I’m not a confident baker, but I have to say, these brownies were superb. Intoxicating even. Served with fresh strawberries and Tahitian Vanilla ice cream, this is dessert for the summer goddess.

Oh!, the solstice is such sweet cause for celebrating friends, family and the fruits of the earth. This weekend was just stellar, bursting with sparks of light like the fireflies dancing on the rim of Noble Hill Pond.

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David, my dear friend Shoshi’s sweetheart, stewards a sublime piece of land complete with Shire-like cabin, hobbit-sauna (with a circular door to climb through on all fours), composting toilets, solar-power, hillside orchard, brimming gardens and flora, songbirds and a perfect pond. Off the grid. Sound like paradise? It is. The cabin gazes onto the water with a view of distant, interlacing crests and ridges. David’s land is flanked by two gorgeous families – also his best friends. This homesteading community is affectionately referred to as Family Circle Farms or Fresh Roots Homestead. Be inspired. I was, beyond belief.

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It’s impossible to introduce David in a blog post, but I’ll try to paint a portrait. This man’s roots are deep! He is a solar-powered candlemaker and owner of Sunbeam Candles. He spent eight years on the road as the bassist for John Brown’s Body – his love for Jah runs deep, and lives on with his weekly show: Fresh Roots Radio. Listen in! He loves and nurtures his land and his friend-amily. He is always smiling and listening, with integrity.

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This weekend, David welcomed Shoshi’s cluster of ladies with such generosity. We tumbled down the mowed driveway just as the sun was snuggling up to the horizon, with ample, lingering hours of light. As the supermoon swelled into the sky, bathing the valley beyond, we feasted on guacamole and garden salad, quiche and cocktails, brownies and pie. We circled around the fire, entranced by the mellow rhythm of handcrafted drums and toad songs. Sauna steam, pond dip.

Left to right: Sara mulching the trees. David Solid Gould. This man rocks.
Left to right: Sara mulching the trees. David Solid Gould. This man rocks.

We rose early in the morning for a work party – what better way to celebrate the solstice and the earth! After a refreshing pond revival, we gathered in the orchard to free the fruit trees from their toddler play pens. The rusted fences came off, weeds came out, and the base of the trees were fortified with compost, an inner patch of gravel, and fresh oak mulch! Oh, they look happy! Seven sets of hands made sixty-five trees light work. And then there was the pond and leftover brownies…

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Divine Fig, Lavender & Pecan Brownies

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 16 brownies

Inspired by my brownie forays with Mollie Katzen's "The New Moosewood Cookbook" and America's Test Kitchen's "The Science of Good Cooking."

Ingredients

  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips or Bar - 5 ounces
  • Butter - 2 sticks butter, softened
  • Cane sugar - 1 3/4 cups
  • Eggs - 5
  • Vanilla extract - 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Lavender extract - 1/4 teaspoon
  • All-purpose flour - 3/4 cup unbleached
  • Figs - 1/2 cup
  • Pecans - 1/2 coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. Grease a 9 x 9-inch baking pan. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Put the chocolate in a small pot, and gently melt over low heat, stirring consistently so the chocolate doesn't burn. Let it cool for about 10 minutes.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl or kitchen aid, use a fork or paddle attachment to cream the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and lavender extracts.
  5. While stirring or beating the paddle on low, drizzle in the melted chocolate, and beat together thoroughly for a minute or two.
  6. Stir in the flour and mix just until thoroughly blended.
  7. Add the figs and pecans and stir again.
  8. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (The less time you cook the brownies, the more gooey and moist they will be).
  9. Allow to cool completely in the pan, and then cut into squares.
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