Late Summer Savory Melon Recipes

Melons are in season late spring through late summer. Thanks to our hot summers and mild winters, melon season in California can stretch into November. You’ve probably been eating lots of watermelon, cantaloupe, muskmelon and more this summer and now you’re on the search for a fresh take. Look no further; these recipes feature melon in savory applications with lots of salty, spicy, smoky, and acidic flavors.

Honeydew, Feta & Jalapeño Salad

Salty feta and spicy chiles play wonderfully against the sweet and juicy flesh of honeydew. You can sub any melon into this recipe.  

  • 1 small, extremely ripe honeydew melon
  • 1 small jalapeño or serrano chile
  • 2 limes
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons 
  • 4 oz. Valbreso French sheep’s feta cheese 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Flaky salt

Cut the ends of the honeydew melon so it has two flat surfaces. While it’s on one of its flat surfaces, cut the rind off the melon, trying to lose as little flesh as possible. Cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut in half again and thinly slice.

Arrange the melon slices on a platter. Thinly slice the feta and add the thin shards to the platter with the melon. Thinly slice the jalapeño and scatter it on top of the melon and feta (remove pith and seeds if you want to reduce heat). Zest the lime right over the platter, then squeeze its juice all over. Cut another lime into wedges and arrange around the platter. Drizzle the salad with oil and sprinkle with flaky salt. Scatter the basil over everything.

Basil Salt

Basil, another summer crop, compliments the flavor of melon beautifully. Add salt to take the mouth-watering to another level, literally. Adorn fresh melon triangles with a generous sprinkle. 

  • 1 cup coarse salt
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, packed

Place fresh basil in a blender and blend until very fine. Add the salt and pulse to combine.

Remove the mixture from the blender and store in a cool dry place for up to 6 months. You can do this with mint, which is also delicious with melon, or other herbs.

Melon and Prosciutto Skewers

Melon and prosciutto can be found on most Italian menus during hot summer months. Pellegrino Artusi, the father of modern Italian cuisine, first put the two together in 1890 and the dish has grown in popularity ever since. Pair with Prosecco and good company. 

  • 1 cantaloupe
  • 12 fresh basil leaves
  • 8 oz. ciliegine mozzarella balls 
  • 12 slices prosciutto

Halve cantaloupe, then scoop out and discard seeds using a spoon. Using a melon baller, scoop out 24 balls. You can also cut 1-inch chunks from the flesh if you prefer. 

Assemble the skewers: Layer cantaloupe, basil, mozzarella, prosciutto, and a second piece of cantaloupe until you have 12 skewers.

Drizzle skewers with balsamic glaze and serve immediately.

Grilled Chipotle Watermelon

“Chipotle” comes from the Nahuatl word meaning “smoked chile” and smokiness is a wonderful complement to the sweet and fruity flavors of melon. This recipe is delicious with stone fruit, like peaches, in place of the watermelon as well. 

  • 1 small seedless watermelon, cut into thick spears 
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon chipotle powder, depending on spice tolerance 
  • ½ tablespoon honey or maple syrup
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon mint, cut to ribbons 
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

In a bowl whisk together the lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, chipotle powder and honey.

Heat grill until very hot. Place spears on the grill over direct heat and brush with the dressing. Cook the watermelon skewers on one side for just a minute until grill marks form, flip, grill 1 minute and then remove them from the heat.

Brush the watermelon with any remaining sauce and sprinkle with mint and salt before serving.

Fruit Sticks with Lime Crema

This might actually be the perfect late summer snack. Juicy fruit spears and zesty crema hydrating and cooling while adding a pinch of chili powder plays off the sweetness of ripe fruit.This is something you can graze on even if it’s 105°F outside.  

  • ½ cup of sour cream
  • ¼ teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus some for sprinkling 
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch chili powder or chili flakes 
  • ½ seedless melon of choice, cut into spears
  • 1 mango, cut into strips or spears 

Combine sour cream, lime zest and juice, salt, coriander and cumin. Whisk well and chill for 30 minutes. 

Just before serving, sprinkle fruit spears with chili powder or chili flakes, depending on your heat tolerance. Serve spears with lime crema.

Roasted Muskmelon or Cantaloupe Seeds

This recipe is a lovely lesson in using parts of the fruit we usually compost. Use your favorite spices, herbs, oils, and vinegars to experiment with flavor! 

