Category Archives: Random Thoughts

It has now been ONE YEAR since we were last able to host a formal olive oil tasting!

 ONE YEAR! How can all this happen and where did 2020 go??

It went by .. and we are glad it is gone and behind us.  

 

Our new Barn under construction !

COVID has definitely changed our business. We cannot do our wonderful tastings; we cannot do our cooking classes.  BUT, during this uncertain time we find that it also creates opportunity. We have taken advantage of this time to build a new office space and a huge new storage area for packing and shipping. Also, we are very excited to tell everyone that we have a handsome brand new barn for bottling and tank storage. These building projects have been very exciting for us to manage, supervise, and, most importantly, move in to. We have tried to make good decisions during hard times and develop solutions to problems we have identified over the past few years. I look forward to hosting our Grove Club in a tour of the new facilities sometime in 2021.

 

On weekends, thanks to Chef Dominic and our great staff, we have been able to serve weekend lunches to pair with our olive oils.  It is a great relief to be able to safely get outside and enjoy the fresh air for all of us that have been so constrained this past year. The lunches are delightful.  Each weekend, we have served a different lunch, rain or shine.  Social distancing, safe practices and intense attention to detail regarding COVID has kept our guests & staff safe and healthy.   

Our patio is warm and comfortable, thanks to Nick K. who installed heaters and keeps our pellet stove running.  Olivia, the resident farm cat, often joins visitors on the patio. Our flock of matronly chickens that free range during the daytime visit as well.

 

Looking forward we will continue with lunches and pairing olive oils but only outside on the grounds. As of today, the Visitor Center remains closed to the public. When you visit for gelato, or wine in the afternoon, we are happy to serve a taste of our oils and balsamic reductions.  

 

Change is part of responding to COVID for all businesses.  We have new staff join our olive oil family, and I am delighted, and feel very fortunate, that in light of COVID we can sustain our staff. They are happy and we are very happy to have them join us.

 

Looking forward, on the Farm we have 34 brand new chickens and we hope to be selling eggs this summer. I personally have enjoyed bonding with the little tiny ones. Their growth rate is astonishing. You know they are growing when they stretch their legs and wings, almost urging them to pop out their feathers and tails.

 

New greenhouse extensions are in the works. Our goal is to grow more organic food to serve to our guests.  The little sprouts are appearing for radishes, arugula, lettuces and beans. The artichokes are huge, impressive and delicious.  We are planning a pumpkin patch out near the Pavilion. Great fun to anticipate the Fall harvest.

 

The olives are growing and I see new little shoots on each and every tree.  Soon blossoms will appear and we will get a glimpse of the upcoming crop. We will report on blossom and fruit set in the next few blogs.

 

Frantoio Blossoms

 

Here’s to getting vaccines so everyone can safely enjoy our Farm.

Here’s to no more social distancing but enjoying spacious dining.

 

We look forward to celebrations of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, and Lavender Weekend June 11, 12, 13. Great food, virtual and on-site learning, and good people.

 

CIAO,

Ann and Mark

An Ode To 2020: 12 Days on an Olive Farm

2020 has been quite the year for us all. In its honor, we have written our very own version of the Christmas classic “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. We look forward to a better year for health, happiness and many more olives and we wish the same for you!

While we are waiting for 2021 to finally arrive, enjoy our “Ode to 2020: 12 Days on an Olive Farm”!

 

On the first day of Christmas, my little farm shared with me

 

A very noisy rose garden rooster

Rose-Garden Rooster

 

Two – Dirty four-wheel rovers

Dirty Four-Wheel Rovers

 

Three – French hens (minus two)

French Hens 1

 

Four – Chemlali olives (in total)

 

Five – Italian olives (in total)

Italian Olives

 

Six – Geese a waddling (and Larry chasing them)

Geese a Waddling

 

Seven – Swans a swimming (masquerading as supervisors of the canal)

 

Eight – Greek olives (in total)

 

Nine – Power outages (thank you PG&E)

Power Outages

 

Ten – French olives (in total)

 

Eleven – Backyard heaters

 

Twelve – Total gallons of oil!

 

From our family to yours: Peace to all and wishes for good health and a better year for 2021. Happy New Year!

 

 

Pizelles – 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 tasty 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

Christmas Blog

Tuscan Pan Forte is an ancient, and may I say better, version of today’s fruitcake. Very delicious with lots of unique flavors, easy to make, and even easier to eat.  A colleague in Italy, Judy Witts Francini, (divinacucina.com), posted a recipe that she loves.  She has a wonderful blog and cooking school near Florence, Italy.  She is American, went to Italy, and never looked back.  We took cooking lessons from her almost 10 years ago in her apartment in Florence. We toured the Centrale Market, and enjoyed her unbridled enthusiasm for all great food in Italy.  I am hoping she comes to IL Fiorello to share her amazing talents.  She has one of the best blogs in Italy, and great cookbooks.  (Hint, her cookbooks make great Christmas gifts.)

