Vendredi Vocab: Gratin

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gratin; gratinée; alla gratinata [GRAH-tn (Fr. gra-TAN)] A gratin is any dish that is topped with cheese or breadcrumbs mixed with bits of butter, then heated in the oven or under the broiler until brown and crispy. The terms au gratin or gratinée refer to any dish prepared in such a manner. Special round or oval gratin pans and dishes are ovenproof and shallow, which increases a dish’s surface area, thereby insuring a larger crispy portion for each serving.

The New Food Lover’s Companion, page 342

New on our appetizer menu this week is the Spring Onion Gratin with comté cheese and herbs, served with brioche toasts. It is oh so rich and delicious and makes the perfect, rich appetizer, especially for the cool, but sunny spring days we’ve been having here in Sonoma. The best part – it comes to your table sizzling hot and fresh out of the oven in these awesome mini au gratin cast iron dishes.

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Photo credit: Chef Jeremy Zimmerman

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: Farro

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Farro (färō, noun) is a food composed of the grains of certain wheat species. The exact definition is debated. It is sold dried and is prepared by cooking in water until soft, but still crunchy (many recommend first soaking overnight). It may be eaten plain, though it is often used as an ingredient in dishes such as salads and soups.

Farro is an ethnobotanical term derived from Italian Latin for a group of three wheat species: spelt , emmer, and einkorn, which are types of hulled wheat (wheat which cannot be threshed). In Italian cuisine, farro is sometimes (but not always) distinguished as farro grande, farro medio, and farro piccolo, respectively. Confusion is generated by the difficult history in the taxonomy of wheat and the colloquial, regional use of the term for specific wheat species, for example emmer grown in the Garfagnana region of Tuscany is known as farro, and can receive an IGP designation (Indicazione Geografica Protetta), which by law guarantees its geographic origin. Emmer is by far the most common variety grown in Italy, in certain mountain regions of Tuscany and Abruzzo. It is also considered to be of a higher quality for cooking than the other two grains and is sometimes called “true” farro. Farro is also sometimes defined as spelt (dinkel in German), specifically distinguished from both emmer and einkorn.

Regional differences in what is grown locally and eaten as farro, as well as similarities between the three grains, may explain the confusion. Barley and farro may be used interchangeably because of their similar characteristics. Spelt is much more commonly grown in Germany and Switzerland and is eaten and used in much the same way, and might therefore be called farro, as is épeautre (French for spelt) in France (where, like for farro in Italy, there is “petit”, “moyen” and “grand” épeautre. Common wheat may also be prepared and eaten much like farro, in which form it is often referred to as wheatberries.

Source: Wikipedia Farro

At the girl & the fig we love farro for it’s nutty flavor, delicate chew, and versatility. We always have a vegetarian entree on our menu and our current dish is so delicious. It’s satisfying and filling with the warm farro, roasted beets, brown butter, and soft poached egg, yet fresh with a little crunch from the radishes and pea tendrils.

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Spring Farro topped with baby beets, spring alliums, pea tendrils, a poached egg, and our brown butter vinaigrette.

IMG_0047 Photo credit: Chef Jeremy Zimmerman

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: Maldon Salt

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Maldon Salt is made in the town of Maldon, which is on the Blackwater estuary in Essex, England. The salt is renowned for it’s clean, pure taste, and light flaky texture that seems to melt when it hits food. It is used as a finishing salt (as opposed to a salt used during cooking or backing), and you will find it on many of our dishes at both the girl & the fig and the Fig Cafe. In fact, at the fig cafe it is our table salt and you will find it on each table in the most adorable lidded ceramic salt pots.

Here’s a little backstory from the Maldon website:

Head back into history and the Essex coast was alive with salt making. At least 2,000 years ago, seawater was being partially evaporated and then heated in clay pots over open fires. When the water had gone, the pots were broken open to reveal the precious result: salt. Opening a distinctive Maldon box today is somewhat easier.

By the Domesday Book, 45 salt pans were operating in the Maldon area and hundreds more across Essex as a whole. Salt turns up in place names across the county, the Guild of Saltmakers was founded in 1394 and its sign, the three cups, is still seen in Essex.

