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Spectacular, Sustainable Seafood

We had an amazing cooking class on seafood, taught by Chef Marvin Martin. Beautiful fish, beautiful presentations. Everyone just delighted in learning how to choose fish and what great things can come from some simple but elegant preparations.4

Chef Martin uses Osprey Seafood, a purveyor in Napa. They pride themselves on quality and sustainability. Line-caught salmon, traceability to the date of the catch and the captain of the boat. Fish is a healthy meal and some types of fish are sustainable. Overfishing or inappropriate methods of fishing is indeed depleting our oceans. Take shrimp for example, there is a huge bycatch, meaning for every pound of shrimp many other fish are caught, die, and are thrown back into the ocean. I personally love shrimp but I won’t eat it because of the unsustainable practices in fishing.

You might wonder how an olive oil company is involved in fish. The menu of our fish cooking class is the answer. Oil and fish are great taste partners. The line-caught salmon poached in olive oil was melt in your mouth delicious. The fish carpaccio, sliced very thin, pounded and served with a drizzle of lemon olive oil, and thinly sliced fresh vegetables from the garden was astounding.

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To guide you in your purchase of seafood, go to a very good fish monger. Take the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood guide with you and choose delicious and sustainable fish. According to Julie Packard, the Executive Director of Monterey Bay Aquarium; “ Because the challenges facing the ocean are so urgent, we’re investing more deeply in our conservation and science work – building a first-class team that is making a difference with policymakers and with businesses whose purchasing decisions can set the bar for how seafood is farmed and caught.” Go to www.montereybayaquarium.org and find the Seafood watch program to guide you in purchasing fish. Donate to the Aquarium if you want to become personally involved in behalf of healthy oceans.

You will be happier and healthier and a responsible consumer. Pair it with great olive oil and enjoy.

Ciao.

 

Blog Sustainability Part 2

What we do with and for the land at IL Fiorello

We compost on site and that includes all the olive tree pruning, the material other than oil after milling olives, kitchen byproducts, and manure from local horse farms. The mass is composted all year long and then put on the Grove just after harvest and before the rain begins. The trees respond immediately with solid growth.compost copy

The bees on site belong to our beekeeper, Brittany Dye, Ms. Honey Bees, and her boss, Rick Schubert. They are using our land for queen bee propagation from April until June. The queens are sold to start new hives. We have assisted them by planting wildflowers for bee food. Bees can fly over 3 miles to forage and right now there is lots of food for them. They seem to like our olive blossoms, but do not participate in pollinating the olives. Olives are pollinated by wind. bee

About 85% of incoming olives become a usable by-product once the oil is extracted.  Only 15% of the mass produces olive oil. The material other than olives- the water, the skins, the tissue, and the pits are all used. Everything but the pits go into compost. The pits are placed around the new little olives trees for weed prevention. We distribute the pits around the organic garden as walkways. The pits can also be used in bio fuel generation to produce energy. More on this very exciting topic in future blogs.

Rodents are an issue on a farm and we have four owl boxes on site. Last year they hatched three baby Barn Owls, Olive, Olivia, and Oliver. They were huge and probably ate lots of gophers, moles and voles. This year there is another hatching, but we have not seen them yet. You can hear them hissing and screeching at night. Quite the sound. Looking at their owl pellets they too are eating the moles and voles.  We do plan to help bats by placing bat boxes on property. It is on the long list of very important things to do.

Sustainability and bio-diversity drive our Farm and our farming practices. Come talk with us about this wonderful process.

Sustainability Blog Part 1

Il Fiorello is working hard to be sustainable.  We believe that good stewardship of our land and our trees is very important. Although we have just submitted paperwork for the formal organic license, we have been growing organically and sustainably for the past four years. Our Mill has been certified to mill organic olives for over 5 years. In our tours we always discuss how important it is to be good to the land and then reap the benefits in great fruit and healthy trees. We also discuss how we grow and care for the trees.  Biodiversity on our property gives us a balance. Biodiversity is critical in a balanced farm and we grow olives, citrus, tend an organic culinary garden, figs, lavender, and plant flowers for the bees. All these plants encourage wildlife.

