Friday, July 27, 2012

tomato cobbler anyone?

it is tomato week at food network's summerfest!   being able to celebrate my favorite summer fruit/vegetable in july makes me very happy.  the past few years have been so cold and rainy from february to june that our hot weather tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, etc...have not ripened till late august.  this year was warm most of the spring...meaning early, sun ripened, fresh from the garden, heirloom tomatoes! 

we have been doing summerfest for a number of years now...and i have had so much fun sharing my favorite tomato recipes.  in 2008 my post, is it tomato fest time yet?  featured heirloom tomato & white bean salad, fresh tomato salsa (pico de gallo) and heirloom tomato tapenade with bruschetta.

in 2010 the best tomato sauce in the world? and gott's gazpacho recipe was the title of the tomato story.  the modestly titled "best tomato sauce in the world" is my go-to recipe all summer and i freeze bags full to use all winter.  please, please, please use vine season...summer tomatoes for this.  honestly, without them don't bother.  the gazpacho is from the chef of gott's, one of my favorite casual restaurants in napa.

last year i made chicken provençal for our annual book club/friends & family summer pool party.  a easy, delicious recipe that can be doubled or tripled...whatever you need to feed a crowd.
this year i have been obsessing over cobblers and crisps and pies...buckles and "betties"...really any type of fruit with dough.  i thought...why not a savory version featuring heirloom tomatoes?  guess what?  it is really, really good.  a cast iron skillet is perfect for this recipe...or you can use any oven safe skillet.  if you do not have one, sauté the onion and garlic in a pan and prepare the cobbler in a baking dish.

tomato & herb cobbler
extra virgin olive oil
3 lbs heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup basil, chopped (separated)
1/4 cup herbs, torn or chopped (use a mix of your favorites...i like thyme, oregano and rosemary)
sea salt
black pepper
1/2 cup shredded parmigiano reggiano cheese (optional)

cobbler dough
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder (alum free)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp coconut palm sugar (or organic sugar)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup milk (i use coconut milk, or you could use, almond or soy if you want to stay dairy free)

make the cobbler dough
add dry ingredients to medium bowl.  using a fork, stir in the olive oil and 1/2 of the milk.   stir in the remaining milk a little at a time until the dough just comes together when you pinch it between your fingers.  (you may not need all the milk).  set aside.

preheat oven to 375 degrees. warm a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  add onion and sauté until translucent and just beginning to brown.  add garlic and a pinch of salt. cook 1 minute, or until you begin to smell the not let it burn. take skillet off the heat.  sprinkle cornstarch over onion mixture.  place a layer of tomatoes over onion.  scatter 1/4 cup basil and the 1/4 cup mixed herbs over tomatoes.  layer remaining tomatoes over the herbs.  scatter 1/4 cup basil, pinch of salt and pinch of pepper over tomatoes.

drop spoonfuls of cobbler dough over tomatoes (about 2 tablespoons for each biscuit).  the dough will not completely cover the tomatoes...this is a good thing, you want the steam to be able to escape.  bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until biscuits are deep golden brown and tomatoes are bubbling.  remove and allow to cool a minimum of 30 minutes to allow the juices to thicken.  serve hot, warm or at room temperature.  sprinkle remaining basil and the cheese over the cobbler and serve. (skip the cheese to keep this vegan)

now it is your turn to participate in summerfest. simply leave your plum tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit food network and do the same same. be sure to check out the delicious sounding recipes from the other participating bloggers:
Cooking With Elise: Fresh Tomato Sauce
Jeanette's Healthy Living: Tomato Gazpacho Salsa
Virtually Homemade: Spaghetti With Tomatoes, Prosciutto and Fresh Corn
What's Gaby Cooking: Chicken Kebabs With Romesco Sauce
Big Girls, Small Kitchen: Salmon Spaghetti With Plum Tomatoes and Avocado
Feed Me Phoebe: Roasted Fresh Tomato Puttanesca Sauce
Chez Us: Easy Tomato Tart
Made By Michelle: Tomato and Pesto Pizza
Ingredients, Inc.: Lighter Fried Green Tomatoes
Delicious Lean: Creamy Light Tuna Salad Stuffed Tomatoes
Daily*Dishin: Spicy Tomato-Tomatillo Chicken Tenders
From My Corner of Saratoga: Tomato Jam
Dishin & Dishes: Tomato Zucchini Frittata
And Love It Too: Roasted Garlic, Basil and Tomato Paleo Tart
Healthy Eats: The Fresh-for-Once Tomato
Sweet Life Bake: Pico de Gallo
Zaika Zabardast: Grilled Tofu and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Sandwich
Thursday Night Dinner: Tomato and Watermelon Salad
Cooking Channel: How to Prepare Summer Tomatoes
FN Dish: Tomatoes Go Beyond Salads

do you like us? really like us? then please like our facebook fan page

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

a recipe for healthy summer squash chips?

