May 9, 2012
May 8, 2012
Strawberry & Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast
Recipe courtesy of Luisa Ormonde of Luisa’s Catering. Luisa says, “I made this for our friends that came over our house for brunch. I thought with Mother’s Day coming up, this would be a great recipe to share…it’s great for treating mom to a breakfast in bed! I make my own brioche (see recipe here: Simple Brioche Loaf) but you could certainly purchase one already made”. Time: 20 mins. Serves 4.
For the filling:
- 12 (or so) fresh organic strawberries, sliced in half
- 1 small jar of quality strawberry preserves/jam (Luisa used Sigona’s strawberry preserves)
- 8 oz. cream cheese (very cold), sliced into 12 slices
For the toast:
- 8 thick slices brioche bread
- 4 large eggs (Luisa used Wattle & Comb pastured eggs, found only at Sigona’s!)
- 1/2 cup organic cream
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- pinch of pink Himalayan salt
Fresh strawberry coulis:
- unsalted butter, for buttering pan/griddle
- powdered sugar, for garnish
- fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
To make strawberry coulis: Blend strawberries, sugar and lemon juice with a hand blender of regular blender Strain into a bowl. Pour into a plastic squeeze bottle (if you got one) and chill until ready to use.
For the French toast: Lay out all 8 slices of bread. On 4 of the slices, place 3 slices of cream cheese slices, some strawberry jam and top with 3 strawberry halves. Top those with the other 4 plain slices of bread (just like you are making a sandwich!).
In a shallow baking dish or pie plate, whisk together the eggs, cream, cinnamon and salt. One at a time, place the “sandwich” in the egg mixture, soaking about 20-30 seconds per side. Remove the bread and allow the excess custard to drip off. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining “sandwiches.”
Add about a 1 tablespoon of butter to the heated skillet/griddle and coat. Add the filled slices of toast to the skillet/griddle in a single layer. Cook until light golden brown and crisp, about 1-2 minutes per side, adding more butter to the skillet/griddle as needed.
To serve: Cut each “sandwich” in half. Squirt/spoon strawberry coulis on serving platter or individual plates. Transfer French toasts to serving platter/plates, dust with powdered sugar and garnish with fresh mint sprigs.
January 11, 2012
October 12, 2011
Recipe: Balsamic & Strawberry Pizza with Chicken, Sweet Onion and Applewood Smoked Bacon
Sweet and savory with a balsamic tang, this pizza is perfect for your next book club or even brunch! Try it with our new, locally made Strawberry Fields Forever jam made by Right Brain Kitchens (free with your coupon Oct. 12-18, 2011). Recipe and pictures courtesy of Pennies on a Platter. Yield: 4 servings (Serving Size: 2 slices).
- 1/2 cup strawberry jam (e.g. Strawberry Fields Forever jam by Right Brain Kitchens)
- 1/4 cup Sigona’s traditional balsamic (or try Sigona’s Strawberry Balsamic!)
- 1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce (or other chili sauce)
- 1 ball prepared pizza dough
- 1/4 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 grilled chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 4 slices applewood smoked bacon, cut in 1 inch pieces, cooked and drained
- 1 cup blend of shredded Italian cheeses (i.e. Mozzarella, Parmesan, Fontina, Provolone, Romano or Asiago)
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, diced small (more berries if desired)
Directions: Place the pizza stone in the lower middle of the oven and preheat to 500F or follow baking instructions on the dough package.
Bring the balsamic to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced to half and mixture thickens, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the strawberry preserves and chili sauce. Mix well; set aside to cool.
Roll out the pizza dough to a 12 or 14-inch circle. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper lightly dusted with cornmeal. (For me, it’s easier to pat the dough into a circle while already on the parchment paper.)
In a small bowl, combine the chicken with 2 tablespoons of the balsamic-strawberry mixture and stir to coat all chicken. Spread the rest of the sauce over top of the pizza dough, leaving about a 1-inch border around the edge.
Sprinkle 3/4 cup of cheese evenly over the sauce. Scatter the chicken, bacon and sweet onion over the cheese to distribute evenly. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Transfer the pizza with the parchment paper onto the hot pizza stone (if using) and bake for 8 to 10 minutes (or follow dough package directions), or until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly for 1 to 2 minutes. Top with the fresh strawberries and cilantro. Serve hot.
