30 September 2010

Southern Summer

Now if fried green tomatoes and corn cakes don't make a grand southern summer-time meal! And the smell of frying! I've got kind of a love/hate relationship with that smell. I love it fresh when I'm snitching hot fried green tomatoes from the draining plate, but after an hour or so if I leave the kitchen and get a whiff of that burnt/fried smell in the air, it can about turn my stomach. Ugh.

The corn cakes are topped with some homemade yogurt and salsa, while the fried green tomatoes are accompanied by some of my tomato chutney from earlier in the summer. This meal, while somewhat deficient in color and variety, was chock-full of veggies (corn, tomatoes--red and green, onion, green pepper). I started off by just making the fried tomatoes, then used the leftover soaking mix (milk, egg, salt pepper) and dredging mix (cornmeal, flour, cayenne) as a base for some corn cakes. They were a bit too wet, but delicious none-the-less. Thanks, Tabitha, for the inspiration!

One parting shot of the 'maters. . .

Now, doesn't that plate of fried food and bright yellow table look just like a true southern diner?

20 September 2010

Fig Birds

I came across this idea on the Martha Stewart website when I was hunting inspiration for the rest of my fresh figs. Of course, I could have just eaten all of them fresh and loved every bit of it. But hey, figs with soft cheese . . . sounded too good not to try. While Martha used blue cheese and pecans in her figs, I went for goat cheese because I love goat cheese and would rather have that left over than blue. What can I say?

Once the figs are washed and the hard bit of stem removed from the top, cut them open as seen in the picture above and stuff a little nugget of cheese inside--I have to admit, the pungency of blue cheese probably would have tasted fabulous with my mildly sweet figs, but no regrets!

After the cheese is in, wrap with a slice of prosciutto and secure with a toothpick. I drizzled mine with a teeny, teeny bit of both balsamic vinegar and olive oil, then dashed them with some fresh-ground black pepper.

I did this twice in the same week. The first time I baked the figs in my toaster oven, but I thought the prosciutto got a little tough that way, so the second time I broiled them just until they sizzled a bit and I could see some juices dripping.

Don't they look like darling, hungry little birds?!? I loved the sweetness/juiciness of the fig along with creamy goat cheese and subtly wine-flavored meat. Mmmmm . . . I'm a hungry little bird!

14 September 2010

Fig and Sausage Borek

"Borek" is a Turkish word meaning a stuffed phyllo pastry, usually in a triangle shape. But this is not a Turkish recipe. It is one of my own creation, born of the delight of finding fresh figs at one of my favorite quirky grocery stores.

The first time I tasted a fresh fig, I was nothing less than transported. I remember the grocery store I found them in, my curiosity and hesitancy. The first bite through the soft skin and into the succulent center burst onto my tongue and into my brain like stepping out of a dark house into a sweetly warm summer afternoon. The fresh fig does not blow you away with an intensity of flavor so much as it softly, surely seduces you. That first bite is forever branded into my physical memory, such that no other fig experience can some close to it.

The figs I bought this week were, predictably, shipped in from California. Bruised and battered from the long trip, they bore some resemblance to my "primal fig" but tasted watered down (though they did photograph beautifully, no?).

I decided it wouldn't be a travesty to cook them into something. Something worthy of that half-bottle of white wine waiting to be finished off. Quick check of available ingredients:
phyllo dough: check
figs: duh
sausage that also needs to be used very soon!: check
onions: check
olive oil: check
goat cheese: sorry (oh, so very sorry!)
old labaneh: check
egg: check
sage: check
salt and pepper: check, check
other cheese: check (mozzarella)

So! Sausage and Fresh Fig Borek with Sage and Mozzarella. Sounds like a title fit for any gourmet cookbook.

I got some onions sizzling in olive oil on the stove to which I added the sausage. Meanwhile, into about a cupful of old labaneh (a thick strained-yogurt cheese, if you're new to the blog) I whisked an egg along with some salt and pepper. I read the instructions on the phyllo dough box. Time sensitive stuff apparently, so I assembled (as suggested) all my ingredients in small bowls. Quartered fresh figs. Shredded mozzarella. My labaneh stuff and the sausage/onion mix, to which was added some fresh snipped sage.

Working as quickly as I could with my unskilled phyllo fingers, I dabbed a bit of this and some of that onto a sheet of phyllo dough folded in half and brushed with olive oil. It looked like this:

I then proceeded to clumsily fold them into triangles, along the length of the dough with the final little endpiece tucked under to (hopefully) hold it all together. They went onto a baking stone. When all were assembled, it was into the oven at 350F for about 30 minutes.

They came out looking like this:

Not bad for a novice, huh?

I loved the flavor, which improved as they cooled and you could actually taste the individual ingredients rather than just burning your tongue. I loved the sweetness and juiciness of the figs alongside the pungent sausage/onion/sage flavors. I might add more cheese another time and a bit more pepper, but for a first time these little pastries were delectable. They re-crisp rather nicely in the toaster oven the next day, too!

13 September 2010

Zippy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

While waiting for the pictures of my sweet potatoes to load, my spider solitaire win rate took a one percent dip. Grrrr . . .

But here I am in my cozy little house, the dishwasher humming in the kitchen from company dishes last night and a rapid-fire dinner put together this evening in honor of the half bottle of wine that was left over. But more about that another time.

For now, I want to talk about sweet potatoes. Peeled, cut, tossed with butter and spices and roasted for about 30 minutes. Delish! I served them up with some tomato and basil sauce-less pizza and a bowl of olives. No plates. No utensils. Just fingers and good food!



Let me attempt a recipe:

2 cups peeled and cut sweet potatoes (mine were like thick home fries)
2 TBSP butter, melted
1/4 tsp powdered rosemary
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all that, add some fresh oregano or thyme sprigs, and throw it in a 350F oven. Check them periodically with a fork to see if they're soft enough. I think mine were in about 30 - 40 minutes. When they're cooked through, broil them a few minutes for some crunchiness. Let them cool a bit, then dump into a bowl and have at it! Forget the forks.