Fresh Figs with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Balsamic Reduction

Fresh Figs with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Balsamic Reduction

 

Fresh Figs with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Balsamic Reduction

I know it seems strange that my last two posts have been about wintery soups and now I am here slapping you in the face with a full-on summer dish. But that is the game that Mother Nature plays with us – bringing us out of those cold dark days and into days full of bright greens and colorful menu options. When we just can’t take any more cabbage, and root vegetables, Mother Nature bring us a summer bounty full of fresh baby lettuces, snap peas and later tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, stone fruits and these little beauties.

Just look at the color of that fig – if that isn’t a sexy show stopper on your spring and summer table, I don’t know what is! It is the perfect hue of spring green.

I am also pleased to tell you that this little snack is not just gorgeous, but also super easy to prepare and only requires 3 ingredients – figs, cheese and balsamic vinegar. There is very little prep work and it is absolutely delightful to eat. Win, win, win! Beautiful, fresh and elegant. Perfect for sharing with friends and family. There is just something magical about the pairing of figs and balsamic vinegar. The sweet, syrupy richness of the vinegar cutting through the sweetness of the fig is unparalleled.

asset_BestBloggersContest

I have entered this recipe in this month’s Better Recipes Best Blogger Recipes Ever contest featuring Potluck and Party Food. If you bring this to a potluck or party I can guarantee that it will be the hit recipe!

If you have a great potluck and party recipe, please enter your recipe too. The more the merrier! The winning blogger each month will win a full page feature in a Better Homes & Gardens magazine! That means if yours is one of them, thousands of new readers will discover your voice. You will also win a $1,000 cash prize and be guest editor for a day!

Please check out my recipe and if you like it, I would definitely appreciate your vote in the contest. You can vote every day, so if you really like the recipe, think about voting more than once. Thank you and enjoy!

Happy Spring!

 

Deviled and Scotch Eggs for Ostara

 

(Deviled and Scotch Eggs for Ostara)

I know I promised you all a soup recipe next, but I needed to take a pause here to welcome Spring!

It is officially spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, but when I look out my window it is to look at endless snow, with more expected over the next 2 days! It hardly feels like Spring here, although there are subtle differences if you look for them. Roberto was just remarking about how the sunlight coming in the window feels like Spring sunshine and I know I have felt that the air has taken on a softer nature. Of course there is another hour of daylight than just a few weeks ago. However, we have no buds on the trees yet, nor any flowers poking up through the snow, and the Canada geese have not passed our house on their way back home yet, but I know the root children are waking up under ground waiting for their big growth spurts.

I have a nice group of women in my community who meet once a month. We rotate houses and we also rotate the topic of conversation, it has gone from childbirth and what we all did with our placentas, to more community matters and then over to more spiritual topics, but it is always a wonderful evening.

I hosted this month’s meeting and I always celebrate Spring or Ēostre (Ostara) with Eggs, which is truly the most symbolic food of the season (see why here).

I made a nice platter of Deviled Eggs   (this time I spiced them with honey mustard, dill and chives) and Scotch Eggs and another platter with Smoked Salmon, pickles and olives. We had a nice spread, all of the women brought something different –  a nice effervescent bottle of white wine, a tray of chocolate covered strawberries, a sausage and veggie casserole, a gorgeous apple tart and a nice bottle of homemade ginger beer to wash it all down with. It felt like a very springtime menu!

What do you do to celebrate Spring?

Curing Olives at Home: Part 3

This is the third entry in the series about curing fresh olives at home. Through a program by The Foodie Blogroll and Penna Gourmet Foods, I was selected to receive a free five pound box of olives for home curing. Penna was looking for bloggers who were into preservation, canning, etc. and since that sort of thing is right up my alley, I was happy and honored to participate.

You can read about my first experience curing olives a few years ago. It didn’t go very well. But it did set me up with a lot of knowledge for this time around, which was very helpful. One of the main issues with my first batch was that the olives were mushy. So instead of pounding or cracking them to release the bitterness, I sliced them. The results are much firmer and crunchy olives. The second major issue I had the first time was with the olives remaining bitter even after soaking them in water for almost 2 months. Most olive curing recipes tell you to soak in water for 2-4 week max, but even after 2 months the olives were still inedibly bitter. I fear that extra soaking time didn’t help in the soggy olive department either.

To start this off right, I must say that the olives I received from Penna were absolutely gorgeous. Bright green and gigantic! There were only a few that had bruises or imperfections that I discarded right away. So I have to say the quality of these olives were fabulous. So a day or two after the olives arrived I began preparing them for curing.

