October 2010

An Organic Fig Tree

by admin on October 31, 2010

Meet Bob….our organic Fig producer.  He’s on the phone with his fig broker.  The majority of his crop heads to Whole Foods….but we are lucky enough to get a stash so we can create our organic fig balsamic.

The first time we went to Bob’s farm, I had no idea what to expect.  We drove through acres of olive trees that had been mechanically harvested for table olive production.  The trees looked sad….worn out….the barks on the trunks were peeling off.  The energy was low as we drove down the last row of trees to cross the bridge that marked the beginning of Bob’s property.  As soon as we drove over the bridge, I believe I heard the angels sing…..I looked up and saw rows and rows of fig trees….lush, green, happy and LOVED organic fig trees.

Have you ever seen so many fig trees?  Over 100 acres…..

And every one looks like it is in the Garden of Eden……

You’ve never tasted a fig until you’ve tasted one of Bob’s figs….

Now this scene took me back to the farmhouse in Italy where I tasted the dried fig off the drying rack in the attic.  I couldn’t believe my eyes…not a simple drying rack but hundreds…thousands of organic figs….drying in the sun….naturally.   With Bob’s permission, I strolled over and picked a fig from the rack….so curious if it compared to the one in Italy…so sure it wouldn’t….how could it?  It did…..

We spent a few hours with Bob….walking the farm…..listening to his story and the story of his figs.  There was no doubt that we had chosen the right farmer for our organic fig balsamic….his love and passion were part of his figs and therefore I knew would be part of our product.  We loaded up our truck with the figs that were picked that morning and headed back to Rutherford.  We unloaded and within 24 hours, the figs were washed, cut and loaded into our tanks with Organic Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.   After a few weeks, I added some split Madagascar Vanilla Bean.  Two more weeks passed and we began our taste tests.  We were three days in when I could no longer hold back.  It hit the production schedule the following week and was immediately released.  Total production – 40 cases.

Thanks Bob!


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Three Ideas for Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

by admin on October 28, 2010

A larder rich with choices not only makes for more creative cooking, it also comforts us with the knowledge that, should we not have the time to shop, or are rushed to prepare dinner, a deliciously satisfying meal can still be created on the spot.

In this spirit, St. Helena Olive Oil Co. has created a series of flavorful sauces and condiments such as the butternut squash pasta sauce used in the following recipes. While this slightly chunky purée delivers the creamy sweetness we love in butternut squash, its all-organic ingredients list of roasted red bell peppers, onion, and garlic lends it a tangy counterbalance that makes for a wonderfully versatile flavor vehicle.

Butternut Squash Rigatoni
Here’s the ultimate in simplicity for those rushed evenings we all face now and then. While the entire dish takes only 20 minutes or so to make, the result is very satisfying —quick and nourishing comfort food for a chilly autumn or winter’s night. Note that we like to finish this off with Sevillano Varietal California Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which has a bright grassiness that really enhances the flavors of the pasta sauce.

1 lb. rigatoni
1/2 cup (or more to suit your taste) Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
1 tablespoon Sevillano Varietal California Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Organic Grey Sea Salt
Parmesan Reggiano
Organic Fleur de Sel
Chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, chives, or parsley

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Toss in the sea salt, followed by the rigatoni. (Helpful hint: if you’re having trouble keeping the water at a healthy boil, place the lid on the pot to either fully or partially cover.) Stir occasionally. When the pasta is cooked through but still toothsome, drain while retaining roughly a cup or so of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot, and stir in the butternut squash sauce. You may now also add back in a ladleful or two of the hot pasta water, depending on your preference for the thickness of the sauce. Fold the sauce into the pasta, and scoop into bowls. To finish, grate fresh Parmesan over the pasta, drizzle with a generous gurgle of olive oil, a dusting of the chopped herbs, and a zing of organic fleur de sel.

Serves 2 – 4 as a main course, and 6 as a starter course

White Beans and Sausage
Here’s a terrific way to incorporate the sauce into another starch vehicle, while enhancing the flavor with sausages (optional, of course, for vegetarians).

1 cup Cannellini or other creamy white beans
1 small yellow or red onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 celery stock, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Buona Volontà Napa Valley Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 high quality sausages (may we suggest Italian or Toulouse style from Oxbow Market’s The Fatted Calf)
½ cup Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
Organic Grey Sea Salt

Rinse the beans, place in a bowl, and soak, just covered with water for 6 hours. Heat the oil over medium heat, add the vegetables, and cook for approximately 3 – 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the beans, stir, and cover the mixture in one-inch of water. Turn the heat to high, and bring the water to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, and simmer the beans for one to two hours, until soft but not mushy. Add a pinch of salt and stir.

In the meanwhile, bring the sausages to room temperature. About twenty minutes before the beans are finished cooking, lightly prick and then broil the sausages for approximately five minutes on each side. Let rest for five minutes, and slice into 1-inch chunks.

Fold the butternut squash sauce into the beans, spoon the beans into bowls, and dot with the sausage meat. Serve with a salad of peppery dandelion greens or arugula.

Serves 4

Poached Eggs
This delightful dish can be served anytime of day, and makes a surprisingly intimate dinner for two.

4 farm fresh eggs
Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
Sevillano Varietal California Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Organic fleur de sel
~ Options ~
Bacon
Sausage
Greens

Poach eggs until cooked to your liking. Carefully place in a bowl. Spoon a few healthy dollops of butternut squash sauce over the eggs, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle over a pinch of fleur de sel. Embellish as you will with bacon, sausage, crostini, and/or greens.

