to check the everyday food blog and the away to garden blog on thursday for one last look at some of the favorite recipes shared during the past few weeks. i thought we would join in with an overview of the napa farmhouse 1885™ offerings. week one for us was cukes & zukes.
check out this post for roasted zucchini and tomatoes with parmesan and balsamic reduction and zucchini/potato hash browns with cheese. week two brought us green bean week..spicy green beans in asian chili sauce andgreen bean & potato salad with feta. how about roasted green beans, tomatoes & garlic with balsamic drizzle? week three was my favorite fest..because it was fresh tomatoes..i love tomatoes and wait all year for them to be ready..this post covered easy, breezy "non" recipes like fresh tomato sandwiches and roasted tomato pasta..then i shared my heirloom tomato & white bean salad, fresh pico di gallo, and heirloom tomato tapenade with bruschetta..
week four was all about fresh corn... the everyday food blog listed numerous delicious sounding recipes..but i shared my love of corn on the cob..and admitted that i never make any of the delicious sounding recipes..rather i always succumb to corn on the cob..boiled, roasted or grilled..with simple but very flavorful toppings. this post also includes what has been described as the most unusual but amazingly good corn recipe..my family's corny, corny lena (read the post for explanation of the name). corny, corny lena is actually a dark chocolate and pureed corn cake..with chocolate glaze. unusual..yes..and really, really good..
on to week five..which was the thursday leading into labor day weekend. this was open vegetable week..we could use whatever we wanted. i thought a smart strategy would be to post recipes i could also use for all of the holiday get-togethers as we had company coming each day... i chose a few relishes...cucumber and chiles relish, roasted pepper relish, fresh tomato relish..check them out...
last week was end of summer or early fall fruit week... i chose fresh pears..mainly because a friend had brought me 30#s of em..and i needed to start using them immediately...i posted a recipe for fresh pears with romaine & parmesan salad..and another for fresh pear cupcakes with chocolate glaze..best of all..many readers posted comments with additional suggestions and recipes for the pears..and for all the other posts too..note..i never close the comments section of any post..so you still have time to post your favorites..and please remember to share your favorite "go to" recipes in the comments section of this post...
have a terrific week...best,
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"™

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

so what do you do with 30 pounds of pears?

one thing i will say about post corporate life..it is always interesting. last week our friends richard and caitlin came over for the afternoon/evening. richard is the featured furniture/garden artist for my company and we had a "product inspiration and prioritization" meeting scheduled for the first few hours...then..work finished..our plan was to eat, drink, talk..and laugh..lots of laughing... richard walked in the house with with a massive smile on his face, lugging bags and bags and bags of ???... i opened one of the bags to find it completely filled with small, round yellow and orange colored fruit... pears..30 pounds of pears!! he lives next door to an organic farm in the carneros region of napa and their pears trees are so full of fruit right now that the branches are actually breaking. richard and caitlin picked the 30 pounds from just a few of the branches (with the owner's permission of course)..and laughingly commented that they knew just the person to give them to...that would be me... (9.4.08 update..the name of the organic farm is bonick family farm and they sell their produce to some of the finest restaurants in the napa valley. they let me know that they have a bumper crop this year..i know..i know...and they will be at the copia farmer's market. if you are in napa this fall..check them out..their fruit is delicious!)

so again, what do you do with 30 pounds of pears..two days before the labor day holiday..when you have friends scheduled to visit each day of the weekend..and you have already planned all the menus? if you are like me, you begin adjusting fast..because a gift like this is too amazing to go to waste.
now..did you notice that earlier i described the fruit as small, round and yellow/orange? not the usual description for pears.. these are asian pears which are a bit crisper than their european counterparts..kind of a cross between a pear and an apple...and they are perfect for many types of recipes. i love them in salads..and alternated between two versions during the weekend..i do not really follow recipes for salads..just use the amount you like of each ingredient..but the basics are as follows:
fresh pear with romaine & parmesan
romaine lettuce
diced fresh pear
walnut pieces
thinly sliced red onion
shaved parmesan cheese
toss together all ingredients with vinaigrette...
1/2 c lemon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup champagne or sparkling wine vinegar
sea salt
freshly cracked pepper

combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar and shake well. lightly coat salad with dressing..leftover vinaigrette may be kept in the refrigerator..use within a few days for best taste.
another version is to substitute the walnuts for pine nuts and the parmesan for blue cheese. i use a balsamic vinegar vinaigrette on this one..same proportions..just use regular e.v.o.o. and balsamic vinegar...