zucchini, crookneck and pattypan summer squash
it is summer squash week at food network's summerfest.  each year i try to share recipes that will use up the bounty of zucchini, or patty pan, or yellow, or yellow crookneck, or whatever type you have overflowing in your garden.  (or your kitchen packed with squash gifts from well meaning friends).  but let's be real...most recipes don't call for more than one or two per person. 

this is our fourth year of a "zucchini or summer squash" week and i have shared recipes for zucchini/potato hash browns, roasted zucchinis and tomatoes with parmesan and balsamicgrilled vegetable pasta, even a chocolate & zucchini cake.  all delicious.  i make them over and over all season.  this year i discovered the oh-so-easy technique for making chips made from squash.  these crispy, crunchy gems are delicious and actually good for you.  thinly sliced and seasoned, they are slow baked at a very low temperature for a couple of hours.  the final result is perfect for a snack, a side with a sandwich, or served with hummus or your favorite dip. 
remember when i said they are healthy?  that may be the best part.  the squash is baked...not fried, but you would never know.  during the slow baking process all the naturally occurring water evaporates leaving a "chip".  be warned, this creates a lot of "shrinkage"...each piece is reduced by almost half.  you need a lot of squash for 1 serving.  for today's batch i used 3 zucchini, 1 crookneck and 1 pattypan.  the baked amount equaled about 1 cup....and they are so light and delicious 1 person can easily power through a cup.  use whatever types of squash you like...or have excess from an overflowing summer garden.

there really is not a recipe.  preheat your oven to 235 degrees.  slice your desired amount of squash into very thin pieces...about 1/8 to1/4 inch thick.  you can use a mandolin slicer if you have one, i just use a very sharp knife.  prepare rimmed baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper and then lightly coating the paper with olive oil spray.  **note, i use spray that contains pure oil and still functions like an aerosol without propellants, soy or lethicin, no chemicals or additives of any kind, and excellent extra virgin olive oil. you can buy this at quality markets like whole foods, or purchase one of those oil pump sprayers and make your own.***

chips before baking
place your prepared squash on the baking sheets and lightly spray with the olive oil.  lightly...and i want to emphasize this point....sprinkle sea salt on top of the oil.  remember i told you about the shrinkage?  a little salt goes a long way here.  you can always add more later if desired. i used a tiny pinch for both of the trays pictured above. you can also add other seasonings at this point...chile powder, rubs, paprika...whatever sounds good.  i made 1/2 of today's batch with just plain salt and 1/2 with some hot thai curry powder i had in the pantry...both were amazing.  bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.  switch pans and continue cooking until chips are very crispy.  this can take anywhere from another 30 minutes to 1 hour. remove when golden brown.  taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.  serve hot, warm or at room temperature.  note, these do not hold well and should be eaten within a couple of hours after baking.  otherwise they lose their crunch.

now it is your turn to participate in summerfest. simply leave your plum tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit food network and do the same same. be sure to check out these delicious sounding recipes from the other participating bloggers:
Jeanette's Healthy Living: Quick and Easy Sesame Summer Squash Stir-Fry
Cooking With Elise: Orange Summer Squash Bread
Feed Me Phoebe: Summer Squash and Cornmeal Cakes With Tarragon
Chez Us: Zucchini Pancakes With Minty Dill Crème Fraiche
And Love It, Too: Peter Pan Squash Spiced Oven Fries
Made By Michelle: Pattypan Squash and Tomato Frittata
Cooking Channel: Our Top 5 Favorite Squash Recipes
Daily*Dishin: Summer Squash Confetti Salad
Delicious Lean: Summer Squash Ribbons With Feta and Pine Nuts
Ingredients, Inc.: Summer Squash and Kale Sauté
Thursday Night Dinner: Summer Squash Medley
Sweet Life Bake: Zucchini Fried With Tequila-Spiked Avocado Dip
Dixie Chik Cooks: Fried Summer Squash Parmesan Sliders
Healthy Eats: Summer Squash Any Way You Slice It
FN Dish: Cheesy Summer Squash


do you like us? really like us? then please like our facebook fan page

to receive special offers only available to our preferred customers, please sign up for the mailing list on the right hand side of this post.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

time for plum cobbler?