So what makes us say we are sustainable? First, sustainable agriculture is defined as environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. These are also the goals of Slow Food International: Good, Clean and Fair. The UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program at UC Davis has an excellent position statement on the concept of sustainable agriculture.

Let me take you on a tour of our beliefs.photo 2 copy

Last year we made a significant commitment to solar energy production. Our home, the Visitor Center, and our milling barn all are solar supported. We are thankful to be able to use this fabulous source of energy. The solar savings are significant. Watching the Visitor Center solar counter run gives all of us great satisfaction. Our Milling Barn is also very well insulated to protect the oils and the machines. Our eight stainless steel oil storage tanks are well insulated and cooled.

Water management in this drought is so extremely important. We use only drip irrigation, from April to October, then we pray for rain. We have an onsite monitoring system that measures depth of soil moisture content at one, two, three, and four feet. This corresponds to olive root depth. We also take into account temperature, evapotranspiration, and wind effect. Olives close the pores of their leaves in high temperatures and hot winds, a lifesaving characteristic. They are drought tolerant but our little trees need some help. During milling water conservation is important and our centrifuges operate with little water in a very efficient manner. We actually may use more water for cleaning the mill than in the process of making oil.

To feed the trees we use a technique called fertigation, irrigate and feed at the same time. Dual purpose and efficient. We use an organic kelp fertilizer and do tissue, leaf, and soil samples to guide our applications.

Our commercial water treatment plant converts available waste water from milling and from the Visitors Center to usable water that is shifted to the groves.

At Il Fiorello we actively practice sustainable agriculture. Stewardship of our land and trees is very important to us and will remain a central theme of our business.

Celebrate Citrus

Our citrus trees have finally made a wonderful comeback. They are producing large, no huge, quantities of fruit. Last year, the frost of December 7, 2103 destroyed the plants. I, in my way of trying to take care of everything, wanted to prune the dead branches right away. But I was persuaded to wait until mid-March 2014. Thank you to friends who are master gardeners who advised me to wait. Not pruning right away, the dead wood protected the remaining tree from further frost damage. We fed, weeded, watched, and hoped. And we were rewarded. This abundant harvest provided lemons and oranges for our co-milled oils. Delicious. We have more than enough fruit for a great citrus class on Saturday, March 14. We use the fruit in our flavored water. We eat oranges for snacks each day, we are all much healthier.citrus4

Celebrate citrus! Our trees are flowering right now, and the olives are right behind. Come look at our citrus grove and the 23 varieties. Sweet Meiwa (Hawaiian) kumquats, fingerling limes and Rangpur limes. Thanks also to Molly Chappallet, the owner of Chappallet Vineyards, for the addition of a huge bag of Rangpur limes so we can make lime marmalade. Our Kaffir lime, has a double leaf used in cooking Asian and Indian dishes, and delicious fruit. The Seville Sour Oranges make great English marmalade. The variegated lemons are pink on the inside, and make delicious lemonade. Our pomelo tree is just loaded with blossoms, all fuzzy and green. We are using the huge pomelo fruit in the tasting room for a palate cleanser. The menu at Yotam Ottolenghi’s new restaurant will feature pan-fried prawns with pomelo, pickled endive and garlic crisps and tamarind dressing. Get his books, Plenty and Plenty More, they are wonderful reads and super flavorful foods. Great fun.

Come over and have a look and learn about Citrus. We are very lucky to live in California.

Planting in the Garden

beeEverything seems early again this year. We are responding to Mother Nature’s calls of Spring even though it is only February. I feel sorry for my friends back East in all the cold and snow. I hope this blog gives them hope for planting.

Everyone has spring fever here at IL Fiorello. We are busy getting the garden going again and redoing the herb garden to supply our culinary classes. Pruning in the groves is ongoing and is the topic of a future blog.