But like so many good things, saltmaking was taxed and, eventually, taxed almost out of existence. Except that is for Maldon, the last survivor of the Essex saltmakers and proud standard bearer of traditional high quality salt making.

There are good reasons why Maldon Salt is in Maldon. Flat tide-washed marshes and low rainfall mean high salinity and the ideal place to start the Maldon Salt Company in 1882.

There was something special about this salt from the beginning: sold in Harrods and Fortnums within a few years, first exported (to Sweden, land of salt connoisseurs) in the middle of the last century, recommended by St Delia in 2000, and granted the Royal Warrant on its 130th birthday in 2012.

Source: official Maldon website

 

 

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We are currently garnishing the bistro plats du jour appetizer with Maldon salt. It pairs beautifully with the creaminess of the marinated ricotta, and the freshness of the olive oil.

Marinated Ricotta Crostini: frill mustard, saba must, olive oil, maldon salt.

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Photo credit: Chef Jeremy Zimmerman

For the a look at the full Bistro Plat du Jour, click here, or come visit us at the girl & the fig!

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: Pistou

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pistou [pees-TOO] A mixture of crushed basil, garlic and olive oil used as a condiment or sauce. It’s the French version of Italy’s pesto.

The New Food Lover’s Companion, page 581

Pistou! It’s the cutest little word, with the simplest definition, but for some reason, I had never heard it before the girl & the fig. And I am often asked by our customers what it means. At any given moment, we are sure to be using pistou somewhere on our menu. Such a classic combination of ingredients and an integral compliment to our style of food – country food with a French passion. It’s also a wonderful combo because you can make it your own by adding other ingredients.

The only difference in ingredients compared with pesto is that the Italian version traditionally includes pine nuts and cheese (parmesan or pecorino) in addition to the basil, garlic, and olive oil. Traditionally, the ingredients of pistou are crushed and mixed together in a mortar and pestle (pistou means “pounded” in the Provençal language). The word “pistou” was introduced from Genoese dialect “pesto” after being brought into Provence in the 19th century by Italian immigrants from Genoa and Ligury (30% of the Provençal population is of Italian origin). (Source)

On our menu right now is this dish of goodness…Lamb Shank with white beans and nettle pistou – the main course on the Bistro Plat du Jour this week.

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Photos courtesy of Jeremy Zimmerman

We are also doing an appetizer of risotto, grilled spring onions, mascarpone, and a green garlic pistou…it’s rich and delicious and the green garlic makes for a flavor that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s a subtler version of garlic that almost has sweet qualities to it.

If you aren’t in the neighborhood to come enjoy our current pistou dishes, you can make your own at home and try it atop your favorite meats, fish or soups. It would go wonderfully with a white bean soup and it also works very well for vegan dishes, like farro with roasted vegetables…mmm.

 

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!

Word of the Week: Charcuterie

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Photo credit: Megan Steffan

charcuterie [shahr-KOO-tuhr-ee; shar-koo-tuhr-EE] Taken from the term cruiser de chair, meaning “cooker of meat,” charcuterie has been considered a French culinary art at least since the 15th century. It refers to the products, particularly (but not limited to) pork specialties such as pâtés, rillettes, galantines, crépinettes, etc., which are made and sold in a delicatessen-style shop, also called a charcuterie.

The New Food Lover’s Companion, page 150

At the girl & the fig, we started making our own small-batch charcuterie about four years ago. We call it MANO FORMATE, meaning “hand formed.” We started with a select few and once we got the process down, realized we could make all the cured meats for our restaurants, including the thick cut bacon for our burgers and grilled cheese sandwich (upon request, but highly recommended!) and the crispy pancetta for our fig & arugula salad. And of course we make all the meats for our charcuterie platter; coppa, lonzo, pâté de campagne, pork rillette, mortadella, and various sausages.

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Salumi is a meat product that is air-dried, salted, cooked, and/or smoked. The tradition, with roots in France and Italy, dates back thousands of years and was used to preserve meat before the invention or refrigeration. We primarily use pork, but have tried our hand at beef and lamb as well.

Chef prepping to smoke pork for bacon.

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Mortadella in the making.

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Pâté de campagne with pickled garden vegetables for the Restaurant Week appetizer.

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Photo credit: Chef Jeremy Zimmerman

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.

Cheers to the weekend!