Friday, January 30, 2009

have i told you how much i love the expression "dining table"? and sausage and peppers??

sitting around the dining table...sharing a terrific meal with family and friends...loads of wine...staying for hours afterwards talking/laughing...i cannot think of anything that makes me happier...this could take place in a formal dining room or just at the kitchen table...doesn't matter, as long as the friends/family are there...

i have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about dining tables...mainly because we just completed a bit of construction in our own dining room...nothing big...we just hung a light fixture...but when you live in a vintage farmhouse even small projects can get complicated. the "remodel" is not interesting...updating wiring, moving the electrical box to center the light over the table...patching, painting...etc...the story involves the fixture was the ceiling fixture which hung over my grandparents dining room it has many special memories for me...i told you guys in one of my first posts about the love i had for my grandparent's circa 1920's home located in southern california why napa farmhouse 1885? many happy memories from the many, many meals shared with my entire family. during the last two years of my grandmother's life, she needed to live in an assisted living mom and her three siblings packed up the family home to get it ready to sell...a really sad time...and they recognized (prompted by my sister and my mom)...that the hallway sconces and the dining room chandelier should be kept in the family...they are vintage, very cool looking, but more important ...are a symbol of our family...memories of my grandparents.

my parents, aunts and uncles all have fairly modern houses and they were not interested in using the fixtures in their own my sisters and i became the very fortunate recipients. i got 5 of the sconces, my sister kathi 4 and my sister susan, 3 plus the chandelier. when we bought our farmhouse, one of the first things we did was install the sconces...they are perfect here, plus...what memories of my family...we hosted a family reunion a couple of years was touching to see how much the sconces meant to my mom and her siblings.... fast forward to sister's current home is not design right for the chandelier, so it had been packed away in my parents garage for ten years. last summer, susan and i made a deal.. .i would "borrow" the fixture until she was ready for it...and the construction work needed in order to hang it has just been completed...i so love the fact that the sconces and light fixture have become part of my home..they look like they have always been here...and i have been flooded with cherished family to celebrate and inaugurate the chandelier, i made pasta last weekend (of course!). when i was growing up, italian sausage and peppers was a favorite treat. frequently, when my sisters and i spent the weekend at my grandparent's home, my grandmother would take us to an italian deli called claros after church on sundays... we usually ordered hot italian sausage and peppers sandwiches for lunch...and i have an aunt (last name donatelli) who makes grilled sausage, onions and peppers as an appetizer for most family parties...i thought creating a pasta dish out of these ingredients would be a good idea...and the perfect way to create our newest dining table memory. so i invited some friends to sunday the dining always, the success of dish depends on using the best quality ingredients you can find. "the ingredients really do make the difference". i found organic italian sausage and...because half the group were vegetarians..i also found vegan sausage that was delicious..and made half with the real sausage, half with the vegi one...both were really good... and the pasta with a green salad, good bread, parmesan cheese and red wine led to the dining table experience i described at the beginning of this post...talking, laughing, relaxing, enjoying and appreciating all that we let's celebrate dining of my favorite places to be...

italian sausage and peppers pasta
1 lb hot italian sausage (use mild if you prefer)
1 yellow onion, cut in half and then sliced lengthwise
1 green pepper and 1 red pepper, both cut in half and then sliced lengthwise
4 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lb fusilli (or any short pasta you like)
kosher salt
grey salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp good balsamic pepper
freshly grated parmesan cheese

cut sausage into 1 inch pieces and remove casing. saute in large skillet for 5 minutes. drain. add onion and saute an additional 5 minutes. pour off any drippings but do not scrape pan. add 2 tbsp olive oil and the peppers and cook uncovered for approximately ten minutes until sausage is cooked through. add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until garlic not let garlic burn... scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan..(note, if you use hot italian sausage and the red pepper flakes, this dish will be very spicy..which i love...if you do not, either use mild sausage, or eliminate the pepper flakes...) meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. generously salt water with the kosher salt (water should taste a bit like sea water) and add the pasta. cook fusilli until al dente (firm to the bite)...start checking after 10 minutes. when pasta is ready, remove from pot with strainer and add to sausage pan. add 1/2 cup pasta water, remaining 2 tbsp olive oil and salt/pepper to taste. stir to combine. turn off heat, add a splash of balsamic vinegar, stir, taste and correct seasonings if needed. serve immediately with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese.
what are your favorite dining table memories? please share in the comments section of this post..and happy last week of january everyone....