June 1, 2011
Supporting Local Farmers Makes for Super Sweet Strawberries
By Carmelo Sigona
We’ve been keeping an especially close eye on the forecast. The weather lately has cooled off, we’ve had some cloud bursts…needless to say, this makes us nervous for our local strawberry farmers; wet weather does not make for happy strawberries.
However, despite the wet weather delay – harvest is running about a month late this year – the cool weather, is making for HUGE locally grown berries this season. Also, thanks to the few rain-free stretches we’ve had, we’re now carrying some super sweet, locally grown strawberries.
In celebration of the new crop’s arrival from George Chiala Farms in Morgan Hill, we’re offering you this week a free half flat of locally grown strawberries from Morgan Hill with your coupon when you spend $30 or more!
A half flat is a lot of strawberries, but according to our recent Facebook poll, strawberries are our customers’ favorite summertime fruit, so we know you’ll absolutely love this offer! Even with some rain, the Chiala strawberries berries are surprisingly sweet and practically perfect in every way.
We’ve worked with the Chiala family for many years to bring in the best strawberries. They pick, pack and deliver the same day so you know they’ll be fresh and sweet. These berries are not pre-cooled so they have a softer texture, which I think adds to the natural, farm-fresh flavor. It is also best to enjoy these berries within a couple days of purchase because they are not pre-cooled.
“Because Sigona’s is so close to our farm, we work with Rob to fulfill small orders – just enough for that day,” said Tim Chiala, George Chiala Sr.’s son and director of the farm’s fresh market sales. “We bring up berries that are picked in the morning and delivered later in the day. You don’t get much more fresh than that!”
George Chiala Farms grows organic and conventional crops, and has carried over many of the organic practices to their entire operation. For example, they use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to control and eliminate different pests (e.g. ladybugs and lacewings to keep aphids away), they rotate crops too, which helps maintain the fertile soil. They also use the same amounts of compost in both practices. The Chialas continuously strive to study and incorporate new sound practices to cultivate the best-quality produce.
“We recently had a pesticide analysis done on our strawberries which shows there is no detectable residue,” said Tim. “Also, our IPM is working really well this year. We’ve established quite the population of beneficials which helps eliminate the need for other sprays.”
As a boy I worked in my uncle’s produce market and it was my job to “work” the strawberries. I remember the fragrance to be so powerful my mouth would water. It was a short season and when the season ended, that was it for berries until the next year.
Back then, people accepted the short shelf life of berries and other produce as most would shop on a daily basis, going around to the different shops and markets to find what they needed for that evening’s meal. Farmers picked and delivered in the same day for maximum ripeness and nutrient value and people knew they had to use the produce within a day or two or it would spoil. That’s just the way it was (and still is) with seasonal, farm-fresh produce.
Since that time shopping habits changed; consumers preferred stores with groceries and supplies all in one place, and they had come to expect their perishables to keep at least a week. However, once again, consumers are beginning to change the way we view our food sources and how they come to market.
This much-welcomed sea change in buying habits has come back around in just the last five years. It has taken shoppers to local farmers’ markets and specialty, independent stores for products such as local produce and, perhaps, the best grass-fed beef. I’m very excited about this change and the resulting support for our local farmers. This keeps the small farmers, like the Chialas, and their practices going for our future.
With our customers’ support, our small farmers’ farming methods and practices don’t have to be compromised in order to cultivate the best-possible produce. Operating smaller acres allows them to pick the best.
For example, with the strawberries, Chiala is able to harvest the berries that are ready to eat the day they’re picked, which can eliminate the need for pre-cooling before transporting. This method maintains the fresh-picked taste, soft texture and sweet fragrance of berries that melt in your mouth.
“We have a good crop this year and, as long as the rain stays away, we hope to harvest until early July,” said Tim.
They don’t just taste great…they’re good for you, too!
No discussion of the season’s strawberries would be complete without a mention of their health benefits.
Strawberries are packed with antioxidants, fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamin C. In fact, according to the California Strawberry Commission, strawberries are among the top three fruits that carry antioxidants! They’re also great for the heart; the folate can decrease systolic blood pressure, reduce serum cholesterol levels, and break down amino acids in the blood. Plus the potassium can decrease hypertension.
Now…about that fantastic flavor…we’ve put together a few irresistible strawberry recipes for you to try. If you come up with a different dish using your free half flat of strawberries this week, please let us know – we’d love to post it on our blog! Don’t forget to check out my Robbie’s produce tips about strawberries, too!