The garden beds are being filled with rich compost and seeds are flying around as staff members  share planting ideas. So far we have in the ground: cabbage, radishes (both red and white), beets, lettuce (five kinds), leeks, carrots, turnips, chives, kale, mesculin, chard, fava beans, snap peas, broccoli, and cabbage. The rhubarb is starting to get full and raise its head. Nothing better than strawberry rhubarb pie in the Spring. I am sure we will continue to plant more varieties of vegetables. Nick, our assistant miller and gardener extraordinaire, says that there is nothing better than fresh vegetables right from the ground. We all agree. We are all “vegephiles”, people who love vegetables. Our Executive Chef is also looking forward to doing a class on vegetables from the garden.    photo

Joseph, our master gardener, has been busy replanting the lemon grass and dividing the heads. It is lovely and fragrant, and so delicious in soup and stews. We have also trimmed the lavender and are trying to root sprigs to plant some more.  We are considering an organic certification but still have to work out how to control the weeds especially in the new small trees. Watch for sunflowers to poke their heads and turn toward the sun this summer.

Recently, Elisabeth brought back garbanzo beans from Italy, and they are getting pre-soaked before being planted in the garden next to the Mill. She returns  to Italy tomorrow to live in Sicily and make wine at a natural winery on the slope of Mt. Etna. She will blog from there to keep us updated on how to grow Nerello Mascalese wine.

Plant and enjoy the benefits of living in California.  We are all very lucky to have this opportunity. Come see our garden grow.

Pasta

PASTA! PASTA ! PASTA!

We just had a wonderful class on pasta, led by our Chef Marvin Martin. It was so popular we may do another! Everyone ate well, laughed well, and went home with the recipes to try their hand at making homemade pasta. I grew up making pasta by hand, in class we made pasta with an electric pasta roller. The small Atlas hand cranked pasta makers are just fine to use to make dinner at home. For ease of making lasagna, we recommend Barilla or De Cecco pre made pasta. The Barilla oven ready pasta sheets are fabulous for making lots of lasagna for your party.
pasta blogWhen you make dough, feel free to add spices to the dough itself to add layers of flavor. In class the pasta dough was flavored with finely diced green olives, Castelvetrano, Nocellara del Belice olives, from Sicily. You can purchase these olives locally in Northern California, at Nugget Market, Whole Foods, and Costco. If you cannot find this product in your local store, ask your grocer to purchase some for you to try.
In Italy, each town, each Grandmother, has their own pasta recipe and their own sauce. Books have been written about how to pair just the right sauce with just the right type and shape of pasta. Different shapes are usually indicative of regional preferences and how to pair their local sauces. Here is a beautiful example of corzetti or coins, the wood hand press cuts the dough and the engraved characters on the disc are pressed into the pasta coins. The designs helps hold more sauce. In Liguria, where Taggiasca olive oil is plentiful, I have had corzetti served with oil, toasted pine nuts, herbs, salt and pepper, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. It is common in Liguria to add a little wine to the pasta dough.

pasta blog 2
Speaking of pasta, yesterday our staff attended Tri Biccheri in San Francisco, we tasted our way through over 100 premium Italian wines. This was a wonderful experience to talk to the wine makers and distributors from Italy. So many amazing wines. Beautiful Amarone from Nagar near Verona. Fresh sparkling white wines from the Veneto region, and gorgeous dessert wines from Sicily and Sardinia. Of course all the Chianti was so drinkable. Great fun to discuss wines with your friends and plan meals around the best wines from Italy. After the tasting we went to La Ciccia, “the best Italian restaurant in San Francisco” according to the food critics in the city. Their pasta dishes are spectacular. The sauces are really out of this world. Olive oil, lemon, and dried tuna over fresh pasta over spaghetti. A ragu with lamb, tomatoes and herbs served over tiny gnocchi. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. I would love to go back there tonight. The owners, Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan are so friendly and gracious to every single person who comes in the door.

In preparing for the class, I did some research on pasta and would like to share the list of dried and fresh pasta names with you. Pasta the noble Maccherone
From The Silver Spoon Pasta
There is no more natural and simple food than pasta, which is made from tow ingredients only – flour and water. Simply drying the product makes it last for much longer, while its natural coloring is already full of the sun’s brightness, absorbed by the wheat grains as they grow in the fields. The Queen of fresh pasta is egg pasta. Pasta is one of the most balanced foods in terms of human nutrition. Every city, town, region and village in Italy has its own method of making pasta: the shape, sauce, filling, and even the dough varies. Pastario, the atlas of Italian pasta, says that pasta is music to your mouth.
The oldest evidence dates back to 3,000 years BC. The ancient Greeks and Etruscans produced and ate the first types of pasta. The oldest documentary evidence for the use of dried pasta dates to 1316 and was found in Genoa, naming the first pasta make in history, Maria Borgogno, owner of a house in which lasagna was made.
For Italians the only way pasta can be cooked is “al dente” or “vierde vierde”, as they say in Naples, and overcooked pasta is considered uneatable. “Al dente” literally means “to the tooth”, while “vierde vierde” means “very green” or “unripened”, both describing pasta that is tender but still firm to the bite. Here is a compilation of some of the names of pastas from the Silver Spoon pasta book and Pastario.
THE SILVER SPOON PASTA BOOK, PHAIDON PRESS
Pastario, Atlante Delle Paste Alimentari Italiane, Eugenio Medagliani e Alessi, Crusinallo 1985

