In the Garden
My figs are going bonkers after the hot spell. Suddenly, what looked like little green babies turned magically plump and purple — time to give figs to family and friends, and make some fig mostarda for Christmas gifts. Also time for a batch of fig leaf panna cotta, as now, right before they start turning for fall, is when the leaves have the most flavor. If you’ve never used fig leaves, they impart an almost coconut-like flavor, with a hint of toasty nuts, to foods. See the recipe section below, for directions for panna cotta, and also think about grilling some fish wrapped in the leaves — you don’t eat the leaves, just lightly oil them so they can be peeled off easier, but they do a great job of keeping the fish moist, and flavoring it.
Our apples are sparse this year, I think the blossoms got knocked off the tree by the late rain. But they’re really good, Fujis at their crispest. Didn’t get much else going this year, some basil, just enough to have with tomatoes all summer. A single cherry tomato plant, given to me as a retirement gift, that has produced almost languidly, a few here, a few there. But really good. And, my usual peppers didn’t make it — but friends grew the plants much more successfully. I made 70 bottles of hot sauce a few weeks ago, a 2-day project complete with mask, gloves, and outdoor only cooking. There will be another batch shortly, as there are so many more peppers. Aji Lucentos make the best sauce, and the plants, if you can get them to grow, are perennials. Kassenhoff Growers has them every spring at the Grand Lake farmers market. They’re a Peruvian mountain pepper, love shady glades, and grow quite large — 6-7 feet high, and bushy-wide. They seem to do best when there are more than one plant together, but the recent heat really made them unhappy, and burned a lot of the peppers.
I think about what I want to do with my garden over the winter, not that I have a lot of space for vegetables, or for that matter, enough sun for most of them. I know there’s some serious heat still to come (hard to remember on a weird rainy day!), but I am thinking fava beans for over-wintering, improving the soil, and early spring dining.
In the Kitchen
I visit my ‘old’ kitchen (now ITKCulinary) here and there, and it seems like Doug Eng has been industriously busy. I’ve passed on the team building groups, since even though I thought I’d work a bit, my body isn’t cooperating right now. Doug’s also scheduling classes, and he’s trying something new, a take-home Tuesday night dinner every week. You get dinner for 4 for $45, a real bargain, and if you’re interested, here’s next week’s menu.
In the Market
Besides all the figs, it’s high season for produce of every sort. You can find all the peppers and tomatoes and eggplants and zucchini you could conceive of using. If you’ve got Rosetta Costantino’s book, My Calabria, now is the time to find someone with big, overgrown zucchinis and make her Zucchini Sott’Olio. I made a batch over the weekend, and the process of drying the zucchini strips took almost no time outside in that awful heat — I may have even gone a bit too far, but the slightly leathery texture is intriguing. It’s a great way to take 5 or so pounds of zucchini and create a pint jar of deliciousness!. The stuff is seriously addictive. My favorite is the way she first introduced it to me: with freshly made ricotta cheese, on a crostini. Don't forget to take home some broccolini, green, yellow wax and Romano beans, all sorts of greens and a good variety of lettuces and herbs, plus okra and corn, too. The market is just so lush, it's amazing!
Peaches, plums (including French and Italian prunes) and nectarines, plus plouts of all varieties, are strong right now. It’s the perfect time to grab a pinto of berries, too. And avocados, to go with those chili peppers you can’t possibly resist…
Summer Camp Wrap-up
Tracy and crew had a very successful season, selling out pretty much every week. The new location worked great, and they will be back next season. Tracy’s moved her family away from the Bay Area, but is going to work that part out. Nobody wants camp to end, especially the kids.
I promised myself 6 months of ‘down time’ to learn how to slow down, to give my body some time to heal, and to contemplate the future. I have one project on the horizon, which is taking my writings and recipes, and putting together an e-book that will endure, if I ever take the website down. My 6 months hiatus ends mid-month, and I’m definitely looking for the inner motivation to get the project started. If you’ve got experience with such things, and want to get involved, please get in touch. I’ve never done this before, and it seems like a daunting task!
Recipe of the Month
Fig Panna Cotta is a perennial favorite in my household, and has been the same for classes and groups. Now is the time to make it. Topped with some of the ripe figs, what could be better?