  • 2 ounces (about ¼ cup) of seeds (a ripe cantaloupe with yield about one ounce)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons tamari or soy sauce, plus extra for drizzling

Rinse and drain the seeds, separating out any pulp. Let dry for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

Heat oven to 320°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix soy sauce and sesame oil together in a small bowl and whisk to emulsify. Toss the seeds with the mixture.

Place as a single layer on the baking sheet and lightly drizzle with soy sauce. Roast seeds for about 20 minutes, until they turn golden. Cool completely before eating. They’ll get crunchier as they cool – don’t worry! 

Watermelon Rind Quick Pickles 

Pickled watermelon rind is both acidic and slightly sweet, so it’s great with rich, fatty foods like cheese or steak. It’s also fantastic alongside roasted or grilled meats. They’re great on their own too: set the jar on the table by your other BBQ side dishes at your next cookout.

  • 8 cups sliced and peeled watermelon rind (2 inch x 1 inch pieces will work)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, plus more for jars
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

Place rind in a large nonreactive bowl; stir in water and salt. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Rinse and drain well.

In a Dutch oven, combine sugar, vinegar, 2 cinnamon sticks, cloves and peppercorns. Bring to a boil. Add rinds; return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes or until tender. Discard cinnamon sticks.

Carefully ladle hot mixture into glass jars with well fitting lids (anything like a mason jar will work). Add a cinnamon stick to each jar. Allow to come to room temperature and screw on bands until fingertip tight. Place jars in the fridge for at least 6 hours to pickle. Keep in the fridge after opening as well.

Grilled Watermelon Gazpacho 

Gazpacho is a cold soup traditionally made with summer produce and served during hot August afternoons. This version uses grilled watermelon, tomato, cucumber, and jalapeño to impart deep, smoky flavor in this cooling, hydrating dish. 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ¼ seedless watermelon, cut into three 1½ inch thick slices
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, halved
  • ½ English cucumber, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and halved lengthwise
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons diced red onion, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced

Toss 1 tablespoon olive oil with watermelon slices, tomato, cucumber and jalapeño. Grill, covered, on a greased grill rack over medium-high direct heat until seared, 5-6 minutes per side. This step can be done under the broiler as well. Remove from heat, reserving one watermelon slice.

When cool enough to handle, remove rind from remaining watermelon slices; cut flesh into chunks. Remove skin and seeds from tomato and jalapeno; chop. Coarsely chop cucumber. Combine grilled vegetables; add ¼ cup onion, vinegar, lime juice and seasonings. Blend in batches in a blender until smooth or use an immersion blender, adding remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil during the final minute of blending. If desired, strain through a fine-mesh strainer; adjust seasonings as needed. Refrigerate, covered, until chilled or at least 2 hours. 

To serve, pour gazpacho into bowls or glasses. Top with diced avocado and remaining onion. Cut the reserved grilled watermelon slice into wedges. Garnish bowls or glasses with wedges.

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Back to School Mental Health Tips

Tips for Parents of Students

Establish school day routines early in the year (meal times, homework time, bedtime, etc.). It may help to maintain these routines, like what time lunch is, on the weekends too. Practice any new routines with your student before the year starts. No need to be nervous biking to a new school if you’ve already traveled the route. 

Give children a safe space to share their feelings. Mirroring, or reflecting back a child’s experiences, is an important parenting skill. If your child seems troubled, pick a quiet moment and say, “I’m noticing a different vibe lately. I feel like there’s more going on than you’re sharing.” Engaging children in creative activities, like playing and drawing, can help them express any difficult feelings in a low-key, supportive environment. 

Children often take their emotional cues from the adults in their lives, so it’s important to remain calm, listen to children’s concerns, speak kindly and reassure them. Let your child lead the conversation. 

Acknowledge that anxiety is completely normal. Point out that everyone feels down now and again. Learning to tolerate uncertainty is a developmental skill. Remind your kids that when they have a problem you are there to help them work toward a solution.

Tips for Parents

Model healthy stress management whenever possible. When you feel overwhelmed, share that information with your kids. Say, “I’m not handling my stress well right now.” Remind them that emotions change, and it’s okay not to be okay all the time.