i spent the weekend experimenting with pear recipes..poached them in wine, grilled them and served with fruit balsamic vinegars, made a pear tart..pear compote..pear cobbler..you name it. for inspiration i asked my twitter pals for their favorite recipes. now, if you are not familiar with twitter, i describe it as an on-line social network..where you answer the question "what are you doing?" in 140 characters. fellow twitterers sign up to "follow" you..and you sign up to follow people that interest you. one day soon i will write a post about twitter..i find it very interesting..and incredibly educational... the folks i follow are primarily foodies..chefs, food bloggers, home cooks, and people involved in green, eco-friendly lifestyles. they are an extremely knowledgeable bunch of people..and very, very generous with their help, tips and advice. suggestions for my pears came pouring in..i have so many recipes to try i can write another pear story..pear vinegar, pear brandy, roasted pears, pear appetizers..you name it... my absolute favorite came from @davina. she lives in italy and has sent me a number of delicious sounding recipes. her pear idea is for raviolis filled with sheep ricotta, grated parmesan, a bit of brie and tiny cubes of peeled pears... the raviolis are served topped with dots of butter and a parmesan cheese sauce...how great does that sound?? i plan to make this dish soon and promise to post the actual recipe once i figure it out..she just sent me the ingredients. for those of you on twitter, i invite you to follow me. ..and check out the people i follow..they are terrific..
so back to my richard story..we were talking about the pears and he suggested i add some pear items to my list of gourmet food items i will soon be making and selling on my website. i told him that only produce grown at the farmhouse could be used...so, what did he do? the next day, i came home to find a pear tree on my front porch..he actually bought me a pear tree! who does that? i told you..my world after corporate life is more interesting then i could ever have imagined...

now..after planting a pear tree this weekend (!!)..and experimenting with countless pear recipes..i realized that it is fruit week at the food fests for everyday food and away to garden..how timely is that? i decided to post the recipe that garnered the most raves this weekend.... i love combining pears with chocolate..so i created a recipe for spiced pear cupcakes with a chocolate glaze...this is the kind of recipe that..based on the quantity eaten..you know is a hit... friends and family ate multiple cupcakes..and asked for more to take home...yes..i baked a lot this weekend..but it was so worth it..give the cupcakes a try..and please let me know what you think...and don't forget to check out the everyday food and away to garden blogs this week for tons of terrific fruit recipes..

fresh pear cupcakes with chocolate glaze
4 cups fresh pears (cored and roughly chopped)
1 cup walnuts (chopped)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla

chocolate glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp melted butter
3-4 tbsp boiling water
1/8 tsp instant coffee crystals

combine pear, white and brown sugar and walnuts in a medium sized bowl. let stand about an hour. (do not skip this step..this adds to the incredible moistness of these cupcakes).
preheat oven to 350 degrees. spray cupcake pan with cooking spray..add paper cupcake liners and spray again.
meanwhile, in a separate bowl, sift together the remaining dry ingredients. add to the pear mixture and stir until just combined. add the eggs, oil, and vanilla and stir until combined. **note, i use a wooden spoon..not a mixer for the recipe..if you use a mixer, be careful not to over beat***
fill cupcake sections until even with the top. bake 30-35 minutes until tester inserted in center of cupcakes comes out clean. remove from pan and cool on rack. whisk together all chocolate glaze ingredients in small bowl until glaze is smooth and shiny. place a dollop of chocolate glaze on the top of each cupcake.

so..one last time..what do you do with 30 pounds of pears..and more on their way? happily..i love the process of figuring out the answer to the question..but i could use your help..please add your favorite pear recipes to the comments section of this post...i will keep adding additional recipes too...so check back often..
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™