Inspiration

A Show Stopper!

One of our favorite restaurants in Napa, Bistro Jeanty, makes fabulous French country fare.  One of their signature dishes is a bowl of Tomato soup with a crown of puff pastry.  They take a simple dish, and elevate it to something special.  Surprisingly easy to do in your kitchen with very few ingredients.  It’s a real show stopper!

Ingredients

  • Soup – your choice, Tomato, Cream of Mushroom, Clam Chowder, Split Pea or any of your choosing.
  • Puff Pastry – Pepperidge Farms has a great 2 sheet package in the frozen section of most markets. Each sheet makes two servings.
  • One Egg.

Process

  1. Thaw your puff pastry sheet(s) and select oven proof bowls with a diameter of less than 7 inches.  Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  2. Get your soup ready.  If it is canned or boxed, no big deal.  Just warm it up and add some flavorings to make it better. Spices, herbs, or a shot of Sherry can all do the trick.
  3. Roll out the puff pastry and cut out two circles that are about one inch larger than the top of the bowls.
  4. Beat the egg well and paint the outer 1 inch of the puff pastry circles with the beaten egg.
  5. Ladle the soup into the bowls, and carefully put a puff pastry round on top of the bowl with the egg side towards the bowl (it is the glue).  Seal the puff pastry well to the bowl.
  6. Brush the top and sides of the pastry with the remaining beaten egg.
  7. Place the bowls in the middle of the 425F oven and watch as the miracle of expanding molecules cause the puff pastry to rise.
  8. Bake until well browned, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for about ten minutes.

Be ready to be dazzled!

 

Bringing Italy Home

Unfortunately, none of us will be visiting Italy this year.  Normally when harvest ends, Sharon and I will head to some region of Italy to refresh, eat some great food and learn some new tricks for the kitchen.   This year due to COVID we have had to bring Italy to our home instead, and no other sauce so represents Northern Italy as Bolognese.

Bolognese has just a few extras that support the key ingredients of pork and beef.  The key to making a really good Bolognese to start with pork and beef that has a coarse grind. I like to use a ⅜ inch plate when I grind.  The other key ingredient is patience; you do not want to rush it.  Pick a Sunday, a rainy or snowy day, and enjoy the perfume of the slowly simmering sauce.

As long as you are spending the time, make lots of sauce!  It’s just as easy to make 6 quarts as it is one, and bolognese freezes well.  In addition to pasta sauce, this basic bolognese can then be used to make epic lasagna or cannelloni.  As always, what follows is a guideline. Mix it up as you see fit.

Ingredients – 6 to 8 servings

1 lb. Coarse ground beef Chuck

1 lb. Coarse ground Pork Shoulder 

Salt

2 TBSP bacon fat or olive oil

¼ stick butter

1 Onion

1 Carrot

2 TBSP Tomato paste

1 cup White wine

3 cups Chicken Stock

1 Bay Leaf

Pinch of Nutmeg

2 cups whole milk

1 lb Good quality pasta, either Linguini, Fettuccine or Pappardelle (we like the Rusticella d’ Abruzzo brand, and for this dish we specifically like their egg fettuccine)

Freshly grated Reggiano Parmesan (about ½ cup), plus more for serving

Process

  1. Add ground beef and pork, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper to a large pot. If you need a little fat to get it going, add some bacon fat.  Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well, and cook over high heat until the beef has lost its raw, red color.  It can brown slightly but not too much.  Use some wine to deglaze the pan.  Remove from the pan.
  2. Put remaining bacon fat, butter, chopped onion, and carrot in the pot, and turn the heat to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent and slightly caramelized.  Add balance of wine to deglaze the pan.
  3. Add back in the meat, chicken stock and bay leaf and simmer for an hour or so until meat is tender.
  4. Add milk in ½ cup increments, letting it simmer gently while stirring frequently, Add a tiny grating — about 1/8 teaspoon — of nutmeg, and stir.
  5. Turn the heat down so that the sauce is barely simmering. Cook, uncovered, for 2 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking,it is likely to start to dry out. add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. The fat will separate to the top and the sauce should be thick when ready.
  6. Cook the pasta.  Toss with the sauce (not too much), adding a little butter to gild the lily, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan.
  7. Pour your self a glass of Terraces Chardonnay, take a bite, close your eyes, and yes you can be in Italy!