it is plum week at summerfest.  perfect timing because i have been buying bushels of this delicious fruit at our napa farmers' market the past few weeks.  o.k., bushels may be a slight exaggeration...let's just say bagfuls.  i am particularly fond of the bera farms booth at the market.  michelle and her team grow heirloom and vintage varieties of summer fruit which are impossible to find in a regular market.  often, heirloom fruits and vegetables are more delicious than regular versions...but, because they ripen faster and are more fragile, they don't travel well.

 a few weeks ago they had blenheim sweet, you must try them next year if you can find them...they are already out of season. i was buying a bagful and michelle, the owner, looked at me and asked "do you make jam?" i laughed (since that is what i do for a living) and said yes. she handed me 20 lbs of blenheim apricots and said "here...these are too ripe to sell and if you don't take them they will go to the compost bin". take them i did...jars of jam and many apricot crisps later i still did not get my fill.

now plums are in season and, once again, there are vintage and heirloom varieties available.  last week i started buying the red santa rosa and the green shiro varieties.  they are both so amazingly sweet and delicious.  i have been adding them to my smoothies, oatmeal, salads and just eating out of hand as snacks all day long.
two weeks ago, i had a impromptu pool party.  i wanted to serve something not-too-sweet, but delicious for dessert.  i had loads of plums and the ingredients to make this plum cobbler. it was a hit and, served with coconut milk vanilla ice cream, was perfect for a hot summer day.
most of the time i make my cobblers by topping lightly sweetened fruit with drops of biscuit batter and bake until the biscuits are golden brown and the fruit softened and bubbly.  this time i adapted an old martha stewart recipe which calls for a cake type batter being spooned into the baking pan and then topping the batter with fruit.  when you bake it the batter puffs up and covers most of the fruit....some still stays on top.   really, really good!

martha's version calls for white flour and sugar, whole milk and butter.  i wanted a more healthy version...less sweet, full of fiber...just as good.  impossible?  try this version and see for yourself.  i used a combination of almond flour (for the nutty taste) and spelt flour (for the fiber, nutrients, taste and easy to digest properties).  i cut the sugar in half and, to make it even healthier, used coconut sugar instead of cane.  coconut sugar has a very low glycemic index (GI) and is high in micronutrients.  i am on a mission to cut white sugar from my diet so it has been a lifesaver to have discovered coconut sugar. but i still use it sparingly...dessert is a special treat in our house.   so healthy flours, healthier sugar...tons of fruit...yeah!! a delicious dessert i can feel good about serving...  enjoy!

plum cobbler
1 c. almond flour
2 cups spelt flour
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp salt
1/2 lb vegan butter (or regular butter)
1 cup coconut milk (fresh, not canned)
2 large organic eggs
3 tbsp coconut rum (or regular rum, or just increase the coconut milk by 2 tbsp)
3 lbs plums (i like using a mixture of red and green) pitted and cut in half
1/4 cup corn starch
2 tbsp coconut sugar
juice from 1/2 lemon (meyer if possible)

preheat oven to 375 degrees.  butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and set aside.  in a medium sized bowl, whisk together the almond flour, spelt flour, 3/4 cup coconut sugar, baking powder cinnamon and salt.  in a separate small bowl add the butter and melt in the microwave. whisk in the milk.  when the butter mixture is lukewarm, add the eggs & rum and lemon juice; whisk all ingredients together until the eggs are incorporated into the mixture.  pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk together until just mixed.   pour into prepared baking dish.

add the plums to the now empty  medium bowl.  sprinkle the cornstarch, remaining coconut sugar and lemon juice over the plums and stir to mix.  spoon plums evenly over batter in baking dish.  place in oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown, the plums are bubbling and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

let sit for at least 20 minutes to allow filling to set.  serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or cream. (we ice cream made with coconut milk and sweetened with agave.  the so delicious brand is amazing)

now it is your turn to participate in summer fest. simply leave your plum tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit food network and do the same same.   be sure to check out these delicious sounding recipes from the other participating bloggers:
Ingredients, Inc.: Pork, Plums and Rosemary Kabobs
Virtually Homemade: Grilled Plum Pizza With Goat Cheese Cooking Channel: Best Plum Dessert Recipes
BGSK: Grandma Esther's Plum and Walnut Cake
Delicious Lean: Plum Delicious Pork Chops
Daily*Dishin: Roasted Chicken With Plum Chili Salsa
Healthy Eats: 6 Ways to Cook With Plums
Thursday Night Dinner: Plum BBQ Chicken
From My Corner of Saratoga: Plum Upside Down Cake
Cooking With Elise: Vanilla Plum Tart
Sweet Life Bake: Plum Pineapple Margarita
And Love It Too: Plum Pickin' Pineapple Jam
FN Dish: Perfect Plum Recipes

napa farmhouse 1885

do you like us? really like us? then please like our facebook fan page

to receive special offers only available to our preferred customers, please sign up for the mailing list on the right hand side of this post.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

do you love animals?

