Summer is officially ending soon and honestly, it feels a bit weird. I’ve been waiting for this part of the year because the fruit starts to ripen under the warmth of the sun but it’s quick and by the time we get to eat things off the plants, we get closer to fall. Not that fall is a bad thing but I did wish summer were a bit longer.Read More
If you saw my Instagram Stories episode last week, you might have seen this tart. While it is well documented that I can eat lemon curd at any time of the year, I particularly it on a hot day for its cooling qualities, the idea behind this particular tart arose from a need to get rid of a few things in my refrigerator.Read More
Though both of these dishes are great during any time of the year, the fruit salad more so during spring and summer, I think they're perfect additions for an Easter brunch. The swirl buns are first seasoned with saffron and cardamom before they get rolled with a spicy lamb filling and left to rise and then bake. Ground beef also works well here and so do chicken and turkey, though I admit that lamb is my personal favorite in this combination.Read More
Guavas are perhaps one of my favorite fruits, like citrus trees and plants, the leaves are also aromatic when rubbed. The fruit on the other hand when ripe is sweet yet not too sweet, soft with edible crunchy seeds. Every Christmas my mom buys them in kilograms to make a fruit leather type dessert called "guava cheese". She even brings me some every time she visits and this is one of the few things she cooks and takes a lot of pride in. She even sends some to her friends and relatives in Canada and New Zealand. But that is a recipe and story for another day. Instead today, I decided to share one of my favorite ways to eat this fruit. In India when in season, many street vendors will have the carts laden with fresh ripe guavas. The guavas will be sliced right in front of you and then rubbed to coat them with a mix of chili and salt using the exposed end of a freshly cut lime. The resulting bite is a complex mixture of sweet, sour, heat and salt and it's a rather spectacular experience to behold. Here's my version of this simple snack that's built on a such a diverse combination of tastes.
chili and salt seasoned guava bites
makes 4 servings
8 ripe baby/Mexican guavas
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Maldon salt flakes
zest of one lime
Rinse the guavas clean under cold running tap water, pat dry and then trim the ends of the fruit off. Cut into quarters and place in a large mixing bowl.
In a small mixing bowl, mix the chili, salt flakes and zest. Sprinkle this mixture over the quartered guavas and serve immediately.
As some of you know, I visited New Orleans recently and ate a lot of food. Southern food is as charming as the sweet folk that have cooked those dishes for years, they are special and comforting and in many ways envelopes you like a warm hug of love. That’s how I feel everytime I’m down in the South visiting. Grits are one of the most comforting textures you can feel on your tongue, it reminds me of semolina porridge that I ate in India at breakfast.
As an ode to the South, I’ve created this dessert made with sweet grits. On this bed of sweet grits sits the most delicious and aromatic batch of figs infused with Pernod Classic and tangerines. It’s the right combination of fruity sweetness and floral flavors to accompany something as delicious of the texture of grits.
It’s best to start with dried figs than fresh figs for this particular recipe because they will act like a sponge and absorb the flavors in the tangerine and the versatile star anise and herbs of the Pernod Classic. It’s infusion at its best! It’s infusion at its best!
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this dessert;
You can use any type of dried figs, dark, golden, they will all work well in this combination, just make sure they’re dry.
I like the taste of tangerine juice versus regular orange juice here but if it’s difficult to find you can substitute orange juice.
I’ve also served these figs as is without grits. It makes a tasty addition to a cheese tray and can be served warm or cold.
For the grits
yields: 2 servings
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon tangerine/orange zest
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup grits
Add all the ingredients from the milk to the salt in a medium-sized saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and slowly stir the grits into the liquid and mix evenly.
Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil. Cover the saucepan with a lid, reduce heat and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes until creamy smooth. Add a little more milk if necessary but the grits when soft and creamy like a thick porridge. Keep warm until ready to serve.
For the caramelized figs
yields: 2 servings
12 dried figs, sliced lengthwise in half
½ cup tangerine/orange juice
1 cup water
3 tablespoons Pernod Classic
Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-high and allow to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and a thick sauce is left behind. This should take about 20 minutes. Continue to cook until the sauce starts to caramelize, stirring to coat the figs evenly. The sauce will be dark orange in color. if the sauce gets too thick, you can add a tablespoon or two of water and to thin the sauce. Remove from stove and keep warm.
To serve, divide the grits equally between two individual serving bowls. Top each bowl of grits with half of the caramelized figs and serve warm.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Pernod Classic. All opinions expressed are solely my own.
Here's a confession for you, I never liked pears. I didn't hate them but I didn't care for them as much as I liked apples. As a kid, apples were always a better option than pears when I had to choose. And now, I can't even remember the reason for my dislike. Such is the craziness of a picky eater, a fickle minded child! My poor parents.
