cherry ginger pie with spelt crust

cherry ginger pie with spelt crust

I hope each and everyone of you had a great weekend and those of you celebrating July 4th had a great one as well. We had a lovely weekend that was spent with friends who visited us from D.C., it was really, really nice to see familiar faces. I'm not missing the hustle and bustle of D.C. but I do miss my friends a little. We visited a few vineyards in Sonoma valley which was a fun trip. 

Cherry season is one of my favorite things to look to every summer but sadly it is also one of the shortest. So this week, I'm going to share two easy recipes back to back, that use cherries and I hope you like them. We've been getting tons sweet cherries here at the farmer's markets in California, so of course, yours truly has been partaking in eating copious amounts of these sweet little red bubbles of joy. 

cherry ginger pie filling

The first recipe this week is this delightful cherry pie that has a little kick of ginger in it. When I started out to develop this recipe, I wanted a pie with relatively little added sugar or sweeteners of any kind, this way I wouldn't feel too guilty when I ate the pie and you could taste the tart and sweet flavors of the cherries in the pie. Different people have different salt and sugar taste sensitivities, so what I will recommend that if you like this pie on the sweeter side, taste the pie filling while making it and then add a teaspoon or two of sugar. I love the texture of crystallized bits of ginger in baked goods, so I've bumped up the notch here by adding a little. You can leave the ginger bits out too, the gingers bits are crystallized in sugar so they do sweeten the cherry filling a little. 

pie tin and pie beads

I used my previous spelt crust recipe for this pie. This pie crust is very forgiving if it cracks during assembly, all you need to do is pressed the cracked ends together. Also, if you don't want to use my pie crust recipe you can use your own or your favorite pre-made pie crust. Feel free to style the pie pastry as creatively as you want, just make sure you create enough holes or slits to allow the pie to ventilate. Cherries are very juicy and will release a lot of moisture and steam during baking.

pie pastry

Pies are such a delightful treat to bake, they are rustic and remind me of busy kitchens with wooden stoves on old farms. I think a pie should be as messy as can be, dripping with all the delicious flavors that it holds that entice you. So go ahead enjoy cherry season and make some pie!

cherry ginger pie

cherry ginger pie with spelt crust

yields: one 9 inch pie

ingredients

Click here for the spelt pie crust ingredients

cherry pie filling

2 lbs sweet cherries, ripe
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 cup crystallized ginger bits (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar (*optional) I didn't add any sugar because these cherries were very sweet
1 teaspoon lime/lemon juice, freshly squeezed 
1/2 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch powder
1 tablespoon water

1. Wash and drain the cherries in a colander. Pit the cherries and discard the pits. Place half of the cherries in a thick bottomed saucepan with the ginger, crystallized ginger bits, *sugar (optional) and lime juice. Heat the contents on a medium-high flame and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid and stir occasionally. Cook for 5-6 minutes until the cherries have become soft and mushy. Remove the contents of the saucepan and puree in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth. Return the puree back to the saucepan.
2. Add the vanilla and salt to the puree and bring the contents of the saucepan back to a boil on a medium-high flame. Whisk the cornstarch and the water in a small bowl and quickly mix into the puree. Stir until the puree thickens, this should take about a minute. Remove the saucepan from the stove and carefully fold the rest of the cherries into the puree. Cover the saucepan with a lid and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Keep aside until ready to use. 
Note: This pie filling can be prepared the day ahead and then refrigerated until ready to use.

