Friday, September 10, 2010

baked figs

I always thought cooking figs in any way was sacrilegous. Eating a really ripe fresh fig, skin and all, is one of the most sensuous and pleasurable things you can do. I could never understand how people could bring themselves to cook a beautifully ripe fig. But finally yesterday, I  baked figs for the first time. 

I now live in a fig-deprived region, which brings tears to my eyes during fig season. Every now and then, California figs hit the market here. Full of hope, like a child who refuses to learn unpleasantness exists, I buy some. There's usually about two or three in the basket that I would consider ripe, the rest is trash. Figs don't really ripen after they are picked, and if picked ripe they would not travel well at all. So I understand. Still, it makes me sad.

When I saw them at Whole Foods this week, it suddenly occurred to me go with the flow, to acknowledge that the figs wouldn't be all ripe, and to deal with it. I bought two large containers. When I got home, I dumped them on the kitchen counter and divided the figs into two piles - the edible and the inedible. I could get enough edible figs out of the two baskets to make me happy. The others, I decided to bake, just to see why everybody thought this was a good idea.

I kept it simple. Split the figs down the middle, sprinkled them with a little bit (very little bit) of sugar, and put them in my trusted toaster oven for 15 minutes. I took them out when the sugar was caramelized. Then I drizzled them with a balsamic reduction.

Verdict? Meh. Definitely good enough to eat, but there's no way I can get excited about this when I know how fresh figs taste. I may make it again, because this gets rid of the guilt of throwing unripe figs in the trash. And that would allow me to buy figs more frequently for those few ripe ones.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

developing good breakfast habits

I kicked the cereal/granola habit some years ago. I realized that I do not like sweet stuff in the morning. Lately, the routine has been toast with cream cheese. But regular cream cheese has too much fat, and low-fat cream cheese is too salty for me. Besides, I prefer something less processed.

Now that I make yogurt routinely, I decided to go for strained yogurt, which is marketed in the US as Greek yogurt, and is known in the eastern Mediterranean by its Arabic name labne. It's the easiest thing to make. I have a strainer with a very fine mesh, so I don't even use anything extra like cheesecloth or paper filters. Dump the yogurt in the strainer, place it over a bowl, and let it sit. I end up with this creamy and wonderfully thick yogurt, which accompanies my toast in the mornings. Hope I can keep it up.

If I add tomatoes with a bit of olive oil to this breakfast, it would be close to perfect for me. But it's probably not going to happen because 1) it's not safe to put a sharp knife in my hand when I first wake up, and 2) it's hard to get really good tomatoes and if I get one of those usual sour, tasteless, woody ones, I'd get really pissed off and that would not be a good way to start my day.

I have to say that breakfasts have become extra special because of home-made breads. I've stopped blogging about them because they have been turning out consistently good. The big turning point was starting to use a large stainless steel bowl to cover the loaf during the first ten minutes of baking (I wrote about it here).

Pretty, eh?

Friday, September 3, 2010

raw corn salad

Never made a salad with raw corn before, so I thought I'd give it a try, since we're at the height of the corn season.

2 ears of corn
2 medium heirloom tomatoes
3 small sweet red peppers
2 green onions
1 bunch of cilantro
salt and black pepper
lots of Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoons of yogurt
a lot of olive oil

It was good, especially since there was gorgeous home-made bread to accompany it. But did the corn shine? I dunno. I must admit I don't get this American thing about fresh sweet corn. Must be a cultural difference. It's sweet alright, too sweet as far as I'm concerned, and nothing more to it than the sweetness, really.