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"

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Monday, January 19, 2009

how about an easy, delicious, fast recipe for baked chicken?

when i say easy...i mean really, really easy. sometimes you want a terrific tasting dinner without any work..and you do not want to buy prepared food...this go-to recipe is one of my solutions...easy to find the ingredients...easy to prep...35 minutes in the oven...and extremely versatile. the key is my broken-record mantra of only using the best-freshest-organic if possible-ingredients. organic chicken drumsticks, my persimmon jam, honey-mustard, excellent extra virgin olive oil, grey sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. i always have these ingredients...minus the my this dish is perfect for answering the oft-asked last minute "what's for dinner?" question.couple of notes...i use our persimmon jam because i love the slightly sweet, mild flavor it gives the chicken. you can easily substitute apricot or peach jam for the persimmon. i have also made this with our meyer lemon marmalade...without the mustard. use what you like...just pick a jam which lists the fruit as the first ingredient...not sugar...better tasting...better for you...

persimmon glazed baked chicken
10 chicken legs (organic if you can)
1 jar napa farmhouse 1885™ persimmon jam
2 tbsp honey-mustard
extra virgin olive oil
grey sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper

preheat oven to 425 degrees. line rimmed baking sheet with foil, drizzle approx 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil over foil. using a pastry brush, coat entire pan with the oil. place chicken legs on prepared baking sheet. generously season chicken with the salt and pepper.

place jam and mustard in small saucepan. heat over medium heat stirring to combine. do not let boil. when mustard is thoroughly incorporated into jam, remove from heat. using your pastry brush, coat each chicken leg using all the jam mixture. drizzle top of prepared chicken with additional olive oil..approx 1 tbsp in total.

place chicken in preheated oven and bake 35-40 minutes...until chicken is cooked. (juices should run clear when pricked with a sharp knife). turn chicken twice during cooking time.
serve immediately.

i serve this with steamed red potatoes drizzled with the absolute best quality extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with grey sea salt...add a salad and dinner is served!
what are your favorite easy & fast go-to dishes in fall/winter? please share your recipes in the comments section of this post.

i am excited to tell you that i will be attending the 2009 fancy food show in san francisco this week. (although i do dislike the name "fancy food"?... ick... but i digress)...i have never been so i am attending to see what is new, what is popular and to get a feel if i want to participate as a vendor in the future. how cool is this assignment..3 days of 6000 vendors sampling their best food products? i will tell you all about it via blog posts when i return...wish me (and my waistline) luck..
(my husband peter...aka the company photographer ...decided he just had to take a bite during the shoot)

happy mid-january!

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

do you make your own salad dressing?

wow! it is going to be 75 degrees in napa today...yes today...january 14th....middle of winter and all that. we have broken records all week...and, let me tell you, i am not complaining a bit. regular readers know i am truly a sun girl...a typical southern california native. i can take it a bit long as the sun is shining...but weeks and weeks of rain (which is normal for winter in napa) can get me down. so i am looking at this unusual weather as a gift...cause i know it will not last...and i know we do need the rain. the weather people say it will cool down this weekend so i am going to enjoy it while it on the porch...lots of walks with mose...rose pruning...even had a pedicure so i can wear flip-flops for a couple of days before the ugg boots make a reappearance.

the terrific weather has me thinking about my favorite foods...and my favorite way to cook...find the best if possible ingredients...and then don't mess them up with overly complicated recipes. i love them all year...and live by the mantra of "only in season...only local"...produce. (of course, i am so very fortunate to live in california where this is easy as we have terrific items growing year round). one of my pet peeves is when people buy truly great salad ingredients...and then dress them with horrible dressings filled with inferior ingredients and preservatives...when was the last time you read the label of most bottled dressings? is one of my 2009 objectives...convince each reader of this blog to eliminate bottled salad dressing from their pantries and only use homemade versions! (o.k. not comparable with a goal of attaining world peace but a girls gotta start somewhere...right?)
i have been writing this blog for almost a year now (where has the time gone?) and one of my favorite benefits is receiving all of the amazing emails from readers with comments, questions and/or information.... (for example...thank you to jenifer and leslie for your very kind emails today).... i often get questions about making homemade salad dressing because i have included numerous recipes for salads in past posts. many of my friends have told me they think it is "too hard" or "too complicated" to make their own i decided to give this topic its own story to encourage everyone to start creating their own dressing recipes...but here's the thing...the "technique" for making dressings and vinaigrette is so incredibly easy that it only requires 4 are my instructions.....