Assembling & cooking the pastry and pie

1. Perform step1 to prepare the dough. Divide the dough into two equal parts, wrap with cling film and chill until ready to use.
2. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400F.  
3. Roll out one disc of dough and line a 9 inch pie pan with it. Pour the cherry pie filling prepared earlier into the prepared pie pan lined with the pastry dough. 
4. Roll out the second disc of pastry and cut out circles using the wider end of icing tip or a circular biscuit cutter (you can even use a small cookie cutter to make the holes extra special such as stars). Place the second sheet of pastry over the prepared pie and press the edges together and seal. Whisk the egg yolk with the water in a small bowl. Brush the surface of the pie with the egg yolk mixture.
5. Bake the pie in the oven for about 25-30 minutes until the crust turns golden brown. Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake for another 35-40 minutes until the juices begin to bubble and the crust becomes a deep golden brown. Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool for at least 2 hours on a wire rack before serving. 

bombay lemonade

bombay lemonade 

Summer days were hot in Bombay (Mumbai) but I eagerly awaited for their arrival because it meant the end of the school year. The days would be marked by pool time, trips, and reading a whole lot of comics (my mother would only let us read comics during the holidays, they'd go up otherwise so we could focus on the school year, though I don't think it did any good!). There was also one particular portion of the day that I really looked forward to, my moment to indulge in street snacks. I'd get a little pocket money, every day from my mother which I would diligently invest in some sort of snack. The choices were many and my desires generally larger than my actual ability to consume so I'd have to plan my week out such that I'd be able to taste almost everything summer had to offer.

mint and lemons

Since the weather got pretty hot, it was necessary to cool down with something cold. My cooling agents were generally tall glasses of freshly squeezed sugarcane juice , limeades or lemonades, each of these babies would be flavored with a combination of spices and fresh herbs making the the perfect thirst quencher and refresher. 

squeezed lemons and ginger 

I've made my version of my favorite lemonade that reminds me of those happy summer days spent in Bombay. Fresh is the key here, fresh lemons and ginger with mint are infused into chilled water while  lightly crushed toasted cumin gives a hint of earthiness to the drink. If you aren't a fan of fresh ginger, skip it. I also used molasses as the sweetener because M's mom makes her own on the farm from her sugarcane crop every year and it is the best and she keeps me stocked. 

This lemonade is best drunk as soon as it is made as I've noticed the flavors of the cumin and ginger are lost within a few hours. Also, fresh mint tends to darken after several hours. I tend to make this drink less sweet but feel free to play around. Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Here are some of my favorite reads from this week;

bombay style lemonade

bombay lemonade

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup lemon juice (two large lemons), freshly squeezed
3 inch piece ginger root, freshly peeled
900ml chilled water 
3-4 tablespoons light molasses
8-10 mint leaves, fresh
8 thin lemon slices, freshly cut
ice cubes and a few thin slices of fresh lemons

1. Toast the cumin seeds on medium high flame in a small saucepan for about 15 seconds until they just begin to turn brown. The cumin seeds are ready as soon as you can smell their aroma. Immediately transfer them into a mortar and crush them gently once with the pestle. Don't over crush them. If the cumin seeds burn during the toasting and turn black, discard and start again.
2. Add the toasted cumin seeds along with the lemon juice into a large pitcher. 
3. Place the ginger root in the mortar and crush it with 1/4 cup of the chilled water to form a slurry and extract the ginger flavor. Pass the slurry through a tea strainer or small sieve over a small bowl and press the pulp with a spoon to get all the juice out. Transfer the extracted juice to the pitcher along with the molasses.
4. Stack the mint leaves over each other and then slice them into thin strips with sharp knife. Put the mint leaves in the pitcher and add the rest of the chilled water. Stir to combine the ingredients, taste to make sure the lemonade is sweet enough, if not add more molasses. Add the slices of lemon and stir. To serve, stir the contents of the pitcher and then pour into chilled glasses containing ice cubes.

raw ginger strawberry smoothie

raw ginger strawberry smoothie

Moving is clearly insane, the last time I did a huge move was almost eight years ago and it was just me. This time round, it's the two of us and the dog and I can't just toss things out (I'm a big fan of decluttering, I get anxious otherwise) I need to think about everyone involved, what they love and what they don't. But now all of that is done with and I am focussed on our week cross country ride which is going to be the trip of a lifetime! There's new states to visit, places to see, foods to try out, and I'm a little excited that Snoopy gets to share in this big road trip adventure. I know, I sound crazy but I guess it's what dog (pet) parents get excited about.

