We be jammin’ or Figapalooza Part II

Well we’re continuing with last week’s figgy theme and making fig jam. As I’ve previously mentioned, we have a crazy number of black jack figs thanks to 2 very healthy trees out back. It’s a constant battle to try to get to all the figs before they start falling off the tree and then become an all you can eat buffet for various critters. This week’s effort to stave off the figpocalypse is jam. Now I can’t be bothered with all the boiling and vacuum sealing of jars, so I prefer to make freezer jams. They last up to 10 days in the fridge and 6 months in the freeze. So they’re an easy and convenient type of jam to make in small batches.

Super Easy Fig Freezer Jam

  • 1 lbs fresh figs roughly chopped
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup water

Toss all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend for 15-30 seconds. Pour mixture into a heavy bottomed sauce pot. Bring to a boil over high heat stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and let boil for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and portion into clean canning jars. Loosely cover with the lids and let cool to room temperature. Place in the fridge and use within 10 days.

Yep, it’s that’s easy.

 

Peachy Keen…and other assorted peachy puns

Fresh peaches and whipped feta

It’s definitely peach (nectarine) season around these parts so this week I’m going to share a couple of simple peachy themed recipes with you.

The first recipe is for a Peach and Whipped Feta salad. I introduced you to whipped feta  a few weeks ago with my “Getting Toasted” Post. The thing I really like about this salad is that it refreshing, and doesn’t require any cooking. This salad also works whether the peaches are harder and not as ripe or super ripe.

Peach and Whipped Feta Salad

serves 4

2 ripe peaches or nectarines (cut into thin slices)

1 cups whipped feta*

1 cup micro greens or baby arugula

1 tsp premium balsamic vinegar for drizzling

1 TSP crushed and toasted Marcona Almonds or hazelnuts

salt and pepper to taste

8 slices of prosciutto

For individual serving, spread a heaping tablespoon of whipped feta diagonally across a chilled salad plate. Lay 4-6 slices of peach on top of the whipped feta and drape 2 slices of prosciutto over the peaches. Top with greens and sprinkle with the Marcona Almonds/Hazelnuts. Dress salad with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

 

Recipe number 2 is for Peach and Prosciutto Pizza. You can use which ever store bought crust you prefer, in this case I used Whole Foods Pizza Dough This recipe will be for a 20″ pizza.

Peach and Prosciutto Pizza with Ricotta and Arugula

Peach and Prosciutto Pizza with Ricotta and Arugula

1 ripe peach halved and cut into thin slices

1/2 thinly sliced shallot or red onion

2 cups arugula

8 slices or prosciutto  torn into rough strips

1/2 cup pancetta

1/2 cup ricotta

1/2 cup shredded parmesan

1 cup shredded aged mozzarella

2/3 of a cup fresh mozzarella thinly sliced

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

honey

Place peach slices in to a bowl, drizzle lightly with oiive oil, honey and salt and pepper and set aside. In a second bowl, dress the arugula with a splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper and set aside.  Roll out crust to whichever shape you would like, and cover crust completely with the ricotta and lightly sprinkle half of the aged mozzarella and parmesan over the crust.

Peach and Prosciutto Pizza ready to go on the grill.

Layer the peaches, shallots, prosciutto and pancetta over the crust then top with the remainder of the shredded cheese and the fresh mozzarella. Bake the pizza until the bottom is golden brown and the top has started to brown. Remove from the oven and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and honey and finish with the dressed arugula.

 

Enjoy

 

Getting Toasted

 

Avocado Toast..BLTA Edition

I love going out to brunch like anyone else and there’s some really great (and overly popular) brunch spots within walking distance of our house. But what I don’t like is the often long wait for these very popular (crowded and busy) brunch spots. So that’s where having an arsenal of quick and easy to prepare brunch worthy recipes comes in. So this week’s post is exactly that, a few quick and easy recipes for dressing up toast. A good toast needs a solid foundation and I’m partial to sourdough for toast and there’s an added benefit that sourdough is Low FODMAP diet friendly. But you can use whichever bread like base you’d like.

Avocado Toast

First up is that brunch mainstay, Avocado Toast in this case, the Bacon Lettuce Tomato and Avocado edition.

Freshly picked tomatoes, micro greens and crumbled bacon dress up this avacado toast

For my version, I coat sourdough bread in bacon grease and toast on a griddle until golden brown on each side. In a small bowl, I mash 1 avocado with salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of mayonaise together. Feel free to add any herbs that you like then top with micro greens which is acting as the lettuce in this case, fresh tomatoes and crumbled bacon and season with salt and pepper. It’s that easy.

