Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bourbon-Fig Spread

Last Wednesday I participated in a cooking contest at Chris’ office. Some of his colleagues decided that there should be a fun monthly contest from July until the end of the year that would test out the cooking skills of the office mates and their significant others. This month’s theme was “Dips and Spreads.” I decided to make a bourbon-fig spread. For serving, I sent along Brie cheese and rosemary crackers, although I think that Stilton cheese would probably be equally tasty for next time. The batch makes enough to fill one, 16oz Ball jar.

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ tsp kosher salt
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
¾ cup Kentucky bourbon
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
7oz bag of dried Mission figs, diced
¼ cup dried cranberries*
½ tsp double-strength vanilla extract
juice of 1 lemon, divided
pinch sea salt
¼ cup honey (or more to taste)
¼ cup water
4 ½ tsp fruit pectin (such as SureJell)
Brie or Stilton cheese, for serving
Crackers or bread, for serving

In a non-stick saucepan, melt butter, sugar, and bourbon over low to medium low heat. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger and mix well.

Add figs, cranberries, vanilla, juice of ½ lemon, and sea salt. Steep mixture over low heat for about 20-30 minutes. The fruit should soften some and the aromas should begin to meld.

Move entire mixture from the saucepan to a food processor or blender, and process until it is the consistency of a preserve. Scoop back into the saucepan and back over low heat. Add honey, the juice from the other lemon half, and water and stir well to incorporate. Add more honey and /or water to adjust for taste.

Sprinkle the pectin over the mixture and stir well. Turn heat to medium. Cook spread until bubbly, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Serve with cheese and crackers.

*You can substitute other dried fruit as desired. In total, you should end up with about 2 cups of fruit.
[Recipe adapted from Jean’s Kentucky Bourbon Fig Compote, Panera Featured Member:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fried Green Tomatoes

Warning! This recipe is not for anyone afraid of butter. You have to drench these in butter. It’s okay. It’s worth it.

I wait for the time every summer where the green tomatoes roll into the farmers market. Mom gave me my love of fried green tomatoes. There are other ways to eat green tomatoes: relish, salsa, in an heirloom tomato salad, pickled. But really, why worry about those other ways when you can have them fried? Restaurants usually serve them deep-fried, and use eggs, buttermilk, and cornmeal. But mom and I have a simpler and quicker flour and butter version. It satisfies my annual craving just as well.

Serves 1

1 small-medium green tomato, sliced about 1/4in thick
around 2 Tbsp butter, plus more to butter 1 of the bread slices
½ cup skim milk
½ cup flour
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
2 slices sandwich bread, white or wheat (“squishy bread” tastes the best – this is one time where you save the fancy bread for other things)

Butter 1 slice of bread and lay open on a plate. In an 8inch skillet*, melt the butter over medium to medium high heat so that you have a thin bubbly layer. Dredge the tomato slices in flour, dip them in milk, and then dredge again in flour.

Lay the slices in the hot melted butter and fry until the slices are crispy and brown on the bottom. Flip over and fry the other side until it is also crispy and brown, and the tomatoes are slightly softened.

Arrange on the buttered slice of bread. Sprinkle with salt and grind a bit of fresh pepper over top. Complete the sandwich with the other slice of bread, cut in half, serve, and enjoy. Blow on your first bite though – it will be hot!

*Note: if your tomato is large, you might need a bigger skillet. If you need a bigger skillet, you might need more butter.