strawberries

My kitchen is packed and gone but before it left, I made this delicious berry flavored coconut milk smoothie that packs the sweetness of ripe chubby strawberries and the goodness of raw ginger. There's also a reason behind this drink, I started to feel a raw uneasiness in my throat as the temperatures kept fluctuating in the weather and with the impending move and all other crazy things going on right now, I couldn't afford to be sick. Raw ginger is used as a common ailment in Indian herbal medicine so I figured why not use it to create a spring-themed immune boosting drink. There's fresh coconut milk (I used the So Delicious brand because I personally like the flavor a lot but fresh coconut milk would work well here too) and the strawberries, I used were a bit sweet so I ended up not using any sweeteners (I've listed a suggested amount but feel free to add as much or as little as you like). This smoothie turned out to be great for my throat but it's tasty enough to be served as a drink, especially as the heat waves begin to kick in.

floating strawberries on coconut milk

I did this fun interview with the very sweet Amina of The Paper Plates Blog, check it out if you have a moment to spare. I talk about a lot of things beyond food and maybe, my obsession with the Game of Thrones books. 

Also,  here are some of my favorites links that I'm drooling over;
  • Linda of Call Me Cupcake made a sour cream rhubarb cupcakes (there's a ginger cream frosting that has poached rhubarb on it!!!!).
  • Climbing Grier's Mountain's Lauren, made this hummus shrimp loaded naan pizza that is simply amazing!
  • Lindsey of Dolly and Oatmeal made this gorgeous sauté that's sits on a bed of chickpea and chive mash. This is one, to see and believe, eat!
  • This pickled chard by Love and Lemons is what's spring should be about.

strawberry coconut milk smoothie with raw ginger

raw ginger strawberry smoothie

yields: 2 generous servings

ingredients

1 1/2 cups coconut milk, chilled, unsweetened, low-fat (I used the So Delicious brand)
1/2 cup strawberries, fresh, diced in half
1/2 teaspoon ginger root, peeled and freshly minced (minced as tiny as possible)
2-3 teaspoons palm sugar (optional; I didn't use add any)

1. Add all the ingredients to a blender (you can also use an immersion blender) and mix until all the ingredients are completely combined. The sugar is optional, I didn't add any as the strawberries were very sweet to begin with). 
2. Pour in chilled drinking glasses over ice cubes or crushed ice, serve immediately. (This best drunk fresh as soon as it is prepared).

Disclaimer: I didn't receive any financial compensation or products from So Delicious and all opinions stated are solely mine. 

masala chai ice cream

masala chai ice cream

A chai flavored ice cream post is way overdue here. For one, I love making frozen desserts and two, I'm a huge chai drinker. Actually, I drink some sort of tea every day, even if it isn't chai. Tea is calming and soothing and yes, delicious! There are so many things one can do with tea and with the wide array of flavors that keep coming out, I'm almost overwhelmed at times if I can even keep up. So instead of going too crazy, I'm sharing a simple and trusted way to make a chai ice cream.

chai prep

I infused the chai with the spices (masala), crushed green cardamom seeds and freshly grated ginger root. Of course, you can spice the chai with additional spices like I did in my Masala Chai Apple Cake but I added the masala (spices) to the chai just the way my mom does, her two special ingredients and nothing else. It made me a little nostalgic and brought back memories of drinking cups of hot tea while I dipped cookies into the fragrant hot milky brown liquid and watched my evening cartoon shows on the Cartoon Network. These days things are a little different, I normally just drink the tea and do the cookie thing occasionally, still watch tv, no cartoons though.

