Fresh Figs – Three Ways

f2Fresh Figs – Three Ways

As I have mentioned in previous posts, living in the country certainly has its perks. Locally grown and raised food is easy to get your hands on. It’s easy to feel spoiled. There are certain things, however, that seldom cross your path. 

I was recently on auto pilot in the local grocery store in search for ideas for dinner. It had been a crazy busy weekend and my brain was fried. I was browsing through the produce section waiting for something to jump out at me. The corner of my eye caught it first and I instantly woke up from my haze. I turned towards these drop shaped, dark purple/black/green beauties. I stood, for a second, contemplating not whether I would grab some or not but rather how many. All of them? There were quite a few on display. While carefully placing them in a paper bag I opted for ten. The rest I left for others, most likely equally surprised.

I have to admit, I forgot all about dinner. Back home I happily presented Bruno with the paper bag. His eyes lit up and he devoured one before I had even time to blink. “Nom nom”, his lips smacked and down went the last bite of this perfectly ripe, fresh fig.

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– The savoury fig comes with a dollop of goat cheese/devon cream wrapped in prosciutto. Balsamic vinegar glaze and chopped walnuts adds so many subtle layers while the fig is still in focus. 

– The sweet bite is accompanied by a ball of marzipan, a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of chili pepper. Finish it off with a mint leaf. 

– Serving fresh figs on your cheese tray is a great classic. You can’t really go wrong. No explanation needed.

A glass of our Sparkling Golden Russet apple cider or Pinot Noir goes beautifully with either one of these fig options!

 

Savoury Figs

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1/4 cup goat cheese

1 tbsp Devon cream

5 fresh figs

5 slices prosciutto

Balsamic vinegar glaze

Chopped walnuts

In a small bowl, mix together goat cheese and cream.

Cut the figs and prosciutto in half, lengthwise.

Place a small dollop of the cheese mixture on top of each fig. Wrap in prosciutto and attach with a skewer. Decorate with a couple of pieces of walnut and a drop (you don’t need much) of glaze. Makes 10 pieces

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Sweet Figs

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5 fresh figs

Marzipan, room temperature

Honey

Chili pepper

Fresh mint leaves

Cut the figs in half, lengthwise. 

Roll small balls (about the size of a large chick pea) of marzipan.

Place marzipan ball on top of the fig, then drizzle with honey.

Sprinkle with chili pepper and decorate with a mint leaf. Makes 10 pieces

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Figs and Cheese

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Simply cut fresh figs in quarters and add to your favourite cheese board. No further instructions needed.

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Rhubarb Juice

r3Every summer growing up I couldn’t wait for them to ripen. When my mom would finally get me the green light, I ran through the vegetable garden, past potato plants, onions, tomatoes, beans and herbs to the very back. There it was, somewhat unruly, with large green hats, slowly moving in the wind, greeting me. The rhubarb patch. 

I had been told not to take the largest stalks because they would be tougher to eat. That was a difficult thing, since at that age, one tend to want the biggest piece of everything. A medium sized red beauty caught my eye. I lightly pulled on it, twisting a bit until it came loose. I quickly ran back through the garden and into the kitchen. I handed my mom the rhubarb, who cut the big green hat off, reminding me not to eat it as she placed it upside down on my head. She then handed me a small bowl of sugar. It was time. Sitting on the front steps of our house, bare feet, sun hitting my face while dipping the rhubarb stalk in the sugar for each bite was magic. Pure summer indeed. 

My mom used to make this amazing summery rhubarb concentrate. I haven’t had it for years and recently decided to make some. Just as I remember, the hint of rhubarb is beautifully sweet and subtle. Ideally it should be enjoyed outdoors, in your favourite spot in the garden while reading a good book and listening to the birds singing. 

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3 lb rhubarb

2.5 cups water

6-7 cloves

500 g sugar

Rinse the rhubarb and cut it in 1/2″ pieces. In a large sauce pan, bring the water to a boil and add the rhubarb and cloves. Cover and let simmer until rhubarb is cooked and falling apart, about 10 minutes.