I doubt I'll plant a pear tree because I have my hands tied with a few plants that I struggle to keep alive but if I did it would be one that bore red Anjou pears. Hopefully, it wouldn't bear one fruit just like my fig and pomegranate plants did this year. (Fingers crossed, next year might be more fruitful)
If you're looking for something sweet and easy to prepare, to top over dishes or serve with a selection of cheeses at a party, then you should consider this pear compote. It also goes great with yogurt (pictured here) and also with sausage. A pinch of black salt (kala namak) and a hint of green cardamom flavor the fruit while it glistens in a golden coat of sweet maple syrup.
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this compote,
- Use ripe pears that have a firm texture so they don't get mushy and fall apart when cooking. Here's a good guide to pears. I used Anjou but Bosc are also a good choice.
- Don't stir the pears too much while they cook. This allows the water to evaporate but also allows the maple syrup to coat the fruit evenly.
- I tend to leave the cardamom pods in the compote but you can discard the green shell after the fruit is cooked.
- Serve this compote as an accompaniment to a cheese platter, over your breakfast oatmeal bowl or yogurt. There's a lot you can do with it. However, do warm it up a little, if you end up refrigerating it. Ghee solidifies as the temperature drops and warming it a little will liquefy it. Just stir it up before use.
pear and ginger compote
yields: 2 cups
4 large pears (approximately 376gm)
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, diced
1 teaspoon ghee
1/4 teaspoon black salt
1 cup maple syrup
4 tablespoons water
5 green cardamom pods
1. Core and peel the pears. Dice them into 1/2 inch cubes and keep aside.
2. Add the ghee to a medium-size thick bottomed saucepan and heat on medium-high. Lightly crush the green cardamom pods and add them to the hot ghee and sauté for 10 seconds. Then add the ginger, black salt, maple syrup and water and stir for 30 seconds.
3. Add the diced pears to the ingredients in the saucepan, reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir and cover the saucepan loosely with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. The pears will be golden brown in color and most of the liquid will have evaporated. Remove the saucepan from the stove and transfer the pears to a clean dish or jar. The pear compote can be served warm or at room temperature. You can refrigerate this compote for storage, however warm it a little before serving so the ghee melts.
I have one single fig on the little dwarf tree we bought last year. Just one....It started out with four but three didn't make it, they just dried and fell off. Now, I have one which I'm guarding like a hawk. One day, I will make a better home gardener....I hope.
If there's one thing the my world doesn't have enough of, it's figs. Big, fat, chubby and juicy bags of sweetness. They've been especially hard to find this summer and the ones, I've come across haven't been that good. But last week, I lucked out and decided to eat my weight in figs. And I have no regrets!
Honey drizzled over fresh figs is probably my favorite way to eat them, the sprinkling of salt flakes is optional but the honey is what makes it magical. I kept the same theme here in this very simple labneh based panna cotta. I've flavored the panna cotta with orange blossom water and sweetened it lightly with a little honey. But the main sweetness in this dessert comes from broiling the fresh figs which helps to concentrate the sugar and add a nice caramel flavor to the fruit. And of course a little extra drizzle of honey before eating it!
Here are some of my kitchen tips when preparing this dessert that you might find useful,
- You can choose to serve the panna cotta in the jars or release them from the mold. To do the latter, you will need to spray the inner surface of the jar with a little neutral tasting oil and then pour the liquid in and allow it to set firm in the refrigerator. You can then release the panna cotta by running a knife along the edges of the pudding or simply just tapping it gently over a serving plate. I do however, recommend using a smaller volume if you want to release it from the mold, the weight doesn't make the pudding collapse as easy.
- You could add a tiny pinch of Maldon sea salt flakes over the figs but that is a bit of an overkill here as the pistachios I use are already salted.
- I used whole milk and full fat labneh here for a creamier taste. Low-fat should work too.
- Experiment with flavored honeys for more complex tastes. I used clover but there are so many other lovely varieties to pair in this dish.
Since fig season is short you might want to make the most of it with these recipes:
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta
yields: 4 servings
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons honey + extra for drizzling
1 packet gelatin
6 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 lb labneh, lightly whipped
8 large figs, fresh, firm and ripe
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 toasted salted pistachios, whole
1. Place the milk in a small saucepan along with the honey and bring it to a boil on medium-high heat. While the milk is boiling, sprinkle the gelatin in a small mixing bowl containing the water. Allow the gelatin to bloom for 5 minutes.
2. Once the milk has boiled and the honey is dissolved, remove from stove and stir it while warm into the bowl containing the bloomed gelatin.
3. Pour the milk mixture into a large mixing bowl containing the labneh. Whisk to combine evenly. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts and pour it into serving jars or bowls. Cover the mouth of each jar with cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 to 4 hours until firm.
