got figs?

MISSION figs from the front yard…local and seasonal!

MISSION figs from the front yard…local and seasonal!

dear friends and family—readers of colormykitchen,

this summer we’ve been blessed with a bounty of “mission” figs and the harvests have been substantial (see photo above).  domenica has created several healthy and simple recipes using the fresh figs:  fig/olive/caper tapenade (excellent with goat cheese); dehydrated fig/almond snack bars; figs roasted with balsamic vinegar; and a fig/rosemary focaccia also using some spent home brewing beer grain.  this is in addition to the fruit compotes and hundreds of figs we ate while picking.  i experimented with various fillings for the tree ripened figs:  manchego, goat gouda, gorgonzola, prosciutto, walnuts, pistachios, sage, thyme… in different configurations, then simply broiled the treats until the cheeses had melted, nuts toasted and prosciutto crisped.  there’s a certain alchemy between the sweet fig, pungent cheese and salty ham that is irresistible.

we also discovered the PERFECT  container (recycled) for transporting the ripe and delicate fruit:  egg cartons!  several friends and neighbors received an egg carton filled with figs this summer.  fresh and free fruit is always a welcome gift, don’t you agree?

sad to say, as with most lovely things and experiences, the figs are coming to the end of their season.  if it’s any consolation, the vibrant dahlias are gracing our front yard, our mango tree is drooping from too much fruit and our pomegranates (on 4 trees!) are turning redder by the day.  time to start thinking about autumn, i suppose.

actually, though, the saddest part of summer coming to an end in five weeks (not that we’re counting) is domenica’s return to CAL POLY, san luis obispo.  we’ve enjoyed a fantastic summer of family outings, coffee dates, seasonally inspired and leisurely dinners, interesting chats and relaxed evenings.  there is nothing like having a younger, adventurous, energetic, creative, hardworking and thoughtful person permeating your household…even if it is temporary.  however, she is off to beautiful SLO and very excited about her new rental cottage…complete with a patio for barbecues/lounging… and a yard for growing herbs and vegetables.

as my dear friend, bruce stephens, recently wrote to me, “be grateful for every day.” we should all heed his sage advice.  i hope this message finds you healthy, happy and enjoying the season.

warmly,

elena

 


the tomato doesn’t fall far from the bush…

enjoying the flavors (and colors)  of summer!

enjoying the flavors (and colors) of summer!

hello everyone,

when my dad was growing up he lived and worked on a farm in los angeles.  he told us that he couldn’t “play with friends” because he and his siblings had to work on the farm when they weren’t in school.  amongst the many crops his family grew, were acres of cherry tomatoes.  the BURGENO & SONS farm was well-known and sought after for their flavorful cherry tomatoes. (see above photo for their packing label…circa 1940’s)

they say we inherit personality traits, physical resemblances and health issues (good and bad) from our parents and generations past.  well, not only did i inherit the desire to farm (albeit on a very small scale in our frontyard triangular beds), but the absolute need to grow, pick, eat and create summer dishes using a variety of cherry tomatoes.  some people crave sweets, others have shoe fetishes, but i am a self-admitted cherry tomato addict.  i don’t choose to eat them because they are filled with lycopene and healthy phytonutrients, though this is a bonus, i choose to grow and eat them simply because my entire sensory being craves the sweet/tart pop of the freshly picked fruit.

my husband likes to tell the story of a time a few years back i confided that i thought i might need to stop ingesting acidic foods.  tomatoes, being highly acidic would be banished from my diet.  he likes to end the story by relaying to listeners that i started crying at the thought of not eating one of my all time favorite foods.  he is not embellishing the story…i did cry, briefly.  faced with this difficult decision — alkaline v. acidic stomach, the tomatoes won out!  and, i am happy to report that my health seems perfectly fine.

there are SO many ways to use the colorful little orbs of sunshine in your kitchen. of course they are an excellent and lowfat snack, but can also be the focal point of a summer dish.  as mentioned above there are also many health benefits derived from eating fresh and cooked tomatoes.  one such benefit is skin protection and the reversing of wrinkles.  well, heck, who wouldn’t want to do that?!

my adorable papa turns 85 years old on tuesday, 23rd july 2013…coincidentally he has no wrinkles, his hair is thick and full, his mind and body are agile.  most importantly, though, he still enjoys his fruits and vegetables, amongst them the beloved cherry tomato.

happy birthday, papa… and thank you for sharing your life with me, rick, rob, margaret, your grandchildren, and mom (helen).   you are an impressive role model of what it means to be kind, gentle, bright, charismatic, appreciative, hardworking and generous to your fellow humans.

with much love,

elena

p.s.  i just picked this bowl of cherry tomatoes from my frontyard and tonight i will halve them, toss with pieces of ripe nectarine and cubed fresh mozzarella, add slivers of fresh mint and drizzle with a spicy olive oil—seasonal, local, organic and wholesome, not to mention “colorful” and healthy.  when we enjoy the dish, i will thank of my dad…


summer…in a jar

the essence of summer...

the essence of summer…

hello everyone –

to celebrate the summer solstice, i thought i’d pass along a simple and healthy “suggestion” for just what to do with the plentitude of beautiful, fragrant and mouthwatering stone fruit the season graciously bestows upon us.

this past weekend we picked several pounds of tree-ripened peaches and nectarines from the CAL POLY/SLO campus orchards.  while picking, you can eat as much fruit as you want, so naturally we enjoyed the juiciest of fruits which dribbled down our chins, made our fingers sticky and overfilled our bellies.  (we then went on to pick three pounds of amazing blueberries…again, all you can eat.  let’s save that story for another post, shall we?)

after packing up domenica’s dorm room, filling every inch of our car with college supplies, we headed home.  though we had only been away for a couple of days, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that our own santa rosa plum was in full production.  branches were drooping from so much fruit, many plums so ripe they had fallen to the ground.

what to do with all this amazing stone fruit which we can all easily find NOW at farmers’ markets, supermarkets or neighbors’ trees?  our lovely solution is not so much a jam, but a “compote” (see photo) of amazing color, fresh flavors, texture and healthy ingredients:

4 quarts mixed (or not) pitted/quartered stone fruit (we leave the peel on); 1 lemon zested and juiced; 1 vanilla bean (optional); 1/2 cup sugar…that’s it!

put all ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a simmer for 30-45 minutes or until somewhat thickened and bubbly.  stir occasionally and try not to break up the fruit too much.  let cool to room temperature and spoon into clean jars or freezer containers.  at this point you can refrigerate and enjoy for up to two weeks or freeze for wintertime enjoyment!  the compote is versatile…spread onto toasted country bread with sweet butter, spooned atop greek yogurt or vanilla bean ice cream…it is the essence of summer in your mouth.

there are many pleasures to be had during the summer season ahead, but harvesting ripe fruit, creating something simple, healthy and delicious is amongst the best…only made better when your daughter is home for summer vacation and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor together.  this is going to be a fun/memorable summer!

enjoy the solstice and gather up some stone fruit…

elena

p.s.  we’ve found that contrary to most jam/compote recipes, you really don’t need as much sugar as called for.  we prefer the vibrant taste of the fruit itself without all the added sweeteners.  try it and see what you think…