Appetizers

Figs Preserved in Honey Syrup

Last summer, I made fig jam for the first time, and it’s been a highlight of my picnic spreads and cheese trays ever since. This summer, I was lucky enough to score large batches of figs two weekends in a row. I love fresh figs, but their shelf life is painfully short. I restocked my jam supply, and then turned my attention to other preservation methods.

I liked the idea of keeping the fruits whole, and serving them with yogurt, hot cereal, cheese, or just alone. Fall project: find (or create) a cocktail recipe featuring the syrup! I used black mission figs, the variety I typically see in my area, but green figs would look beautiful for this recipe. Try wide-mouth pint jars for easy access to the fruits.

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Figs Preserved in Honey Syrup

From Put ’em Up, by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Makes about 9 pints

10 pounds figs, stemmed
6 cups water
2 cups honey
1 cup sugar
9 tablespoons bottled lemon juice (1 tablespoon per jar)

In a large saucepan, cover the figs with water by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes to soften the fruit. Drain.

Combine 6 cups water, honey, and sugar in another large saucepan, and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the figs and gently boil them in the syrup for 5 minutes.

Pour 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into each clean, hot pint jar. Pack the jars gently but firmly with figs. Ladle hot syrup over the figs to cover by 1/2 inch, leaving 1/ inch headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid. Screw lids on the jars temporarily. Gently swirl each jar to release trapped air bubbles. Remove the lids and add syrup, if necessary, to achieve the proper headspace.

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 45 minutes. turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

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Corn and Fingerling Potato Chowder with Bacon

So many summer meals growing up were just corn from my dad’s farm. I imagine that isn’t all that uncommon for midwestern farm families (sorry, carb haters — just telling it like it is).

These days, corn is usually a side dish, but it is still a must-do on my summer table. I love this chowder recipe: a few fresh, seasonal ingredients that complement one another, and just filling enough without being heavy.

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Corn and Fingerling Potato Chowder with Applewood-Smoked Bacon

Adapted slightly from Cooking Light
Serves 5

2 slices applewood-smoked bacon
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
3 1/2 cups fresh (uncooked) corn kernels (about 6-7 ears)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
8 ounces fingerling potatos, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1/4 teaspoon salt (or more)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more)
Thyme sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble.

Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add corn, chopped thyme, and garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, milk, half-and-half, and potatoes; bring to a simmer. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Transfer 2 cups potato mixture to a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid to allow steam to escape; secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid to avoid splatters. Blend until smooth; return pureed mixture to pan. Stir in salt and black pepper. Season to taste, if necessary.

Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese

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While flipping through my latest issue of Bon Appetit, a picture similar to this jumped out at me immediately.

I couldn’t not try out this appetizer. Whipped goat cheese? Um, yes please. This was not a tough sell.

???????????????????????????????If this seems a bit elaborate for a roasted vegetable, it is. It’s worth it. The cooking liquid gives it a spicy cook, the roasting makes it crispy, and the whipped goat cheese makes it memorable. Try this at your next casual dinner, served family-style.

I cut the whipped goat cheese in half, and it’s still well more than I need. I think it would be delicious on a burger, or an ear of corn. Any other ideas?

When a recipe calls for “dry” white wine, they mean one that isn’t sweet. I used an unoaked chardonnay, but use one you like.

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Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 6 as an appetizer

8 cups water
2 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf
1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed
2 oz. goat cheese
2 oz. cream cheese
1 oz. feta
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for serving
Coarse sea salt (for serving)

Preheat oven to 475°. Bring wine, oil, kosher salt, juice, butter, red pepper flakes, sugar, bay leaf, and 8 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add cauliflower, reduce heat, and simmer, turning occasionally, until a knife easily inserts into center, 15-20 minutes.

Using 2 slotted spoons or a mesh spider, transfer cauliflower to a rimmed baking sheet, draining well. Roast, rotating sheet halfway through, until brown all over, 30-40 minutes.

Blend cheeses and tablespoons oil in a food processor until smooth; season with sea salt if needed. Transfer whipped goat cheese to a serving bowl and drizzle with oil. Do Ahead: whipped goat cheese can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill.

Transfer cauliflower to a plate. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with sea salt. Serve with whipped goat cheese.