Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Nocino

Making Nocino, Italian walnut liquor, usually this is made on June 24th, St John’s day.

But as you can see these walnuts got a little large very early.

The alcohol turns bright green from the walnuts, as do your hands. Cut the walnuts in quarters and soak in alcohol for a few weeks or longer depending on the strength you want.

I add a few flavor elements but pure walnuts are fine. After they are finished extracting, drain and mix the liquid with simple syrup to taste. Simple syrup is usually a 1:1 combination, one cup sugar and one cup water.

Nocino is an acquired taste but wonderful. Enjoy. I will post a picture of the finished product in a couple of months.

 

 

Cut the walnuts into quarters and add to a very clean mason jar. Fill with Everclear liquor.

 

 

Cut walnuts with seasoning, cinnamon, lemon, and coffee beans.

 

 

After 3 weeks showing the dark green color

 

 

 

 

 

Nasturtium Capers

Capers come from the Caper Bush, Capparis spinose and we are growing these at the Farm. But until the bush becomes large enough to produce capers, we are using Nasturtiums seed pods, by the thousands. The Nasturtium flowers are edible and are on our tasting plates, the leaves are delicious and hold little zucchini tastes. But the Nasturtium pods are delicious when pickled and taste very similar to brined capers.

 

Recipe for Nasturtium Capers

2 cups water
4 tablespoons salt
1 cup green nasturtium seedpods
1.5 cup white wine vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
4 fresh laurel leaves
4 springs of fresh thyme

 

Prepare the brine, the brining process

  1. Bring the water and salt to a boil
  2. Pour the boiling brine over the seedpods in pint or quart canning jars.
    1. Make sure the jars are freshly cleaned and hot
    2. Cover the jars and let sit at room temperature
  3. Soak the seed pods for at least 3 days

Prepare the pickling

  1. Drain the seed pods through a sieve and return them to a freshly washed hot jar
  2. In a small non-reactive sauce pan, bring the vinegar, sugar, bay, and thyme to a boil
  3. Pour the vinegar mixture over the seedpods and allow to cool to room temperature
  4. Cover the jar and refrigerate for at least 3 days, before using
  5. These prepared pods will keep for 6 months in the refrigerator
  6. Use brined capers with charcuterie or mixed into mayonnaise for salads or sandwiches

 

Fresh capers just in a salt brine (L)   Capers after brining and infused with seasonings (R)

 

 

 

Fresh capers

How we Change Palates & Minds at IL Fiorello

 

IL Fiorello grows and produces international quality, certified extra virgin olive oil. We also help our guests to expand their palates. This is called edible education, and palate expansion.

We host our guests with a comparative tasting of our extra virgin oils and present a tasting plate of healthy food. Much of the food for our tasting plates are grown on our organic farm. We also discuss fraudulent oils and just plain bad or adulterated oils.

We are changing minds by explaining the importance of comparative tastings. By using our own motto: “beyond bread and salad” we attempt to change habits, a very difficult but interesting task. We do not serve bread with our tastings, often we use plant based healthy foods. Everyone knows that you can use extra virgin olive oil and good balsamic vinegar on salads, but think beyond this premise. An example, extra virgin olive oil drizzled on warm asparagus soup. The aroma is enchanting, the health benefits fabulous.

 

 

By presenting oils with food pairings, guests can enjoy aromas, flavors, bitterness and pungency. Then they better appreciate differences in our oils, and differentiate from generic oils, that may not even be olive oil.

 

 

Most people understand and appreciate this idea, but do they change their habits?  Do we really change their attitudes or palates? We don’t know. Our business growth has been exponential, people come back time and time again to taste and buy our oils.  Our olive oil club has increased 200% from just two years since its inception. People love our products and hopefully this means we are slowly and carefully educating customers to use better oils and eat better foods.

Our culinary classes emphasize good, clean, and healthy food, the motto of Slow Food. Our Chefs are exploring wonderful ways to pair oils and foods for our tasting plates and our events.

One of our goals is to help people understand what good food really is. If our oils cost more than generic oils, it is because of the intense flavor and purity of the product. Better flavor; use less oil, enjoy it more.

Change is difficult and hard and causes people to question and sometimes distrust. I often hear, but this is what “grandmother” always used to do. Well, Grandmothers are always right but this is a different time and we are faced with different food challenges.

Food used to come from the backyard family garden plot.

