Jenny Makes A Mess…the delicious kind

jenny-hammer-smallerThis week we got another 40 lbs of Red Cloud apricots from Terra Firma, as well as 40 lbs of dry-farmed Royal Blenheim apricots from Mercy Wong in Vacaville. It was way too much fruit to use, but the always superior Blenheim’s season is so short, I have vowed to buy everything that comes my way (I hate it when a fruit goes out of season before I feel I’ve really celebrated it fully.) So far I’ve done apricot danishes, apricot muffins, apricot caramel sauce, apricots in puff pastry, apricots baked in Marsala, apricot ice cream, and a big vat of apricot jam. Of course there’s another list of things to do now we’re really in the thick of it.

Wonderfully, inside each apricot is the noyau — a seed inside of the pit of all stone fruits, including plums, peaches, and cherries. The noyau inside apricots and peaches looks almost identical to an almond, and is indeed the source of bitter almond flavor. Amaretti, the fantastic Italian cookies generally thought to be almond, are made entirely from apricot noyaux. (Also made from noyaux is arsenic; I love the old stories where Sherlock Holmes or some other detective sniffs the glass beside the dead person’s hand and confirms “the aroma of almonds… yes, it was murder…”)

apricot-jam-small jenny-pit-in-hand-small bucket-of-pits-small

To cook with noyaux at home, the biggest challenge is to collect enough to actually make something. What I recommend is that you keep a tub of pits in the refrigerator, adding to the tub as you eat from your fruit bowl, extracting the noyaux and freezing them every week or so. Label the seeds in the freezer so no one thinks they’re almonds. Kept frozen, noyaux will be good for many months — plenty of time to store up for a noyau dessert. When you have a cup or so, grind them coarsely and steep in the custard for a 2qt batch of ice cream or custard sauce. Substitute for the almonds, omitting the almond extract, for a batch of amaretti. Or get creative. Drop by the restaurant and I’ll be happy to confer.

This week I’ll make a batch of true amaretti, and try Amanda’s idea for a bitter almond frangipane. That will probably exhaust the supply, as I only got 4 cups of noyaux from about 100 lbs of fruit. But once we save up some more, it’ll be noyau biancomangiare and noyau ice cream and noyau crème anglaise and more amaretti whenever we have the chance.

From the Field – Inaugural Post – Spring Has Sprung at the Oliveto Community

It all happened over the last few days, spring just suddenly appeared after some much needed rain. We’ve been busy visiting our farmers & had a chance to survey what’s currently sprouting at Catalan Farm this past Monday. David Byron, one of our kitchen interns got a tour from Maria Catalan herself.


Terra Firma Farm – Profile


Established 1991


Paul Holmes and Paul Underhill

Paul Holmes started the farm. Paul Underhill started working with him 15 years ago, and eventually became part owner. They began on one parcel of land. By poking around and by word of mouth, they found abandoned or forgotten orchards. The farm eventually expanded to its current size.

Chef Canales says Terra Firma is the workhorse/backbone of the Oliveto menu. They grow all the key staples for us: tomatoes, cabbage, beets, kale, eggplant, peppers, and spinach.  They supply us with some of the best green garlic in the spring, and their melons in the summer are always exceptional.


There’s nothing they would rather do, and they are happy they found a way farm and make a profit, which is difficult to do in this day and age.

Paul Underhill thinks that CSA turns people into better cooks. Customers learn to experiment with products with which are unfamiliar.


They are not afraid to learn from their experiences and experiments. They try to stay flexible, and figure out what works.

Their employees work for them year-round. Their employees are happy and experienced, and they know what they are doing.


They grow year-round

Length of relationship with Oliveto

several years


99 acres in Winters, Sacramento Valley






Berkeley Farmers’ Market on Thursday

Community Supported Agriculture Programs

Currently accommodate over 1,200 CSA subscribers in the Bay Area, Davis, Vacaville, Sacramento, and Winters. Learn more.

Terra Firma Farm website

2017-09-12T15:49:15-07:00February 6th, 2009|Farmers, Terra Firma Farm|0 Comments

From the Kitchen – Tomato Dinners 2009


Wednesday, August 26th – Saturday, August 29th

Make a Reservation

About a week before Tomato Dinners, when most of the tomatoes we will have to choose from are available for tasting, Chef Paul Canales and the cooks sit down with scores of varieties, mostly heirloom but some – like Early Girl-hybrids, and sort out which are the best, what their characteristics are, and how they might be prepared to best advantage. Amazingly, there is considerable variation even within varieties.

Every year, the variables of soil, weather, planting times, irrigation, and various farming practices yield surprising outcomes in flavor and texture. A farmer who produces a magnificent Pink Brandywine one year may offer a less flavorful one the next; but her Mortgage Lifters the same year might be nonpareil. Based on that tasting, each August we purchase around 3,000 pounds of the best tomatoes from local farmers for this joyful event.

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