Word of the Week: Squash Blossoms

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photo by Eric Oberg

squash blossoms The flowers from either summer or winter squash are edible and delicious. Squash blossoms come in varying shades of yellow and orange, with flavors that hint of the squash itself. They can be found from late spring through early fall in specialty produce markets as well as Italian, Latin and Filipino markets. Squash blossoms are naturally soft and somewhat limp, but choose those that look fresh, with closed buds. They’re extremely perishable and should be stored in the refrigerator for no more than a day. Squash blossoms may be used as a garnish (whole or slivered) for almost everything from soups to main dishes. They also add color and flavor to salads. The most common method of cooking them is sautéing, often after coating the blossoms with a light batter. Squash blossoms are sometimes stuffed with ingredients such as soft cheese before being baked or batter-dipped and fried. They contain vitamins A and C, as all as iron and calcium.

The New Food Lover’s Companion

If you are interested in trying squash blossoms at home, here’s a link from The Kitchn to spark your imagination – Five Ways to Eat Squash Blossoms.

New at the cafe this past week we started serving this delicious and vegetarian pizza, complete with smoked burrata, cherry tomatoes, squash blossoms and fresh oregano. If you haven’t been into the Fig Café before (full menu here), our pizzas are a must-try!

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Photo credit: John Toulze

Each week we add something new to our culinary vocabulary by delving into a word from our menu. We love food, we love words, and we love to learn a new word or see a new preparation of an ingredient we may have used before.

Cheers to the (three-day) weekend!

Vendredi Vocab: White Asparagus

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Okay, so you may be wondering why ‘white asparagus’ would qualify for a vendredi vocab, being that you know what ‘white’ is and you know what ‘asparagus’ is…but, I learned something this week. And, when I learn something I like to share it! Did you know that white asparagus isn’t a type of asparagus, but, in fact, a growing technique?

Considered a rare spring delicacy, white asparagus comes from the process called etiolation, which means growing something with the absence of light. Dirt is kept mounded around the emerging stalk, depriving it of light. Since the plant can’t produce chlorophyll without light, the asparagus never turns green. Who knew?!

White asparagus is considered to be slightly milder in flavor and a bit more tender than green asparagus.

This week on our Bistro Plat du Jour, we’re serving a French White Asparagus with frisée, bread crumbs, boquerone vinaigrette, and a fennel-dijon puree. It is so delicious and perfect for spring.

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Photo credit: Chef Jeremy Zimmerman

Hurry in while we have white asparagus – they don’t last long! Click here for the full Plats du Jour menu this week.

Did you know the story behind white asparagus? Or was I the only one still in the dark (pun intended).

Vendredi means “Friday” in French. Each week we add something new to our culinary vocabulary by delving into a word from our menu. We love food, we love words, and we love to learn something new. We also love Fridays.

Happy Vendredi, everyone!

Vendredi Vocab: morel

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morel [muh-REHL] Belonging to the same fungus species as the truffle, the morel is an edible wild mushroom. It’s spongy, honeycombed, cone-shape cap ranges in size from 2 to 4 inches high and in color from a rich tan to an extremely dark brown. The morel is widely applauded by gourmets, who savor its smoky, earthy, nutty flavor. In general, the darker the mushroom the stronger the flavor. Wild morels usually appear in specialty produce markets in April and the season can last through June. Cultivated morels may appear sporadically throughout the year. Choose fresh specimens that have a firm yet spongy texture. Imported canned morels can be found in gourmet markets year-round. Dried morels have a more intense, smokier flavor than fresh ones and have the advantage of being available year-round. The marvelous flavor of the morel needs little embellishment and this mushroom is best when simply sautéed in butter.

The New Food Lovers’ Companion, page 495

 

Morels are such a treat to have on the menu! This week they are making an appearance in our newest appetizer – a fried farm egg atop grilled bread with bone marrow butter and english peas. This dish is the perfect balance between seasonal and fresh, while also being rich and decadent. It is just delicious.

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Photo credit: Chef Jeremy Zimmerman

We took the patio tent down this week and the weather has been heating up. It’s feeling amazing out there. Breezy, shady, warm, and full of our happy guests. In fact, we would love to be enjoying this farm egg appetizer out on the patio right about now… We hope to be seeing you all soon!