Tarte Tatin

No better way to use this year’s apple harvest than a classic Tarte Tatin. This is the follow up recipe for the Tarte Tatin Timm made on the video.

Apple Tarte Tatin is an old French dessert. It is, in essence, the French version of an apple pie. Although it contains just 4 ingredients: apples, sugar, butter and a sheet of puff pastry, the end result is a luscious, caramel candied apple tart that is elevated so far beyond the humble apple pie. My take on the Tarte is completely inspired from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Ingredients: 

  • 6 – 8 apples, my preference is Golden Delicious, peeled, cored, and cut into slices
  • 1 c sugar, 1/4 more to sprinkle on cut apples.
  • 8 tbsp butter
  • 1 single sheet of puff pastry
  • 1 9 inch non stick frying pan

Method: 

  • Peel and core the apples, then slice them.
  • Toss the apples into a bowl sprinkled with 1/4 a cup of sugar. Toss well, then allow to sit for 20 minutes. (You can skip this if pressed for time)
  • While the apples are macerating, start the caramel. I recommend a non stick oven ready 9 inch frying pan. On medium heat, melt the butter, then add 1 cup of sugar. Stir the butter and sugar until incorporated. Allow to cook (watch carefully) until caramel color, not too dark.
  • Drain the apples. Place the apples on top of the caramel. I don’t think you need to arrange them in any specific way.
  • Allow the caramel to cook around the apples. The apples will give off juice and the caramel will become more fluid. Baste the apples with the caramel and gently stir, insuring the apples cook evenly. After about 20 to 25 minutes, the caramel will be thickened, and the apples will be cooked down. Remove from heat.
  • Roll out the puff pastry to a 10 – 11 inch square. Cut off the corners. It will then be an octagon (almost a circle). Cover the apples with your pastry and tuck the overhanging pastry under at the edges of the pan if possible. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for about 1 minute. Place a larger plate on top of the frying pan, and very carefully flip it over. The tarte tatin should now be crust-side down on the plate. Let cool. Slice and serve with ice cream for a little bit of apple heaven.

Pilgramege to Berkeley, part 1 

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Very few things match our passion for epic food. Whether its growing the fruits, shopping for inspiring items, preparation of meals or sharing great wine, food and stimulating conversation with our friends, it all rocks our world.   In fact we think nothing is more important. Cooking and all that it encompasses is one of our great joys and inspirations.

The center of our food world is the City of Berkeley. There are so many exceptional food stores that we can’t possible mention them all (but we will try over time).   Our trips to Berkeley rarely start with a specific recipe or dish in mind. We let what we find on the treasure hunt influence what will be created.

Our first stop is often Acme Bread http://www.acmebread.com/locations. Many Bay area locals are familiar with Acme, as many grocers carry a selection of their breads. What’s different about visiting the original bakery is the smell of the ovens and the scene of active bakers working to make some of the best bread around. They also have an incredibly large selection of breads and pastries that you will not find anywhere else. Look for the Pizza Bianca, the Edible Schoolyard Bread and the apple turnovers. The croutons are also epic.

The next and most important stop is Monterey Market http://www.montereymarket.com. Its hard to explain in a few words just how incredibly wonderful this produce market is. In any given season the bins overflow with a variety that simply takes our breadth away. In late winter, dozens of varieties of citrus are on display. In early summer it is stone fruits and berries, later brings the bounty of summer with melons and tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes! Much of what is displayed is direct from producers. As farmers we especially like that most labels include not just the variety but where it is grown, how it was grown and who grew it, really delivering a sense of place. As we stroll through the isles, so many cooking options spring to mind that it is hard to contain our excitement thinking about what will follow in the kitchen and on the table.