Tag in a trusted partner. This could be your child’s sibling, therapist, guidance counselor, teacher, clergy, family friend, or another parent. It’s okay to say, “I’m noticing that my child is really struggling, but I’m having a hard time connecting with them because of how overwhelmed I am. Can I ask you to play a game with them or take them for a walk?”

Set boundaries around energy zappers. Determine what drains your emotional, physical, and mental energy on a daily basis and change or limit the behavior. For example, limit doom-scrolling your favorite breaking news feed to 15 minutes a day or put your phone in a drawer when you’re with your kids, or maybe swap your afternoon coffee with a big glass of water. These small changes can make a big impact.

Tips for College Students

Create a bedtime routine that you really enjoy. Whether or not you have trouble falling asleep at night, creating a bedtime routine will help relax you and get you ready for sleep. This can be something small, like changing into pajamas, brushing your teeth, and washing your face (and going to bed at basically the same time everyday). It can be more involved with incense, moon milk, reading a chapter, taking a batch, etc. Give the practice a few weeks and you should have an easier time falling asleep. 

To a similar end, don’t do homework or work in bed. Working in bed can make getting to sleep harder. Keep your work space separate from your sleep space to keep insomnia at bay. The author of this blog doesn’t allow jeans or work clothes in bed to keep the space extra sleep-sacred. 

Cut back if you need to. Sometimes students overwhelm themselves with everything they have going on. If you’re feeling like you’ve got too much on your plate, cut back work hours, drop a class or cut out some extracurricular activities to make your schedule more manageable.

Keep in touch with family and friends. You can help ease feelings of homesickness and loneliness by keeping in touch with friends and family members. 

Expect things to change. Things will change both at home and in your school life, so expect things to change over time. You will grow with the changes and so will the people around you.

Tips for Educators

As life returns to “normal” for many of us, don’t pressure yourself to provide the same learning experiences as the pre-lockdown period. You are one single professional and doing your best to adapt to change. 

Create clear boundaries between home and school. Set a reasonable time for leaving school each day and stick to it. Create a ritual to help you transition from teacher mindset to home mindset. This ritual may include changing your clothes when you get home, listening to your favorite podcast on the way home, taking an afternoon walk, or playing a quick board game with friends or family.

Make self care a part of the classroom to benefit yourself and your students. Mindfulness Mondays or Thoughtful Thursdays are a great way to introduce students (and you!) to self care practices like belly breathing, rainbow relaxation, or laughing yoga

Express gratitude. Practicing gratitude is a great way to give yourself a more positive outlook. Try to name three things you’re thankful for each day. I like to start my day thinking about that list before I’ve even opened my eyes and gotten out of bed. Thank your coworkers when they do something to help you out or make your day a bit easier and let your students and their parents know you appreciate their hard work and flexibility. This kind of gratitude practice will boost your mood, make others feel appreciated, and help you all feel more connected to your community. 

Normalize caring for each other. There is a lot of power in shared experiences. People need social connection, and mutual feelings of vulnerability and stress often create some of the strongest social bonds. Start a weekly support meeting or video chat with friends, grade-level teachers across your district, or all teachers at your school. Planning for this makes it a priority and gives you all a safe space to vent, listen, and problem-solve together.

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In the Face of “Extreme Drought”

In May my partner, Jonny, and I drove to Ashland, Oregon for a friend’s wedding. It was a hot May, with eight days above 90 degrees and we were grateful to escape to cooler Pacific Northwest temperatures. Dry creek beds broke up fields in shades from green to yellow as we drove north through the valley. Orchards stretching endlessly away from the highway baked as California experienced its driest spring on record.

Bridges carrying us over Lake Shasta revealed a pale “bathtub ring” around the lake, in some places hundreds of feet thick as water levels drop. Lake Shasta, California’s largest reservoir, is currently holding 36% of its total capacity, which is 56% of the historical average for this time in August, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

Closer to home, things look similar. All 200,849 (100%) of Yolo County’s residents are affected by drought. 94.73% of the county is experiencing “Extreme Drought” (the remaining 5.27% are experiencing “Severe Drought”). During extreme drought conditions, the state’s second extreme drought in ten years, livestock need expensive supplemental feed; cattle and horses are sold; little pasture remains; fruit trees bud early; producers begin irrigating in the winter; fire season lasts year-round; water is inadequate for agriculture, wildlife, and urban needs; reservoirs are extremely low; and hydropower is restricted according to the National Integrated Drought Information System

For Yolo County, who’s 2019-2020 agriculture outputs represent 711.8 million dollars, extreme drought conditions are especially hard on our farmers and farm workers. 2021’s drought conditions saw California’s agriculture industry shrink by an estimated 8,745 jobs and shoulder $1.2 billion in direct costs as fields were fallowed and growers were forced to pump more groundwater, the LA Times reports.