I, of course, took the challenge of making Pan Forte, but added and subtracted a bit to suite my tastes, and what is available in California.  I added crystalized ginger, and lots of homemade candied lemon and orange peel.  Explore Judy’s website for her original recipe at the link above.  Here is my version from IL Fiorello’s Kitchen in the Grove for you. Accept the challenge, try the recipe, and add you own twist.

Merry Christmas! May you enjoy Panforte with a glass of Vin Santo.

Ciao Ann

IL Fiorello Pan Forte

Ingredients:

1 lb. toasted nuts (equal amounts of walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, pecans)

1 lb. mixed dried fruits, cut into small pieces

(Use equal amounts of dried figs, candied lemon, candied orange peel, dried sour cherries, apricots, and candied ginger in whatever percentage you love)

1 tsp finely ground black pepper

(I use half black pepper and half long pepper for fragrance)

4 tablespoons total of the following spices ground together

Ginger, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cardamom seeds

(Use 2 tablespoons for the Pan Forte and reserve 2 tablespoons for the topping)

1 tablespoon bitter sweet cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

1 cup honey, I love dark bitter Chestnut honey for this cake.

1 and ½ cups AP (All Purpose) flour

Topping:

¼ cup flour

2 tbsp. of the seasoning mixture (see above ingredients)

2 tbsp. bitter sweet cocoa powder

Method:

  1. Toast the nuts, either in a pan on the stove, or under the broiler. Watch carefully that they do not burn
  2. Mix the fruit and nuts together
  3. Add the flour, spice mixture, pepper, and cocoa powder and mix well
  4. Heat the sugar and honey together until combined
  5. Add the sugar and honey mixture to the fruits and nuts
  6. Mix together

I use a marble top surface and just mix and mix and mix by hand

  1. Add a few drops of water until the entire mixture just comes together
  2. Form into logs, or press into a single layer round cake pan
  3. Sprinkle with the topping of cocoa, flour and spices
  4. Bake at 350 °F for about 15 minutes.

Service

Serve in thin slices with a glass of Vin Santo or a cup of espresso

 

The completed dry mixture before forming into the logs.

 

 

 

 

 

Form the dough into logs then sprinkle with the topping mixture before baking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas

Stick Your Neck Out Chick

May 2020

When you write blogs you find interesting things.

Because I work on a Farm and there is dust and dirt and sweat and chickens.
I often resort to Halls cough drops and lots of water for a “restorative”. Sort of.

Has anyone ever had the time to read the Hall’s cough drop labels?
They have great sayings that make me smile.
Don’t try harder. Do harder!
Keep your chin up
Inspire envy
Be unstoppable
Push on
Dust off and get up
You got it in you.
Elicit a few “wows” today
HI-five yourself.
Go get it:
Turn “can do” into “ can did”
Get back in the game
A PEP TALK IN EVERY DROP ™

Stick your neck out chick.

Take a good look chick.

THE FOOD DATING SCAM

APRIL 2020

With everyone in “shelter in place”, we are all trying to figure out what we have in the pantry/refrigerator/ freezer. And, what is good and what is not good.

Relax most is good.

However, use the FIFO policy, first in first out, of the refrigerator and pantry.
Eat fresh, if you can, during this difficult time.

Have you ever really wondered about best by dates? There is a recent spate of articles about how long foods are safe with confusing and different best by dates. In addition, there is so much confusion on line about what this really means.

Harvey W. Wiley PhD, the “father of pure food”, was a chemist working in the early 1900’s. He was very concerned about food safety and the lack of oversight. His perseverance and commitment to food safety led to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. This law began a huge improvement in the food system in the US. This policy was adapted abroad as other countries began their own research. President Teddy Roosevelt signed the act into law.

This law focused on food safety but now we are also concerned about food safety in relation to food waste.

Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council) paper on food waste and dating states in their executive summary of ( 2013) that :

The waste of edible food by consumers, retailers, and manufacturers poses a significant burden to the American food system. Wasted food costs consumers and industry money; squanders important natural resources that are used to grow, process, distribute, and store American’s food supply; and represents a missed opportunity to feed the millions of food insecure households in the United States that are struggling to access healthy, affordable food. Misinterpretation of the date labels on foods is a key factor leading to this waste.

