Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Homage to Figs

I read on Monica Bhide's site a wonderful quote about food writing, see She had asked the question, does food writing matter? and Molly O'Neill responded with "Why write about food? Because food is a patch of blue in an otherwise gray news world..." I just love that quote because that's part of the reason I enjoy reading food blogs and food writing in general, such as that by Bhide and O'Neill. 

I am a news junkie (definitely can be sad and gray) and have a stressful job but reading my favorite food blogs always help give the burst of color I need to my day. Yesterday was one of those stressful days at work, a long day of listening to sad stories. When I was finally able to put my apron on and just create good food, I felt the stress slowly melting away.  So I decided that I really must finish up the figs in my refrigerator.

I was lucky enough this year to have lots and lots of figs at my disposal.  My family's fig tree in Brooklyn, NY had an explosion of figs.  Every time I visited my parents over the summer, they would tell me that they had given away figs but still had containers of figs in the refrigerator.  Then I just had to visit the fig tree, despite my appeal to the big and numerous mosquitoes in the yard.
I picked enough to make jam with these and give some away.  Below is the latest batch we picked.

They are sweet like honey when ripe, like the ones here in the picture.  I had fun thinking up all the ways to use these figs.  I gave some away; cooked chicken with fresh figs, honey and vinegar (excellent, I must say); made the figs, lemon and thyme jam via recipe by and brandied figs. OK, I did not do all that in one day, rather over a couple of weeks.

This jar of figs, lemon and thyme is very special and thank you to Mrs. Wheelbarrow for such a unique recipe. It's sweet with bits of tartness. 

I did have some brandy syrup left after making the brandied fig, so I threw in some very ripe figs so that they would be preserved in the brandy and not be wasted.  After days in the refrigerator, I thought let me make some fig ice cream. I read various ice cream recipes to get inspired and decided to just do it without a recipe.  It's a bit scary at first because what if my ice cream doesn't set into right texture.  
Well, here goes...

I had about a half cup of syrup (equal water: sugar) with brandy. I put that into the pot to boil down a little.  Once it boiled a bit (total a little less than a cup), I put in the figs that had been macerating overnight.  I had about 2 cups of halved figs.  Let that boil down a little (try to get a little syrupy texture).  Turn off the heat.  I tasted it but was not entirely satisfied so I added a teaspoon of Cointreau (see the plum clafoutis post).
Then I put in a cup of heavy cream.  Greek yogurt may work too.  Then whipped out one of my gadgets, the immersion blender.  Here's what it looked like after a brief puree by the immersion blender.

 I put that into the refrigerator for an hour and a half to cool it down.  Then into the ice cream maker it went (don't forget to put the bowl into the freezer the night before if you have one of the basic ice cream machines). 

Result? I think this would be better with another type of fig but it tastes creamy and scrumptious.  This fig did not leave the beautiful purple color of the Black Mission Fig.  When my friend first asked me how it is, I thought it was good but not quite what I was looking for.  Perhaps it's because the taste of the honey sweetness of those fresh figs lingers in my mind.  But after one night in the refrigerator, the fig taste really developed and I can once again taste the freshness of the figs.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

An Ode to Summer

I love the crisp Fall air and the beautiful leaves.  It's all so pretty but I so miss the long days of Summer when I leave work and there is still plenty of daylight.  In order to prolong the summer, I bought tomatoes, leeks and other produce at the farmer's market.  I also bought something unusual and special, duck eggs.

A couple weeks ago, the lovely man behind the counter of Eat This Yum! (they have delicious jams and baked goods) at the farmer's market told me that duck eggs make fluffier and brighter cakes. I then walked over to the farmer across the room, and there in the refrigerator were small cartons of duck eggs!  I had to buy them.  After buying the duck eggs, I told my Mom about them and she reminded me that they would be perfect for Salted Eggs (used in many Chinese dishes).  So yesterday, I bought more duck eggs.

For now, I wanted to make something that will celebrate summer and use the duck eggs.

These are Indian Runner duck eggs. They look beautiful to me. I looked through my many cookbooks and the recipe that kept calling out to me was the Clafoutis.  Ever since I read "My Life in France" about Julia Child, I've been fascinated with her so I decided to use her recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a classic.

I got some plums and following her recipe, I macerated the sliced plums in Cointreau and sugar.  Although I can't even pronounce Cointreau, it sure smelled great with the plums!  When I cracked the duck eggs, I saw that they were larger than the average large chicken egg.  The recipe called for three large eggs so I cracked two duck eggs and used one chicken egg.

Above, the two larger yolks are from the duck eggs and the smaller one is from the large chicken egg.  Well, I don't know if it's the eggs or just the recipe, the clafoutis tasted creamy and moist. I will try it with just chicken eggs next time and compare. For today, it's sweet, slightly tart from the plums and just plain comforting.