the first thing i did when i started my company...before i sold my first item...was to create our vision statement.  the "road map" if you will as to the guiding principles of how the company would be run.  read the entire document here.  one plank in the statement is:

"we believe companies need to clearly articulate their philanthropic position so consumers can make informed choices as to the brands they support. napa farmhouse 1885™ is actively involved in our community by supporting not–for-profit groups working to green the planet, care for animals and improve quality of life for people in need. we sponsor neighborhood events and contribute at least 5% of total net profits to not-for-profit organizations."

we have been supporters of napa humane since i started napa farmhouse 1885, usually by donating to their annual event, "cause for the paws".  this year we are walking...and sponsoring a team...for their first walk for the animals.

so....i'm moving my paws for the cause! (and mosey is walking too)

that's right… we are proudly walking in napa humane's inaugural Walk for Animals on august 5, and need your support!

because every animal deserves a healthy life in a happy home, i'm collecting donations to sponsor my participation and meet my fundraising goal!

100% of the proceeds go to the amazing programs and services napa humane offers:
• affordable spay/neuter services
• weekly low-cost vaccination and microchipping clinics
• shelter support services, including the mobile adoption program
• humane education programs serving adults and children alike

Donating through this website is simple, fast, totally secure, and the most efficient way to support my fundraising efforts. (checks and cash are appreciated forms of donations, too, of course—just let me know if you'd prefer to donate offline!)

and hey, you don't have to sit on the sidelines… if you live in/near napa, you can walk with us! register and join team napa farmhouse 1885.  (and for those of you who dislike asking people for me i am in this can just register and walk...that would be a big help!)  the walk is short...only a mile...your dog can walk too...and registered walkers get a t-shirt and "goodie bag".  who wouldn't want a goodie bag??!!  here is some additional info from the napa humane website:

100% of proceeds benefit Napa Valley’s pets and their people.

Join us for the inaugural Walk for Animals – a fun Napa Humane event walking a one-mile route through Downtown Napa (with or without a pooch!) in support of pets throughout the Napa Valley.

This short walk goes miles and miles for animals!

Beginning and ending at Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street, registered walkers will receive a Walk for Animals t-shirt and a goodie bag, and enjoy live music, doggie contests, our Napa Humane puppet show, "The Right Pet for Princess Penny," give-aways, and activities with our pet-centric sponsors as we walk together to raise funds for Napa Humane – serving Napa Valley pets and the people who care for them.

many thanks for your support, and don't forget to forward this to anyone who you think might want to donate, too!  once again, if you are able to donate (any amount would be so helpful), please click here to get started.

thank you!

diane and mosey
napa farmhouse 1885

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

want a recipe for cucumber & avocado open face sandwiches? and a cucumber, tomato and bean salad?

summer fest is here! summer fest is here!  i sound excited...yes?  that is because summerfest is one of my favorite parts of summer.  for new readers, check out my post summer fest is almost here for some background.  we start this year's series with cucumbers and, as a bonus, i am including two recipes in this post.

i love cucumbers.  there is something so refreshing and crunchy about this vegetable.  i was surprised to learn that they are part of the gourd family...part of the group that includes squash.  they are delicious, nutritious and really hydrating.  last year, during cucumber week, i posted my recipe for cucumber coolers and listed some nutrition facts.  this year...i am keeping it short and sweet and just talking recipes!

i have been making these open face cucumber & avocado sandwiches all summer.  they are perfect for a luncheon, light supper paired with soup (i like gazpacho with them) or even cut into quarters and served as appetizers.  best of all, they taste terrific, are a snap to make, are really good for you and require no cooking.  how perfect is that during this very hot summer?

the sandwiches start with grilled whole wheat bread spread with mashed avocados.  they are topped with a refreshing cucumber salad mixed with seasoned rice vinegar, lemon balm and sea salt.  remember i told you they are good for you?  consider the fiber from the whole wheat bread, the healthy mono and polyunsaturated fat from the avocados (not to mention the 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds included in 1 oz of avocado) and the aforementioned nutrition components from the cucumber.  i love it when something that tastes amazing is really healthy too!