BUT Olive Oil????

So let me speak to what I know the best.

Consumers need to know the olive oil’s harvest and mill date. This is usually the same day for most producers. We say, this is the day the oil was born. Some new legislation is suggesting that the best by date be the last time the olive oil was handled. Indeed this is the last time that we as producers have an option to assess the oil for quality and integrity. There is some logic to this part of the discussion.

Here is our internal reasoning that we present to you as a consumer.

Olive oil is best when it is fresh, meaning within about two years of being milled. All oil degrades over time, even in perfect storage conditions. Meaning cool, dark, and quiet. Which we rigorously maintain at IL Fiorello.

If an oil was made on October 15, 2022 and it was kept in bulk until September 1, 2024. Then bottled in 2024, the best by date is two years from 2024 or 2026. This means that the oil is actually then 4 years old. This is very confusing and really does not do the olive oil industry any favors.

IL Fiorello always will tell you the milling date of our oil, and list it on our bottles. We believe in full and honest disclosure. With Extra Virgin Olive Oil, certified in California, it must be olive oil and nothing else in the bottle. That bottle of olive oil that has garlic or rosemary in it and says extra virgin on the label is consumer fraud. More later on the allowable adulteration of wine. However, I digress.

At our Visitor Center, at the end of each day, we use PrivatE PreservE © Wine Preserver for each open bottle of oil. It will preserve the oil from oxidation and going rancid.

If you use oil often and well, at home, you should not have any issues with oxidation.

Use logic, be careful, and try to eat fresh when you can. Be safe.

When you can come and visit IL Fiorello and we can continue this discussion.

Ciao,
Ann

 

Sustaining our Souls During Difficult Times

April 15, 2020

We all know that this time is very bad. We are all in this together, but the good news is that we do not have to do our taxes today! Hardly a bright note but not staying up late over tax data is ok by me. We can defer that headache until later on this year, when we can better concentrate.

I want to re-publish one of my favorite blogs from a few years ago. Just seems appropriate today. Pasta e Fagioli, or as my Father called it—Pasta Fazool. There are three main ingredients, Pasta, Beans, Sauce. The pasta is usually small to match the size of the beans. The beans are cannellini , but Cici beans or any beans you love are fine. The sauce can be any broth or stock or tomato sauce which is my favorite. If you like you can puree some of the beans to add to the sauce. When in Italy, I try this dish in every restaurant and every one is different, a heritage dish.

You can begin with a soffrito, Italian (or in French, Mirepoix). Onions, carrots, celery sauté in oil until translucent. OR you could just add three cans together, the sauce, the beans and the cooked pasta. Done.

The nice thing is that the spices are so valuable and variable in this dish so you can easily make it your own personal style. I am lucky to live on a Farm and have fresh herbs most days. Oregano, sage, rosemary as the basics. Please try adding some red pepper flakes to liven up the taste.

Pasta e Fagioli * Good food to Sustain us During our Stay at Home Time

I usually make this from scratch but you have permission to do some pantry savaging

1. Take three ingredients out of the pantry. Canned tomatoes, cici beans, (or cannellini ) and pasta.

2. And a very good olive oil! I recommend Frantoio or Athena’s Blend.

3. Don’t forget the good wine to keep you company, while watching the water boil, and cooking the pasta.

4. While the pasta is cooking make a salad or just have perfect tomatoes for a snack. Or fresh lettuce from the garden or farmers market.

5. Open the cans and get your service bowl ready

6. Drain the pasta put back in the pot with a little pasta water, add the two cans to the pot to warm all the ingredients, have a sip of wine.

7. Add the seasoning, salt pepper, basil, parsley and red pepper flakes OR NOT!

8. Gently toss together to mix all the flavors.

9. Sit down enjoy dinner in silence or dance to the music of good food and good company, good oil.

DO NOT WASTE ANYTHING—EVER

A RECIPE FOR TODAY’S CHALLENGES
DO NOT WASTE ANYTHING—EVER
STOCK AND CHEESE

STOCK, STOCK, AND MORE STOCK TO STOCK UP ON FOR YOUR PANTRY
All the tidbits of vegetables that are hiding out in the back of your refrigerator make excellent stock. It cooks itself and makes the house smell great. I think vegetable stock needs spices so add what you have liberally. If you are making chicken stock do the same thing as vegetable and add the bones of last nights chicken. Add the rind of your remaining Parmesan, the one that is so hard you cannot cut it with a ax, just add it to the simmering stock for a fantastic flavor addition. I keep all the Parmesan rinds in the freezer to add to stock or pasta sauce.
Let it simmer all day long. Adjust the seasoning at the end with a little salt and pepper. Then put it into ice cube trays for use later on when you are tired and need a cube of something good to help what ever else you are making. After freezing, pop out the little cubes of deliciousness and place in one layer in freezer bags.

