flowers1Yes, there is springtime in Paris, and autumn in my fridge.  A strange phenomenon occurs in western winter-challenged areas, such as those of us living on the coast of California.  We begin to empty out the third or second shelf in our refrigerators and fill it with bags of tulip bulbs.  Since tulips need cold weather for the bulb to set, we artificially induce the cold for 8 weeks, which turns out to be quite a commitment since autumn begins the season of big food – ham, roast, turkeys, stews and soup.  And here is the irony:  After cooling the bulbs, preparing the grounds and having a wonderful tulipy spring, the bulbs rot in the earth and we start all over.

However there are some positive aspects to clearing out the shelf.  It is the one time of the year when I go through the fridge tossing out jars of store-bought dressings, barbeque sauce, weird Chinese gloopy bottles that I never used, and probably a very old container of pickles and mayonnaise.  For a brief moment the refrigerator is pristine, only to clutter up again over the year.  Word of advice, when buying a new fridge, don’t get one that is deep; old bottles tend to get stuffed in the back recesses, never to be found again.

One item that we find and refresh is last year’s jar of yeast.  Usually, once we buy the new jar, Suzanne, my master bread-making daughter, makes us the first fougasse of the season with cheddar, garden herbs and olives.  Depending on her mood, she might make several more loaves with onions, Parmesan cheese, anchovies, bacon, tomatoes or jalapenos.  A green salad, a bowl of fruit and a glass of French Reisling; Voila, the perfect lunch.

The fougasse is bread from the Provence area of France.  Similar to focaccia, it is moister and does not to be dipped in olive oil.  After years of searching, we found the perfect recipe, a prize-winning Kalamata fougasse from Anne Baldzikowski of Belle Farms (a superb small olive orchard that has wonderful proprietary olive oil).  I was lucky to be a judge at the 2007 Harvest Festival where Anne brought us this wonderful bread.  Start this bread the night before planned menu since the slow cool rise is essential for developing the flavor.

Kalamata Olive Fougasse with Belle Farms Extra Virgin Olive Oil

INGREDIENTS

2 cups warm water, 100 – 105 degrees

2 teaspoons of dry active yeast

4 cups of flour

2 teaspoons sea salt or 1½ teaspoons table salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped

1 teaspoon coarse (sea or kosher) salt

THE NIGHT BEFORE

Pour warm water into a large bowl.  Sprinkle yeast onto warm water and stir until dissolved.

Add flour and 2 teaspoons salt.  Stir until mixture forms shaggy dough.

Add chopped Kalamata olives and continue stirring dough until it forms a loose ball.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in the refrigerator overnight.

NEXT DAY

Preheat oven to 500 degrees

Take dough out of the refrigerator and invert onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet.  Divide the dough into 2 pieces.  Let dough rest for 10 minutes

Take a piece of dough and gently form into a leaf shape – 14 x 9 inches- stretching the dough with your fingertips.  Take a pizza wheel and make 2 rows of 3 slits down each side of the leaf.  Brush leaves with olive oil and gently apart the slits in the dough with oiled fingers, MAKING BIG HOLES in the dough.

Sprinkle with chopped sage and coarse salt.  Let rest for 20 minutes on the counter, until dough comes to room temperature.

Place leaves in oven and reduce heat to 450 degrees.  Bake for 15 minutes or until leaves are golden brown.

Courtesy of Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets – www.montereybayfarmers.org

An easy method to add pizzazz to the Classic French Vinaigrette recipe, which I always have on hand.  Sometime I use this recipe to put on potatoes, such as Yukon Golds, or little fresh fingerlings.  Toss in some seared ahi tuna, capers, hard boiled eggs, greek olive and fine slices onion and voila, food heaven.  Now get out the foccaccia or fougasse bread and pour yourself a fine wine, perfect, the total dining experience.  I’ve included the link to a killer prize-winning fougasse bread recipe from Anne Baldzikowski of Belle Farms, growers and makers of Belle Farms olive oil.

INGREDIENTS

3 buds or more of garlic – unpeeled

Classic French Vinaigrette

Finely chopped herbs for the garden such as tarragon, basil, oregano

DIRECTIONS

Cut off the stem (top part) of the garlic

Roast or grill garlic until soft

Squeeze out the soft garlic into a bowl

Add herbs

Add enough Classic French Vinagrette made in the SaladSuccess shaker so that dressing has a nice consistency

Mix well

Pour over salad

basilEver look down into your salad and wonder what are those little black things floating in your salad dressing?  Usually it is dry herbs, which don’t taste anything like the real thing, fresh herbs.  For the most part, I dislike dry herbs and today, if you have a garden or even just a window sill, you can have fresh herbs all year long.

One of my favorite herbs, this time of year, is basil.  My kids and I buy several bunches of fresh basil and make enough pesto to last the year.  If you want to make pesto, Ina Garten of the Barefoot Contessa, has a wonderful recipe, and so do most cookbooks.  My daughter, who reads price tags, really loves to make pesto since a small jar from the grocery store of this wonderful condiment costs around $8.  I’ll also take a bunch of the basil that was harvested early in the day that still has its roots, and put it in a vase of water.  Basil easily resets its roots (you’ll need to initially give the roots a little trim to stimulate growth) and you’ll have fresh basil all summer long from a dollar’s worth.

With chiles, garlic, rosemary and tarragon, I make oil infusions, which gives the taste and perfume smell of these herbs and veggies, but not the overbearing flavors.  I also use herbs for flavored vinegars.  It’s fun and economical to make these items, and adds to the complexity of your salad dressings and meals.

So for your salads and meals, don’t reach for that old jar of dried herbs sitting in your spice rack.  Instead take a stroll in your garden, cut some fresh herbs, and enjoy a truly creative and delight meal.

close-up-layout-721Remember, a  lunch salad with vinaigrette made fresh out of  SaladSuccess shaker will help you eat better and feel great.  SaladSuccess is just $9.95 and gives you perfect vinaigrette and salad dressings every day with no fuss.