the cucumber salad can also be used in fish tacos, as a side dish with chicken or fish, as a burger topping, or as part of a salad luncheon. i combine different types of cucumber...all thin skinned because i want the nutrients and fiber from the peel.  if you buy the type with thick, waxy skin you will probably have to remove the peel.

for the sandwiches, there really isn't a is more of a technique.  this is how i prepare them:

open face cucumber & avocado sandwiches
makes 4
cucumber salad
1 lemon cucumber
1 garden cucumber
1 kirby cucumber
2 tbsp lemon balm (cut into chiffonade), plus additional for garnish
3 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
sea salt
chop cucumbers into bite sized pieces and place in a medium sized bowl.  add the lemon balm, vinegar and a pinch of sea salt.  gently stir to combine.  taste and adjust salt if necessary.  place bowl in fridge until needed.
mashed avocados
3 hass avocados
juice of 1/2 lime or meyer lemon
pinch red pepper flakes
sea salt

pit and dice avocados by following the technique outlined in this post.  add prepared avocados to a small bowl.  add lime/lemon juice, red pepper flakes and pinch of sea salt.  mash together using a fork.  taste and adjust salt and/or pepper flakes if desired.  set aside.

grill bread on bbq, grill pan or broiler.  (i use a griddler when weather does not permit using the bbq).  remove bread from grill and place on serving plate.  spread a generous layer of the mashed avocado over the toast.  top with spoonfuls of the cold cucumber salad. (as much as you like).  use a slotted spoon to drain the liquid, otherwise the sandwiches may get soggy.  garnish with additional lemon balm and serve.
last sunday was one of those perfect days spent with friends.  at the last minute, i emailed/texted my book club girlfriends and said "it will be hot...wanna come swim?"  about half the group was available, so i chilled some beer, made a few pitchers of margaritas and set out an assortment of "easy to make, easy to serve" appetizers.  i also made a plum cobbler...we always have vanilla ice cream made from coconut milk in the freezer....and we were ready for guests.  (more on the cobbler next week). laura brought guacamole and chips, a few people brought wine (we live in napa after all) and rachelle brought a wonderful salad made with lemon cucumbers, yellow and red tomatoes and white cannellini beans.  it was amazingly good and a perfect addition to cucumber week.  i asked for the recipe...she laughed and said "i just threw together the ingredients i thought would taste good.  i did not measure and did not write anything down".   i experimented to try and recreate her dish...viola!....a perfect addition to any picnic, barbecue or summer party. 

the key to this dish is using in season, local, perfectly ripe produce.  i have become addicted to lemon cucumbers and they are the key ingredient in this dish. they are sweet, delicate, and do not need to be peeled.  combined with heirloom tomatoes, they are out of this world. for all of the ingredients,  use the recipe that follows as a guideline.  adjust quantities to suit your preference and based on what looks good as the farmers' market that day.  there are endless variations that sound amazing...try different herbs, cheese, vegetables.  i love the flexibility this provides.  enjoy!

rachelle's cucumber, tomato and white bean salad
5 lemon cucumbers, cut into bite sized pieces 
1 large red heirloom tomato
1 large yellow heirloom tomato
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup canned white cannellini beans, drained
2 tbsp fresh basil, cut chiffonade
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (a good one)
1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

chop tomatoes into large, bite sized pieces.  place first 6 ingredients in large bowl and gently toss.  drizzle e.v.o.o. and vinegar over top of salad.  add a pinch of both the salt and pepper and gently mix together all ingredients.  taste and adjust seasonings.  chill in refrigerator for 1/2 hour and then serve.

now it is your turn to participate in summer fest. simply leave your cucumber tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit food network and do the same same. join the conversation on twitter at #cookingwith and be sure to check out these delicious sounding recipes from the other participating bloggers:

The Sensitive Epicure: Chinese Style Cucumbers
What's Gaby Cooking: Cucumber, Herb and Pita Salad
Ingredients, Inc.: Easiest Cucumber Salad
Virtually Homemade: Cucumber Strawberry Cooler
From My Corner of Saratoga: Marinated Cucumber Salad
The Cultural Dish: Pasta With Roasted Shrimp and Cucumbers
Daily*Dishin: Southern Benedictine - Creamy Cucumber Spread
Delicious Lean: Cucumber Jicama Salad
And Love It, Too: Fermented Spicy Garlic-Dill Cukes and Zukes
FN Dish: No-Cook Cucumber Recipes
Cooking With Elise: Wedge Salad With Cucumber-Ranch Dressing

napa farmhouse 1885

do you like us? really like us? then please like our facebook fan page
to receive special offers only available to our preferred customers, please sign up for the mailing list on the right hand side of this post.