Fig Toast

Our next toast features figs which are just starting to come into to season here. We had a decent amount of rain and expect another bumper crop of figs from the two trees out back. So this will come in handy to highlight the figs as well as use them up.

For fig toast, mash 8 ounces of goat cheese with 2 tablespoons of honey and a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread on toasted bread and top with quartered figs, top with a drizzle of honey and crumbled blue cheese. Place under the broiler until the blue cheese and figs start to brown. To take this over to the savory side, add candied bacon and caramelized onions. This would be good on soda bread or a cinnamon raisin form.

The next few recipes use whipped feta which is a great salty tangy alternative to cream cheese or goat cheese.

Whipped Feta

  • 8 oz of crumbled feta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 oz of mascarpone cheese

Toss all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and whip until smooth. This takes about 2-3 minutes.

Pastrami Smoked Salmon with Whipped Salmon

We recently discovered that our local Trader Joe’s has pastrami style smoked salmon and it’s really good. They also have a really good gluten free everything bagel. Whipped Feta and micro-greens make a great accompaniment to the salmon and bagel.

Tomato and Whipped Feta Toast

Tomato and Whipped Feta Toast is as simple as it sounds, its just really fresh tomatoes on top of whipped feta. A finish of a really good olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper will bring out the sweet brightness of the tomatoes. This is a great way to really show off homegrown tomatoes.

Roasted Corn Cucumber Tomato Salad with Whipped Feta Toast

Roasted Corn Tomato and Cucumber Salad

  • 2 cups of fresh corn kernels
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes seeded and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium sized English Cucumber
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons flat leaf parsely (Italian Parsley) finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoon Olive Oil divided
  • salt and pepper to taste

Spread out the kernels of corn on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in an oven preheated to 425F until kernels start to brown and blacken, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Allow the cool to room temperature. In a large bowl combine, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs and dress with the remaining olive oil, salt and pepper.

The toast part is dead simple, just spread whipped feta on the toasted bread of your choice and top with the salad.

That’s it. All are super easy, flavorful and seasonal.

 

 

 

 

 

French Toast – Crowd Pleasing Brunch Edition

French Toast casserole style made with store bought cinnamon bread and fresh berries

This weeks recipe is a super easy way to make French Toast for a crowd. Typically if you’re making French Toast or pancakes for a large group, there’s inevitably someone waiting around hungry while whoever’s cooking is furiously trying to get fresh and hot pancakes/French Toast served as quick as possible. Not only is this extremely stressful for the cook it’s not particularly conducive for folks to gather around the table and eat at the same time.

Essentially what we’re making here is a French Toast Casserole or bread pudding. For added convenience, I used store bought, pre-sliced cinnamon bread that I cut diagonally and let sit out on a wire rack for an hour so that it would start to stale. This allows the bread to absorb more of the custard without becoming a soggy slimy mess. Alternately you can toast the bread but that’s one more step and this is all about ease and convenience.

To augment the menu, I’d suggest having things like granola, yogurt with fresh fruit, baked eggs, quiche or a Spanish style tortilla and sausage/bacon which you can bake ahead and warm up along side the French toast the last 15 minutes of baking. Here’s the recipe:

Recipe

  • 1 egg for every 4 slices of bread
  • 2 slices of bread per person
  • 1 cup half/half for every 4 slices of bread
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 TBS brown sugar for 4 slices of bread
  • butter or cooking spray
  • pinch of salt
  • fresh berries (optional)
  • Powered sugar (optional)

Spray a large casserole pan with cooking spray or coat with butter and set aside. In a large bowl, mix half/half, eggs, sugar, salt and cinnamon until well combined and set aside. Arrange sliced cinnamon bread in the casserole dish and then pour the custard mixture over the bread. Let sit for 15 minutes to ½ hour so the custard can be absorbed by the bread. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake casserole at 350F for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the egg mixture is set in the middle. To serve, dust with powdered sugar and top with fresh berries. That’s it, and it’s that easy.

Sweet Meets Savory…

Half a Cornish Game Hen fills in for chicken thighs and drumsticks over a cornbread waffle for a play on traditional chicken and waffles

So last week we celebrated Valentine’s Day.  Invariably one of us winds up sick on Valentine’s Day so we don’t have a good track record of actually being able to complete any of the plans that we make. This year I decided to forego any attempt at making reservations or any elaborate surprises and shenanigans and decided to cook at home and to make one of my wife’s favorite meals, Chicken and Waffles.

We’re fortunate enough to live a scant 2 miles from the Mecca of Chicken and Waffles, Roscoe’s (get the Obama Special). Roscoe’s does an amazing traditional Southern-inspired Chicken and Waffles along with all the traditional Southern sides. I love their Chicken and Waffles and wouldn’t dream of trying to emulate their recipes. But I will gladly use their recipe for inspiration.