chai ice cream

I've adapted the basic ice cream recipe from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home. Also, just a little note here, I normally don't make chai with that much tea leaves in that small volume of water, I was going for a more concentrated flavor and did a reduction because the flavors and taste would ultimately get balanced and diluted out by the ice cream base. 

masala chai ice cream ginger cardamom

Here are some of my favorite posts that I drooled over this week,
  • Kimberly of The Year in Food made some amazing Cajun-spiced Sweet Potato Burgers that I need to make soon. 
  • Jennifer of Savory Simple made the most picture perfect fan-shaped gyoza stuffed with mushrooms. 
  • Marta of What Should I Eat for Breakfast made these killer green sandwiches that are topped with greens, pine nuts, cheese and poached eggs. How can you say no to that!  
  • Ashlae of Oh Ladycakes has quickly become one of my favorite vegan bakers, her dreamy raw citrus cakes are self-explanatory.
masala chai tea ice cream

masala chai ice cream

yields: 1 generous quart

ingredients

3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, freshly ground
1 inch piece ginger root, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons black tea leaves (Darjeeling tea - I specifically used orange pekoe) 
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 cups whole milk + 2 tablespoons
1 1/4 cup half and half
2/3 cup (5 1/2 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon kosher sea salt
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) cream cheese

1. Add the water, cardamom and grated ginger to a small saucepan and bring to a boil on a medium-high flame. When the water begins to boil, add the tea leaves and reduce the flame to medium-low. Allow the water to boil for another 2 minutes, remove from stove and strain the liquid to remove the solids. Transfer the tea liquid back into the saucepan and reduce the volume to a little less than 1/4 cup by boiling the liquid on a medium-high flame. Remove the liquid from the stove and keep aside until ready to use.
2. Mix the cornstarch with the two tablespoons of milk to form a slurry and keep aside until ready to use. In a large thick bottomed saucepan, add the reduced 1/4 cup of tea from step 1, the 2 cups of milk, half and half, sugar and honey and heat on a medium-high flame. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and cook for 4 minutes with stirring. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and quickly whisk the cornstarch slurry into the hot liquid.  Bring the mixture back to a boil and cook with constant stirring until the mixture thickens, this will take approximately 1 minute.
3. Place the sea salt and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl and whisk lightly until smooth. Add a little bit of the hot milk liquid from the saucepan and whisk lightly until smooth. Add the rest of the hot milk and whisk until the ice cream base is completely smooth. 
4. Transfer the hot liquid into a 1-gallon ziploc freezer bag, seal airtight and place in an ice cold water bath. Allow to chill for 30 minutes or until ice cold. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker and churn the ice cream for about 30 minutes or until the ice cream has come together and begins to come off from the sides of the canister. (Alternatively, follow the instructions of your particular brand of ice cream maker).  Transfer the frozen ice cream into a freezer safe container and layer the top of the ice cream with a piece of parchment paper, press gently to remove any trapped air bubbles and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

beer ginger red currant butter

beer ginger red currant butter

I'm looking forward to our long weekend and a visit to the farm this weekend. When we're at the farm, I look forward to catching up with everyone, relaxing, eating home cooked Southern food and trying my hands at something new at the farm. My goal this is year is to milk the goats once again when they are ready. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed for our quick getaway this weekend, since we have a snow storm prediction that's calling for a few inches of snow.

red currants

I didn't think I'd find red currants again but I was fortunate enough to run into them last weekend. Last year I made a simple jam for my whole wheat chocolate layer cake. This time, I made a smooth butter that's infused with a whole bunch of flavors I would never think of pairing, until now! I'm amazed at how delicious the pale ale balances the tartness of the currants, this is one recipe that I will definitely scale up if I ever run into a huge stash of red currants (which I sincerely hope I will).

