Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Grilled Figs With Pomegranate Molasses

I’m walking through Whole Foods the other day and I see a huge display of figs.  I stop dead in my tracks and notice the sign….three containers of figs for ten bucks. 

3 for $10!!

One container, two containers, three containers go directly in the cart.  

Even the checkout guy commented “Gee, you must like figs.”

I had a mission, but I didn’t tell him that.  I just politely smiled and said yes.

Tis the season for figs…they are one of Architect’s favorite things so I gave her a container and with two containers left, I had the perfect excuse to make these little gems I saw posted in the NYTimes:

Grilled Figs with Pomegranate Molasses. Yum.

I scanned the ingredients in the recipe and, to my surprise and delight, I had every one in my pantry, even the pomegranate molasses, courtesy of Singer who gave each dinner mate a bottle when she had to order FOUR from to make a recipe.

I did have to buy the you just read.

Grilling brings out the natural sweetness of fruit.  The sugars concentrate to produce the most perfect caramelized, jammy glaze.  But, take care not to overcook these little dainties, because, if you do, they will get mushy.  I used my stovetop grill pan but you can take advantage of a hot barbecue grill by threading the figs on a skewer before grilling.

You can serve these warm, as a first course, complemented with the cool creaminess of goat cheese crumbles or as a chilled dessert served with ricotta, mascarpone cheese or yogurt.  A drizzle of honey would be nice too. 

Grilled Figs with Pomegranate Molasses
New York Times, July 7, 2014

12 large or 18 medium-size ripe but firm fresh figs
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
Goat cheese, mascarpone, ricotta or Greek yogurt

1. Prepare a hot or medium-hot grill or heat a grill pan to medium-hot. Cut figs in half.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add figs to the bowl and gently toss until they are thoroughly coated.
3. Place on grill or grill pan flat side down. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes, until grill marks appear. Turn over using tongs or a spatula and grill for another 2 to 3 minutes on the other side.
4. Remove to a platter or sheet pan and brush each fig on the cut side with pomegranate molasses.
5. Plate the grilled figs and serve with the goat cheese, mascarone, ricotta or Greek yogurt.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Tomato Stacks

Despite the introductory traffic-related rant, this post is about eggplant.

I promise.  Please read on.

I work in Wilmington, Delaware.

This 495 bridge closure thing has been quite a treat, adding at least 20-30 minutes to my commute to and from work each day.  If there’s an accident, it’s even more eventful.

And painful.  

Even the POTUS is concerned (maybe Joe is whispering in his ear because Delaware is, after all, his home state).  Himself visited the First State disaster this week to tour the damage and repair progress and to talk up his highway infrastructure improvement initiative.  

That gives you an idea of what a colossal mess this has been and will continue to be until Labor Day.  Just in time to handle beach-related traffic…that weekend.

But, the bright spot is that on Wednesday and Fridays in the summer, there is a farmers market very close to my office and that is where I saw these beauties:
Those aubergine things, those are eggplants and the globe-shaped variety are Kamo eggplants.  The absolutely delightful woman from the farm told us that the skin of this variety is not as thick or bitter as regular eggplant so there is no need to peel the skin prior to cooking.   Like other eggplants, they are quite porous and this allows them to easily absorb the flavors of the ingredients with which they are prepared, releasing many layers of tastiness and texture.

As I was chatting with my co-worker about what to make with this jewel, she told me about the eggplant stacks she enjoyed at a nearby restaurant.  Well now, that sounds quite delicious AND would also look amazing plated.  Plus, my Mom, Sister, Uncle and Daughters were coming for Sunday dinner, and I suspected they would really like them!  A quick search revealed several recipes for the stacked lovelies and, like many other recipes, I tweaked it a bit to make it my own.

Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Tomato Stacks
Adapted from Food Network

1 Kamo eggplant, unpeeled and sliced (you should get about 6-8 slices, depending on the thickness)
1 1/2 cups of seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg, scrambled with some milk, salt and pepper
3 large tomatoes, sliced
3-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
Olive oil for brushing and frying
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced
Fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place the breadcrumbs and egg mixture in two separate bowls.  Dip the eggplant, one slice at a time, into the egg, then into the breadcrumbs.  Drizzle a frying pan with some olive oil over a medium heat and when hot, fry the slices until golden brown on each side.  
Place the browned slices on a baking sheet.  Next, slice the tomatoes and arrange them in a single layer on another baking sheet, brush the tomatoes with some olive oil, garlic and season with salt and pepper.  Bake the eggplant slices and the tomatoes for 12-15 minutes (until the tomatoes are soft and slightly browned on the edges).  Let the eggplant and tomato slices cool so you can handle them.  

To make the stacks, place an eggplant slice on a plate, then a tomato slice, next a mozzarella slice, then another tomato slice.  Top with a basil leaf.  Enjoy!

In these parts, we wait all year for Jersey tomatoes and I made this recipe with the purple beauty you see right up there, juicy, delicious Jersey tomatoes, basil from my garden, and mozzarella from the Whole Foods store.  We also enjoyed a cheese tray, chai cupcakes and beer...what could be better, except to share it all with family. More photos from our gathering:

The gorgeous photos are courtesy of my sister at Love, Kate Photography…..visit and like her Facebook page here!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Creamy Spring Vegetable Pasta

We had dinner at Foodie’s house this past week. 

It was my turn to cook but I had a massive leak in a stack pipe that needed to be repaired.  When my Irish contractor opened the walls, I did get a glimpse of my kitchen in days gone by!   We won’t say anymore about this mishap except that Foodie agreed to cook.

Good thing.  My house was a mess.

She made Creamy Spring Vegetable Pasta featuring yellow squash.  As we were sitting eating dinner, Architect told us about the lovely squash she has growing her garden.  She explained that she would throw the seeds of squashes past in the compost pile and, what do you know, one day she saw a squash vine develop along with a distinctive and beautiful squash blossom flower.  A few little squashes followed that seemingly grow at the clip of 1/2 inch per day!   Feisty little buggers.

Anyway, the dainty and delicate flowers that escort squash into summer are also edible. The  blossoms are often served fried in a simple batter, but can be stuffed with fresh, creamy cheeses like ricotta or goat cheese and herbs then drizzled with some honey and lemon.  You can also bake the blossoms if you don’t like deep frying.  There are some nice squash blossom recipes on-line too.

Do try this dish.  It is simple, delicious and just perfect for a relaxed summer evening.

Creamy Spring Vegetable Pasta

1 pound of spaghetti or fettuccine
Olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, sliced
2 yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 container of grape tomatoes, sliced in half
8 oz of sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste (red pepper flakes would add some zip!)
Juice of one lemon
Lemon zest
3/4 cup heavy cream
Pasta water
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
6 basil leaves, slivered
Note: Peas or asparagus would be nice in this dish too.

Cook the pasta.  Reserve about one cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, add two swirls of olive oil to a large skillet and heat over low heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the squash and sauté for two minutes, then add the tomatoes, mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Raise heat to medium high; cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the lemon, lemon zest, cream, and some Parmesan cheese and cook until the cream is heated through and thickens a bit, just a couple of minutes.   Put the pasta in a large bowl, add the vegetable mixture and toss. You can loosen it up a bit with the pasta water.  Grate some more fresh Parmesan cheese on top, add the basil and serve.

A lovely and chilled bottle of Anderra Sauvignon Blanc was perfect with this dish with its citrus, rose blossom-infused and grassy notes….very flavorful, crisp, and fresh.

For dessert, Foodie served pan seared peaches with amaretto.  The sugar in the amaretto turned into the most delectable syrup that she drizzled over the peaches and vanilla ice cream before serving.  Simply decadent and divine.