Vegetable economics

Last week we talked about the overflowing bounty now on display 
at our farm and all the farmers markets stands, and indeed this is that time 
of summer when we get almost giddy about fresh produce.
You can so easily go to the farmers market (or your backyard farm) 
without a specific plan of what you will cook and as you gather what's available, 
your meal will start coming together in your mind. 
(Check out this video from Zagat shopping a Farmers Market with a chef):
All good tipsthat is, if you can make it home 
with your treasures before stealing some bites. 
Recently at the Tuesday Farmers Market in Sonoma, a customer 
was inquiring how to store the raspberries he was buying. 
The farmer smiled and said, "Who knows? Most everyone just 
eats them before they get home." 
We know what he means, as our raspberries from the farm 
often don't survive the trip to the restaurant and not because 
they are too delicate to travel, just too delicious to resist!

these managed to make it to the restaurant
and you can enjoy the Summer Crisp of local berries with lemon verbena ice cream
now on the menu at the girl & the fig
Considering how irresistible all the fresh vegetables are this time of year 
and even though we know you are  getting creative, we wanted to share 
some great tips for freezing produce (yes, you can). 
Ok, it's true it may seem like blasphemy to talk about freezing produce 
now when everything is so fresh, but it's a good solution to 
the "I couldn't stop myself from buying everything in sight" affliction 
(or when you can't keep up with what you are growing), 
and later in the year, you'll be glad you did. 
This step-by-step process from what to select, how to cut, blanch and freeze 
is courtesy of Kenji Lopez-Alt, Chief Creative Officer at 

hard to resist buying it all, right?
On the subject of "vegetable economics," there's also the idea 
of using all the parts of the vegetables you have.
San Francisco Chronicle food writer Tara Duggan has a new book, 
Miriam Morgan explains it this way: "Head-to-tail cooking, the term 
for using every part of the animal, is the mantra of 
sustainably conscious chefs these days. 
Now, a new book translates that into the vegetable realm...
Celery leaves? They go into slaw. Apple peels and cores? 
Make a jelly and flavor bourbon. Too many lemons? Here's how to freeze the zest.

Along with the recipes, the book weighs in on how to 
evaluate organic versus conventional produce; store and prepare produce easily; 
and add meat, fish and chicken into the picture."
There are more good tips on how to use all of a vegetable, including a few recipes.

radish leaf salad with corn, tomatoes & salted cucumbers
photo by Clay McLachlan for San Francisco Chronicle

Our chefs know all these tricks and continue to be creative 
all the time with the bounty we bring them from the farm.
They know all about what to do with lots of cucumbers and tomatoes
including the current salad of the season: cucumber vinaigrette, summer herbs, 
lemon cucumber, snap peas, a recent soup special and this week's Plats du Jour entree.
 tomato cucumber gazpacho at the girl & the fig
this week's Plats du Jour features a tomato tart
And they are always inspired by what is currently growing at the farm.
Now, our popular Panisse Cake, which at other times of the year 
is presented with chickpea purée, sautéed garden chard 
and marinated sheep's milk feta is now served 
as basil panisse cake~ tomato coulis, cherry tomatoes, 
marinated feta, mizuna, featuring our current garden stars.

Our panisse cake this past winter

current version of Panisse cake using the farm's
basil and tomato 

What are you growing at your farm or finding at the farmers market
that is inspiring you right now?
And do you have any tips for what you do when you have too much?

Farm bounty

photo courtesy of Oak Hill Farm in Glen Ellen
Well known food writer Mark Bittman recently wrote 
"Although there are areas of the country where farmers’ markets feature 
 loads of fresh vegetables year round (yay Sonoma!), 
those of us who live in regions with a different set of blessings 
experience long stretches when farmers’ markets (at least those that remain open) 
offer only cider, apples, root vegetables, frozen meat and things like
 candles and sweaters made of the coarsest wool. 
Which is all fine, but it mostly serves to enhance the excitement 
we can feel when we hit the big time: a farmers’ market loaded 
with stuff that was picked not only nearby but yesterday."
Well, it's that time of year for sure. August 7 was the half way point for summer. 
So here we are at that glorious "moment" when all our winter labors prepping 
and spring toil planting at the farm pay off at the table. 
Our chefs may stop by the farm on their way to the kitchen 
to pick what's ripe and are then inspired to get creative. 
Executive chef John Toulze picking tomatoes
on his way to the girl & the fig kitchen
A recent bounty of pluots in the orchard brought about 
some especially innovative specials at the girl & the fig including 
chilled garden pluot soup with local honey, sweet crème fraîche, oat crumble 
and then grilled pluots with frisee and roasted cherries as a special salad.
Chilled pluot soup
bottom photo
pluots at the farm
Right now there's just so much to pick, whether at a farm like ours, 
your backyard garden patch or the Farmers Markets. 
You can get super creative or actually, considering how "eat-it-right-now" 
delicious everything is, simple may be best. 
One of our friends, Kristin Jorgensen who writes "The Sun Eats" column in Sonoma Sun 
offered her "last ditch month-long guide, crusade if you will, 
of what you must do to soak up every juicy morsel 
of what is left of this amazing Sonoma summer" 
with great tips on easy ways to enjoy the bounty surrounding us. 
Our favorite bit of advice from Kristin, one we subscribe to as well, is about tomatoes. 
She wisely says: "You need to eat more. I promise, you'll be sorry if you don't. 
Have them at every single meal." 

photo courtesy of Quarter Acre Farm in Sonoma
She's right. We are doing our part for you 
with the 800 tomatoes we are harvesting from the farm. 
Not only are we featuring our tomatoes and cucumbers 
in this week's Plats du Jour entree, 
but we are sharing a bit of the farm with you too—while they last, 
you can pick from a box of heirloom tomatoes at the restaurant and take them home!
overflow from our 800 tomatoes plants
to share with you!
this week's Plats du Jour features (upper left photo):
garden tomato salad made from our farm cucumbers,
smoked house-made mozzarella, avocado vinaigrette, arugula
Tomato Row at the farm
Kristin has some great ideas for what to do with tomatoes 
including the quickest way to create a sauce 
you can use for anything—from cold soup, a topping for grilled bread 
or steak, to toss with noodles and not have to turn on the stove! 
It "cooks in a sunny spot on a window sill" while 
you are out having whatever summer fun you enjoy. 
never too many, right?

