Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fresh Figs with Lemon Cream

Oh, joy! Fresh fig "flowers" adorned with a dollop of lemon cream, what could be naturally sweeter? I know, I know, they need NO adornment, being perfectly sweet enough in their own skin, but I couldn't help but gild the lily a bit with the complimentary flavor of lemon. I've heard the flavor of figs described as strawberry crossed with a peach, but it's just more complex than that, maybe add honey or mango to that list. Best to do some extensive taste testing and note making and I'll get back to the meantime let's put together a nosh to gnash on.

Look at those Turkeys! Really, I mean look at those Brown Turkeys in the back there, and the lovely Candy Striped Adriatics all nuzzled up to our one lone Black Mission Figgy right up front. Such a lovely collection of Mild, Sweet, and Extra Sweet (from back to front again). And these are all perfectly ripe which you'll know if they give without feeling mushy when you squeeze.

 First we'll clip the stem completely off. If any white latex exudes from the cut, clip again to get completely past the stem and just slightly into the flesh of the fig.
A quick crisscross cut not quite all the way through and you'll have pretty little flowers. Or crazy little FEED-ME aliens, whichever way you tilt your head to look at them.

Not Perfect. Toss it.

Now for that dollop of lemon cream. Just takes two ingredients:
Lemon Curd and Whipping Cream

I think there is simply no substitute for good old fresh whipped cream and since it takes a whopping 5 minutes to make I try to always have some cream on hand. Thank you Trader Joe's for this perfect tasting Shelf Stable Whipping Cream that stores right in my pantry. Now, having bragged around about that just now, I have to admit that you've got to get it cold for it to whip, so shelf stable or not, toss it in the freezer for 15 minutes (EXACTLY) or fridge for a few hours ahead of time along with bowl and beater, of course.
Unless you're throwing this together at the last minute and then just use some ice water to ready the bowl and beater in a minute or two, dried well. Gotta have icy cold cream so the fat is stable enough to hold the air bubbles you'll be whipping in. (Warm fat is weak fat, people.)

Your cream will whip it together in no time. When it is well thickened, add Lemon Curd a tablespoon at a time and taste. It took about 3 of this brand for the cream to reach Nirvana.
That's it. You're done. Get the dolloping spoon and have at it.

Check out these other delicious ways with figs and keep checking back in each week. All summer long we'll be blogging together with the Food Network to celebrate SummerFest with loads of ideas for your Farmer's Market finds. Stay tuned for Beets next week!

Feed Me Phoebe: Gluten-Free Cheesecake with Fresh Figs and Honey
Jeanette's Healthy Living: Roasted Fig Greek Yogurt Chai Spiced Sorghum Parfait
Devour: A Perfect Pairing of Figs and Pizza Dough
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Fig and Grand Marnier Jam
Red or Green: Roasted Fig, Beet and Orange Salad with Maple Syrup and Jalapeno Vinaigrette
Dishing: Fig Lassi (Fresh Fig Yogurt Smoothie)
Weelicious: Homemade Fig Bars
Virtually Homemade: Fig and Plum Crostata
The Sensitive Epicure: Figs with Goat Cheese, Honey, and Thyme
Domesticate Me: Flatbread with Fresh Figs, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese
Taste With The Eyes: Frozen Fig with Rose, Almond and Rosemary
FN Dish: Go Big with Fleeting Figs

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Marinated Peppers and Shrimp New Orleans Style

If you've never had marinated shrimp and peppers like this, you're in for a rare treat. In Louisiana it's more often referred to as pickled shrimp, but I feared the dill-pickle connotation might taint an otherwise marvelous dish. We'll call it marinated, which it is, and you'll savor every last morsel down to the tiniest caper at the bottom of the jar. When I prepare this I usually make at least one small jar as a gift for some lucky friend that week who really appreciates such a hard-to-come-by treat.