Put a sieve over a large bowl and pour the rhubarb mixture into the sieve. Let sit and drain for 30 minutes. 

Discard the solids and measure the juice. Pour back into the sauce pan and add the sugar (500g/litre juice). Bring back to a heavy boil. remove foam with a spoon and let cool. Store in sealed glass jars or bottles in the fridge for up to 7-10 days.

Simply pour about an inch of the juice in a glass. Top it up with chilled sparkling (or still) water and a couple of ice cubes.  

If you want a more adult version, here are two simple recipes that will please your guests at your next summer get together.

Rhubarb Martini:

1.5oz vodka or gin (both work really well)

1oz rhubarb concentrate

0.5oz lemon juice

Shake vigurously then pour into a chilled martini glass.

Rhubarb Bubbles:

Add about 1oz of rhubarb concentrate into a champagne flute and top up with sparkling wine or champagne.

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Asparagus Bisque

a1A few weeks ago I squealed with joy as friends of ours dropped off a big bag of freshly cut asparagus from their own garden. I get this tingling feeling in my whole body every spring when I know the asparagus is ready and the local farm stands will soon begin displaying these bundles of bright green beautiful stalks. A true perk to live out in the country. For me it’s the best part of the year. The kick-start for the fresh produce season. I fully indulge and eat as much asparagus as I possibly can during its rather short span and I’m sure I’m not the only one. The great thing about asparagus is that there are endless ways to prepare it. Fry it, cook it, steam it, roast it, bbq it, puree it, eat it raw – the list goes on and on.

One of my asparagus favourites is this oh so simple bisque. It’s delightful both hot, room temperature or slightly chilled, depending on the day. The asparagus takes centre seat while nicely backed up by fennel and cumin. A dollop of lemon crème fraîche tops it off. The bisque can be made a day in advance to make your lunch or dinner as enjoyable as possible. Perfect.

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2lb asparagus

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

5-6 shallots, roughly chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

5 cups chicken broth

1 tsp lightly crushed fennel seeds

1 tsp lightly crushed cumin seeds

White pepper and salt to taste

1/2 cup crème fraîche

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Zest from one lemon

Cut off the bottom 1” of the asparagus and cut them in 2” pieces.

In a large heavy sauce pan, melt the butter with the olive oil. Sauté the shallots until soft ~ 5 minutes. Add the garlic, asparagus and spices and cook for another minute. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let simmer until asparagus is soft, about 10 minutes.

Let cool before transferring the soup to a blender. Purée for a couple of minutes or until very smooth. Pour soup through a sieve into a large bowl. Use the back of a ladle in the sieve to push the liquid through. Discard the solids.

Mix together the lemon juice with the crème fraîche and decorate each serving. Garnish with the lemon zest. Serves 4.

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Olive Tapenade Twists

t5Love them or hate them. Opinions regarding olives seem to be quite strong. It’s not often I meet someone who is neutral. Olives do have a very distinct smell and flavour and I have to admit I haven’t always been a big fan. I used to belong to the category that managed to find and remove any hint of olive on both pizzas or in salads or whatever other dish being consumed. Left on the plate at the end of the meal was a sad pile of rejects. Not quite sure when my palate changed, but it did at some point. I’m happy about that today. 

For those of you who love the above mentioned salty mediterranean fruits, these twists might be right up your alley. This olive tapenade can be used on its own as well. Just serve it with a pile of your favourite crackers. The twists are a little bit more work, but in return, olive lover’s eyes will twinkle a little bit brighter.

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Tapanade:

1 1/2 cup mixed, pitted olives

1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

2 tbsp capers

1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped

1 tbsp lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

3 garlic cloves

4 green onions, roughly chopped

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes

In a food processor, add all the ingredients for the tapenade and pulse until preferred consistency. I like some texture but it’s up to you how smooth you want it.

