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Find your Inner Gourmet: Vinegar & Salad Dressing

 

As you can see in the video above, making salad dressing is so easy you can practically do it in your sleep! In the video you can see a demo of what making dressing looks like, and tips on what vinegars to buy – and where to get them for cheap! But here are some quick refresher notes!

 

So many possibilities! Almost all bought at Marshalls ;)

 

The combinations are endless depending on the flavor of vinegar and herbs you choose.  Salad dressing is a simple ratio of 3:1, oil to vinegar. So let’s say you want to use 1/3 cup vinegar, you would need 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil (or another oil if you like, depending on the flavor you want). If you wanted to use ¼ cup of vinegar, you would use ¾ cup of oil.

 

1/3 cup vinegar, 1 cup oil

 

 

But we can’t just combine them and call it a day! That would be an unspeakably, tragically boring… and also they would separate. First we need to add salt and pepper to the vinegar. And you can throw in a teaspoon or two of anyherb you like – see what is in your fridge or garden, especially in the warmer months. It is actually a good way to use herbs that are wilting, or slightly past their peak because they are going to be finely chopped. If the fresh herb cupboard is bare, you can add a ½ a teaspoon or more of most any dried herb

 

 Pepper and Thyme

 

 

If you want a dressing that stays suspended/emulsified, add a teaspoon or two of dijon or whole grain mustard and mix well. It’s the same process we use to make mayonnaise. We are essentially forcing the oil and vinegar to mix against their will… cruel, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

 

Dijon and Whole Grain – either one works. We do not recommend using french's however ;)

 

This is how you add it... it's terribly difficult

 

Now you are ready to whisk in the oil, but do it very gradually or it will not combine properly.

 Gradually pour and whisk

 

You did it! As you can see, the dressing looks a little cloudy. That’s how you know the oil and vinegar are suspended and will remain mixed, at least for a little while. It won’t last forever, so if you aren’t pouring the oil on right away, be sure to give it another good whisk before you pour it on to salad greens.

 

 Pour it in a salad, or store it in a jar.

 

The great thing about dressing is that it lasts for days. Ball canning jars are great for storing and (little known fact) you can get them at Wal-Mart for just $6 for 12! If you store it, just be sure to take it out of the refrigerator about an hour before you use it so the oil has a chance to come to room temperature. Then give it a good whisk/shake, pour it over your salad and enjoy!

Fig Season is Here!

People often ask me if we sell figs or only teach classes that feature dishes made with figs. It’s fair question considering the names of this blog and my business, The Fig Cooking School, LLC. The truth is that the name was actually inspired by my three charming daughters, Francesca, Isabella and Gabrielle. But we also happen to adore figs and love cooking and baking with them when they’re in season, which is, sadly, oh so fleeting. We are now fortunately now in the height of fig season here in Connecticut and we’ve been cooking up a storm with them.

We thought we’d share with you one of our favorite recipes for honey roasted figs that is extremely versatile. Roasted figs on French bread paired with cheese and a bit of arugula and nuts make elegant hors d’oeuvres. They can also be used in a salad made of mixed greens, French string beans and fruits, or as a side dish with any roast in the early fall. Enjoy these recipes and tell us what you think. We’d love to get your feedback!

Basic Honey-Roasted Figs

14 figs (about a pound)
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2) Slice figs in half and place cut side up on cookie platter lined with foil and lightly greased with olive oil
3) Brush figs with honey and sprinkle rosemary or thyme evenly over them (herbs optional)
4) Season with salt and freshly ground pepper
5) Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the honey begins to caramelize. Let figs cool to room temperature

Honey roasted figs with French bread

One batch of honey roasted figs (see above)
28 thinly sliced slices French bread
6-8 ounces of your favorite goat cheese, dolce Gorgonzola, blue cheese, St. Andre, or mascarpone
¼ cup coarsely coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
28 arugula leaves

1) Spread cheese on the French bread and place one arugula leaf on each one.
2) Place one honey roasted fig on each bread slice and top with a few pieces of chopped walnuts

Honey Roasted Figs with Haricots Verts and mixed greens in a Shallot vinaigrette dressing

One batch of honey roasted figs (see above)
1 pound of string beans
2 cups mixed greens
2 cups arugula
4-6 ounces goat cheese, dolce Gorgonzola, or blue cheese
1 large apple or pear sliced thin
½  cup toasted walnuts or almonds
1/3 cup dried apricots, cherries or cranberries (optional) or another favorite fruit
3-4 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
¼  cup balsamic (either traditional or white) or champagne vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾  teaspoon kosher salt
½  teaspoon pepper

1) Cut the ends of the French beans and place into pot of boiling water for just two minutes (do not overcook)
2) Quickly drain string beans into pot cold water with ice. Let string beans cool completely in the ice water in order to prevent the string beans from cooking further.
3) When cool, dry the string beans in a tea towel or paper towels
4) Place walnuts on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes until just slightly browned. Put aside.
5) Wash arugula and mixed greens and place in a large bowl or platter along with the string beans.
6) Add the fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts; toss gently
7) Mix in a small bowl or measuring cup the shallots, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over mixture and gently toss again.
8 ) Arrange the figs on top of the salad along with the cheese, making sure that each guest receives some figs and cheese when served.

Better Together

Some things are just a perfect match: Christmas and cookies, French fries and aioli, Paris and hot chocolate. Finding perfect combinations of things is what makes life, and cooking, so fun.

Our favorite combination isn’t technically food related at all. Mothers and their daughters have been cooking together for countless generations. I’m Heide Lang, owner and founder of The Fig Cooking School. And I’m Gabrielle Siegel, high school senior and her 17-year-old daughter. Welcome to the Fig Test Kitchen.

Years ago mothers and daughters found themselves in the kitchen by necessity, but today we cook to bond and pass on family traditions. Together we cook modern creations, like chocolate and dried fruit in philo pockets, homey favorites, like chocolate chip cookies, and traditional recipes, like Oma’s Nokerln, brought over from Eastern Europe. This blog celebrates both the tradition of families cooking together, and the creativity and innovation that should be found in every kitchen. Our motto at the cooking school is “Find your Inner Gourmet” because we know that everyone has the potential to be a great cook with the right guidance and a good recipe.

In the months and years to follow, we will bring you many posts. Some, like this, will be written as a team, others solo. We will share with you our favorite recipes, ideas for improvisation, food shopping tips, and even tasty travel tidbits from the Middle East to the Deep South to our native New England. We also plan to share with you our journey as we teach Isabella (13) how to cook, and even, Francesca (4), the youngest member of our family.

Before we sign off, we’d like to share one last perfect combination with you, inspired by Liuzzi’s, one of our favorite specialty food stores. It’s a great blend of sweet and savory and is ideal as an hors d’oeuvre or even as a sandwich.

Dolce Gorgonzola (sweeter and creamier than regular gorgonzola)

Fig Jam

Baguette

Cut the baguette into ½-inch thick rounds. Spread a layer of gorgonzola, and then a fairly thin layer of jam.

So simple, so delicious.

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