This time I decided to follow the instructions from Penna that they have on their website for Mediterranean Partida Style, which looked similar to the recipe I tried the first time. But alas after almost two weeks of soaking them in water and changing out the water each day, when I tasted the olives they were still very bitter.

I have to say, I love my facebook readers. They are always an invaluable source of information and help when I need it. So I put a call out to my readers asking them if any had ever cured olives before and I got some very helpful advice from Maha from Maha’s Fine Egyptian Cuisine . She rescued me and this batch of olives by telling me how they cure olives in Egypt. Since I had already soaked the olives in plain water for 10 days, I decided to just follow her directions from there. But if you are just starting with your fresh olives, you can skip soaking them in plain water, and just start at step 1:

Always rinse the olives in fresh water prior to preparing and discard any olives that are terribly bruised or have any holes.

1) Make a couple of cuts with the knife on each olive and then soak the olives in salted water : use ½ cup salt to each liter of water, for one week covered on the counter.

2) Then take the olives out of the salted water and put it in jars with alternating layers of the following mix: chopped garlic cloves, diced Chinese celery, hot green peppers sliced (jalapeño will be good here) & slices of carrots.

3) After filling jars with the layers of the previous mix and layers of olives, prepare the following liquid to fill the jars with: 1 cup salt+2 cups lemon or lime juice+3 cups water (all mixed together) I use the lemon or lime shells that I used for lemon juice to cover the top of the jars and press very hard then I fill the jars with the above liquid of lemon juice, water and salt.

4) Leave some room in the jars to cover with some olive oil on the top because the oil will keep everything from rotting. Also don’t be shy on the salt because the salt will preserve everything and will not let it be mushy. Cover with a plastic wrap then cover tightly with the lid of the jar. Leave on the counter for 2 weeks and then you can eat the best pickled olives in your life.

These olives are very delicious and fresh tasting. I did mostly layers of hot pepper and carrots. I am not a fan of celery, so I omitted that. Would I cure olives myself again? It is really fun to cure olives at home, but I am not sure that I am the best olive maker but if I do it again in the future, I am definitely going Egyptian!

Other posts in the series:
Curing Olives at Home: Part 1
Curing Olives at Home: Part 2

Eggplant Relish

15 lbs of homegrown produce!

Harvest season is here! This has been our best gardening year yet. I owe it all to our bunnies actually. It was their little pellets, collected through the winter which has made our plants produce like crazy. Between that and the warmer, drier temperatures this summer, we are just awash with so many delicious fresh vegetables!

This year we are growing tomatoes (we have about 30 plants!), zucchini, ground cherries, carrots, cabbages, sugar snap peas, potatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, melons lettuces, Swiss chard and arugula and beans (hope I am not forgetting anything). We tried new varieties of tomatoes this year, German Pink, Black from Tula and Ukrainian Purple, all developed in colder climates. We also tried cold climate melons. All are doing great this year!

This year, so far we have preserved 25 lbs of cabbage (red and green), 11 lbs of greens, 15 lbs of stone fruits, 10 lbs of tomatoes, as well as assorted carrots, green beans, sugar snaps, onions, peppers, zucchini and eggplant. So it has been a busy couple of months. We are really going to enjoy this in the winter months. That taste of summer is always so welcomed when the snows are falling down all around us.

I want to share with you a delicious condiment that I made. One that I wanted to dig right into but will have to reserve a bit of will power to leave it on the shelf for the dead of winter when the taste of sun ripened tomatoes, peppers and eggplants will be just the right thing I need to lift my spirits!

Eggplant-Tomato Relish (from The Joy of Pickling – My VERY favorite cookbook for this time of year!)
Makes 2 pints

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb eggplant, peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes
2 tsp sea salt
6 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups peeled and coarsely chopped tomatoes
¾ cup raw apple cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
1 TBS pine nuts
1 TBS capers
Black pepper to taste

METHOD: In a bowl, toss eggplant with salt, put in a colander and let drain for an hour or so. Rinse eggplant and drain it well. Heat the oil in a large non-reactive pot. Add eggplant and sauté about 5 minutes. Add onion and pepper and sauté another 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Over medium heat bring mixture to a simmer. Simmer uncovered, stirring often for about an hour. Remove bay leaf and ladle mixture into pint or half pint mason jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Close jars with 2-piece caps and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Store jars in a cool, dry, dark place.

