I have been told by the printer that the second edition of Fresh will be ready by Thursday of next week. I will keep you posted.
We are back from Italy. We had a nice trip with our two boys Patrick and James and Patrick’s girlfriend Emma. We ate lots of Pizza. Drank many many caffes and had gelato twice at the same gelato bar in Rome. We were brought to this particular bar by Antonella who we met at Fiore Market Cafe. She has been a regular customer almost since the day we opened. Over the years we talked about meeting in Rome.. We got the chance the day after Christmas. Antonella took us on a lovely tour of Rome that culminated with a stop at Tre Scallini for gelato.
On Monday we met Marvi and Stefano’s mother Agusta at the Trastevere train station in Rome for another visit which also ended with a stop at the exact same gelato bar. They told us the exact same stories. It was as if they were related. I guess they are in the sense they are Romans.
The air was brisk for most of the time we were in Italy. The first few days, Christmas Eve and Christmas were fine. Not too cold. The sky was clear. The sunsets magnificent. We cooked the first two days and hardly spent a penny. The only time we did was for trips down to the blue bar for coffee. James and I opened the bar on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Only because we were up at 4am due to jet lag. The barista couldn’t quite figure why these crazy Americans kept showing up so early. She asked me don’t you sleep. I replied that 6:00am is late compared to the time I rise in LA to bake bread at our cafe. Once we got adjusted to the jet lag we walked over about 7:30.
The sun doesn’t rise until 7:00 or 7:15. The windows to our apartment were covered from the inside by dark wood shutters which kept out the sun and the cold. It also allowed us to sleep in..
On Christmas we roasted a chicken Fiore style. I bought the chicken at the supermarket. It looked like something you might find in LA. It was a whole chicken placed on a Styrofoam plate wrapped in plastic wrap. I was expecting to see the chicken in the deli case hung upside down with the legs and neck still intact. Were the Italians becoming like us, I thought to myself? Later the evening we started to prepare our Christmas dinner. With the family by my side doing other things to get the dinner ready I unwrapped the plastic and grabbed the chicken expecting to see the same sort of thing I see daily when I prepare chicken at Fiore. I normally have to pull the innards from inside the cavity before I clean, salt and pepper the bird. This time in that cold apartment in Italy it was different. As I lifted the bird from the plastic plate it’s neck and head and legs and feet popped out. They were still attached. Everyone shrieked.
We managed to roast it none the less and it tasted good, real good. I sauteed some bitter greens and roasted potatoes in good olive oil. Anne dressed the salad with balsamic vinegar and that same olive oil. It was simple, but exactly the ways Italians eat a salad.
We enjoyed our dinner at the table by a blazing fire. It was our first night together and the start to our week.
Saturday December 20th is the date of Fiore Market Cafe’s 4 year anniversary. It’s also the last day of business before we start our holiday vacation. Anne and I and our two sons are taking a trip to Italy. We will reopen Saturday January 3rd.
On the 20th we will have Christmas Carols in the early afternoon followed by a short book signing for anyone who wishes to have their Fiore Market Cafe cookbook signed.
If you are looking to purchase gift certificates for the holidays make sure to stop by next week. We also have jams and other goodies which make for good stocking stuffers
Here is a little teaser from the cookbook. I especially love this photograph. I took it in 2005 during a trip to Italy. Take a close look at these hands. They are the hands of a worker, a very gifted cook.
It’s finally done. A big thanks to Brad Roe and Tim Schamber of Peloton Magazine for making it happen. Tim took our photographs, recipes, and stories and created something very unique and special. The book tells our story and gives away some of our secrets.
The book is being printed and should be ready by December 3rd at the latest. It will be for sale at Fiore Market Cafe and will cost $30 plus tax.
We have been making lots of fig jam this summer. We usually do for a couple reasons. Number 1, figs are very plentiful in Southern California. Many people have a fig tree or know someone with a fig tree. Number 2, fig jam goes well with crispy pork belly. which we also like to make in the summer, or anytime of the year.
I didn’t know much about figs until Anne and I started to go to Italy. There I had a couple of very big fig moments.
We had a neighbor who lived directly across from the apartment we stayed in. She used to sit on a plastic lawn chair right outside her door and smoke cigarettes. When she wasn’t smoking cigarettes she was watering her plants or trimming vegetables. She was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. One hot August day, she knocked on our door and handed me a porcelain bowl of ripe figs. When I say ripe I mean ripe. These figs were splitting in two.
At the time they were too much for me. I couldn’t appreciate them. They were just too ripe for my taste buds. I don’t remember what we did with them, but I brought her clean bowl back to her the next day. I think she assumed we enjoyed them
The second big fig moment occurred a few years later. We were in Italy again. I was at our friends Paola and Franco’s house. Paola was getting ready to do a pizza class for some students that I had arranged to come to her cooking school.. We had made the dough. Franco and I had lit the fire in the wood oven and we had time to spare as we waited for the dough to rise. Franco asked me to follow him out into the fields to help him pick figs.
The fig trees were in a big open field. Three of them sat side by side and they were absolutely filled with figs. Looking up from below the trees all I could see was purple. As I climbed the ladder to retrieve the figs the branches shook and figs dropped exploding on Franco’s truck parked beneath the tree. I climbed to the very top of the tree and peered across the valley. It was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seem. It was dusk. The sky was reddish orange and the tree was filled with bright purple figs looking for a home.
I don’t remember what we did with the figs. I know that most went uneaten, but at that moment I came to learn and appreciate the fig.
Here is a simple fig jam recipe. It yields a small quantity of jam so you can store it in the refrigerator. It should last a few weeks.
Take 1 pound of figs rinse them, cut off the stem and quarter them. Place them in a stainless steel bowl with 1 cup of sugar, the zest and the juice of an orange. Stir the fig mixture and place in a non reaction sauce pan. Turn the heat to high and gently stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes until the jam thickens. Keep a watchful eye and do not let it burn. When the jam is ready I usually cool it down by putting it in a metal container set in a bowl of ice water.
Rely on your senses to tell if it is done. The color of the jam will darken and become glossy. When you stir you’ll feel the resistance as it slowly thickens. The figs will break down and spread out. They will not completely break down. I like them to remain semi-whole, but well cooked and soft.
Try the jam on a piece of grilled bread with some cheese. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with course sea salt.