My flavor inspiration came from the Southwest and Mexico. I made a corn and jalapeño waffle and marinaded Cornish Game Hens overnight with buttermilk seasoned with Chulula Hot Sauce, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, oregano, cracked black pepper, salt and ground ancho chile. I dredged the game hens in seasoned flour and crushed up cornflakes before frying. For the syrup, I used a dark agave with melted butter, cinnamon and a bit of Doña Maria Mole in it.

I wanted my waffle to have a strong corn flavor, so I used creamed corn, cornmeal and ground freeze dried corn to play up the corniness. Here’s the recipe:

Jalapeño Corn Bread Waffle

  • 1  ¼ cup corn meal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 14.75oz can creamed corn
  • 4 TBS melted butter (slightly cooled)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 jalapeno diced
  • 2 TBS ground freeze dried corn (optional)

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, baking powder, salt, dried corn, sugar and flour and mix a few times with a whisk to combine. In a blender, combine, the jalapeño, egg, corn, and creamed corn and blend until the mixture is smooth. Slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry until blended then add the melted butter and blend until well combined. The batter will be grainy looking but try to work out the bigger lumps of cornmeal and flour. Set batter aside. Oil and heat waffle iron according to manufactures directions. Place a wire cooling rack on a baking sheet and heat oven to 250F. Place cooked waffles in oven to keep warm.

Buttermilk Chicken Marinade

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 2 TBS you favorite Mexican style Hot Sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ ground allspice
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ ground ancho chili

Place all the ingredients in a 2 gal sized zip top bag add the chicken and marinade in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Dredge

  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ ground allspice
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 TBS salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ ground ancho chili
  • 1 cup A/P flour
  • 2 cups crushed cornflakes

Fill a cast iron skillet of dutch oven to half full with cooking oil and heat cooking oil to 360F. Place ingredients into a paper grocery bag, Remove chicken from the marinade and remove excess marinade. Toss into the season flour and knock off the excess.

 

Cornish game hens dredged in seasoned flour an crushed cornflakes.

Place on cookie sheet with a wire rack and continue to dredge all the pieces of chicken. Fry until internal temperature of chicken reads 165F on an instant read thermometer.

 

Enjoy…..

 

 

Easy Lemon Scones

Lemon Scones paired with a whipped lemon honey and raspberry compound butter

It’s still Lemonpalooza around here. Our lemon tree is going crazy and we’ve got a lot of fruit ripening right now. So we’re scrambling to find things to do with all the fruit. Our tree produces grapefruit sized lemons with really thick peels which are ideal for cooking, because they produce a lot of juice and the peels are perfect for resting.

This weeks recipe is for lemon scones. Scones are a really easy and simple dessert and as we discussed last week, just by swapping ingredients here and there you can really change to flavor profile of scones. Scones are essential a type of biscuit, my recipe calls for baking powder as the leavened. I use the food processor for cutting the butter into the dough, but if you don’t have one, you can use a couple of butter knives, a fork or a pastry blender.

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour

6 TBS chilled butter

½ cup kaffir (can sub sour cream, plain yogurt or buttermilk)

⅓ cup granulated sugar

½ tsp lemon extract

½ tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp salt

1 TBS lemon zest

1 tsp baking powder

1 TBS sanding sugar

¼ cup milk

Place all ingredients except milk, zest, kaffir and sanding sugar into the bowl of the food processor. Pulse 20 to 30 times, add the zest and slowly drizzle in the kaffir while pulsing the food processor. Dough should look like wet sand this should take about 10 pulses and should look like this:

Flour, salt sugar, baking powder, butter, zest, extracts and kaffir have been pulsed in a food processor until it is the consistency of wet sand.

Turn dough out onto a floured work service and form into a 1 inch thick disk like so:

Scone dough has been formed into a 1″ thick x 7″ round and will chill in the fridge for an hour before cutting and baking

The dough may still be slightly crumbly and that’s ok. Wrap the dough in wax paper or plastic wrap and place into the fridge to chill for at least an hour.  Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and cut into wedges.

chilled dough cut into wedges

Place wedges on to parchment lined baking sheet and brush with milk

unbaked scones being brushed with milk

Dust the milk brushed scones with sanding sugar.

scones being dusted with sanding sugar

Bake scones in an oven preheated to 400F for 15-18 minutes. Scones should be golden brown on the bottom and starting to turn golden brown on the edges.

 

Its the most wonderful time of the year….Tamale Season

Freshly steamed pork tamale with salsa verde

It’s hard to believe its November already and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. One of my favorite things about this time of year and into December is the abundance of tamales. Its not uncommon here in Southern California to be approached in a grocery store parking lot or along the streets by someone selling home-made tamales. I have no qualms about buying these tamales and hopefully soon the city of LA and all of LA County will make it easier for street vendors to get permitted and be able to vend legally.