red currants for beer ginger butter red currants for butter

I almost forgot about the ginger! The fresh ginger infuses a lovely flavoring in this sweet medley. I like this butter to be less sweet and more tart but if you want to reduce the tartness, I recommend increasing the sugar to around 1/2 cup. I recommend using a deep saucepan as the beer will tend to foam and rise as the liquid heats up, this reduces spillage and a potential kitchen stovetop mess.
What's a better way to wake up in the morning and eat your beer on a slice of your toast!

quick beer ginger red currant butter

beer ginger red currant butter

yields: approximately 250ml

ingredients

12 ounces red currants
1/4 cup brown sugar (you can also increase the amount of  sugar to 1/2 cup to make it sweeter and less tart)
1 teaspoon ginger root, freshly grated
12 fluid ounces (355ml) beer (I used a pale Belgian ale)

1. Rinse the currants under running cold tap water. Carefully remove the fragile currants from their stems and place them in a deep bottomed saucepan. 
2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the saucepan and heat on a medium high flame with constant stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce the flame to a medium low and stir the contents occasionally. Cook the butter for about 1 hour. During cooking the currants will burst and release their pulp and juices.
3. Place a sieve over a clean bowl. Pass the contents of the saucepan through a sieve and using a large spoon, press the fruit in the sieve to release as much of the fruit pulp and juices as possible. Stir the butter that collects in the bowl. It will have a thick consistency. Transfer and store in an airtight container until ready. Though the butter is ready to serve immediately once cooled, I find the flavors to be much more developed and tastier the next day. 

ginger tamarind brussels sprouts

Ginger tamarind brussels sprouts

I never grew up eating brussels sprouts, they didn't grow locally so we never ate them. However, by the time, I did get the chance to try them out, I had a lot of anxiety built up based on all the opinions I had heard over time, they were supposedly pretty nasty! My first experience with the round cabbage-like doppelgängers was at a Thanksgiving dinner in Cincinnati, where the host had prepared a batch of seared brussels sprouts. You know that moment, when you are seated as a guest at someone's dinner table, and you feel obliged to try everything, yeah that was me sweating it out! With a lot of nervous apprehension, I stuck a fork into one of the four sprouts I picked off the serving dish and put one into my mouth. Lo and behold, they were actually good, actually better than good, they were delicious and I couldn't fathom what the fuss was all about. Fast forward to today, I'm in my kitchen cooking them every time these guys are fresh in season.

Brussels sprouts

The bitterness is what drives many people away from these little guys. What kills the bitterness? Shaving the sprouts super thin! The finer the shave the better. It also makes the entire dish feel lighter in taste and texture. Which is even better because this recipe is light and healthy and packed with a bunch of great zesty and sour flavors. Also, on a side note, I love this dish with wine,  it goes really well with whites and reds. 

Cutting brussells sprouts


Let's talk a little bit more about the flavors, there's fresh ginger root, sour tamarind and fresh honey for the flavorings. I don't overcook the sprouts, just enough to get the shaving gently sautéed and to help bring out the ginger flavors. Both ginger and tamarind are really popular ingredients in Goan cooking and the combination here is perfect! Most of the time, when I cook these brussels sprouts, I will eat it as an entire meal but you can also serve this as a side with meat, poultry or fish. 

Ginger tamarind brussels sprouts and honey

ginger, tamarind brussels sprouts

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

1lb brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 inch piece ginger root, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon tamarind paste concentrate (I use the Tamicon brand)
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons honey

1. Rinse the brussels sprouts under running tap water, drain, and pat dry with a clean towel. Trim the ends of the sprouts and discard any damaged outer leaves. Cut each brussels sprouts in half and then slice them extremely thin to get fine thin shreds. Alternately, you can also shave them on a mandolin slicer using the thinnest setting. Keep aside.
2. Heat the olive oil on medium high in a thick bottomed pan or skillet. Once the oil begins to heat up after approximately 30-40 seconds, grate the ginger root directly onto the hot oil using a microplane zester (or the fine teeth of a grater). Quickly stir and cook the ginger for 30 seconds in the hot oil, add the brussels sprouts to the oil, mix well and cook with occasional stirring for 8-10 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper and adjust the amounts if needed.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the tamarind, hot water and honey to a thin paste. Taste and adjust the sweetness with more honey if desired. If it is too acidic then you can add a little more hot water. 
4. Serve the warm brussels sprouts with the tamarind sauce on the side. You can also drizzle a little sauce over the brussels sprouts and then serve the rest of the sauce with it.