Tapenade Twists:

1 package puff pastry dough, thawed

1 egg

Preheat oven to 425F. Dust your counter with flour, and roll out the puff pastry dough until about 1/8 thick. With a spatula, spread a thin layer of the tapenade on top of the dough, making sure you cover it all the way to the edge. With a pizza cutter or knife, cut strips about 1” wide. Starting from the middle of the strip, twist in opposite directions until fully twisted, and then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Beat the egg in a glass and lightly brush the twists before putting them in the oven. Bake until golden brown and puffy, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool.

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Spinach Soup with Egg Halves and Carrot Slaw

ss1We all have them. They come and go. Difficult to avoid. I’m talking about the days where you just want to stay in bed. Not move, not care, not anything. The reasons might be all different but the feeling is universal. I recently had one of those days. The weather was cold, grey, rainy and windy. Coffee didn’t even lift my spirit, which is rare. I knew I had to get up and get on with my day and was looking for something to cheer me up. 

This Swedish spinach soup came to mind. Traditionally served with egg halves and hard bread. I recently picked up some local eggs from a nearby farm and the yolk is the brightest orange you’ve ever seen. This in turn inspired me to go crazy with the colour. A refreshing carrot slaw with ginger and orange zest became a great side snack to the soup which offers subtle spinach, onion and a hint of freshly ground nutmeg. The meal did lift my spirit. Thanks to both flavour and colour. Try it. It’s the perfect lunch on a day when feeling a tad blue.

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Soup:

2 tbsp butter

1 large onion, finely diced

2 1/2 tbsp flour

5 cups vegetable broth

500g frozen spinach

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

salt

white pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 boiled eggs

Carrot Slaw:

4-5 grated carrots

2 tbsp grated ginger

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

zest of 1 orange

2 tbsp orange juice

salt 

pepper

In a bowl, mix together the ingredients for the carrot slaw. Set aside to marinate while you make the soup.

In a large pot melt the butter over medium-high heat. When slightly browned add the onion and turn the heat down to medium. Sauté for 2-3 min until slightly translucent. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and mix well. Let cook for another minute. Add about a cup of the broth and stir well. When simmering add the rest of the broth along with the spinach and nutmeg.

Let simmer for 10-15 min. Take of from the heat and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup along with the boiled eggs. The carrot slaw can be served on crackers or hard bread or on its own on a side plate. Serves 4.ss5
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Pommes Duchesse

pd1Think potatoes. Now think mashed potatoes. Keep thinking. Fantasize how you would possibly make something more out of this dull white mash. How to make attractive, individual servings of mashed potatoes? Think, think, think. This is most likely how this delicacy came about in France, many years ago. Pommes Duchesse. Yes, a French name, yet this is also a real Swedish classic. I’ve done a lot of research about traditional Swedish food over the past few years so this came as no surprise. Many of the traditional dishes in Sweden originate from France. Who else would come up with such delicious bites. They are a classic and though, at the moment, slightly out of fashion in both Sweden and France they deserve as much attention as possible.

They not only look impressive and irresistible to the eye, they are just as delightful to eat. A beautifully fluffy centre with a nicely browned almost crisp exterior. All with the subtle hint of freshly ground nutmeg. Presenting a platter with Pommes Duchesse at the dinner table as a side to meat or fish rather than regular stubby mashed potatoes will certainly make your guests squeal with excitement.

Smaller versions are also perfect as an hors d’oeuvre. Throw in some finely chopped fresh herbs and garlic before piping them out and make them bite size. They are delicious, versatile little morsels.

Happy Easter!

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1.5 kg Potatoes

150g butter, melted

5 egg yolks

1/2 cup cream

3.5 tsp salt

pepper

1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 500F.

Peel and boil the potatoes until very soft. 