If you ever had a chance to watch tamales being made by hand you know that its a labor intensive process. Which is why people tend to only make them once a year.  Its definitely something that requires some planning and prep and you can’t reasonably expect to be done in a couple of hours. Heck, just soaking the corn husks takes a couple of hours.

The first stage of making the tamales is to prepare the filling.I’m partial to pork filling with a nice tomatillo salsa. You’ll find my Chili Verde recipe here. Its important to save the cooking liquid from the pork but strain the solids out and season it well with salt. You’ll want to use this as the broth for your masa.To make my filling,  I shred the pork from the Chile verde and then add chicharrone molido (cooked pork belly that’s been ground) and my green salsa and test for seasoning adding salt and pepper as needed then I set the filling aside while I prepare my corn husks and masa.

The masa is in my mind the most important part of the tamale. I blandly seasoned masa means bland boring tamales even if you have a really flavorful filling. So its really important to season your stock well and season your masa. The ratio for masa is 3 parts Maseca, 2 parts stock and 1 part fat, then a good amount of salt and 11/2 TBS baking powder. I prefer lard or bacon fat over shortening because I feel its more flavorful and since a tamale is only as good as its masa we want to take advantage of any opportunity to add flavor.  If you have a butcher or a really good Latin market, you should be able to buy unfiltered pork lard (aka manteca de cerdo).

Consequently, if you live near a really good Latin market you can also find pre-made masa for tamales. I feel no shame in using Northgate Gonzalez‘* prepared masa. Its well seasoned and consistent and no matter how you may try homemade masa isn’t. Northgate sells masa by the pound so you need to have an idea of how many tamales you hope to make and the size. The downside is that its definitely more expensive to buy the pre-made. It’s on sale this time of year and I think I paid $.99 per pound. You can buy a 5lbs bag of maseca for a couple of bucks and you can use it for other things.

Here’s what you need for tamales

  • Masa
  • chile verde filling
  • corn husks or foil to wrap tamales (if you use corn husks you’ll need to soak them in hot water for about 90minutes to soften them up so they’re easier to work with
  • A large deep pot with a lid so you can steam the tamales

Here’s a video to show you how to make masa followed by another video demonstrating how to fill, roll and tie the tamales.

And remember the next time your tia, abuela or co-worker is sharing their tamales know that a lot of time, love and work went into them.

*Northgate also sells sweet masa for sweet tamales as well as Guatemalan style masa. I’m partial to the Anaheim Northgate off of Lincoln and State College. Its huge and I can do all my shopping there as well as finding Latin Caribe spices and brands i.e. Goya.

Editorial comment. I receive no compensation from Northgate…but I love them

Fig Bacon and Goat Cheese Flatbread

Store bought flatbread is dressed up with fresh sliced figs, crumbled bacon and goat cheese then drizzled with a honey balsamic syrup for sweetness

This is a really quick and easy lunch idea borne from our excess of figs and uses things you may already have in your fridge and pantry.  I took a couple of store bought flatbreads, brushed them with bacon fat and baked on a cookie sheet with a wire rack in a preheated 400F oven for 2-3 minutes. I removed them from the oven then topped them with sliced figs, crumbled bacon and goat cheese. I put the flatbread back in the oven for 3-5 minutes until the goat cheese starts to melt and brown. I removed them from the oven then drizzled with a honey and balsamic syrup which was 2 parts honey to 1 part balsamic vinegar. Then I cut it into 1-2″ wide strips for serving. If you’re thinking of this for a lunch idea then I’d add a simple spinach or arugula and goat cheese salad with a drizzle of the honey balsamic syrup for dressing. Quick and easy…

Ingredients

2 store bought flatbreads

2 TBS bacon grease (melted)

¼ crumbled goat cheese/feta or blue cheese

¼ crumbled cooked bacon

2 tsp of honey

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Brunch Ideas

We love the idea of brunch, but the most popular brunch spots in our neighborhood are always crazy busy. So I like the idea of enjoying a leisurely brunch from the comfort of our own home. Here’s some pictures of some of our past homemade brunches to inspire your own brunch creations.

Figs, bacon, and goat cheese make for a savory combination

Bagels paired with egg salad, pickles and onions and lox, cream cheese, tomatoes and capers

onions, cheese, ham, bacon and eggs make up this savory play on a dessert standard.

Home cured corned beef and sweet potatoes makes a homey version of the diner staple.

Spanish tortilla of eggs, potatoes, cheese, onions and chorizo baked to a golden brown.