Food Lust :: The Concord Grape
What's the first teeny tiny sign that autumn's around the corner? For me, it's most definitely the arrival of concord grapes at the greenmarket. These little fall gems burst with sweetness like mini candy bombs on your taste buds (not to mention they're packed with fiber and antioxidants). I'll confidently confirm they're my current gastronomic obsession and make a perfect afternoon snack, morning pick-me-up, a simple dessert. Or get a bit more adventurous and turn those grapes into a gorgeous chutney with some port wine, a jammy reduction to drizzle over yogurt (or even over lamb or pork) or a icy smooth sorbet with lemon and thyme.
And to take my obsession a tad further, I'm also loving the striped Japanese ceramic bowl pictured above -- a lucky find at Broome St. General Store in LA's Silver Lake neighborhood. The bowl rocks, and so does the store.
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In the Kitchen :: Figs Gone Wild
I was recently bestowed 4 entire flats of fresh figs. We're talking a couple hundred figs, easy. My first thought, send a massive thank you to the California Fig Board. Second thought, what the hell to do with a bounty of beautiful figs ASAP before they go bad.
1. Start the fall off with a lovely dose of generosity and give some away to a lucky few foodie friends.
2. Make a BIG batch of fig compote with vanilla bean and bourbon. Perfect for making any number of dishes a little more exciting. I've currently been spooning it into my morning yogurt along with chopped pecans.
3. Serve up fresh and pretty on a cheese platter with proscuitto and gorgonzola or as a lovely little snack with black pepper yogurt, proscuitto and honey (disclaimer: that gorgeous pic below is via Tomas Curi, exec chef at Corsino, who was one of the lucky recipients).
4. Bake up the rest in a series of fig tarts and distribute to friends, family, office mates, the coffee shop dude...really anyone who will take a few figs off my hands. The tarts were a winner, so I'm including the recipe below. I played around with gorgonzola and goat cheese - both versions were delicious depending on your mood.
Fig Tart :: with Goat Cheese, Honey and Lemon Verbena
Serves :: 12
Almond Tart Crust
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon verbena
1 3/4 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3 to 4 ounces of goat cheese or gorgonzola
3 tablespoons honey, divided
fresh cracked black pepper
about 3 cups fresh figs, quartered
In a bowl, whisk together both flours, salt and lemon verbena.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and confectioners' sugar. Mix on medium-low speed until well combined, about 4 minutes. [You can also use a food processor to mix the dough, pulsing on and off for about 2 minutes.]
Mix in the egg and the yolk until well-incorporated. Add the flour mixture in half at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each half is added.
Place the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide dough in half, shape into flattened disks, and wrap each one in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight. You'll have an extra disc remaining which can be frozen for later use - it's great as a base crust for any type of fruit tart.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out 1 ball of dough for the crust. Press gently into a 12” tart pan with removable bottom and fork a few holes in the bottom. Cover with tin foil and spread about 1 cup of dry beans or pie weights over tops and blind bake the crust for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and crumble goat cheese or gorgonzola over top. Drizzle 1 1/2 tablespoons honey over cheese and dust with a bit of black pepper. Arrange fig quarters in concentric circles around the tart. Drizzle remaining honey over top.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until crust is golden brown and figs are nice and soft and glistening. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Quinoa Pilaf with Dates, Pistachios & Caramelized Onions
Fall seems to be flying by at light speed. I'm not quite sure where the past few weeks have gone, but they've been beyond hectic. For good reason thankfully. More details to come in the next week or so....a little suspense builder for you. Being busy has kept me physically from posting, but mentally, I've got at least half a dozen posts ready to go. Sometimes I wish a little magic elf could jump into my brain and whip up a smashing blog post in a matter of minutes. Alas, I'm attempting to catch up a bit on a gray autumn afternoon. A good, long bike ride and a trip out to the Brooklyn Flea will have to wait until tomorrow or until better weather. Instead, here's the quinoa recipe I've been wanting to post for over a week now. I was pleasantly suprised having put it together without much thought - really just poking around my spice cabinet. Bold flavors that make me feel like I'm off somewhere exotic and foreign, Marrakesh or Beirut come to mind. Now to just pack my passport for real...
Quinoa Pilaf :: with Dates, Pistachios and Caramelized Onions
Serves :: 4-6
1 cup black, red or golden quinoa
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
3 cardamom pods
½ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
white or black pepper and kosher salt to taste
2 cups waters or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup toasted, crushed pistachios
4 dates, chopped (or 3 tablespoons golden raisins)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Toast quinoa in a dry saute pan or pot for 3-4 minutes. Add in olive oil along with garlic, spices and salt and pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add 2 cups of water or broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer about 20-25 minutes until water/broth has been fully absorbed. Turn off heat, fluff with a fork and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Mix in pistachios, dates and caramelized onions.*
*For onions, saute on low heat in a separate small saute pan until golden brown and caramelized, about 20 minutes.