Cambrian: Opinion

Olives a flavorful import courtesy of missionaries

Figs with goat cheese and pignolias, drizzled with balsamic reduction; mix and match ingredients on some other fresh fruits.
Figs with goat cheese and pignolias, drizzled with balsamic reduction; mix and match ingredients on some other fresh fruits. Special to The Cambrian

An Ancient Prayer of the Woods

I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights,

the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun,

and my fruits are refreshing droughts

quenching your thirst as you journey on.

I am the beam that holds your house,

the board of your table,

the bed on which you lie

and the timber that builds your boat.

I am the handle of your hoe,

the door of your homestead,

the wood of your cradle

and the shell of your coffin.

I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.

“Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer: Harm me not”

(A prayer used in Portuguese forest preservation for more than 1,000 years).

I peeled this bit of philosophy off Facebook about the same time we read the news about the travesty of the local oaks.

It is certainly as true now as it was thousands of years ago, and certainly more vital to our present lives and livelihood. Food products immediately come to mind.

My friend Bev Steventon keeps me supplied with fresh purple figs from the abundance of her Biblical fruit on a fairly young tree. Some I eat out of hand, others I mull with Balsamic vinegar, honey and spices to serve nicely chilled. Pictured are some others, stuffed with goat cheese and topped with pecans or toasted pine nuts, and then drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar. I love them all ways, always.

Another ancient fruit is the olive, and I am glad they were also brought to Alta California for cultivation by the Spanish missionaries among their top 10 foods. When I was on tour in the Mediterranean, they were featured in every course of the meal, including ice cream! Olive Oil Cakes were plentiful, so here is an easy one from Tuscany.

Scarpaccia Viareggina (Zucchini Cake)

1 1/3 lb. fresh zucchini, washed, seeded and chopped unpeeled into fine dice

1 1/2 cups 00 flour, or substitute all-purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

 1/4 cup butter, melted over hot water

1 tsp. vanilla extract

4 oz. warm milk

Pinch of salt

Extra virgin olive oil

Sift the flour (but do not substitute cake flour); mix with sugar, salt, beaten eggs, butter, milk and vanilla. Stir well and mix in the finely chopped zucchini (do not grate it). Pour the mixture in a well buttered and floured 9- inch cake pan. Drizzle with olive oil (I used lemon flavored); bake for one hour at 350 degrees (ovens will vary) and serve hot.

Consuelo Macedo’s column is special to The Cambrian. Submit recipes and ideas to her at The Cambrian, 2068 Main St., Cambria, CA 93428; or email to cambrian@thetribune