Serves 2

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Wild Salmon with Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil

by admin on October 22, 2010

Our Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil marries two of California’s most heavenly crops, Mission olives and Navel oranges, which are added to the press to create this bright, citrusy, and flavorful extra virgin oil. It’s great simply drizzled over fish, poultry, pasta, and other items, but gains complexity when used in conjunction with vinegar.

These two recipes offer both methods; and we hope that one of them may introduce you to a seemingly unlikely and delightful new combination of flavors.

Enjoy!

Grilled Salmon
You may of course use any salmon you prefer for this dish, but we prefer sustainable wild varieties such as the Alaskan Coho, King, and Sockeye. (For more details on sustainable seafood see the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch page

Because the salmon has a naturally sweet flavor, we like to bring our 6-year old Balsamic vinegar di Modena into play to add complexity and acidity to the Orange extra virgin olive oil, with further accents provided by thinly-sliced red onion and capers.

1 lb. (4) salmon fillets
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon capers, drained of vinegar
3 tablespoons Orange extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon 6-year old Balsamic vinegar di Modena
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground black pepper

Make a simple vinaigrette by whisking together the orange olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (Rather than season the vinaigrette, we season the finished fish.)
Grill or broil salmon approximately 4-5 minutes on each side depending on your preference for doneness. Remove skin, and plate fish. Place several slices of onion and a sprinkle of capers over the salmon (cilantro, basil or parsley sprigs add a nice variation and are attractive, too), and finish with a swirl of vinaigrette, a dash of fleur de sel, and a few twists of ground black pepper.
A simple salad of arugula or cherry tomatoes makes a lovely accompaniment.

— makes 4 servings

Chocolate Ice Cream with Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Fleur de Sel
What could be simpler? Put a nice big scoop of your favorite chocolate ice cream into a bowl, pour a swirl of our Orange extra virgin olive oil over the top, and finish with a pinch of fleur de sel.
Here, the sweet-citrus flavors of the oil complement the richness of the ice cream, the oil blends with the fat content of the ice cream, and the fleur de sel adds a hint of saltiness as well as a nice, crunchy texture.

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A Focus on Rare Balsamic Vinegar

by admin on October 6, 2010

Balsamic vinegar is one of those products that, while exotic, appealing, and sometimes very pricey, many of us aren’t quite sure exactly what to do with.

Here are two lovely Mediterranean-style recipes we’ve selected to showcase our rare 19-year-old balsamic vinegar, which we’ve sourced from a tiny artisan producer in Modena, Italy for the past 15 years. The first is an escabeche of white fish, the second a simple dessert of figs, almonds, and ricotta. Exquisite vinegars like this one should be savored in drops, not spoonfuls. In each of these recipes only a slight drizzle is called for to finish.

For more information on all things balsamic, go to let’s chat.

All recipes make 4 servings
Escabeche of White Fish
A delightful warm weather dish, escabeche is simply a poached or fried fish that is then marinated before serving — in Spain, chicken, rabbit, and pork are also prepared in this fashion.

Our version, which emphasizes sweet and sour flavors, actually uses three of our vinegars: 19-year-old balsamic to finish, and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon red wine vinegar and 6-year-old balsamic for the marinade. For maximum flavor, we suggest allowing the fish to marinate for one day before serving.

4 fillets of white fish (use a firm-fleshed fish such as snapper)
½ cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup St. Helena Buona Volontà Napa Valley extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 garlic gloves, thinly sliced
½ cup dried currants
1 small sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
2/3 cup St. Helena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup St. Helena 6-year-old balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Fleur de sel
A drizzle of St. Helena 19-year-old balsamic vinegar

Dredge the fillets in the flour, shaking off any excess, and set aside. Place ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large skillet, and heat over medium-high heat to approximately 350°. Fry the fish in batches, approximately five to six minutes per side. Transfer to a plate covered with paper towels to drain excess oil, and sprinkle on both sides with fleur de sel.
Wipe clean the skillet, discarding any leftover oil, heat the remaining oil over medium-low heat, and sauté the onion and red pepper flakes for approximately ten minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the rosemary, garlic, and currants, and cook for a few minutes more. Now add the vinegars, bring to a boil, and return the fish to the skillet. Cook for one scant minute and turn over for another. Remove skillet from the heat, grind over a twist of black pepper, taste the marinade, and adjust seasoning to taste.

Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and allow to cool. Cover and place in the refrigerator for one day. Bring back to room temperature, and sprinkle with a few drops of 19-yeard-old balsamic before serving.

Figs with ricotta, almonds, and balsamic
8 ripe Mission figs
½ cup sheep’s milk ricotta
16 roasted, unsalted almonds
A drizzle of St. Helena 19-year-old balsamic vinegar

This is one of those gloriously simple desserts that rely completely on the quality of the ingredients to reach its fullest potential. Choose ripe, heavy figs whose skin is splitting and on the verge of bursting with sugar, a high quality sheep’s milk ricotta, which is generally lighter as well as more complex than cow’s milk, and freshly roasted unsalted almonds.

Slice the figs in half, lengthwise. Place them in a bowl with a few spoonfuls of the ricotta, add the almonds (chopped or whole, depending on your aesthetic preference), and finish with a drizzle of our 19-year-old balsamic vinegar. Heaven awaits!

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Check us out in October 2010 Vogue Magazine!

by admin on October 1, 2010

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