4. Set a wire rack in the upper level of the oven and set to broil. Take the figs and slice them in half. Brush a baking dish with a little olive oil and place the figs, sliced surface up. Broil for about 3 to 4 minutes until the figs are lightly golden brown and slightly caramelized on the surface. Remove from oven and keep aside until ready to assemble the dessert.
5. Take the pistachios and remove them from the shells (if present). Crumble the pistachio meat with a knife or a rolling pin and keep aside.
6. Unwrap the jars containing the panna cotta. Place about 4 broiled figs halves over each jar containing the panna cotta and sprinkle the pistachio crumble. Drizzle with honey and serve immediately.
A little over a week ago, I took a short trip down to Pismo Beach, in Central California that was sponsored by the California Strawberry Commission. My flight was short and pleasant, you can't beat the short one hour direct flight from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo Airport, which is located about 15 minutes away from the Dolphin Bay Resort and Spa. The resort is gorgeous and my view was spectacular. The long ocean stretch, morning fog, flying pelicans, crabs hiding under rocks and the sound of crashing waves mixed in with surfers and dolphins playing in the ocean, I couldn't have asked for more except that perhaps, I might one day be able to live in a house overlooking a beautiful ocean view like this. Central California is one of the best places in the country to grow strawberries because of the weather and the soil and these berries are supplied to the rest of the country year round.
This trip was all about the strawberries and yes, I got to pick and eat a lot (see the chocolate covered strawberries and creme brûlée below). The purpose of this trip was to learn about strawberry farming practice and the nutritional benefits behind strawberries and the trip was named 12 Reasons (though there are many more reasons to keep strawberries in your diet). The inner science nerd in me was very excited when we spent some time learning about all the wonderful work being done by the commission and the Strawberry Research and Sustainability Center, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. They've been doing tons of research for a while such as growing better drought resistant and disease resistant strawberry plants (all non-GMO), creating and employing newer and more efficient methods to get rid of biological pests (natural predators and physical methods to get rid of bugs). California is suffering from a bad drought and it's important to use methods that conserve water and also use it efficiently, the farms are watered by a high-pressure drip system that uses less water to keep the crops growing. In addition to all this and this is something I really enjoyed hearing about, the Commission and the Center work together to train and certify the workers and managers at different farms in best farming and safety practices which gives them tools to become more competitive in the job market.
One of the first farms we visited was at Providence Farms in Santa Maria which is run by Tom Jones and his wife, Ruth. There were patches of land being prepared for tilling where eventually strawberry beds would be set up. There were long rows of white plastic blanketed soil where young strawberry plants grew out of little cuts in the plastic sheet. The younger immature plants have their flowers removed until the plants grow to an appropriate size which ensures a better quality fruit and plant in the future. We got to walk through the fields and taste the fresh ripe strawberries at the farm and also watch some of the workers lace the plant beds with predatory bugs that would kill off the mites that destroy strawberry plants. Eventually, Providence Farms hopes to expand to somewhere around 600 acres of pure organic strawberry fields. As it is there are approximately, 32,600 plants per acre and 600 acres would be an insane happy heaven of strawberry land.
From Providence Farms, we drove up to Presqu'ile Winery in Santa Maria where Italian Chef Alfonso Curti of Trattoria Uliveto had a a fun cooking demo and lunch spread set up for us. There was wine and strawberry flavored drinks and lots of delicious things to eat. The aged balsamic vinegar reduction with the fresh strawberries and basil over panna cotta was probably one of the most complex and refreshing desserts to eat on a hot summer day yet one of the most simple things to prepare. I fell in love with the interiors and exteriors at the vineyard, the aesthetic is simply gorgeous and the views breathtaking! Also how do they keep all their plants alive and so pretty?
On the final part of our journey, we visited a strawberry farm in an urbanized setting, owned by Luis Chavez. His story is fascinating and inspiring, an immigrant from Mexico, Luis through hard work over many years, now owns and runs a 300 acre strawberry farm. He was kind enough to let us fill up a clam shell box with fresh strawberries we picked from his farm. The day we visited his farm, the farm workers were picking out strawberries that would eventually find their way into jams, jellies and sauces. The work isn't easy and the weather was hot but at each farm I visited, I felt the personal connection and interest the way both Tom Jones and Luis Chavez spoke with passion about their farms and the people that work for them. And that goes along way.
This was a trip that made me appreciate all the hard work and passion that goes into producing one strawberry and the enormous impact this simple plant has. I can't thank California Strawberries enough, for such a fun and informative opportunity to learn about strawberries and strawberry farming.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by California Strawberries and all opinions shared here are purely my own.