Grilled Fresh Sardines

 

I hope everyone in the Northern hemisphere is having a good summer! We have truly been blessed this year with blue skies and warm (not super-hot) days. We have gotten some rain here and there, but all in all it has been spectacular. We have been spending a lot of time outdoors, taking long walks, hiking, and gardening. So I haven’t been online as much as usual and so it has been hard getting blog posts out, let keeping up with all my favorite blogs…but I am plugging away!

Summertime is all about fresh flavors and simple recipes. I love throwing veggies on the grill, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, onions, and potatoes – a great accompaniment to any dinner, simple and delicious.

Recently we were happy to find fresh sardines from Portugal at our local health food store. I have never had fresh sardines, although I see them on a lot of blogs this time of year, and I have always hoped to have a chance to try them. I have been trying to get into canned sardines for years – they are so good for you. But I have a hard time finding a good recipe to use them. Does anyone have any favorites? Please leave them in the comments, if you would! Plus we are always joking that if Roberto eats them, does that mean he is a cannibal? He is from Sardinia after all.

So when we got this package of beautiful fresh and silvery sardines, I knew I wanted to prepare them in a way that would really let us taste the fish. I looked online and found a lot of ways to prepare sardines, but in the end we went with simplicity, grilling them and serving them with fresh squeezed lemon juice.

I basically followed the directions for Portuguese Grilled Sardines from this website.  It is a very simple preparation and the result is truly delightful. Served up with some of those grilled veggies and a glass of vihno verde it is an excellent summer meal!

Scotch Eggs for Spring Equinox (Ostara)

 

The Spring Equinox is tomorrow and there is no better symbol of this day than the egg. Long held across many cultures as the utmost symbol of fertility, birth and new beginnings the egg, humble yet a perfect food should be featured on your menus tomorrow. If you happen to have chickens this is a good day to thank them for all the hard work they have done keeping you well fed with nutrient dense fuel – as the days have been getting longer since the Winter Solstice, our chickens have been producing more and more of nature’s perfect food.

Ēostre is the name of an Anglo Saxon Goddess of the Dawn who was celebrated during the month of April and so her name has been given to the festival of Easter. This connection with the Spring Equinox and Ēostre is why the Christian celebration of Easter includes decorating colorful eggs, egg hunts and the like.

Scotch eggs are a beautiful culinary tribute to the equinox. A hard-boiled egg, covered in a shell of sausage, cracked open and devoured- now there is a great way to celebrate! We made our Scotch eggs using eggs from our own hens and homemade sausage we made from our pigshare this fall.

While we are talking about history, the origin of Scotch eggs is not known. The earliest printed recipe is from 1809, although the London department store Fortnum and Mason claims they invented in in the mid 1700’s. What we know for sure is that Scotch eggs are a popular picnic food in the UK. They are usually served cold, although in the US and other places they are served in gastropubs hot and usually with some kind of accompanying sauce.

Scotch eggs are simple to make (see the step by step instructions with photos below in the recipe). Just boil some eggs and mold a nice layer of sausage around them. I coated mine in a little bit of cornmeal, and then browned them in a hot skillet with olive oil. Then I transferred them to a hot oven to cook evenly for about 10 minutes. They are a delicious breakfast or a nice snack, definitely perfect for a spring equinox picnic.

INGREDIENTS:

4 eggs
1 tsp salt
Glug of vinegar
¾ lbs sausage
½ cup cornmeal or 1/2 cup almond meal to make it paleo
Olive oil

METHOD:

Boil the eggs. To make perfect boiled eggs, place eggs in a pot of cold water (use enough water to cover the eggs), to the water add a tsp of sea salt and a glug of vinegar. Put a lid on the pot and put on a burner over high heat. Once the water begins to boil, turn the heat off and set a timer for 12 minutes. Immediately remove the eggs from the water and run them under cold water or place them in a bowl of cold water. After about 5 minutes they will be cool enough to touch. At this point peel the eggs and set them aside.

Preheat your oven to 400 F and start heating up a cast iron skillet over low heat. Next take ¼ of the sausage and make a flat pancake out of it and place one egg in the center and carefully wrap the egg entirely in the sausage, then roll the whole thing in corn or almond meal. Do the same procedure using the rest of the eggs, sausage and corn or almond meal.

Add some olive oil to the cast iron skillet – enough to cover the bottom about ¼ of an inch. Place the Scotch eggs in the skillet and brown on all sides. Then place in the oven on a cookie sheet and cook for about 10 minutes. Can be served immediately, or cooled and refrigerated for picnic food!