There are two layers of complex flavors working here and the first is in the boiling brine for the shrimp. Before the shrimp ever touches the water, we'll boil it 20 minutes to develop the brine with these ingredients (yep, it's quite a list - don't leave anything out and the end result to be well worth your while):

20 whole allspice
8 whole peppercorns
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
1 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime and the rind
20 cloves
1 lg onion quartered
6 cloves of garlic
3 Celery Stalks broken in several pieces
1 dried red pepper

Add these to a large pot with 10 cups of water, bring to boil and simmer 20 minutes.

Into the cauldron of brine, add 2 to 2-1/2 pounds raw peeled shrimp and immediately lower the heat to the very gentlest simmer. Shrimp cooks very quickly and we want it to have time to absorb the flavor of the brine without getting tough. Let it cook very gently for 12-15 minutes.

While it's cooking thinly slice red, orange, and yellow sweet bell peppers. Also thinly slice a large Vidalia onion and assemble the other items which will be layered with the shrimp:
Several peeled garlic cloves
2-3 Tbs capers
1/2 Jar Bay Leaves
15 Whole Allspice

I usually start with a clove of garlic, using just one of those per jar. Next a layer of onion and peppers, then shrimp, a sprinkle of capers, and finally a bay leaf or two. Just keep following this pattern, pressing down to compact everything about halfway through.

When the jars are filled to the top it's time to make the marinade and finish them off. You may like this blend so well that you find other ways to use it! (Like this jar of colorful peppers only.) It's basically a very flavorful vinaigrette that works for pickling any vegetable or as a salad dressing.
1-1/4 cups Canola Oil (normally I use Olive Oil for everything, but this is one time that Canola is better)
3/4 cup White Vinegar            
1-1/2 tsp Salt
2-1/2 tsp Celery Seed
2-1/2 TBS capers and Juice
Dash of Hot Sauce
1/4 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 TBS mustard

Whisk together in a large measuring cup until well blended. Pour slowly into each filled jar to completely cover shrimp and all ingredients. It may help to use a chopstick or thin knife along the inside wall of the jar to ease the marinade through the layers with no air bubbles. Everything should be submerged at the top also. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours. It will keep at least a week or more. This is delicious as an appetizer as is. Or spoon some over a green salad with just a bit of the marinade for a supreme lunch dish!

Check out these other delicious ways with peppers and keep checking back in each week. All summer long we'll be blogging together with the Food Network to celebrate SummerFest with loads of ideas for your Farmer's Market finds. Stay tuned for the fabulous fig next week!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Colorful Sweet Pepper-Avocado Salsa

(Printable Recipe)
A fresh alternative to avocado with the crunch and tang of fresh bell peppers. This tomato-less salsa comes together in a quick 5 or 10 minutes and makes a perfect dip, topping for salad, or side dish - take your pick.

Three different colored bell peppers (though I skipped the green variety as a bit too pungent and raw tasting for this dish), 1 lime, 1 bunch of scallions, and a bag of mystery fruit.
Nah, that's just avocado in there. They weren't quite soft enough yesterday but one day in a paper bag will usually do the trick as they stew in their own ethylene gases and ripen themselves up.

Reduce it all to a nice evenly chopped assortment of rainbow beauty. I like about half as much of each color pepper as total amount of avocado. Just my preference. 
Now juice up that lime and give it a pinch of cumin and pinch of cayenne pepper or ground chipotle chili pepper if you've got it (McCormick's makes a nice one). Fold together gently with a spatula so the avocado stays in nice cubes instead of smashing.

Lastly, blend in a spoon or two of sugar, tasting for a good balance of tangy but slightly sweet. The level of sweetness of the peppers will determine how much sugar you need.

Serve now or let it get even happier awhile in the fridge. The acidic lime juice will keep the avocado nice and green for days!

Avocados are so much more than guacamole fare! Check out all these other wonderful ideas for avocado dressing and stuffing and even egg salad. All summer long we'll be blogging together with the Food Network to celebrate SummerFest with loads of ideas for your Farmer's Market finds. Join us, right here, every week!

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