Vendredi means “Friday” in French. Each week we add something new to our culinary vocabulary by delving into a word from our menu. We love food, we love words, and we love to learn something new. We also love Fridays.

Happy Vendredi, everyone!

 

Vendredi Vocab: Sturgeon

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sturgeon [STER-juhn] A large migratory fish known for its delicious flesh, excellent roe (the true caviar) and isinglass (a form of gelatin). This prized fish was so favored by England’s King Edward II that he gave it royal status, which meant that all sturgeon caught had to be offered to the king. Sturgeon are anadromous, meaning that they migrate from their saltwater habitat to spawn in fresh water. Their average weight is 60 pounds but gargantuan specimens can reach over 3,000 pounds. The sturgeon’s long, thin body is pale fray and has large scales. Its rich, high-fat flesh has a fresh, delicate flavor and is so firm that it’s almost meat like.

The New Food Lover’s Companion, page 739

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Sturgeons have been referred to as “primitive fishes” because their morphological characters have remained relatively unchanged since the earliest fossil record. They are distinctive for their elongated bodies, lack of scales, and occasional great size: sturgeons ranging from 7–12 feet in length are common, and some species grow up to 18 feet. (source)

 

This week we have a delicious sturgeon dish on our menu – Green Garlic Crusted Smoked Sturgeon with a braised ham tomato broth.

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Check out the rest of the plats du jour menu this week, here.

 

Vendredi means “Friday” in French. Each week we add something new to our culinary vocabulary by delving into a word from our menu. We love food, we love words, and we love to learn something new. We also love Fridays.

Happy Vendredi, everyone!

 

Vendredi Vocab: Comté

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Comté [kawn-TAY] France’s most popular and widely produced cheese, Comté is made throughout five major regions of eastern France. Yet, even though production is massive, because Comté has an appellation status its quality is strictly controlled. Each cheese is rigorously graded on a 20-loin system and those not attaining enough points are sold as Gruyère (French Gruyère isn’t as esteemed as Swiss Gruyère). Comté is aged a minimum of 4 months, though 6 months or longer is more common. The texture is firm and supple, the flavor a complex yet savory mixture of butterscotch, nuts and fruit. The fat content of comté is about 45 percent.

Source: The New Food Lovers’ Companion, page 198

 

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I find the notion of “appellation d’origine contrôlée” fascinating. Translating to “controlled designation of origin” and “AOC” for short, the French certification is granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products. The origins of AOC date back to the year 1411(!), when Roquefort was regulated by a parliamentary decree. Examples of AOC’s are Champagne sparkling wine, Haute-Provence Lavender, and Espelette peppers, however there are literally hundreds more.

The idea that the land (or “terroir,” as they call it), including the soil, location, climate, and history of said land is SO incredibly important to the making of a given product was foreign to me up until a few years ago. I thought – “Chardonnay is Chardonnay” and “Pinot is Pinot!”… Boy was I wrong. When I was traveling in France, I was used to knowing the grape varietal and was confused when the bottles I was tasting had the varietal nowhere in sight. Instead they listed the area it came from (down to the town and even the vineyard in some cases). I asked the man pouring the wine why this was, and apparently I might as well have put a big sticker on my forehead that read “Tourist.” To my question he replied “you Californians are so focused on fruit, in France it’s about the terroir.” What I quickly learned that day is that, in France, if you know wine and the regions, you automatically know the grape varietal, because that is the only grape allowed to be grown in that precise area. And on top of that, it’s not the grape that matters, as much as it is the land, or terroir. Lesson learned.

But back to Comté, the reason for this post. At the girl & the fig, you will find it in our spring onion gratin, which I talked about last week, here, as well as on our cheese list.

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The particular one we have on our cheese list at the moment is called Les 3 Comtois™ (“Lay Trwa Com-twa”) Comté (“Kohm-tay”). It is a bold and nutty French mountain cheese made in the Jura plateau region. The firm, raw cow’s milk cheese is aged to perfection in special ripening caves at the Fort des Rousses, which was built by Napolean more than 200 years ago. Comté was one of the first cheeses to be granted AOC (Appellation d’origine controlee) status in 1958. (Source)

 

Vendredi means “Friday” in French. Each week we add something new to our culinary vocabulary by delving into a word from our menu. We love food, we love words, and we love to learn something new. We also love Fridays.

Happy Vendredi, everyone!