 

 

Today, you cannot be sure where your food comes from. Let’s go back to that premise of the family garden plot.  Some people do not understand that a radish grows in the ground, and that artichokes are huge plants. That tomatoes are really deeply red and sweet and delicious. Food choices are important, chose an apple not chips and a “health food” bar.  Don’t eat pre-packaged foods. Read labels and contents. Make good healthy decision. Pair good food with excellent oil. Food is your sustenance and your pharmacy, use it well.


I just listened to a presentation by Marion Nestle PhD who said that, eating is an agricultural act. If farmers don’t grow consumers do not eat. This is really simple and so powerful.

Hope this blog is food for thought and action. Speak and eat in a powerful voice.

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

 

Tea Party

20 guests were treated to an adventure to Alice in Wonderland’s tea, by Executive Chef Gloria Ciccrone-Nehls, also known as Alice, and Sous Chef Darren Porter wearing the Mad Hatter’s Hat.  The kitchen was decorated with a Cheshire Cat peering down from the upper shelves of the kitchen supervising the class.
Roses and flowers imitating the Queen’s garden were part of the decorations.

 

At the beginning of the class, tea was served with cream puffs filled with whipped strawberry mascarpone and homemade scones. The class made three types of finger sandwiches, dipped beautiful strawberries in chocolate and drizzled them with tempered chocolate and crunch instructed by Chef Gloria and Chef Darren.


 

Rose and flower petals were coated in egg white and dipped in sugar for a beautiful topping for a citrus olive oil cake. A tour of the edible garden at IL Fiorello, where they were served mint tea.

The class then constructed their towers of tea sandwiches, strawberries, cakes and flowers.

Formal tea was served and everyone delighted in the sights and tastes of our Chefs instructions.

A take home gift of citrus olive oil cake sprinkled with house made Limoncello completed the day.


Mock Clotted Cream recipe:

Ingredients:
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup Mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Directions:
– In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream, mascarpone cheese and confectioner’s sugar
– Beat at high speed until thickened and desired consistency is achieved
– Cover, refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days


Earth Day 2017

 

IL Fiorello celebrated Earth Day/Weekend, in a big way, with 650 people visiting our Farm on Passport Sunday!

Thank you to all who visited, everyone had a wonderful sunny and delicious time. Thanks to Slow Food for a display and information, to Denise Revel, Girl on the Hill for her beautiful lavender, and to the Erickson’s for their wonderful jams. Thanks also to Napa Valley College Oenology program for making great wine and pouring with such support. Chef Gloria and Chef Darren presented a wonderful food pairing of our oils, Sicilian meatballs and ancient grain salad for everyone.

Thank you also to our staff who smiled all day long.

We celebrate the actual Earth Day by working on the Farm.

 

Harvesting favas, shelling favas, cooking favas, and eating favas. Our harvest was abundant and we will be serving fava beans in many different ways.

 

We are watching for bugs in the grove, planting more trees, expanding our garden, our grove, and putting in more fruit trees. Figs, apples, cherries, pears, much more citrus, and apricots. The big girl chickens (4) and little girl chickens (10) do have a pecking order. The big girls Henrietta, Millicent, Winifred, and Hyacinth are now out in the grove in Nick’s mobile chicken coop, already eating weeds and bugs and fertilizing the grove. The little girls will now be happier in their chicken palace, and not “henpecked”.

 

 

We are watching herons, eagles, owls and quail. The ever present killdeer are busy defending their ground nests. The quail are in their usual spring panic, for food and friends.

In the grove the trees are almost in bloom. The buds are fat and tight but we are finding some blossoms that are open. A week of sun and no hail and we may have blossom. LOTS of blossoms. Even the Aglandau, which was in a heavy production last year, is loaded and very heavy set this year.

We are looking forward to our Growers Meeting this week.  We are meeting old friends and making new ones. Lots of information to share and discuss.

Eat well, be well and plant a tree, or a lavender plant, or a fruit tree for jam.

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

The Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Great Taste and Great for You!

Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the highest quality in California, has significant health benefits.

Antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids all mean improved taste and health. Look for the seal of certification and the harvest and mill dates. The fresher the better. The main type of fat in vegetable oils, polyunsaturated fat, encourages oxidation. Excessive oxidation increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, and general aging.  In contrast, certified extra virgin olive oil, contains a rich amount of monounsaturated fat, preventing oxidation.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil also contains a number of phenols that act as antioxidants which will lower oxidation and therefore increases the health benefits. A study from Spain, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013, evaluated the prevention of cardiovascular Disease with the Mediterranean Diet. The results of the study concluded that “in this primary prevention trial, it was observed that an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, resulted in a substantial reduction in the risk of major cardiovascular events among high-risk person. It supports the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.” The interventions were intended to improve the overall dietary pattern of the study groups.