Additional environmental impacts of drought include losses or destruction of fish and wildlife habitat, lack of food and drinking water for wild animals, increase in disease in wild animals, migration of wildlife, increased stress on endangered species or even extinction, loss of wetlands, wind and water erosion of soils, and poor soil quality. 

And although we measure rainfall and pass water restrictions by county and state, drought knows no borders. In fact, it may be more useful to put our current drought conditions and experiences in the greater context of our watershed. A watershed is an area of land that channels rainfall and snowmelt into creeks, streams, and rivers, and eventually to outflow points such as reservoirs, bays, and the ocean. The watershed is also the air we breath, animals we raise and animals we don’t, our food crops, and our communities.

BriarPatch Co-op in Grass Valley defines “local” as products coming from the Sacramento River Watershed because of the deep, central role it plays in shaping our local environments and everyday life. They made an excellent video explaining the interconnectedness of communities within the watershed.

Davis, along with most of Northern California, is a part of the Sacramento River Watershed. Within the Sacramento River Watershed is the Cache Creek Watershed, draining Clear Lake in Lake County into the Sacramento River before it flows into the Delta and beyond to the Pacific Ocean. Davis is located inside the Cache Creek Watershed that is a part of the larger Sacramento River Watershed system. Lands within the Sacramento River Watershed are diverse, with snow-covered peaks, low-lying agricultural lands, large areas of forested mountains, many small urban areas, and the Sacramento metropolitan area, the largest urban area in the watershed. Human activity, mainly 19th century gold mining and transforming grassland to agriculture, has significantly modified flows within the watershed.

In truth, my drive north this last spring was a tour through the Sacramento River Watershed, starting in the valley’s wetlands and low agricultural lands and climbing to its snowy peaks in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, although I didn’t think of it that way then. Dry creeks in Yolo County, low lake levels in Shasta County, and fresh burn scars in Siskiyou County all show the watershed as a whole is hurting.

Of course, we cannot talk about extreme drought and watershed sustainability without acknowledging the role climate change plays in amplifying the frequency and severity of drought. Climate change, like drought, is uncaring of borders and requires collaboration and cooperation to begin reversing. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities as well as poor and migrant communities feel the effects of climate change more deeply (read the EPA’s report published last year examining climate change’s effects on four socially vulnerable groups: people with low income, minorities, people aged 65 and older, and people without a high school diploma).

Watershed management and sustainability should be a collaborative effort between individuals, community organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies. Action individuals can take include water conservation at home. We can also call on state officials to listen to Indigenous voices – voices carrying expertise gained by stewarding this land for thousands of years. I urge you to read this article about the history of Indigenous water rights in California and this one about the Hoopa Valley High School Water Protectors Club in Northern California.

You can also support local organizations that take care of our watershed like the Cache Creek Conservancy and Yolo Basin Foundation, who were Round Up organizations in May and June of this year. Many of our local wineries, including Great Bear in Davis and Alexander Valley Vineyards, prioritize maintaining riparian habitat on their properties to the greater health of the watershed. 

If you’re like me, confronting the scary realities of climate change causes you a lot of anxiety, stress, frustration, and dread. In fact, more than two thirds of Americans experience some climate anxiety. Since climate anxiety is characterized by feelings of loss of control, the best treatment is to take action. On an individual level, it’s therapeutic to share your worries and fears with trusted loved ones, your therapist, or by joining a support group. You can also make changes to your lifestyle consistent with your values. This may be deciding to take fewer flights, joining a protest, or increasing public awareness about climate change through advocacy.

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Beer and Cheese for Hot Summer Days

Beer and Cheese for Hot Summer Days

Written by Sterling Carlton, DFC Owner and former Beer, Wine & Spirits Specialist

Ensuring the health of the environment, as well as that of the goats, is a priority for Cypress Grove and it shows in the decisions they make. Cypress Grove works with specialist small ruminant nutritionists to ensure the goats have the best balance in their diets. The goats are allowed ample space to roam and graze outside with freedom to move indoors as well. Cypress Grove has removed surrounding non-native and invasive vegetation in addition to leaving significant space on the parcel for a riparian easement that helps with flood mitigation, property maintenance, and supports more biodiversity.

