Monday, August 27, 2012

Dorie's Fresh Fig Cake with a Ruby Port Wine Sauce



Fig season is short but glorious, so I try to take advantage of it every chance I can get my hands on some.  I've got 2 pints sitting in my fridge right now, and I'm trying to decide the perfect use for them...maybe this fresh Fig & Walnut Bread, or perhaps these Fig & Walnut Cookies?  So far this summer, I've made another batch of this Addictive Cinnamon-Fig Jam, and also this deliciously scrumptious Fig Cake from Dorie Greenspan.  

The great things about this cake are the additions of a small amount of yellow cornmeal to the cake batter, the ruby port wine sauce and the process of infusing the fresh figs with said ruby port sauce prior to scattering them across the top of the cake.  All of these elements produce a satisfying cake with a unique taste that's not super sweet and perfect for any fig lover in your life!

Dorie named this cake "A Fig Cake for Fall", and autumn is right around the corner...My favorite time of the year!  So, if it will be a few weeks before fresh figs are available in your area, be sure to bookmark this recipe.  You'll be so glad that you did! 

Bon Appetit, my friends!  :)


A Fig Cake for Fall
Adapted from:  "Baking: From My Home to Yours", by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients:
3/4 cup ruby port
1 cup honey, divided
2 thin slices lemon
16-20 fresh figs, stemmed and halved
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably medium grind
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
grated zest 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, at room temperature
3 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Stir the port and 1/2 cup honey together in small saucepan. Add lemon slices and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat. Add figs, cover, and cook 4-6 minutes, or until figs are soft but not falling apart. Using a slotted spoon, transfer figs to a bowl. Raise the heat to medium and cook the liquid for 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened; the syrup should coat a metal spoon. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the paper. Dust the inside of the pan with flour, tapping out the excess. Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.

4. In a separate bowl, add sugar and lemon zest; rub together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist. Add butter. Using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Pour in remaining 1/2 cup honey, and the vanilla extract; beat for 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, add dry ingredients, and mix until just incorporated. The batter will be fairly thick. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and jiggle the pan from side to side to even out the batter. Scatter poached figs over the top.

5. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before running a blunt knife around the edges and releasing the sides of the pan. Cool the cake slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature. Drizzle slices with wine sauce. 



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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Heirloom Tomato, Basil & Prosciutto Tartine with Gouda Cheese


 

I learned to really appreciate the wonderfulness of simple cooking, made with the freshest, in-season ingredients during our trip to Europe back in 2009.  There, we dined on the most exquisite food, but you know what?  It wasn't particularly fancy or pretentious food that comes to mind...It was simple, down-to-earth dishes packed with flavor from what was in season at the time.  To me, that's the best way to cook.  Period.

This was most noticeable to us in Italy, where amazing toppings were carefully layered onto the pizzas, with thinner crusts than us Americans are used to, which really allowed the toppings to shine.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Earlier today, I came across an article written by the great Jacques Pepin, in which he recalled some of his favorite memories of Julia Child, one of which involved this simple, flavorful cooking technique.  Here's an excerpt from that article, where Jacques recalls a dinner party at Julia's home one evening:

Excerpt from:  Memories of a Friend, Sidekick and Foil by Jacques Pepin (nytimes.com)
"Gloria helped Paul with the oysters he was opening and arranging on a plate as Julia announced: “I have a rack of pork. What do you want to do with it?” I cut the rack into chops, which we sautéed and served with skillet potatoes and string beans with butter and rosemary.  A green salad and a perfectly ripened Brie followed, and we finished with Julia’s compote of fruit served with ice cream. I do remember a delightful Chambertin from the late 1950s that Paul brought up from his cellar, which contained wonderful Burgundies. It was a simple, perfect meal to share with friends, my type and her type of cooking, which Julia always referred to as cuisine soignée, meaning a simple meal made with great care and the best possible ingredient." 