There are a lot of great ideas and suggestions available
(including tips top be a savvy Farmers Market shopper)
but the absolute best resource we've seen recently 
"essentially a one-armed bandit of ingredients and techniques,
offering more than 50 combinations of things 
you’re most likely to find in a market or your C.S.A. basket."

photo courtesy of Quarter Acre Farm in Sonoma

And check out a cool new resource which is 
probably very busy at this time of year: CropMobster.
From their website: "How It Works:
Taking part in the CropMobster™ community is a great way 
to help local farms, food sellers and producers and create affordable access 
to fresh food, free donations and other items of surplus and excess 
that may be at risk of going to waste." 
If you have too much and want to share, or if you are on the lookout 
for what's fresh and bountiful, check out their latest alerts.  
photo courtesy of Oak Hill Farm in Glen Ellen

It's just that time of year—overflowing baskets, lush farm beds, 
bountiful, plentiful—truly "a buyers market," as Mark Bittman said. 
Go out and pick what you have growing, forage at the farmers market, 
bring it home and you hardly need to open a cookbook—chop it, 
drizzle some good oil and sprinkle some of the fresh herbs
 you no doubt got as well, toss and enjoy. 
Or maybe, do what many of us confess is the true summer pleasure: 
slice that juicy tomato or peach or whatever you've got...
stand over the sink and savor. 
Then repeat.

What's are you enjoying now from your farm?

Any creative recipes to share, or 

do you just throw together the best salad of the year?


Musing on melons

brings us to today's musings on melons. 
And, considering that melons and cucumbers are in the "same family" 
the Cucurbitaceae, it is appropriate to follow our cucumber post with one on melons. 
According to the Cambridge World History of Food
"Cucumber, melon, and watermelon plants
share many characteristics but also differ in important ways. 
As a group they are frost-sensitive annuals with trailing, tendril-bearing vines. 
The plants are mostly monoecious, the flowers are insect-pollinated, 
and the fruits are variously shaped, many-seeded berries."
watermelon vines behind "the fig"
cucumber vines at the farm
"Melons originated in Africa and southwest Asia, but they gradually 
began to appear in Europe toward the end of the Roman Empire. 
Melons were among the earliest plants to be 
domesticated in both the Old and New Worlds.
Early European settlers in the New World are recorded 
as growing honeydew and casaba melons as early as the 1600s."
melons growing in the Orchard beds at the farm

We have a variety of melons at the farm including cantaloupe, arava galia, charentais 
and of course watermelon (regular and yellow). 
All melons are delicious but it seems like watermelons are everyone's favorite. 
Watermelons make you instantly think of summer barbecues and picnics.
And it seems like watermelons are the only melon that
it is ok (well, actually preferred) to just pick up and eat a slice to enjoy!
"By weight, watermelon is the most-consumed melon in the U.S., 
followed by cantaloupe and honeydew." 
We learned this from the "National Watermelon Promotion Board" 
(seriously, there is one-further proof of its universal popularity!).
 And where better than here at "" to find out pretty 
watermelon at the farm
our chefs love watermelons so much,
we grow them behind "the fig" too!
And, the first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt. 
And talking about having fun with a watermelon, this year we decided 
to try growing a square watermelon, which we'd heard about. 
We are doing this experiment with one of the watermelons growing behind "the fig."
Watch this video if you want to see how to grow a square watermelon (and why)
Whether you are growing a traditional watermelon (seedless or seeded), 
or a square one, or buying one at the Farmers Market, 
if you can resist just slicing it and eating it,
you'll want to know what to make with one, right? 
very popular heirloom tomato & watermelon salad
at the girl & the fig
photo by Steven Krause for
Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig's Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country
In addition to our take on what to do with watermelon,
there are lots of other ideas out there.
Besides ones you might expect like watermelon frozen treats, how about watermelon sloppy Joes? Sounds odd but the savory/sweet thing just might surprise you.
The other thing that might surprise you is that 
even thought watermelons are 92% water, they have a lot of nutritional value.
But what you probably really want to know is how to pick a ripe melon
Choose a melon that seems heavy for its size and does not have bruises or soft spots.
Tap the melon with the palm of your hand. 
If you hear a hollow sound, it's passed the first test.
Next, push your fingers on the round section where the vine was attached. 
It should be slightly soft and fragrant.

For the best watermelon: 
look for a smooth, uniform rind and a hollow sound when slapped.
The rind should be dull, rather than shiny

And you can go beyond these basics for more 
did you know that the French charentais melons are
known as the "breakfast for 2" melon due to their smaller size?
Our bartenders like to get creative with melons also.
Try the "melon mash" made with melon, basil (both from the farm), 
gin, simple syrup, splash tonic.

What's your favorite melon?
And do you have any creative recipes to share?