pasta chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for recipe: Fresh Egg Pasta Dough a la Chef Marvin Martin at IL Fiorello

CONCLUSION
Making pasta is fun. Eating pasta is even more fun. Experiment with types of pasta and types of sauces. Go to La Ciccia and learn how the real experts make spectacular pasta. Then go home and use the recipes and make your own.
Mangia Mangia.

Fruit Pizza from Our Pizza Oven

Cooking again on the pizza oven at IL Fiorello.  We hosted 12 guests for a corporate luncheon and served our homemade pizzas on the back patio. The day was sunny, warm, beautiful, and it is November by the way. I love being in California. I spoke to my friend in Boston this morning and it was snowing! Yikes!  pizza

Anyway, I digress, this pizza oven is marvelous. Cooks pizza in 2 to 3 minutes! Gets up to 450° to 500° C. (842°F to 932°F) in less than an hour. Thank you to our Chef Marvin Martin who found this wonderful oven for us to use here. Amazing. It is a wood burning oven with convection. Very efficient to use.

While we waited for the guests to have lunch, Lani, our support Chef, and I were bored. So out to the garden, harvested eggplants and zucchini, roasted them in the oven and made roasted soup for service in the tasting room. Pretty cool.

Although you may not have a pizza oven with this capability, pizzas can be made
on the backyard grill or in a regular oven.

PEACH AND SWEET RICOTTA PIZZA
WITH PEACH BALSAMIC VINEGAR REDUCTION

INGREDIENTS

PIZZA DOUGH

2 cups “00” flour
2 cups AP “all purpose” flour
2 packages instant rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil mild
Warm water at 160° F about a cup (more if needed to make the dough)

RICOTTA CHEESE

1 quart ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup heavy cream (optional)

FRUIT
Fresh peaches, pears, or apples. The fruit should be soft to melt into the pizza.

WHITE PEACH BALSAMIC VINEGAR REDUCTION, IL FIORELLO OLIVE OIL CO

PROCESS

For the dough

Place the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil into the bowl of a mixer.
Add the warm water slowly until the dough comes together and is just slightly firm
Roll into a ball and place in a stainless steel bowl cover with a light coating of oil and then clear kitchen wrap.
Put in a warm draft free place to rise for about 1-2 hours until at least doubled.
Punch down measure out each individual pizza amounts and let rise again.

For the Ricotta Cheese

Place the quart of ricotta cheese, the powdered sugar and vanilla extract into a mixing bowl and whip until almost doubled in size. Sometimes adding ½ cup heavy cream makes it whip more easily. Do this at the last minute to maintain the fluffiness of the cheese.

For the fruit

Halve the peaches, remove the stone and slice the peaches into eights

ASSEMBLY

Roll out the pizza dough into a personal size dessert pizza or larger if you are inclined to share.
Spread the fluffy ricotta over the pizza
Carefully place the sliced peaches in concentric circles to almost cover the ricotta

COOK

Place the pizza into the pizza oven for about 2 minutes, more or less depending on the heat of the over. Ours cooks well at 450° to 500° C. (842°F to 932°F).
Drizzle on the White Peach Balsamic Vinegar Reduction after cooking.

Serves about 10 large slices.

 ©IL Fiorello Olive Oil Company

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Traveling In Europe 2014

 

Oils, Wine, and Cultural Preferences

Travel. Travel a lot. It is great fun. When you get to travel for your business and get to eat your way through France and Italy, go for it.