Cypress Grove’s story starts in the 1970s when Mary Keehn chased down and wrangled two goats her neighbor graciously gave her. Eventually the herd grew and grew and Mary decided cheese was what would be done with the milk these goats provided. In 1983 Keehn journeyed to the center of the cheese world: France. In France she was able to try so many classic cheeses at the domaines that birthed them and learned from the masters of Brie, Camembert, and more. Mary returned inspired, opening Cypress Grove that same year. It was on the return flight that her inspiration manifested in a dream and the idea for Humboldt Fog was born. Perhaps in homage to the Morbier cheese it so closely resembles (right down to the gray-blue vegetable ash line in the middle), Humboldt Fog is made from goat’s milk as opposed to the classic’s cow’s milk.

Technically a goat milk Brie, Humboldt Fog is often mistaken for a blue cheese thanks to that grayish-blue line running down the middle of it. In truth it is simply vegetable ash that both represents the Humboldt County fog line and perhaps a bit of a play on the Morbier cow cheeses which hail from the Doubs and Jura in France. Aromas of yogurt and lactic dairy notes as well as a faint mold dominate the bouquet, whilst sour cream and citrus present on the flaky crumbly textured cheese that is nestled under the cream line next to the rind. The bloomy rind is more mild than some other strains leading to a bright, salty, slightly lemony cheese that is delightful for summer snacking boards.

To pair with this masterpiece of a cheese we have, on recommendation from Center Store Specialist Charlie, the Brasserie Dupont Foret Organic Saison. With history dating back to 1759 when it was a simple farm, Brasserie Dupont became a farm-brewery in 1844 specializing in saisons. Saison, meaning seasons, is so called because the farmers produced these beers in the winter for consumption in the fields on hot summer days. The farm-brewery operation eventually came into possession of one Louis Dupont who tweaked the recipe for a saison and thus the Saison Dupont was born.

Foret is an organic offering from Dupont and boasts the claim of being Belgium’s first 100% certified organic beer.  The bouquet offers orange peel, coriander, lemon zest, grains of paradise, and some barnyard funk typical in many saisons. Citrusy palette with full flavor, high acid and a nice funky spice on the end make this a fantastic pairing with Humboldt Fog. The salt and acid of the cheese play off the acid and spice in the beer and the carbonation helps cut through and refresh the palate after a big bite of Fog. All in all this pairing is perfect and not too heavy for a hot day of relaxation or a nice easy picnic. Add some cured meats, cornichons, and perhaps some pickled veggies and you have a simple charcuterie board with a beer to pair with a slow, hot day.

Find Humboldt Fog at the Cheese Counter for $29.99/lb

Find Brasserie Dupont Foret Organic Saison in the Beer Cooler for $12.99/750 mL plus tax.

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August Gardening To Dos

Continue

August is a productive time for our Northern California gardens. Keep harvesting ripe fruits and vegetables. Failure to harvest can hinder production. 

For flower gardens: put on some Grateful Dead and deadhead your garden, which should be done on an on-going basis if you have plants blooming. As plants fade out of bloom, pinch or cut off the flower stem below the spent flower and just above the first set of full, healthy leaves. Repeat with all the dead flowers on the plant.

Water regularly during our scorching summers. Water in the early morning or after the sun sets to avoid water waste. Water the soil near the plant’s roots and avoid splashing the leaves, which can spread disease or intensify sunlight to burn the plant.

Inspect

The heat and humidity of summer leaves your garden more susceptible to plant diseases. Check for diseased foliage and remove it. Do not add diseased plant matter to your compost pile as the disease can spread to the rest of your garden. Disinfect tools like pruners in between each plant to avoid spreading disease as well. 

Treat affected plants with Arber Bio Fungicide, OMRI-listed for organic gardening and available at the Co-op for $11.99 plus tax. Arber controls and suppresses gray and white molds, downy mildews, black spots on roses, leaf spots, root rot, botrytis, and more.