SIMPLE:  Consider your food choices. Eat good, fresh, colorful food, with variety and balance, and use good certified olive oil. A plant based diet is best and supported in research. Avoid prepackaged foods, and “noise” from the media. There is no single magic bullet to health. But the simple action of eating good food with certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil, can make an impressive difference.

There are “foodie gurus” who are proponents of healthy nutrition. Mary Flynn, Marion Nestle, and Alice Waters.

Mary Flynn, Ph.D. from Brown University, says that Extra Virgin Olive Oil may be the one true super food. Not by itself but with a plant based or plant centered diet. The Mediterranean Diet is a subsistence diet with foods, fruits, and vegetables that you can grow in your back yard or buy at a local farmers market. Meats are usually very limited, because of the expense and availability. Flynn has taught that the cornerstone foods of the Mediterranean Diet are Extra Virgin Olive Oil, vegetables (with particular emphasis on those with deep color and those from the cruciferous family), and starches/grains, whole grains, with minimal lean animal protein.

Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H. Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, is a professor of Sociology at NYU and a visiting professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. Her degrees include a BA (Phi Beta Kappa) a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, all from the University of California, Berkeley.  She is the Chair of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, and has nutrition at the UCSF School of Medicine. She was a senior nutrition policy advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services and editor of the Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health. She is a very important supporter of healthy plates for children and adults, and an outspoken advocate of good balanced nutrition.

Alice Waters, from Chez Pannise restaurant in Berkeley, and her involvement in the Farm to Table movement (an ancient way of eating) and Slow Food has guided people to address the importance of fresh and healthy food in their everyday diet. A vision she presents daily at her restaurant.

Healthy nutrition with great olive oil may be one of the best recommendations from these gurus. But here are reasons to be wary when you are purchasing olive oil.  Olive oil is one of the most adulterated foods bought here in the United States. These, mainly imported oils, are refined and adulterated with vegetable oil. The vegetable oil is refined with high heat and chemicals and then added to lower quality olive oil. Most of the oils sold in the US in supermarket shelves is fraudulent oil and is rancid. My staff and I taste tested some of the “supermarket oils” and were not surprised by the rancidity of nearly all.  Follow the numbers, it costs less because of the adulteration. Usually these oils are owned by huge multinational conglomerates.

Fraudulent olive oil is a great problem in the United States. Oil that is labeled as extra virgin oil, without certification, with unknown herbs and vinegar in the same bottle is illegal and is an inferior quality oil.  Adulterated oil is bad for you as a consumer, bad for your health, and bad for your pocketbook.

Today, I tasted an oil that espoused the health benefits of olive oil but was not certified, was not olive oil and was beyond rancid. There were no harvest and mill dates, and was bottled in a clear bottle. The taste and the aroma was horrible.

Certification is an important documentation on each bottle, harvest mill date tells you when the oil is made. At IL Fiorello, we have chosen not to use “Best by” dates as each oil is different. Again fresh is best.

In summary use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for improved taste profiles, learn varietal differences, and enjoy the health benefits of certified oil.

Choose healthy foods with great taste that will result in a better you.

We challenge you to explore different food choices and Extra Virgin Olive Oil parings to expand your palate.

Ciao to good health

 

Ann

 

 

Pétillant-Naturel (Pet-Nat)

 

IL Fiorello presents a Pet-Nat made from grapes grown in the Suisun Valley, Malvasia Bianca.

Crafted into beautiful effervescent wine by local winemaker, Faith Armstrong-Foster.

onward-logo

Faith says, “This Suisun Valley Pét-Nat is floral and fruity, but refreshingly bone-dry. The opening aromatics are like sticking your nose in a fermentation vat, with yeasty brioche notes and lively youthful freshness. To follow are notes of night blooming jasmine, citrus blossom, melon rind, warm Kaffir lime scones with preserved lemon…and a refreshing hint of sea air….and did I mention soft tiny delicate bubbles!”

This wine stays true to the nature of an authentic Pétillant Naturel style wine: I encouraged native yeast fermentation, which finished in the bottle, with no sugar or other juice added. This is a pure expression of sparkling wine and she my friends, is a spirited lady! 
The Pétillant Naturel is Onward’s sparkling expression of Malvasia Bianca from Capp Inn Ranch.

The wine was moved from tank to bottle by gravity. Everything to do with bottling lady Pét-Nat has to be done by hand because she is still fermenting (meaning full of CO2 gas) and needs to be handled with care. I bottled the wine with a small amount of lees, allowing the fermentation to complete in bottle and left the wine un-disgorged (with sediment) in bottle. I feel this adds purity and complexity that would be lost if removed. The bottles were aged while the fermentation finished, then labeled and left finished with a crown cap.

