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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

LIFE IS BEAUTY FULL

And right now fruit full. I am grateful to see some signs of summer. The weather here by the beach has been dismal in all senses of the word – it is a record cool summer. However, it is late summer and very warm in the places where fruits and vegetables are grown here in California, so there are lots of beautiful choices at the farmer’s markets.

It seems that more farmers are growing heirloom tomatoes so I’ve observed that they are plentiful and cheaper than they usually are; almost down as far as regular tomatoes. And it’s officially fig season. The last couple of weeks the markets have had figs in abundance. The price doesn’t go down very much but the figs have been wonder full.

Then there are the peaches. I love peaches and fortunately for me, there are new varieties that extend their season. Admittedly some are better than others, but they are all good and in season here in California. No need to import from South America or New Zealand as they do during the winter months. I stay away from those. It just seems unnatural to have peaches in January.

But right now it is summer and with these beautiful fruits so available, I feel I must incorporate them into our eating as much as possible.
Peaches are just an eating fruit as far as we are concerned and really that’s the best way to appreciate their juiciness. The tomatoes either become a delicious pasta dish or grace a tomato galette, which was the centerpiece of a meal this weekend. We had some of our flag crew at our house on Labor Day. The flag crew is a dedicated group of volunteers who put out (what else?) American flags on each National holiday along the highway though the Corona Del Mar business district. The flags are put out at 6:00 am and gathered up by 6:00 p.m. The group varies; some are able to participate on the morning crew and others in the evening, although some do both. It’s a lovely sight to see all 100 or so flags fluttering in the breeze!

So, end of summer, lots of good tomatoes and the tomato galette is ideal for a get-together after an event; it can be baked ahead and doesn’t suffer for it.
We have used a lot more figs this season. Not sure why but they seem to be plentiful and delicious. I have put them into a small appetizer- sized salad with butter lettuce, good quality blue cheese and bits of prosciutto dressed with a honey, lemon and olive oil dressing.

For the Labor Day fete, we served them halved and wrapped with prosciutto as appetizers and everyone seemed to enjoy them, at least there were none left. That’s also a make-ahead item. We are enjoying them as much as possible.
If I was a pizza maker I would use them the way restaurant Sage does, on a pizza or flatbread with prosciutto. Alas, no pizza oven. And actually probably a good thing. I could become addicted.

Last week, looking for more uses, I found a pasta recipe where figs sort of substitute for raisins in a mix of garlicky spinach and are added to bow tie pasta. Wow what a great recipe and flavors. Life is beauty full and fruit-full.


Bowtie Pasta with Garlicky Spinach and Roasted Figs
4 servings

6 large ripe figs or 8 smaller ones cut in half lengthwise
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ lb bow ties
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
10 ounces fresh spinach, stems removed, washed and dried and
coarsely chopped
preheat oven to 450 line a small roasting pan or cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment; place the figs on the foil, cut side up. Roast until tender and just starting to brown, 6-8 minutes. Remove from oven, cover lightly and keep warm
cook bow ties per package directions
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and spinach. Cook, stirring until the spinach is tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta, add to the skillet with the spinach and toss well to combine. Transfer to individual serving bowls. Arrange roasted figs over each serving. Serve immediately

NOTES: I served this with freshly grated parmesan cheese which seemed to go well with it. I also used more figs than were called for since I had an abundance, and quartered them instead of halved. Be careful not to overcook the figs. I used packaged spinach for the convenience. You could probably add pine nuts or walnuts to this dish although I did not. The traditional recipe for garlicky spinach and raisins does call for pine nuts.
All in all this is a very simple to prepare dish and turned out delicious! This is from an old cookbook called Pasta Verde and now I wonder why I never tried this recipe before. If you like figs I highly recommend it.
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