COOKING SECRETS OF THE LAZY V ‘Cuccaz’

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Last day of August, last days of summer; home gardens are bursting with produce.  About a week ago, our friend Lisa called. “Whatcha doin?” I answered, “We’re at work!” She asked, “How long ya’ gonna’ be there?” “At least until 7”, I answered. Well, I’m gonna’ come by.” “OK, we’ll be here.” About an hour later, Lisa pulled up in her RV. She opened the back hatch and pulled out a?  I couldn’t see what she had retrieved from the back of her van. In a minute, she entered our sales office. She was carrying a giant, over grown zucchini, practically the size of an infant! “Cuccaz!” I exclaimed. “What are you talking about? she said.

When friends came bearing gifts of large vegetables at the end of summer, Mom would say, “Cuccaz”. I’ve heard this term all my life. I’d ask, Ma? She would respond, “What?” I asked, “What do you mean when you say ‘Cuccaz’?” clearly dialect for some Italian word referring to squash or zucchini. Mom would continue, “If you don’t mind, don’t bring me these big overgrown hollow vegetables full of seeds. If you want to bring me a gift, bring the little tender vegetables not these, ‘Cuccaz’! She would say.
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COOKING SECRETS OF THE LAZY V “STILL CANNING”

Every year, well into the ‘pick and pack’ season of our Central San Joaquin’s Westside, I would call my Mom. “Ma!” she immediately knew I was calling and would respond, “What?” I inquired, “How are you? Dad?” She would start in, “You know your Dad, he can’t stand to see the fruit left on the ground.” (or the vegetables left in the fields). Since the 40’s, Dad knew most of the Westside farmers. He could go into any orchard or field and pick after the harvest: apricots, plums, peaches, tomatoes, bell peppers, corn, melons and more. He was famous for 5 gallon white plastic buckets with handles and would always say to me when he delivered his pick which I too would can, “Be sure to return my buckets!” Mom would continue, “Last week your Dad and I canned tomatoes. This week he came home with…”  Mom would inventory his pick. “Even now”, she continues, “we’re canning!” I could count on it. What Mom would say when I called mid August and asked how she was? One response, “We’re still canning!”

Here is one of Mom’s tried and true yearly canning recipes for Dad’s Westside pick of the crop:
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FARM TABLE FRESH FIG FEST 2010 THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE!

1500 fig lovers strolled the big lawn at Fresno State tasting figs prepared in every way. Restaurateurs, Food Purveyors, Associations, News media and judges reveled in the qualities figs provide, culinary and health, the most prominent. I tasted figs filled with maple, dipped in chocolate and nuts and finished with sea salt, fig ice cream, brisket with fig bbq sauce, Kurabuta pork with fig chutney, cous cous with figs and more. Our fig offering: fig flan with our signature fig balsamic glaze. Our Chef, John, came to me on Thursday to suggest we serve Fig Flan with our signature Fig Balsamic glaze. This would be the first year we would serve sweet rather than savory. John prepared the flan ‘dulce de leche’ style, deep dense custard flavors blended with white dried Calimyrna figs. Delicious, we nicknamed the flan, Juan Flan.  We were selected as The Peoples’ Choice for best fig food 2010! 

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The ‘Portugy’ & The Italian Our Family of Trees Part VI Meet the Figs Newton & Vilomina

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 NEWTON

Newton was a gift from our friend and neighbor, Chip. Chip not only has nursery genes, figs are a part of the Radoich Family heritage. Black Mission is the first fig of choice in my orchard. It’s been easily ten years since we’ve had Newton, center of the orchard, peaceful and productive. I am a lover of late bloomers. Newton just birthed his second production of full purple colored fruit, sagging slightly, perfect flesh for a fig. I bit into one today, jam in a bundle. When eating a ripe one, figs taste like jam, oozing with natural sugar, sweet, plump and delicious, a Last Supper bite. 

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LESSONS LEGACY AND LORE ROAD TRIPS & ROADSIDE PICNICS

As a child when we traveled, the freeways were not developed. ‘Road trips’ were the norm. Vividly, I recall that Dad would hang the burlap insulated water carrier over the hood ornament. The air cooled the water for our roadside picnics and five thirsty travelers. Mom was famous for her roadside picnics. She would fill the galvanized bright red ice chest with Coca Cola written in white on the side. My favorite roadside picnic food was simply Mom’s hard boiled eggs. She didn’t peel the eggs, we did. She handed us the salt shaker and after a sprinkle, I ate the best chilled hard boiled egg every time. No table, no chairs, no picnic grounds…this was our minimalist roadside picnic.

Now when Rick and I travel, our memories seep into present day. Warmly, Rick’s family enjoyed roadside picnics, too. For Rick, his ultimate picnic food was his Mom’s baloney and cheese sandwich. Rick describes this sandwich as baloney sliced from the loaf by our local butcher. Then, this could have been my Uncle Richard or Ray, Uncle’s partner. Rick says his Mom was very particular about the cheese, being Dairymen and came from our local Dairyman’s Store. The rest of the ingredients were Rainbow white bread, sliced tomatoes from Mary’s garden, iceberg lettuce, Best Food’s Mayonnaise and French’s Mustard. Yep, that’s the way it had to be. I can count on it. About twenty minutes into our road travel, Rick will say, “You know what I’m in the mood for? A baloney and cheese sandwich!”

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LESSONS LEGACY AND LORE ROAD TRIPS

My Dad was quite a guy. He was a man of few words and when he spoke, we would listen. Dad was determined that we three girls would have the advantages that he and Mom had not had. He would say, “You want to see how others live?” Let’s go!” I remember many of these trips: to explore new places, to expand our horizons and to experience how other’s lived. I recall one experience. Dad reserved rooms at The Clift Hotel in San Francisco, a first class hotel. We packed our suitcases, jumped in the family car, probably a Buick and off we went to see how ‘rich people’ lived. During our stay, we rode up and down the elevators. Many of the women who rode with us wore mink coats. As we brushed up against the beautiful fur coats, my sister’s and I would say, “Z-mink!” and giggle joyously.

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