Cooking with Carmelo Sigona, Featuring Local Strawberries
These sweet gems from George Chiala Farms in Morgan Hill, Calif. are picked and delivered to our store within 24 hours – now that’s fresh! Strawberries are versatile – use them in desserts, entrées or alone with a little balsamic or whipped cream.
A few suggestions from Carmelo:
- For the kiddos: One thing I always do, and especially did when my kids were home, is GET THEM OUT OF THE REFRIGERATOR, rinse them off, place on the table in a fancy dish with a paper towel to absorb any moisture. This brings them to room temperature…enhances the flavor and make them an accessible snack for the family.
- Mini Meal: Sliced Berries & Fage yogurt. I sweeten the Fage yogurt with a little organic Agave nectar, put sliced berries over the yogurt and top with a touch of crumbled, raw nuts. This mini meal has it all: the carb, protein and a touch of healthy fat.
- Strawberry smoothie: Experiment with any combination of fruits to find what you like best. For the liquid, I use a non-fat milk base or fresh squeezed juice. Sometimes I’ll add a bit of ice cold water. I also add in a frozen banana, some yogurt or protein mix (to thicken the smoothie) and, of course the star, the strawberries. Simple and delicious.
- Save ‘em! Freezing extra ripe strawberries works well and eliminates waste. Simply stem, place on a flat surface (cookie sheet, plate, anything will work) in the freezer, after they freeze place in a resealable bag… this little process keeps them from clumping together fro easy use. These are great in smoothies.
Strawberry Balsamic Dessert for Two
- 2 cups strawberries
- 1 ½ tbsp. Sigona’s 6- or 12-year-aged Balsamic vinegar
Directions: Halve the strawberries and divide between two dessert bowls. Just before serving, drizzle with balsamic. The sharpness of the balsamic actually intensifies the sense of the berries’ sweetness. It’s a typical Italian way of serving strawberries. Skip the sugar!
Fresh Berry-Yogurt Crunch Parfait
Whether it’s for breakfast, a mid-morning snack, a tea-time treat or a midnight meal, yogurt hits the spot. A parfait made with creamy yogurt, local, fresh berries and well blended granola presents a healthy snack that looks like a delectable dessert!
- 6 oz. container of yogurt (any flavor is great!)
- ¾ cup Granola (find it in our bulk section)
- ¾ cup fresh, sliced strawberries
Directions: In a parfait glass or a bowl, spoon in half the yogurt and lightly smooth the surface. Secondly, spread half of granola evenly on top of the yogurt. Lastly, add half of the sliced strawberries. Repeat these steps to add three more layers.
Cook’s note: You can also add in or substitute different flavors and fruits, such as raspberries or bananas, depending on your mood and what’s in season.
Strawberries over Gelato — Sicilian Style!
A good balsamic is already sweet due to the aging process, and our infused balsamics, such as the vanilla bean balsamic, are the perfect combination of sweet & tangy.
- 2 cups strawberries
- 1 ½ tbsp. Sigona’s aged Vanilla Bean balsamic
- A generous scoop (or two!) of Massimo’s vanilla bean gelato
Directions: Scoop the gelato into two dessert bowls. Slice the strawberries and divide evenly between the two bowls. Just before serving, drizzle them with our outstanding 12-year, barrel-aged vanilla balsamic.
Sliced strawberries drizzled with balsamic is the typical Italian way of serving this dish.
Party Berry Bowl
This is an easy and healthy mixed berry dish that is guaranteed a hit at any gathering. Berries are naturally low on the glycemic index.
- 3 baskets of strawberries
- 1 basket each of raspberries, blueberries and olallieberries (or you can substitute blackberries)
- ½ fresh cut pineapple, cut into chunks
- ½ Tbl. Honey or pure 100% Organic Agave Nectar
- 1 white gerbera daisy, for decoration (optional)
Directions: At least one hour before party time, rinse the strawberries, remove the stems and slice them into halves. Mix the strawberries in a large bowl with the remaining berries, pineapple and agave nectar. Let it sit for 1 hour, bringing the mix to room temperature. Be sure to gently toss the mixture 2-3 times an hour. Letting the mixture sit with the agave nectar brings out more of the berries’ natural sugars.