Using a potato press, press potatoes into a large bowl. Let cool slightly. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend together. Transfer the potato mixture into a piping bag with a star tip and pipe the potato into mounds, about 2″ x 2”, onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the upper part of the oven for 15-20 min or until golden brown. Make sure the tips don’t burn. Serve immediately. Serves 4

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Lobster Risotto

lr3Omelettes, pies and risottos. What do they have in common? Not much you might think. I tend to agree, to a degree. They are however perfect for the ‘It’s time to clean out my fridge’ category. I can’t speak for your fridge but here, there are always leftover vegetables lurking. Take celery for example. Who ever use all the stalks of celery when buying it for a recipe. Most (this one included) call for one, two or three stalks. The rest goes back in the fridge and becomes part of the ‘leftover vegetables’ pile. Even though the base is the same (an omelette is an omelette, pie dough is pie dough, rice is rice), throw in different vegetables or meats and you have a whole new dish every time. Perhaps that’s why I fall back on them quite often. It’s brilliant.

My lobster risotto came about this way and it has become a big favourite. It’s light and the taste of orange makes it summer fresh. Do I even need to mention it goes beautifully with our Golden Russet Cider? Or our pinot noir for that matter. I find the key to a great risotto is to give it a little bit more stock than you think it needs. By the time you bring the dish to the table and everyone sits down to enjoy it, the rice will have soaked up more of the liquid. A dry risotto can make it feel like you are eating sticky porridge. Risotto should not resemble sticky porridge.

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1 carrot

1 shallot

1-2 stalks celery

1 tbsp butter

1/4 cup calvados

2 cups arborio rice

5-6 cups chicken stock

zest of 1 orange

juice of half an orange

1/4 cup finely chopped dill

1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce

200g lobster

200g shrimps (save shells)

2 tbsp butter

1 1/2 tsp white balsamic vinegar

Finely dice (brunoise) the carrot, shallot and celery stalks. In a large sauce pan, sauté brunoise in butter on medium-high heat for about a minute than add the calvados. Let cook for another minute then transfer the vegetables and leftover liquid to a separate bowl. Set aside. 

Peel the shrimps and set aside. Wrap the shrimp shells in cheese cloth and tie with kitchen string. 

In the same large sauce pan, add the rice along with 2 cups chicken broth and the shrimp shells package. Bring to a simmer on medium- low heat. Stir frequently and add more broth when needed. Add the orange zest, juice and dill along with the fish sauce. Let simmer for 20-30 min until rice is cooked through and soft.

Roughly chop the shrimps and lobster meat and add to the risotto. When the shrimps are cooked (turned pink) add the vegetables. Let simmer for another couple of minutes then add the butter and vinegar. Add another splash of chicken broth if you feel it’s too dry. Serve immediately.

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Dining Room – Crandall House Reno

d8d5My mind is blank. I stare at them but feel nothing. My repressing techniques must work quite well. I’m sifting through renovation photos, trying to find good ones to use for this post. It was only a few years ago we were standing right there, in the middle of chaos. We caused it to look that way. Tearing things apart and ripping things out is an enormous amount of physical work, but it’s still the easy stage. All you have to do is to shut your brain off and go crazy. Like a robot. No real thinking involved. Putting things back together is a whole different story.

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I’ve decided to split the renos up in a few different posts, concentrating on a few areas at a time. Today the dining room is in focus. The original corner cabinet was one of the few things in the house worth keeping. I’m glad, and surprised it survived all the sad renovations this house had to endure over the years. Although the four doors to the cabinet are gone, I still love it. I put comfort in knowing they will be replicated at some point.

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Between the dining room and kitchen was a hallway connecting the two rooms. The hallway had two doors. One leading into a very pastelly and ‘cute’ bathroom (shown briefly in a previous house post) and one door leading to the basement stairs. The door to the basement was moved to a different spot. The hallway and bathroom was turned into a  breakfast room which now connects the kitchen and dining room. 

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Hidden behind drywall and layers 70’s paneling, leftover bits and pieces of the original trim began to emerge. Around one of the side windows we found a beautifully simple, delicate trim with a wood panel in it. This became the inspiration for much of the trim work in the house. We duplicated the trim and panel as close as we could. A big “thank you,” to the person who, decades ago, was too lazy to bother ripping out the last bit of window trim left while ‘updating’ the house. Flooring and baseboards still need to be tackled although I take great comfort knowing this, too, will have its day.