 

pt-nat-2-blog

 

Pétillant-Naturel (sparkling natural) is a term for sparkling wine made in the méthode ancestrale, the ancient method or traditional method. This means a wine is bottled before the primary fermentation is completed; and is without the addition of secondary yeasts or sugars. Champagne, from France, is made in the traditional méthode champenoise. This method is when a finished wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle with the addition of yeasts and sugars.

The ancient method of Petillant-Naturel, produces a simpler, more rustic sparkler than Champagne, one that is traditionally cloudy, unfiltered, and often bottled with a crown cap (like a beer) rather than a cork. The end product is also unpredictable; opening each bottle is a surprise, evocative of the time and place where it was bottled.

 

IL Fiorello Holiday Suggestions

This delicate sparkling wine is just delicious with savory foods, or on popcorn dressed with our Extra Virgin oils, and by itself on the back deck to celebrate fabulous wine and the holidays

Store cold and serve cold

Happy Holidays to all from Olive us at IL Fiorello!

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

Pizzelles – A Christmas Tradition

 

When the final co-milled oil is done, the mill is clean, and the weather turns cold; I know that it is time to bring out the pizzelle maker.

Pizzelle are delicious, tiny, very beautiful cookies. Named because they are flat and sweet. Like little lady sweet pizzas.

I have been making pizzelles since 1975, yes a long time. My first pizzelle iron was given to me as a wedding present.pizzelle-iron

We make pizzelle at IL Fiorello all December for taste treats for our guests. The sweet cookies pair very well with our presentation of Italian Moscato wine. A little glass, a sweet pizzelle and life is good in the afternoon.

batter

The basic recipe starts out with a dozen eggs, 4 cups of flour and anisette. I think my family just drank the anisette in the afternoon. I personally like the flavor of lemon zest and Limoncello in the pizzelles.

You may use any flavoring you want. Orange zest, chocolate, lemon, anisette, walnut, chestnut, use your imagination.

A particular favorite of mine is to make lots of flat pizzelles, and make a “sandwich” with the filling of dulce de leche. Place the cookies over a mug of warm coffee and allow the dulce de leche to melt just a little. This is the way to begin the morning.

If you are in Italy, you may want to make a little “café correcto” by adding a little grappa in your cup to ward off the winter chills, before going into the grove to prune your olive trees.

Enjoy the recipes and if you have any questions about how to make these beautiful cookies just come on over. You will find us making them early in the morning for our staff and all afternoon for guests.

pizzelle-for-web

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

A SENSE OF PLACE

FOOD PAIRING and TASTE
OIL  * WINE  * FOOD

At the Visitors Center at IL Fiorello, we present seasonal food pairings with our extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegar reductions. We are proud to source most of our food pairings directly from our organic vegetable and herb gardens.

Guests always ask what oils, what foods and what wines should be paired together. They always wonder why and how we do different pairings. There is no magic to pairing, usually if you like it together, that is the best pairing for you.

If you really look at the origin of food, wine and oil, you will recognize natural pairings.  The geographic origin of the food, wine, or oil tells an important historical story. Where food is grown, wine is grown, and olives are grown together. Climate, soil, weather, and people all impart their influences.

Consumers have, and should have, different preferences, so you should be eating food, drinking wine, and using olive oil that you love and enjoy. You all have different palates but some people have different levels of sensitivity and tolerances.  We often ask people if they enjoy coffee, and if so, most likely the expected bitterness of extra virgin olive oil will be a pleasant experience in the tasting room. The bitterness and pungency of extra virgin olive oil often astounds people but when the oils are paired with food, taste chemistry is at its best. The food and the oils shine.

Consider what food you will be serving at home and what that flavor profile means to you.

Here are some interesting food, wine and oil pairings that grow together. Something to consider that you might not have appreciated until now. We have tried to give examples of the cultural matching of food, wine and olive oil. The fun challenge is to find some of your own best matches.

Don’t allow people tell you how a wine or oil is “supposed” to taste. Taste it yourself, make a decision and then have a great discussion with your friends about your findings. Different people have different tastes and that is where the fun begins. Play with your food, that what we do every day at IL Fiorello.

This should be fun and enjoyable, and above all, the food, wine, and the olive oil should be delicious. Come and enjoy the experience of taste at IL Fiorello.

Ciao

Ann

Taste & Pairing