Our last stop is the Cheese Board http://www.cheeseboardcollective.coop.  A worker collective since the 1970’s, we come for the cheese although there is always a line for the exceptional pizza and bread. The selection is remarkable, but what sets the Cheese Board aside is the people (the same way we feel about wineries). When your number is called, a delightful someone who knows more about cheese than you can possibly imagine guides you to cheese nirvana asking just a few questions before producing samples of cheeses from the original wheels (not small plastic wrapped packages). Like the rest of Berkeley , The Cheese Board is a true treasure hunt and we always feel that we walk out with special treasures we can’t what to share with others.

Go and visit Berkeley. We are certain you too will be inspired!

 

Lots of seeds

Clemons3

Soil and habitat improvement is always on our minds.  Each year, we craft blends of seed to plant that will benefit both the soil by building organic matter and will benefit insects, bees and birds by providing food and shelter.  The seeds we planted this year to build our soil include Magnus Peas, Dundale Peas, Common Vetch, Bell Beans, Barley, and Oats.  For the bees we planted Yellow Sweet Blossom Clover, Hykon Rose Clover, Persian Clover, Alsike Clover, White Dutch Clover, Alfalfa, Nemfix Mustard, Bracco Mustard, Common Mustard, Canola Mustard, Daikon Radish, Calendula, and Phacelia Tanacetifolia. It may seem like a lot of different types of seed, but each supports a different function or bloom time.

We don’t use herbicides on our vineyard and just now we are cleaning up under the vines with our Clemons Radius XL weed bar. It cuts the plants off just under the soil and leaves them to provide mulch that will help build soil carbon over time.

Growing Hives

Bee Frame

Healthy and happy bees create hives by swarming, a natural occurrence were hives split into two groups. The queen leaves with half of the hive, while the other half stays to support a new queen in the old hive.

We encourage this type of hive reproduction by moving the queens and bees to new hives prior to swarming.  We selectively pick the hives to split based on traits that indicate better genetics. This way with each generation we are hopefully breading bees that will better survive in our local environment without having to use chemicals or medications. We call this doing splits. In January and February, we build new boxes and frames to allow our bees the room to grow.

I might add that the dry and warm 2015 winter has made for some very happy bees for this time of year. All of our hives are strong and look ready for a productive year.

Patience

Balsamic casks

Why Balsamic? We are often asked why we started our first batch 17 years ago and it is still in the barrel.

Our love of balsamic and the process stems from the historic role of balsamic in the families of producers in Italy.  Balsamic more than just about any product we know represents a family and its commitment to future generations.  Because of the way we move vinegar from barrel to barrel each year and never empty a barrel (the solera process) every barrel will always have a part of every person ever involved in its production. Each generation will share with the next. We find this terribly romantic in a world of immediate gratification under the constant presence of the digital age.

With each passing year the vinegar gets better and better and over a lifetime it becomes something you are proud to leave to your children, we find this inspiring (and delicious) on so many levels.

More than buzzing

Bees at hive entrance10

We love bees. Many years ago our son and daughter introduced us to bees. Yes that’s right, learning something from your kids.  They attended the Saint Helena Montessori School and had a teacher, Rob Keller that inspired a love of bees.

After reading about the plight of bees throughout the world, I thought that maybe we could start some hives and try to keep bees in a sustainable way.  What started as a couple of boxes are now 20 hives located throughout the ranch.  The more I work with bees the more I am amazed at just what they accomplish.   Sure, they make honey, but they also pollinate much of what we eat, and as you delve into their hives the incredible society that they have and the comb they build are truly inspiring.

Understanding the bees diet has also caused us to re-evaluate what we plant as cover crops and as landscaping.  Trying to insure a year round supply of nectar and pollen is a primary consideration for plant selection.

When visiting, Timm will be more then willing to spend some time talking bees.

Burning Man Art On Fire

BM Art on Fire

Burning Man becomes our home for one week each year. It is there that we are exposed to creativity that blows the mind. We meet people that inspire. We hear music that makes us dance and we are reminded of just how wonderful this world of ours can be!

A good friend Jennifer Raiser recently authored a new book “Burning Man Art on Fire”. Quite simply a must have book if you are interested in Burning Man. It covers many years of art, following different artists as they interpret each year’s theme. Great photography that make you long to be back on the playa.