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Swedish Pirogies

p1I can honestly say that I have never been on a picnic using a red-white checkered cloth. Yet, for some reason, every time I see the pattern, that’s exactly where my mind goes. Picnics are fun and I admit we don’t go on them as often as we should. Living in Prince Edward County I feel somewhat spoiled. Since the county is surrounded by water, there’s no shortage of beautiful spots to unfold that checkered cloth whether on a crisp spring day or a balmy summer evening.

As much as my mind refers to the word picnic when I see this particular pattern, I also associate these Swedish Pirogies with the same word. They are quite different from the original polish ones. These are much larger in size and baked rather than boiled. They are also made with a yeast dough. The filling can be switched out for something else but ground beef is the traditional (and in my opinion the best) one. Growing up, these patties were often found in the freezer at home. It’s a perfect afternoon snack but also the ideal picnic food. Easy to eat, no mess. No plates or cutlery required. They are as good cold as they are hot.

I think we all should make an effort to go picnic-ing a bit more this season. Make a day of it, or even an afternoon. Let’s enjoy the beautiful world around us. Sitting in your back yard is not the same thing as sitting under a tree by the water. Unless of course you happen to live right by the water with a big tree throwing the perfect amount of filtered shade. Then all you need is the red-white checkered cloth, these pirogies and a glass of The Old Third pinot.

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Dough:

5 tsp dry yeast

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup cream

100g butter

2 tsp salt

3 eggs

3 3/4 cup flour

 

Filling:

1000 g ground beef

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large or 2 medium leeks

3 cloves garlic

1” piece fresh ginger

1 large carrot

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp basil

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp ground cloves

3 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp soya sauce 

1.5 tsp sambal oelek

2.5 tsp salt

Dough:

Activate the dry yeast according to the packaging. In a pot, melt the butter. 

In a blender, medium speed, add yeast, milk, cream, butter, salt and eggs. Sift the flour into a bowl and transfer, a little at a time, into the yeast mixture while on medium-low speed. When a ball is formed, remove from the bowl and kneed on a lightly floured surface until nice and even. Shape into a ball, and place in a clean bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rest for about an hour.

Filling:

Finely chop the white and green part of the leek, garlic and ginger. Grate the carrot. In a cast iron pot, on medium heat, fry the ground beef until cooked through in olive oil and butter. Add the vegetables and the rest of the ingredients. Stir and let cook for 10-15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Cut the dough into 20 even pieces and roll each piece out to a circle, roughly 6” diameter. Alternatively, if you have a 6” round cookie cutter, roll out the dough in one piece, 1/8”-1/4” thick, then stamp out the circles. Add ~ 1/4 cup meat filling into the centre of the circle, then fold over in half. With a fork, push down along the curved side to seal. Brush with whisked egg. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 min or until nice and golden. 

Eat hot with a side salad, or cold when out on a picnic or as a quick snack. They freeze well. 

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Swedish Dreams

d6I have a dream…So simple yet so powerful. Dreams are what keep us going, give us hope. Sometimes easy to forget, yet without them there would be no change. We’d be lost. These Swedish cookies have been given this name for a reason. Dröm. Dream. They encourage you, just for a brief moment, to pause and reflect over the meaning of the word before taking your first bite. This is where you realize why this nondescript-looking creation was given such a powerful title. They are white as snow, a crunchy fluffiness difficult to describe. As it vanishes in your mouth you are left with a velvety smooth taste of vanilla. You will most likely close your eyes and let your mind pay full attention to this decadent and short lived dream. I dare you to eat a whole cookie without licking your lips.

d4150g butter

1 1/3 cups sugar

2/3 cup sunflower oil

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ammonium bicarbonate

2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 300F.

In a blender, on medium speed, whisk butter and sugar until light and airy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the oil and vanilla. Sift ammonium bicarbonate and flour into a bowl then slowly, while whisking on medium-low speed add to the butter mixture. Blend well then stop.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and kneed into a ball. 

Pinch pieces of dough and roll into 1″ size balls. Place, 2″ apart, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 min. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool.

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