The phrase and description of "cuisine soignée" really got me thinking and could be used to describe this recipe for Heirloom Tomato & Prosciutto Tartine perfectly.  This recipe was completely inspired by my local farmers' market.  Fresh, juicy, and colorful heirloom tomatoes bursting at the seams with flavor are absolutely the stars of this dish.  They are layered on sourdough bread so fresh that it was practically still warm out of the oven, along with creamy local Gouda cheese, prosciutto, basil from my windowsill and a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  Now that's my kind of food!

Just remember...
Simplicity + Fresh Ingredients = Pure Bliss

Taking a bite of this tartine is like biting into those last few weeks of summer...So wonderful yet fleeting, and you don't want it to end!

Bon Appetit, my friends!



Heirloom Tomato, Basil & Prosciutto Tartine with Gouda Cheese

Ingredients:
6 large slices of fresh sourdough bread
5 - 6 oz. Gouda cheese, sliced
3 ripe heirloom tomatoes, assorted colors, sliced
4 slices prosciutto
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh basil, sliced
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Pre-heat the broiler in your oven.

Place the slices of sourdough bread on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler.  Lightly toast according to your preference.

Remove from oven and immediately place the sliced gouda cheese in a single layer on the bread.  Top with the sliced heirloom tomatoes.  

Tear the prosciutto into bite-sized pieces and nestle the pieces in between the tomato slices.

Lightly drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the top, followed by a sprinkling of fresh basil, salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

 Enjoy!



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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday, Julia!


Julia Child has been such a huge inspiration to so many people, myself included.  Tomorrow (8/15) is a big day for Julia fans around the world...It marks what would have been her 100th birthday!  In celebration of such a talented, fantastic and all-around amazing chef and person, I'd like to post a collection of some of my favorite Julia recipes for you to peruse.  Maybe one of them will even inspire you to get into the kitchen in honor of the great Julia.  ;)

The Julia quote in my blog header above has become sort of my mantra...It rings so true and can apply to just about anything that you love.  What are you passionate about?

"Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it."

Happy 100th Birthday, Julia!

I'm thinking a big slice of her delicious Reine de Saba cake (linked below) and one of my favorite movies - Julie & Julia - would be the perfect way to celebrate.  :)

















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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Blackberry Peach Cobbler


There's something so humble and unassuming about a fruity, simple cobbler.  They're not fussy, pretentious or complicated.   By contrast, cobblers seem to always be comforting, delicious and crave-worthy.

In this recipe, fresh fruit of the season is baked just until bubbly, and then biscuit dough is dropped by spoon-fulls over the top.  With a second trip into the oven, the dough bakes up into deliciously tender biscuits that are pretty much guaranteed to produce "Oohs!" and "Ahhs!" as you take it out of the oven.

Yum.

The biscuits cut through the sweet tartness of the fruit and really make this dish something special.  It is the perfect way to take advantage of some of late summer's yummy fruits that are stocking the farmers' markets.

So, go grab some fruit and get into the kitchen.  This cobbler has your name written all over it.

Bon Appetit, my friends!  :)




Blackberry Peach Cobbler
Adapted from:  Gourmet, September 2005

Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 lb blackberries (5 cups)
  • 2 lb peaches (6 medium), peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons buttermilk

Directions:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish (3-quart capacity). 

Whisk together cornstarch and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a large bowl, then add blackberries and peaches and toss to combine well. Transfer to baking dish and bake until just bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes. 

While fruit bakes, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in another large bowl, then blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir just until a dough forms. 

Drop dough onto hot fruit mixture in 12 mounds (about 1/3 cup each), then sprinkle dough with remaining teaspoon sugar. Bake cobbler until top is golden, 25 to 35 minutes. Serve warm. 

Cooks' note: Cobbler can be baked 6 hours ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Before serving, let stand at room temperature 1 hour, then reheat in a preheated 350°F oven until warm, about 20 minutes. 

Just before going into the oven

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