Monday, September 19, 2011

Roasted Figs and Prosciutto - Ina Garten

Figs + Prosciutto = 2 of my favorite things!  This recipe from Ina Garten is a simple way to combine two delicious ingredients into one scrumptious appetizer.  If you haven't picked up a copy yet, Ina's latest cookbook - How Easy is That? - has quickly made its way to the top of my go-to list of cookbooks.  Ina's dishes always inspire me!

Good quality ingredients really make the difference in this recipe.  I paired Black Mission figs with good quality prosciutto, and fresh honey made in my area...Delish!

Every time I eat prosciutto, I can't help but think of our time spent in Italy a few years ago.  The prosciutto here in the USA just doesn't compare to the real thing...The prosciutto in Italy is the stuff dreams are made of!  I always try to purchase freshly sliced prosciutto whenever I can...The Fresh Market sells it here in Birmingham.  

In addition, good figs can be VERY difficult to find....even when they are in season.  To remedy this, I'm still trying to convince Brad that we need to plant our own fig tree.  I haven't made much progress yet, though...haha. 

One variation of this recipe would be to add a little ricotta cheese to each fig before wrapping it in prosciutto.  I made a batch this way, and they were divine!  

Bon Appetit!

Before going into the oven...

Roasted Figs & Prosciutto
Source:  How Easy is That?  by Ina Garten
  • 20 fresh figs
  • 15-20 slices Italian prosciutto (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 tsp honey
  • black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Snip the hard stems off the figs, and cut in half lengthwise through the stem.  With a small sharp knife, cut the prosciutto lengthwise into inch-wide strips. 

Wrap a slice of prosciutto around the center of each fig half, with the ends overlapping. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and honey.  Brush each fig with the mixture, and top with freshly cracked black pepper.

Roast for 10 minutes, or until the prosciutto is a little crisp and the figs are warmed through.  Serve warm. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Quick, Homemade Pickles - So Delicious!

Who knew homemade pickles were SO easy??  I can't believe I haven't made these before now!  The other day, I was watching Kelsey Nixon's show on the Cooking Channel.  She started making homemade pickles and was describing how incredibly easy it is.  She also said that once you've tasted a homemade pickle, you'll never want to buy the store-bought variety again...They just don't compare!

Boy, was she right!  Brad and I made turkey burgers over the Labor Day weekend, so homemade pickles were the perfect way to use the kirby cucumbers that I had on-hand.  I looked up Kelsey's RECIPE, but I didn't have all of the ingredients that she called for.  After a little more searching, I found a recipe from Rachael Ray that had great reviews.  It was easy, quick (only takes 15 minutes!), and I had everything I needed.

This recipe only takes a few minutes to put together, and it sure is delicious!  These pickles are flavored with fresh garlic, mustard seeds, a bay leaf and dill.  If you don't have fresh dill, you can easily substitute a little dried dill instead (that's what I had to do).

I did only have 2 cucumbers, so I halved the recipe.  However, I did have to double the amount of brine so that all of the pickles would be covered.  After reading the reviews, I realized that several other people also doubled the brine for this reason.

If you've never made pickles before, this is a wonderful recipe to start with.  You may never buy store-bought pickles again!

Bon Appetit!

Quick Pickles
30 Minute Meals;  Rachael Ray


  • 1/2 cup white vinegar, eyeball it
  • 2 rounded teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove cracked garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill or 2 tablespoons fresh dill leaves, chopped or snipped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 kirby cucumbers, cut into 1-inch slices on an angle


Heat small saucepan over medium high heat. Add vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, salt, and garlic to the pan and cook until it begins to simmer and sugar dissolves. Toss the dill, bay leaf, and sliced cucumbers together in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the simmering liquid over the cucumbers and stir to evenly coat. Allow to cool to room temperature or chill before serving. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fresh Fig Tart with Cardamom Pastry Cream & Almond Crust

Friends, my obsession with fresh figs continues.  I think David Tanis says it best in this excerpt from A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes:

"The platter of figs perfectly illustrates the idea of eating with the seasons.  Fresh figs are available for only a few weeks in the summer.  The first figs are in June, but June figs usually pale in comparison with the late-summer crop, which benefits from warm August days.  As with good tomatoes, you wait all year for the best figs to arrive.  The reward is heavy, juicy fruit with oozing centers - sweet figs to swoon for.  Above all, the platter of figs is a metaphor for the food I like...
Fresh ripe figs are voluptuous and generous, luxurious and fleeting.  And beautiful."

This week, I was able to get my hands on some of those "sweet figs to swoon for" from the late-summer crop.  My first priority was making another batch of Cinnamon-Fig Jam.  This jam is addictive...seriously.  It's great on a cracker with brie cheese or right out of the jar!  I've made lots of jars of this jam over the last several months, and they keep disappearing for some reason...I'm convinced that there must be a masked jam-caper around here somewhere...

