Monday, August 20, 2012

For the love of figs...

Since we will be in Greece in a couple of days, I guess Pablo's menu this week will consist of a lot of his favorite things: tomatoes, feta, cucumber, olives, lamb, squid, bread & olive oil... and possibly FIGS.

To set us off on the right foot for this journey, our dear friend Minou invited us to join her and her dogs for an afternoon of fig picking, fig cooking and eating. And that we did...

This morning, the song "All we need is love" came on as I was watching my son play, and point, and babble and explore his little world. Watching him, thinking of how complicated life can be, of the time some lessons take to learn, the naivete of that song struck me. For as much as I appreciate the sentiment the song conveys, that sense of "yeah, I guess it all boils down to that", my experience so far has been that it just isn't so. We need way more than love, though I suppose it is the very first thing we need. Just like in cooking, love is the first of the ingredients, but a great many other things go into a dish for it to make our taste buds, tummies and souls feel good.

Contemplating the complexities of life for a few seconds made me even more thankful for all the very loving people we have, those in our life here, and those we will share joyful moments with on our journey. One of the people I am most thankful for, is our wonderful Minou. Friend, aunt, sister, godmother, confidante, cheerleader, supporter, listener, laugh partner, tear partner, dance partner, dog whisperer and beloved Minou. For the many joyful moments spent together, so many of them around lunches and dinners, merci.

Today, around figs picked from her tree, we talked and laughed. We cooked. Oh and of course, we ate too.

From this day, I'd like to share two wonderful fig recipes. A fig, feta & mint salad which possibly creates the perfect bite with a combination of sweet, savory & tart and a great contrast of textures.

Then I went on to experiment with a sweet-savory fig tatin with Manchego cheese, which we savored with some slices of prosciutto San Daniele.

Here's to eating well, living well and loving well.

Fig, feta & mint salad

Age for babies: 8-10 months, cut up in small pieces, feta and figs make nice finger foods, and it's a good way to expose them to mint.

Serves 4

2 medium blocks of sheep's milk Feta cheese
12 figs, washed and quartered
A handful of mint leaves, washed
Olive oil
Fresh ground pepper

Place the two blocks of Feta on a platter. Place the quartered figs on and around them.

Using scissors, cut the mint leaves and spread over the Feta and figs.

Drizzle with olive oil, and some fresh ground pepper.

Fig tatin with rosemary & Manchego

Age for baby: 10-12 months, cut up as finger food at first.

Serves 4

1 frozen puff pastry sheet*
12 figs, washed and cut in half
6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 sprig of rosemary
3 oz of Manchego, in thin slices
Olive oil / Rosemary infused olive oil
Fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven at 375°F.

With a rolling pin and a little flour, flatten your puff pastry so that it is bigger than the pie pan you will use.

Sauté the figs, skin side up, in a large frying pan with some rosemary-infused olive oil for about 3 minutes, sprinkling some fresh ground pepper over them. Remove from heat and set aside.

Pour the balsamic vinegar in the frying pan, adding some fresh rosemary, and cook on low heat until it becomes syrupy, a few minutes (you should end up with about 3 tbsp). Remove from heat.

Butter a round pie pan. Pour the balsamic reduction in. Place the figs, skin side up. Add the Manchego slices.

Cover the pie pan with the puff pastry, tucking the dough on the sides inside the pie pan.

Bake for about 35 Min. Let cool to lukewarm, and then turn it over onto a plate for serving.

Serve with some slices of prosciutto.

*Being French, I am somewhat ashamed to admit that making puff pastry from scratch really scares me. I will probably get to it some day... In the meantime, I use the pre-made puff pastry sold frozen here. (The French actually commonly use pre-made puff pastry, readily available in all supermarkets). All you have to do is leave it out for about 15 minutes, then unfold it onto some flour and let it sit a few more minutes, until soft enough to be manipulated and worked with the rolling pin.

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