PARMESAN RINDS FROM THE FREEZER FOR STOCK


CHEESE GLORIOUS CHEESE

All the little bits of cheese in the back depths of your cheese drawer can be put to great use to make a delicious cheese spread.

Put them all in the blender, yes all of them together, add some cream or stock or water and blend away.

This is a delicious way to use the tidbits for cheese spread, cheese sandwiches or a cheese dip. If the flavor is what you like, this may be a great mac-n-cheese addition.

To vary the flavor add your favorite herbs or spices, Go slowly, you can always add more, but you cannot take it away. Even a little lemon juice for acidity will be a good addition. Add the spices as you are blending. Taste as you go along to make sure the spices are correct. Salt and pepper to your taste.

OR fold in some diced spring onions for color and texture . Use the cheese, it will thank you.

Spring Has Arrived

April 1, 2020

If you cannot come to us, we can ship to you! Or we can meet you at the front steps. Call ahead please so we can be prepared to help you.

This is a difficult time for everyone. Let us all try to flatten the curve. If you are local and if you are in need of oil, call us and we will meet you safely at the driveway.
With great smiles and a safe distance.

At this moment, our IL Fiorello Visitor Center is closed to guests. We look forward to being ready for you when the time is right. In the meantime, we are trying to improve our Farm. We are trying to sustain our trees and ourselves, during this turbulent difficult time.

We are planting new trees, great vegetables, and our Chef’s Herb Garden is growing. Our compost is fantastic and we are feeding our trees. Our new chicks are growing and the “old girls” have a brand new palace and are producing great eggs. The eggs are sustaining, us as we weather this storm of a virus. We are trying to be ready when it will be safe for us all to meet again and enjoy the California Sunshine.

Olive oil is a valuable food. It has great flavor, a good energy source, and fantastic taste. Olive oil is much more than just something to drizzle over a dish when you want to impress company. It is a lifestyle. It is a necessary ingredient at every meal. It represents a positive lifestyle of eating. Use oil well and often. From our Farm to your table.

Joel Weber Editor of Bloomberg Week states, ( 3-30-2020). “Please take care of yourself and your loved ones. By bringing out the best in one another, we will and can build a better world. “

Stay safe, eat healthy, call us if you need oil or balsamic. We will safely meet you at the driveway with a huge smile and a virtual hug.

Thank you and please wash your hands.

Ciao
Ann

 

A profusion of nasturtiums beautiful and delicious.

Tomato with blossoms already!

Scarlet Runner Beans are growing.

 

GROWING VALUABLE FOOD

March 24, 2020

Today am sitting at home in the midst of a rainstorm. Yesterday I worked in the yard, pruning, cutting, digging, feeding citrus and planting more seeds. All with the intention of growing food for my family and my Farm.

I have been corresponding with an Italian Physician friend in Vancouver, Canada, and someone who is as passionate as I am about olive oil. He said something so important, “ grow valuable food”. People will need this. He struck an important cord, that in the midst of isolation, I had put aside. I was worried about my family, my staff, and my business. But I am in the business of growing food, good food and we shall continue to do so even in this virus isolation.

My olive trees are growing, buds of olive flower are beginning to appear. Our fruit trees are laden with blossoms. The citrus is prolific and the more we harvest, to make jams and jellies, the more blossoms pop out. We have juiced lemons to prepare for Lavender Lemonade at Lavender Weekend in June. We have frozen Blood Orange Juice for drinks. I still have some pomegranate juice to make jelly and ices for the summer. We have to think ahead, even in the midst of worry.

In the greenhouse, little starts are strong and happy. Peppers, beans, tomatoes and flowers for beauty. Nick, Able and EJ just make everything grow. I have some eggplant starts at home that are just thinking of popping out. Today I sent to the Farm, five 7 foot tall Chayote plants. They were very near to taking over my kitchen. They are for Chayote, apple, and lemon salad this summer.

Early this morning I was reading the Smithsonian Magazine, and National Geographic and in sane times this makes sense but today even more.

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.
Maya Angelou

If you are safe at home, take the time for quiet to center your soul. Look forward to better times. Thank the health care staff for being there and for us not being there.

Take pleasure in these pictures that will help us all look forward and grow valuable food for everyone.

Wash your hands stay safe.

I will keep everyone posted on the “growth” at the Farm at IL Fiorello.

Ciao

Ann