1. put your favorite vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar
2. screw on lid and shake away
3. add to salad
4. eat and enjoy

it really is that a mason jar at the market...even better and "greener"...reuse a jam/jelly or any other screw top jar. plan to make small quantities...just enough to use that night...or keep in the fridge a couple of longer, you want it to be as fresh as possible...keep the best-quality-you-can find/afford extra virgin olive oils, vinegars, mustard and seasonings in your pantry...and experiment with your oil to vinegar ratios. there really is no "wrong" is just a matter of personal preference. for example, most recipes call for 3-4 times oil to vinegar. i adore vinegar so my recipes are more 2-1..(for evoo and balsamic vinegar vinaigrette i use 50-50!) but that is me. the simplest recipe and the one i use the most is simply equal parts evoo and balsamic vinegar, with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. if i have a bit more time i use the following recipe..and i have a huge collection of vinegars so i sometime switch out the balsamic with red wine, champagne, sherry, rice or apple cider vinegar. i will continue to post different salad and dressing recipes in future blog get you are a couple of super easy options.

balsamic & mustard vinaigrette1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
place all vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar. cover tightly and shake until well blended. store remaining vinaigrette in refrigerator. bring to room temperature before using to allow oil to mix with other ingredients.

meyer lemon vinaigrette
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup champagne vinegar or sparkling wine vinegar
1 tsp meyer lemon zest
1 tbsp freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice
sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
try these on your favorite salads...dress lightly..toss..season..enjoy! and eat more salad....
do you already make your own salad dressings? if so, please share your recipes in the comments section of this post...and for those of you currently in the midwest or east coast of the usa (or any other place where temperatures are freezing right now)..stay warm and be safe....and let me know how you are doing....
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™
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Saturday, January 3, 2009

vegan chocolate cake anyone?

happy 2009 everyone! have been away from blogging for the past few weeks...but by no means away from cooking. i had a wonderful christmas here in napa. i told you in an earlier post that, for the first time ever, my entire family was coming here for the holidays. for my parents, siblings, nephews...and most of the rest of the family...this was the first christmas in their life not spent in southern california. i can honestly say the entire experience was magical...exactly as i dreamed...with loads of love, laughter, talking and terrific food. i will write about the experience during january...and share a number of the recipes...some i created, some treasured family traditions...and a few that i found in holiday edition magazines...did anyone else try the citrus-marinated pork rib roast from the december edition of food and wine? absolutely amazing..this one will get a story of its own...

did you make a lot of new year's resolutions? this is not something i usually do..but this year i made a number of what i am calling goals..seems a bit more flexible which is what my post-corporate life is supposed to be about. i do plan to cook even more than i did last year...and share the recipes here in this blog...which leads to goal number more frequently... when i started this blog last year, i did not realize how much i loved writing..and telling stories...i put so much time into launching my new business that i could not update as often as i wanted to...while the business still takes a lot of time, i can be a bit more balanced this year...and...goal number three...i get to combine the cooking thing with the business thing because...a life long dream of mine has been to launch a food, this year i am taking the plunge...very small for now, just on my webstore...and all items will be inspired by our farmhouse garden...jams, jellies, marmalade, preserves...granolas...sauces...condiments...all handcrafted and made with the best and highest quality ingredients that i can find. i plan to tell the stories of the ingredients (and the farmers or artisan producers if not grown in our garden) on this blog...don't worry, i do not intend to turn this blog into a sales pitch...this site is designed to share recipes, techniques, stories...and above all...celebrate the ingredients used in cooking/ the ingredients truly make the difference...

for today, i thought i would share one of my go-to recipes..vegan chocolate cake..i make this cake year round...and this was a hit a christmas. this recipe was inspired from the moosewood restaurant book*desserts. i substituted balsamic vinegar and olive oil, doubled the ingredients and turned it into a bundt cake. regular readers know how often i use in-season fresh figs in my recipes. this cake is very adaptable...if figs are out of season..or you do not like them..leave them worries. this is one of those *just happens to be vegan* recipes...did not start out with that as a goal...but..hey!...for those of you with "eating more healthfully" as one of those dreaded new year's resolutions...(vegan) chocolate cake anyone??

vegan chocolate cake with balsamic, olive oil and figs

3 cups unbleached flour (organic if possible)

2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (best quality)

1 tsp salt

2 cups organic sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 3/4 cups cold water

1/4 cup cold coffee (just use your leftovers from breakfast)

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp plus 1 tsp balsamic vinegar of modena

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup fresh figs, stems removed..figs finely chopped

preheat oven to 350 degrees. grease (use olive oil) a bundt pan and set aside. sift flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda together in bowl. in a large mixing bowl combine the remaining ingredients (except figs) and mix well. you can use a mixer..but i just use a wooden spoon and do this by hand. add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and stir until just not over-mix. add the figs and stir again until incorporated into batter. pour into prepared bundt pan and bake approximately one hour until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. remove from oven and allow to cool until just slightly warm. remove from pan and allow to cool completely.

you can drizzle your favorite chocolate glaze over cooled cake or sprinkle with powdered sugar...this recipe also make delicious cupcakes...

what are your favorite dishes to cook/bake in january? please share your ideas in the comments section of this post and let me know if you try the cake... again, happy new year!



napa farmhouse 1885™

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