Keep a keen eye out for insect pests including thrips, tomato fruitworms, tomato hornworms, spider mites, chinch bugs, scale, snails, and slugs. Remove them from foliage if you find them. 

Make your garden more attractive to beneficial insects and/or treat with Arber Bio Insecticide. Protect your garden from aphids, fungus gnats, mites, mealybugs, leafhoppers, tent caterpillars, grubs, leaf beetles, thrips, whiteflies, stink bugs, fruit flies, and more. 

Pinch back poinsettias and mums before the end of the month to allow time for buds to form for a winter bloom.

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What to Drink with August’s Cheese of the Month

What to Drink with August’s Cheese of the Month: Nicasio Valley Locarno

Written by Sterling Carlton, Beer, Wine & Spirits Specialist

Nestled in the beautiful Nicasio Valley of Marin County lies a sprawling pasture. Green and lush, the valley is full of life and the sweet smell of dairy cattle floats through the air. The pasture is Nicasio Valley Cheese Company’s 1,150 certified organic acres where they raise dairy cattle and chickens.  The Lafranchi family have been stewards of this pasture, farming sustainably and raising dairy cattle, since 1919, when Fredolino and Zelma Lafranchi left their home in Maggia, Switzerland. They are one of the very few small scale family dairies to survive the last several decades of upheaval in the dairy industry. 

The drive to the creamery is an easy one and quite beautiful along Lucas Valley road. The last bit of the drive takes you through a lush grove of towering trees. It’s a fairly unassuming facility. So unassuming that I drove past it on my first go as the sign on the road declaring “organic cheese tasting” took me a bit by surprise. 

The dairy has been producing 100% certified organic milk since 2012 and the cheese, being made from an incredible base product, is of exceptional quality as well as delicious. The seed of cheese making was planted by Fredolino and Zelma’s son, Will Lafranchi, who traveled back to Switzerland to learn about cheese from his ancestors’ homeland. His dream was realized after his death when Nicasio Valley Cheese Company opened their doors in 2010. The family has a distinct appreciation for the cheese of their homeland and they present products of the highest quality.

The Lafranchi family achieves this quality through thoughtful management of their pasture from which their roughly 400 dairy cows derive a large amount of their calories for at least 120 days out of the year, a requirement for certified organic pasture-raised cows. The ranch is also home to over 3,000 chickens that produce equally high quality free range eggs. The Lafranchi’s maintain healthy pastures by rotating their herds through different sites and utilizing a significant onsite composting program. This compost program, in conjunction with the thoughtfully managed grazing regime of the ruminant animals, helps create incredibly healthy soil in the pastures and high biodiversity, leading to healthy cows and delicious cheese. Rick Lafranchi, the second eldest of the six Lafranchi siblings, explains it this way: 

“…this region is regarded as having some of the richest pasturelands in the world. Conventional milk production isn’t as viable an option in Marin as organic is because it’s all pasture based. That went hand in hand with us developing an organic cheese company.”

Of their more than half dozen offerings, one of our favorites was brought to market in 2016: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company Locarno Brie, a creamy brie aged for at least 5 weeks. A tangy, firm center is sandwiched between a cream layer just beneath the rind that turns to an oozing heap of delight as it warms or matures. Pair a smear of this beautiful cheese on a Walnut, Honey, and EVOO cracker from The Fine Cheese Co. out of England. The combination of the creamy, lactic sweetness of the dairy intermingling with every crunchy bite transforms the cracker into an almost graham cracker like flavor that compliments the cheese perfectly.

I also have two wines I dutifully tasted along with the Locarno. I opened the 2019 Avni Chardonnay and the 2018 Avni Pinot Noir from Lingua Franca in the Willamette Valley.

Founded in 2012, Larry Stone set out to ensure the vineyard was taken care of using the most sustainable agricultural practices they could manage. The use of low impact, biodynamic, and no till farming was only improved through collaboration with one of the heroes of the regenerative ag movement within the wine industry, Mimi Casteel. Permanent cover crops are kept in the vineyards which encourages all kinds of wildlife such as owls, hawks, foxes and coyotes to naturally mitigate pests. Originally planning to only sell fruit, Stone was encouraged to make his own wines by one Dominique Lafon of Burgundian fame (when Lafon thinks you need to make your own wine because you have an exceptional site, simply put, you listen).