Mark and I just returned from Europe where we tasted our way down the Rhone River in Provence, France then into the Northern and Central part of Italy.  Not to worry, everyone walks a lot in Europe so putting on the pounds is not part of the deal. Enjoy the pleasure of long leisurely lunches and dinners so well perfected in Europe. Enjoy the cultural differences. That is why you travel.

French oils and French food

France has been making olive oil for a very long time. It is steeped in history, culture, lore, and food. As in many countries the olive producers take their growing very seriously. They rely on their grandfathers to tell them how to prune, when to feed their trees, and when to pick the olives at just the right time to produce their lovely oils. The French varieties are unique. We grow only three here at IL Fiorello: Aglandau, Boutellian, and Tanche. Other French varietals are Collumella, Grossane, Lucques, Picholine, Languedoc, and Salonenque. But history aside, French olive oil producers are transitioning from stone wheels and augers to press their oils to a more sophisticated method using a centrifuge. The stone wheels, according to a French grower, produce a more mild oil. But that may also be because they tend to harvest late, when the olives are riper. So there are many variables in the equation of producing fine olive oils. The French seem to prefer a milder, elegant oil with a slight fusty taste. Culturally, this is important since “Grandfather” determined when to pick and when to take the harvest to the mill. If olives are picked over a few days’ time some of the first picked olives will begin to ferment leading to the attribute/defect of “fusty”. This type of flavor has been paired with French cooking for a very long time. Culturally, this is how they love their oils and food.

We served our French oil at our French Provencal cooking class on June 29 and again at our release Bastille Day celebration of our wines and French oil on July 13. IL Fiorello turned French on that weekend. Come and try the French oils and compare them to our Mission and Italian varieties.

Italian oils and Italian foods

Italy has been producing beautiful olive oil for a millennium. The Greeks and Romans used oil for food, as well as for anointment during competitive sports and religious events.  Each area of Italy has its own food preferences and makes its own oil to pair with the foods.  Climate and historical preferences dictate what is grown in each area.  Great Grandfather gives the direction, Great Grandmother right behind him. Do not go against their preferences or experience.  Mid (Tuscany) to Southern (Sicily) Italy grow olives because of the climate. Each area has developed its own food specialties and preferences. Parma has ham. Modena has Balsamic vinegar. Cherasco  has snails. Bra has its own particular cheese, named after the river Tenero; Bra Tenero (fresh) and Bra Duro (hard).  Liguria, on the Italian Riviera, grows Taggiasca olives. They are harvested late and the oil is buttery and mild. We grow Taggiasca here at IL Fiorello but we plan to harvest earlier than in Italy, because we like the beautiful fruit aromas of the earlier harvest.

The most commonly known Italian varieties are Frantoio, Leccino, Moraiolo, Maurino, and Pendolino.  Each also has synonyms, Frantoio is also known as Razzo, or Correggiolo. Each area may name its trees by the great, great grandfather that settled in the area. Cultural preferences are indicative of the preferences and history of the area. Italy has been growing olives and fruit and vegetables for thousands of years and each area is very proud of their produce. I love going to the farmers markets where each vendor can give you a dissertation about their growing practices.  No snack food at these markets!  Eating is serious business eating in Italy.  Many conversations are about what everyone is preparing for dinner, what they had for dinner and what they are planning for tomorrow. It is spectacular to hear the devotion and respect for food.

Festivals abound around food, wine, and religion. Wine is also specific to the growing area, the soil, the wind, rain, and growing practices. Both Italy and France serve wine as a condiment with meals. It is just part of everyday life. We often choose the house wine wherever we eat. Often this is the family’s own wine, or a particular preference by the Chef. Listen to their recommendations, they really know how to pair food and wine. Each region celebrates their hard work and their food. Wonderful, wonderful eating and experiences.

We should respect Farmers markets here in California with the fervor and anticipation the way Europeans respect theirs. It is all about food, food preparation, and eating seasonally. Eat fresh, eat well, and eat good food, with respect to the growers.

Respect cultural differences, enjoy traveling and continue to taste everything. A whole new world will be open to you.

Ciao

Ann and Mark

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Trip Advisor certificate of excellence

Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.

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Tastings

Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.

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Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.

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Trip Advisor certificate of excellence

Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.

read more...

Tastings

Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.

read more...

Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.

read more...