My second priority was coming up with some sort of fresh fig tart to really showcase these beauties.  I think this recipe does a great job of doing that.  I took the pastry cream from THIS BLUEBERRY TART I recently posted and tweaked it just a bit by adding lemon zest, cardamom and pureed figs straight to the pastry cream.

The crowning glory is the fig slices strategically placed in pretty circles on the top of the tart.  I drizzled fresh honey right over the top to finish it off.
It's almost too pretty to eat...I'm not letting this creation go to waste, though!  :-)

Bon Appetit!

Fresh Fig Tart with Cardamom Pastry Cream
Tart Shell:
1 3/4 sticks (200 g) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (90 g) confectioners sugar
1 large egg beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground almonds

To make the crust: just so you know this makes a very soft/sticky dough, which makes it more difficult to work with. It is well worth the little bit of extra effort.
cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and make sure it is well blended. Add the salt and vanilla, mix until incorporated. Add the flour and almond meal, mix together until there are no more dry patches of flour.
Divide the dough into two equal disks and wrap well in plastic. Refrigerate for at least an hour. If you are only making one tart then freeze the other packet of dough for the next time you want a treat in a hurry.
Take one disk of dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes. This will soften the dough just enough so that it won’t crack when you are rolling it out.
I use a silpat and a piece of Vinyl to roll out my dough (or two sheets of wax paper), so that I don’t end up using too much flour. It also allows me to pick up the dough and put it in the freezer if need be. Roll it out until it is about 1/16″ thick and the right size to fit into a 9-inch tart pan.
If the dough is very sticky and will not easily peel off of the silpat, throw the silpat and dough right into the freezer for about 5 minutes.
When you remove the silpat/dough from the freezer you should be able to peel the dough easily.
place the silpat/dough over the tart pan and gently peel the silpat away.
If the dough is frozen, give it a minute to become supple, then you will need to push the dough down into the pan, it might crack a bit, but don’t worry!  You can see around the edges that mine did this and I just pressed it back together.
Using a knife or metal spatula trim off the excess dough from the pan.
Preheat your oven to 350° and place the tart pan in the freezer while you wait for the oven to heat up.Once the oven is up to temperature, take the tart shell out of the freezer and line with foil.

Fill the foil with beans and/or pie weights. As you can see I use a combination. I find the metal pie weights help to bake the shell more evenly because they conduct heat, but they can be quite expensive so I’ve added some beans to the mix.

Bake the shell for 25 minutes with the pie weights. Lift the foil/weights out of the shell and continue baking until the tart shell is golden brown, about 10 more minutes.
Cool the shell on a cooling rack while you prepare the fillings for the tart.
Pie weights can be expensive, so I like to use beans instead!  
Pastry cream:
1 cup (250 ml) milk (doesn’t seem to matter what kind)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold)
zest from 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
To make the pastry cream:
Bring the milk, 1/8 cup of the sugar, butter, salt and vanilla bean to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan.

Remove from heat.
Whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 1/8 cup of sugar. Add the egg yolks to the cornstarch and mix into a smooth paste.

Slowly, and in small amounts, whisk a little of the hot milk into a the egg mixture. This is called tempering the eggs, which you need to do to get them to the same temperature of the hot milk in the pan, so they won’t curdle.

Once the egg mixture is warm to the touch, pour it back into the milk in the pan.
Return the custard to the stove and bring to a boil, whisking continuously for 2 to 3 minutes. The pastry cream will thicken almost immediately but it is important to cook out the starch so that it isn’t grainy and so your pastry cream won’t separate. (separating pastry cream is when the liquid releases from the cream, easily prevented by cooking for 2-3 minutes!) When the pastry cream is done it will be smooth and glossy.

Strain the pastry cream into a shallow container.  Because the pastry cream is so thick you will need to press it through the strainer with a rubber spatula.

Stir in the lemon zest and cardamom.

Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Set the container in the freezer for 15 minutes (this cools down the eggs quickly) and then refrigerate for up to a few days.

Fruit Filling:
15-17 fresh figs (my favorite are black mission figs)
1 tbsp granulated sugar
Fresh honey

Puree 5 of the fresh figs in a food processor with 1 tbsp sugar.  Stir the pureed fruit into the pastry cream.  

(Another method would be to pour the pastry cream into the crust, and then drizzle the pureed fruit over the pastry cream before adding the sliced figs.  This might help prevent the pastry cream from becoming too runny.)

To assemble the tart, pour the pastry cream into the prepared crust.  Slice the remaining figs and layer them over the pastry cream in an overlapping pattern.  Drizzle fresh honey over the tart and chill in the refrigerator for several hours.  Serve cold and enjoy!