The Chardonnay always starts off a little bit closed on the nose. As it opens up, you’ll find layers of lemon citrus, grapefruit, pear, baking spices, with a slight mineral edge and oak in the background. It’s a lean Chardonnay with racy acid and orchard fruit characteristics that play nicely with the creamy richness of the Locarno cheese. 

The Pinot is similarly lean and taught. It is a laser focused wine with aromas of red cherry and blackberry fruit, wet rocks, and forest floor all backed up slightly by an edge of oak and fine grained tannins. Here the fruity aspect plays nicely with the cheese and the acid again functioned to help cleanse the palette and bring me back for another bite. 

Nicasio Valley Cheese Company has a host of other delicious cheeses as well as pasture raised eggs and a nice little house you can stay at on the property that is just a short drive away from Point Reyes Station. Be sure to stop by the cheese shop for some eggs and ask their very knowledgeable and cheerful cheesemonger, Melisa, for some of her favorite cheeses.

Find Avni Wines and Nicasio Valley Locarno at your Co-op.

Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. Organic Locarno Brie is 10% off during the month of August.

2019 Lingua Franca Avni Chardonnay $29.99/750 mL

2018 Lingua Franca Avni Pinot Noir $29.99/750 mL

Questions? Feel free to ask our Specialty Department experts! Cheesemonger LaShundra and Beer, Wine & Spirits Specialist Sterling can be found in their departments most days.

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Food Scrap Crafts

Food Scrap Crafts

Difficult to say, fun to do. Most of these crafts utilize ingredients and materials you probably already have in your kitchen! 

Homemade Citrus Garland

Commonly associated with the holiday season, citrus garlands add natural beauty and color to your space any time of the year. You can watch our how-to video here or try this version where you don’t even need to turn on the oven.

Incorporate lemons, limes, grapefruit and more to play with color and size.

Vegetable-based water colors

To make these truly non-toxic, safe to pour down the drain water colors, all you need are veggies/veggies scraps, water, and a stove top. Follow the instructions in this post to create water colors of your own. This is an especially fun one to do with kids.

 

Homemade Dog Treats

Make your good boi treats from kitchen scraps! 

  • 1/2 cup unseasoned mashed, cooked sweet potatoes
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups finely chopped, cooked turkey or chicken meat (no skin or bones)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, combine sweet potatoes, water, and egg and stir until incorporated. Add chicken and flour and stir again until well combined. Batter will be very thick and sticky.

Use a spreader to spread the dough evenly onto a parchment-lined baking sheet to form a rectangle at about 1/2″ thickness. Use a knife or pizza cutter to score the dough into rectangles of whatever size you’d like. Consider your dogs size at this point. You can also use cookie cutters to make shapes. If you do this, we recommend spreading the dough on a lightly floured work surface first, then cutting out and transferring to the baking sheet for baking.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the dog treats are lightly golden brown. Cool completely and then break along the score lines or use a knife or pizza cutter to cut along the score lines.

Store in the refrigerator for a few weeks. For long term (a few months), store in an airtight container in the freezer and thaw before serving.

Potato Stamp Art

Oops, did your potatoes turn green? Don’t eat them, make stamps instead. Adults will need to help younger kids using the knife.

Cut the potato in half with a kitchen knife. Don’t let the potato dry out too much as this will distort the design.

Use a pencil or marker or cookie cutter to draw/imprint the desired shape onto the surface of the potato.

Cut around this shape with a kitchen knife, leaving the design so it is raised on the surface of the potato. Use this method if using cookie cutters.

Using a serrated knife will give a textured surface. Use a fork or skewer to make tiny holes in the potato for added design interest.

Pour paint onto a plate and dab the potato in the paint, ensuring that the surface is evenly coated.

If there is too much paint on the potato stamp it will slip when stamped onto paper. Stamp the potato onto scratch paper a couple of times to remove excess paint.

Press the potato stamp onto the paper, card, or project. You should be able to use the stamp several times before needing to dip it in paint again. The potato can be washed after use and used again with another color.

Let the paint dry completely before decorating or finishing the design.

 

Quick Pickles

Pickling is a food preservation technique that extends the life & deliciousness of most veggies. Summer is the ideal time to pull quick pickles from the fridge. Make cool, briney, and crunchy quick pickles with kids and maybe they’ll eat a pickled carrot spear at dinner tonight!

