Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Short and Sweet the lifespan of fig season.  Picked ripe from the tree, once you have your hands on some there is precious little time before they begin to spoil.  When fresh figs are available, I feel that I'm under the gun to get some and make something fabulous.  I bought two pounds of California Black Figs from Trader Joe's on Sunday night, because I had Monday off from the day job (more truthfully, the day, night, and weekend job).  I was originally planning on making Melinda Lee's Candied Figs recipe, thinking I could make a big batch and use them for Christmas gifts, but then I starting thinking about fig cake and Googling away for ideas.

What did I end up making?  I posted on Facebook that I had two pounds of figs and wasn't sure what to make with them, and two friends were kind enough to send suggestions.  The first idea was to top a pizza with figs, gorgonzola and pine nuts, and the other was to make preserves.  So I ended up making a fig, Gorgonzola and pancetta galette, fig jam, AND the fig cake.

Don't ask me to choose a favourite.  They're all delicious.  The galette was a wonderful dinner with an arugula salad, the fig cake is one of those rustic, good-for-anytime cakes with a perfume of fig and lemon.  It smells so Italian to me and with an espresso, topped the night.  The fig jam has citrus notes from both orange zest and a healthy dose of triple sec.   I'm tempted to make just a small amount of ricotta and have some crusty sliced bread topped with the cheese and jam.  Just so you know, National Fig Week is November 1-7.  Obviously, I couldn't wait that long to celebrate.

Fig, Gorgonzola and Pancetta Galette
(adapted from Saveur's Leek and Zucchini Galette recipe)

for the crust:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
4-6 tablespoons ice water

for the filling:

10-12 figs, quartered
1/3 cup onion, thinly sliced
4 slices pancetta, chopped
2/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
2 tablespoons butter

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in bowl.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles rough crumbs.  Add water tablespoon by tablespoon until dough comes together but isn't too sticky (for me it's between 4 and 5 tbs).  Form into a disc and refrigerate for an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  In large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter and saute figs and onions until onions are softened.  Remove from heat.  In smaller pan, cook pancetta until it just begins to brown.  (It will finish cooking in the oven.)  Mix figs, onion and pancetta together to let flavours mingle while waiting for dough to chill.

When dough is ready, on floured board, roll dough to roughly 1/4 inch thickness and about 12-14 inches round.  Add fig mixture to dough leaving about an inch and a half edge of crust all around.  Top mixture with crumbled Gorgonzola and fold edges up.  Bake until crust is lightly browned, about 45-50 minutes.

Fig Jam
(makes about a cup)

12-14 figs, cut in quarters
6 oz water
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons triple sec or Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon orange zest
pinch of lemon zest

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly.  Lower heat and let simmer until mixture begins to thicken, about 25 minutes.  Stir frequently to keep jam from scorching.  Remove from heat and let sit.  Jam will thicken further.  You can use a potato masher to smash the fruit even more, if you like.  Store in refrigerator.  

The fig cake recipe came from the 'Lemon and Anchovies' blog and can be found here.  I followed the recipe exactly and still feel it doesn't need any tweaking.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Taste of the Tropics

I have friends (Hi Cathy and Mike!) that packed up a couple of years ago and left Los Angeles for Austin, TX.  Rarely does a day go by where I don't miss them and still wish they lived here.  Selfish, I know!  I consider myself a lucky girl to have them in my life, even if they don't live 15 minutes away anymore.

One of the bonuses of living in Los Angeles is there being a good chance that you'll have a fruit tree in your backyard.  Though not nearly as numerous as the groves once were years ago before L.A. became so populated, you'll still find them.  I just noticed a couple of days ago that a house two doors down has a pomegranate tree (and they're looking close to ripe!).  I'm considering being a friendly neighbour and getting to know them and get some fruit off that tree.  But, back to my original point.  Cathy and Mike's backyard had fruit trees, including a guava tree.  Two summers ago, I came home after one visit with a massive amount of guava and not a clue as to what to do with it.  I finally decided on cookies, nothing fancy, but that would showcase the guava.  I had some desiccated coconut on hand and thought it would make for a tropical treat.  Those cookies were delicious and popular.

I still had guava nectar in the freezer and thought of those cookies last week.  I also had coconut, so I thought I'd give the cookies another go-round because I hadn't made them in well over a year.  Yeah, they are still fabulous.  But do me a favour, okay?  Don't tell the people I work with.  I don't always share.  This batch stayed with me, (except for a dozen that I did part with.  Hello, willing new tester!).  I know, I know...selfish!  I think you would be too.

Guava-Coconut Cookies
(Adapted from Thick White Cookies by Jean Pare in 'Company's Coming: Cookies')

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup guava nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter and sugars  until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg.  Add milk, vanilla and guava nectar.  Mix until well-combined.  Combine all dry ingredients and mix to incorporate.  Add in thirds to butter and sugar until mixed in.  Turn dough onto floured surface and roll to 1/4 inch thickness.  Use  whatever cookie cutter or biscuit cutter you like to form shapes.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Transfer to cooling rack.  Will make roughly 2 1/2 dozen 2-inch cookies.  

*You could probably use flake coconut, though I never have.  I like the desiccated coconut because it gives it a tiny bit of crunch.  You can also sprinkle sugar on top of the cookies before baking.  These will puff up considerably because of the cream of tartar, so unless you want little cookie pillows, do be sure to roll the dough out to 1/4 inch.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

I Did Say...

...I'd share photos if I made that peach cake I mentioned in my last post.  I most certainly did make that cake, 100+ degrees be damned.  Once again, the people I work with win big time, because they get the end results more times than not.  I can only imagine the amount of weight I would gain if I kept it all at home.  I am thankful for a group of appreciative guinea pigs for what comes out of the kitchen.

I don't know how much baking will get done this week.  The work schedule is going to be a crazy one, but I just finished reading Susan Herrmann Loomis' 'On Rue Tatin' and  copied two recipes from it.  No surprise that both are for cakes.

The house is smelling fabulous at the moment.  I'm making vegetable stock...just because.  Actually, I brought home two very large spaghetti squash from a friend's garden this past week and I'm going to try making a soup with one of them, hence the stock.  I also brought  home a large handful of cherry tomatoes.  I had come across this recipe on the Food 52 site (one of my new go-to spots on the 'net).  Candied tomatoes...just that was enough to pique my curiosity.  I didn't make the whole recipe because good reason other than it was late.  I will try it soon.  But I will say the tomatoes are delicious.  I also made a sweet onion marmalade-ish condiment.  Seriously, I need to entertain.  I make all these nosh-y little items that just beg for a bottle of wine and good conversation to go along with this food.

Who's in?