Burns Night: Haggis

“Thus bold, independent, unconquer’d, and free,
Her bright course of glory for ever shall run,
For brave Caledonia immortal must be,”
~Robert Burns, Caledonia

Last night we celebrated Burns Night , the 25th of January, the birthdate of the famed Scottish poet, Robert Burns. It is a night when Scots all over the world celebrate his life, poetry and all things Scottish by hosting a traditional Burns Supper – haggis, neeps, tatties, and a whisky toast!
This is a treat I look forward to every year. Living across the pond, in the US, haggis is not readily available, but I have been lucky to find Scottish Gourmet USA an online retailer of not only some of the best haggis in the US, but many other delicious Scottish products as well, like honey, cheese, smoked salmon, teas, etc. If you love Scottish food, I suggest you check them out!

We started the night off with homemade oat cakes, slices of Dubliner and chunks of Bergenost . I figured since I didn’t have any Scottish cheese lying about, I would seek close relatives, so we went with Irish and Norwegian (learn about the relationship between the Vikings and the Scots in regards to cheese here). We washed the first course down with some Thistly Cross Hard Scottish Cider.

Then it was time for the main course, haggis, neeps (mashed rutabaga) and tatties (mashed potatoes).

Looks innocent enough, doesn’t it?

Now before you all start in with that “yuck” or “ick” word again, like when I talked about my love for black pudding , let me tell you that haggis is really nothing more than a wonderfully spiced sausage. The haggis by Scottish Gourmet USA, contains lamb, liver, oats and spices, nothing else…and YES, I have had the “real deal” in Scotland, and honestly it tastes very much the same. It has a wonderful creamy texture and the aroma is tantalizing. This is real, hardy, stick to your bones kind of food, for real, hardy people! This is traditional, ancestral food at its best! Burns makes this quite clear in his famous address and I must concur! :

“But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his ample fist a blade,
He will make it whistle;
And legs, and arms, and heads will crop
Like tops of thistle.
You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland want no watery ware,
That splashes in small wooden dishes;
But is you wish her grateful prayer,
Give her a Haggis!”
~Robert Burns, Address to a Haggis (standard English translation)

(Me with friends Bob and Suzanne, all enraptured by The Address)

Of course before eating, the haggis must be addressed (to see the whole address performed excellently, I suggest checking out this one performed by Andrew of Scottish Gourmet USA) and then toasted with whisky. This year we toasted with a 15 year Dalwhinnie. It was a good one.

As always it was a wonderful evening full of joking, sharing memories of trips to Scotland, etc, such a great yearly tradition. I suggest to all of you, especially if you are Scottish, love Scotland or just love ‘Ol Rabbie Burns, to join us next year in celebrating his life!

Want to know what to do with Haggis Leftovers? Try Balmoral Chicken.

Next UP: Sticky Toffee Pudding!

Potato-Leek Fritters

 

This year I fell in love with leeks. I have cooked with them before, but not often. I know it might sound strange but leeks intimidated me. There are all these stories about how you have to clean them so well, etc. and I just didn’t think they were worth it. I know, go ahead…*gasp*

I have since learned the error of my ways. This year, our CSA grew leeks and so they were on offering every week and more plentiful than onions, so I started really using them a lot. I have come to adore their wonderful sweet flavor and they looks so beautiful in dishes – and cook much faster than onions.

Some of my favorite dishes to use leeks in are the Buckwheat Noodles with Mushrooms and Sour Cream that I shared last time and basically anything with potatoes…these fritters being right up there. We grew a wonderful crop of 4 varities of heirloom potatoes this year, and I must admit they are the best potatoes I have ever eaten. So flavorful and wonderfully earthy. I now understand why the French call them pommes de terre or apples of the earth.

I should have posted this as a leftover holiday dish, but honestly these are so good, that they are worth making mashed potatoes for! We enjoy these alongside eggs for breakfast, or for dinner as a side dish. In fact, they could probably be perfectly satisfying as a main dish! Just make them!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups of smashed potatoes (I like gold fleshed potatoes for this)
1 large egg, scrambled
½ cup of sliced leek rings
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp of herbs de Provence
½ to ¾ cup of garbanzo bean flour – enough so that the patties are easy to form
Lard or butter for frying
Sour cream or hot sauce (or both!)to garnish

METHOD:

Heat up a cast iron skillet on low until nice and hot. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and shape into patties (will make about 8-10 depending on how big you make them). Place lard or butter in the pan and melt and fry patties on each side for a total of about 5-7 minutes per patty. I generally have the oven at 250 F and put the finished patties in the oven to stay warm. Serve with sour cream/hot sauce and enjoy!