  • 1 pound fresh vegetables, such as cucumbers, carrots, green beans, onions, cherry tomatoes, radishes, or okra
  • 2 sprigs fresh herbs, such as thyme, dill, or rosemary (optional)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons whole spices, such as black peppercorns, coriander, or mustard seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs or ground spices (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed or sliced or a few slices of fresh ginger (optional)
  • 1 cup vinegar, such as white, apple cider, or rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)

Wash 2 wide-mouth pint jars, lids, and rings in warm, soapy water and rinse well. Set aside to dry, or dry completely by hand.

Wash and dry the vegetables. Peel the carrots. Trim the end of beans. Cut vegetables into desired shapes and sizes, etc. 

Divide the herbs, spices, or garlic you are using between the jars. Pack the vegetables into the jars, making sure there is a 1/2 inch of space from the rim of the jar to the tops of the vegetables. Pack them in as tightly as you can without smashing.

Place the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar (if using) in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour the brine over the vegetables, filling each jar to within 1/2 inch of the top. 

Gently tap the jars against the counter a few times to remove all the air bubbles. Top off with more brine if necessary. Place the lids on the jars and screw on the rings until tight.

Let the jars cool to room temperature. Store the pickles in the refrigerator. The pickles will improve with flavor as they age — try to wait at least 12 hours before cracking them open, but 48 hours is best.

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Chianti & Kanaal

Chianti & Kanaal

A wine and cheese pairing

Written by Sterling Carlton, Beer, Wine & Spirits Specialist 

Salty, sweet, crunchy, butterscotch-y, cheesy goodness. Is it Parmesan? Gouda? Neither; a Proosdij (PROUS-day) coming in at up to 45% fat by dry weight, just under the 48% dry weight fat content required for true Gouda, which it resembles closely.

Kaaslands Kanaal from Holland, the Proosdij in question, is a semi-firm to firm washed curd cheese similar to Gouda in many respects. Slightly nutty and aged from 20 to 40 weeks this cheese develops aromas, flavors and textures very similar to Gouda, right down to those little crunchy tyrosine crystals that develop as they age, offering a nice little pop of flavor. 

The history of this cheese is a criss-crossing of cultures. In the early 1500s, a Roman Catholic Priest from Italy was living in the territories east of the Netherlands. His name was Proosd. He missed the cheeses from home and so taught the farmers raising cattle under his jurisdiction to make cheese the way they made it in Italy. What they came up with was essentially a cross between Gouda and Parmigiano Reggiano; no one would blame you for mistaking a blind bite for either.

One of my favorite pairings for the 40-week-aged Kaaslands Kanaal we carry is the Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico. This is a far cry from the old image of the pale, weak, albeit quaffable plonk carried in those straw-wrapped liter bottles. The wine, from the Classico designated area of the Chianti DOC in Tuscany, is predominantly Sangiovese with several other native vines blended in. In an attempt to stay true to the traditional classic formula, they abstain from using Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot which are usually permitted in small quantities to add color and structure to the blend. 

The estate occupies 80 hectares, of which 20 are committed to olive trees, with yields kept very low to maintain fruit quality and concentration. As for the grapes, they have selected clones of Sangiovese they believe to be 1. best suited for their hillside vineyards sitting at an average altitude of 370 meters above sea level and 2. for offering acid and structure. Additionally, they abstain from the use of chemical intervention of any kind in the vineyards out of a desire to work with and respect for the land. This core value is reflected on their labels which carry a different image of a bird  each year. Each featured bird is becoming increasingly rare as a result of poor human agricultural practices.

The wine is expressive on the nose with tart red fruits like raspberries and dusty tart cherries; flowers and a subtle herbal quality, like rosemary, underpin the fruit. On the palette it is tart red fruit with moderate tannins (that astringency you get along the gums from red wines) and fresh, lively acid. This helps to balance and cut through the rich lactic character of our Kaaslands Kanaal. A sip harmonizes with the saltiness of the Kanaal so well, you’ll be back for another bite and sip, another bite and sip, and on until you need to go back to the Co-op for more. A truly mouthwatering pairing that the only remedy for might be another bite of cheese.

Find Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico on Aisle 15 for $26.99

Save 10% when you buy 6 or more 750 mL bottles of wine! 

Find Kaaslands Kanaal at the Cheese Counter for $21.99/lb 

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