To garnish to the dish, cut off the stem of the gerbera daisy, leaving only the blossom, and place it on atop the berry mix. The white of the daisy is a beautiful contrast to the delicious, vibrant colors of the berries.
Cook’s note: Choose berries with large seeds and those that are almost bleeding, meaning the berries are leaking juice. Bleeding berries indicate they were picked ripe, are super sweet and are ready to eat. Also, the juice from each berry will mix well with one another while it comes to room temperature, creating a uniform mixed berry flavor.
Strawberry, Shrimp and Feta Salad
The California Strawberry Commission website is loaded with strawberry recipes. We like this one because feta is a perfect compliment for strawberries. Makes 4 servings.
For the salad:
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 3/4 pound peeled and deveined raw shrimp**
- 2 cups (about 10 ounces) fresh California strawberries, stemmed and quartered
- 8 cups mixed salad greens, such as butter lettuce and watercress
- 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- 1 small cucumber, sliced (about 24 slices)
For the vinaigrette:
- 3 tablespoons Sigona’s Fresh Press extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Sigona’s traditional balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Directions: To make salad: In small bowl, toss onion with 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette; set aside.
Over gas or charcoal grill or in grill pan on stove top, grill shrimp 5 minutes, turning once, or until pink and cooked through.
In another small bowl, toss strawberries with 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette. In large bowl, toss greens and onion with enough of the remaining vinaigrette to coat lightly. Divide among 4 chilled salad plates and arrange strawberries and shrimp on top of greens. Sprinkle with cheese and garnish with slices of cucumber, equally divided.
To make vinaigrette: In small bowl, whisk together ingredients for vinaigrette.
**Cook’s note: For a variation, substitute shredded smoked chicken for the shrimp. Pre-cooked, shelled shrimp may be substituted for grilled shrimp.
Courtesy of Sandra Moon Farley and her cookbook Cooking with Sandy: Ideas about Food & Recipes from Our Family.
Mix up a batch of breakfast biscuits (recipe follows) being a little more generous with the sugar and butter. If the dough is a little sticky, you can make spoon drop biscuits rather than rolled and cut biscuits.
While they’re baking, slice up some fresh strawberries, about ½ basket per person. Add about a tablespoon of brown sugar per basket and stir into the berries. This helps them juice up.
Serve biscuits, berries and sour cream (for dolloping). We usually let folks serve themselves family-style because not everyone wants sour cream. Brown sugar and sour cream are delightfully complimentary.
If you are doing a savory breakfast with eggs and sausage or bacon, make the biscuits less sweet. If intended to be served with fresh berries (like for this shortcake recipe), up the sugar level. Makes 12 biscuits.
- 2 cups flour (all purpose, or part whole wheat)
- ¼ cup butter or shortening at room temperature
- ½ cup sugar (more or less to preference)
- 1 TBL baking powder
- ¾ cup liquid (either milk, soy milk or buttermilk*)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the dry ingredients and the butter with a pastry cutter or fork. Gradually add the liquid. Some flour absorbs more so you have to judge. The dough should come together.
Turn onto a floured board and fold and press several times. Use a biscuit cutter or glass to make circles. Refold the scraps and keep making biscuits. When you get down to the last little scrap of dough, roll it into a little snake and twist it into a knot it like a pretzel. (The pretzel biscuit was a sought after item with the kids were young.) Place biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 F for 12-15 minutes or until starting to turn golden.
*Sandra’s note: that if you’re using buttermilk, you’ll need to substitute 1 tsp baking soda for the baking powder because of the acid in the buttermilk.
This is a sweet & salty salsa with a little kick. Serve over grilled chicken, salmon or white fish such as mahi mahi, serve it as a dip with tortilla chips.
- 1 cup diced fresh strawberries
- 1/2 cup diced mango
- 1/4 cup diced papaya
- 1/4 cup chopped Anaheim pepper, seeds removed
- 1-1/2 cups chopped sweet red pepper, seeds removed
- 1/4 cups diced pineapple
- 2 TBL diced red onion
- 2 TBL freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 TBL chopped cilantro
- 1 1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
- ½-1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- Salt and black pepper
Directions: Prepare all the ingredients as noted above. In a medium bowl, gently stir together all prepared ingredients. Season with salt & pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors meld. Add more red pepper flakes and/or salt & pepper to taste, if necessary.