September 20, 2011

Liqueur 44

I am delighted to be posting about this recipe, with the gracious permission of Susan Loomis! This recipe is simply amazing- you will not believe that with these few simple ingredients and a little bit of time stewing in your cupboard, you can make something so special and delicious! This is also perfect timing for the holidays- if you make this now, it has just enough time to be created (44 days) and then mature for a few weeks in glass jars. I made this batch on 9/14/11, so I'll be ready to serve this at Thanksgiving!

Liqueur 44
1 large orange (ideally organic)
1 banana, peeled
1 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cups sugar
44 coffee beans
1 liter vodka

I make this in a large glass beverage server and I double the recipe because it's so wonderful! First, why an organic orange? Well, since you aren't peeling the orange, you're absorbing everything that's on its skin. So. Ideally organic, right? With a knife, pierce the orange(s) 44 times, going through the peel only, not into the fruit. Place in the container. Pierce the banana(s) 44 times as well as the vanilla bean(s). Add to the container. Add the coffee beans and sugar, pour the vodka over. Seal the container so that it's air tight, I put a layer of plastic wrap and then the heavy glass lid. Place in a cool, dark place for (you guessed it) 44 days! The first week, you may gently shake it daily to help dissolve the sugar. After 44 days, strain and bottle in sanitized bottles with corks. Let it age a few more weeks and then enjoy! These make exceptional gifts. I made this a few years ago and gave it as gifts- people were thrilled to get something so special.

Who is Susan Loomis? Maybe you already know! I discovered Susan Loomis and her incredible talents about 10 years ago when I read one of her books, On Rue Tatin. It was part novel part cook book, about her life in France. In addition to being truly inspiring, it also has wonderful recipes. I am especially fond of the apples baked in white wine stuffed with goat cheese and leeks, and, when I made it for my father, he declared it one of the top 10 things he'd eaten in his life, ever. And this is truly high praise coming from my father, who would never exaggerate about praise, especially when it comes to food! I have also enjoyed her French Farm House Cookbook, which is where this liqueur recipe comes from. This cookbook is incredible as well- and the liqueur section has other lovely gems like Orange Wine, Peach Wine and Cherry Wine, which we've made as well, using leaves! Really! (You have to find a friend with peach and cherry trees!) And finally, last but absolutely not least, Susan has a cooking school in France!!!! I know!!! Unbelievably exciting! No, I haven't been yet, but I am absolutely dying to go. I need to round up my family and friends for a trip! Here is the link: Hooray for Susan!

September 7, 2011

Fantastic Fall Figs

It suddenly seems that Fall has arrived in the mid South! On Saturday, it was 100 degrees, then Sunday it rained, and on Monday it was chilly and overcast with lots of leaves on the ground! Don't get me wrong, I not so secretly LOVE the fall. Why? Well, as a brunette, we look stunning in fall colors (sorry, it's true!) and most importantly, the food is sooooo delicious. The richness of stews, hearty helpings of cheese, bacon, and roasted root vegetables, don't tell me you aren't excited too! This dish is a nice bridge, beautiful, delicious fresh figs, topped with goat cheese and bacon lardons, finished with ribbons of honey, it's a perfect way to welcome fall!

Figs with Goat Cheese and Bacon
Fresh figs (2-4 per person as an appetizer)
Goat cheese (roughly 4 oz. per 10 figs)
sea salt
bacon slices (roughly 3-4 slices per 10 figs)

First and foremost, set your oven to 375 and take your goat cheese out of the refrigerator.

First, we are going to prepare our bacon. Have you made bacon lardons before? It's simple and you'll be excited to have this preparation technique in your arsenal. I used four slices of thick cut bacon for 10 figs, and it was just about enough with a few little lardons left over. Just peel the slices as a group from the rest of the bacon slab, don't worry about separation (yet). Place on a cutting board, and using a knife, (I like my 6" chef knife for this), cut them into pieces that are roughly 1/3" wide. As you can see from the picture, you're just cutting them as groups of pieces, and you'll then need to separate them before placing them in the pan. Go ahead and turn the heat on under either a frying pan or a wide bottomed casserole pan (I just use a medium-large dutch oven casserole pan for this, since I LOVE them and use them pretty much for everything). Add the bacon, and cook over medium heat until they are nice and brown and crispy. Remove and drain on a plate with paper towels. (Bacon lardons can be made ahead and then used as a topping for pretty much anything- yum- how about on your next salad or omelet?)

While the bacon is cooking, you can get your figs and cheese ready! To prepare your figs, wash them, remove the stems and any parts on the outside that look creepy, and then cut in half down the middle. To make the goat cheese filling, mix your slightly softened goat cheese with healthy amounts of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. If it's not coming together well, add a splash of milk. Get a baking sheet ready, rub with some olive oil so the figs won't stick. Place the figs, cut side up, and then top each with some goat cheese. Now here's where your personal preference comes in- I like goat cheese quite a bit, but not everybody does. So, if you like it less, put less on your figs. The figs in the pictures have generous amounts of it- so use that as a visual guide for how much you'd like to put on. Once you've topped each fig with goat cheese, position bacon lardons on top, pressing down a little in the cheese so they will stay put. Place in the oven for 5-7 minutes, the cheese will start to run a little, remove from the oven. Either on the baking sheet or on the plate you'll be serving them on, pour small ribbons of honey over the figs. Enjoy! An easy and delicious appetizer that you'll be inspired to make each time you see fresh figs in the grocery store!

A note on figs- did you know that figs are actually inverted flowers? Isn't that crazy? There are several different varieties of figs, although some seem easier to get than others. I used black mission figs to make these, and they are delicious, but I also love kadota and while they aren't my favorite, brown turkey figs are also great.