butternut squash with ginger root and noodle broth

Egg Noodles

Thank you so much for all the well-wishes and emails, the hurricane might have been bad but we were fortunate to have power and gas and were not hit as badly as some of the other areas that received the major brunt of Sandy. Tuesday was still a terribly rainy day but the winds had died down and I think some of the worst things that happened in our area, were the big tree that fell down and a couple of traffic signs that had moved or been yanked out of the ground. Things are pretty much back to normal here but it is getting cold, terribly cold. 

Butternut Squash and Noodle Broth

This soup tided me over the crazy hurricane days. It was hot and laced with tons of ginger to keep me warm and happy. Normally, I use tender lemongrass stems when I cook but I had the opportunity to use some fresh  leaves from my neighbor's garden. In this soup, the lemongrass flavor works well because it is mild while the ginger is strong and delicious. Of course try and use fresh ingredients for this soup, it will make it wonderfully aromatic. As you might have noticed, I am extremely partial to ginger, it's one of those important mainstays of my kitchen, that I always keep at home in fresh, dried, and crystallized forms. So yeah, I have one too many recipes here with a bit of ginger! I will admit that I am not a big fan of peeling and cutting pumpkins and butternut squashes. I tend to lean towards roasting these tough guys so it is easier to get the pulp from the skin. However, this particular soup required chunks of the butternut squash, so I saved some time and  tears by purchasing the pre-cut stuff from the store. Sometimes, it really is good to let others help you.

Ginger and Lemongrass

A couple of pointers when preparing this broth. Use a large stockpot or wok as you need to mix the noodles and squash in the broth, this will make it easy to toss things around and create less of a mess in the kitchen stove. I like to tie the lemongrass leaves in a tight knot and then add them to the broth when cooking. I then discard the leaves once the soup is done and the knot makes it easy to remove the entire bunch at one instance. I enjoy the complex flavors in soy, fish, and oyster sauces and I also love adding a little bit of soy sauce to the boiling water that I cook my noodles in because it gives them a nice flavor, though this is completely optional. Do not over saute the ginger or lemongrass or you will lose the aroma and flavor of these delicate ingredients. I do hope you get to enjoy this hot and gingery soup on a cold winter day! 

Soup and butternutsquash

butternut squash with ginger root and noodle broth

yields: approximately 4-6 servings

ingredients

3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2  bundles of Chinese egg noodles
2 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 peeled and finely minced shallots or 1/2 cup finely minced red onion
1.5 inches peeled fresh ginger root
1 bunch fresh lemongrass leaves (this should be about 1/4 cup chopped or packed leaves)
2 chopped Thai chilies (use either green or red, both work well here)
5 cups water
2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
few fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
salt and white pepper to taste

1. In a pot bring 3 cups of water to boil. Add the salt and soy sauce to the water. Break the bundles of dry egg noodles in half and then add them to the boiling water. Cook till the noodles are almost tender. This will take about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the water and keep the noodles aside.
2. While the noodles are cooking, take a separate wok or stockpot add the oil, and heat on a high flame. When the oil is hot, toss in the butternut squash and cook completely till the inside of the squash is tender. This should take about 14-15 minutes.
3. Remove the squash from the wok, cover and keep aside. In the same oil add the shallots/onion and cook for about 3 minutes till translucent.
4. Peel the ginger root and julienne into 1/2 inch strips. Reduce the flame to medium heat and toss in the ginger and cook for another two minutes. 
5. Add the lemon grass, chilies and cook for another minute.
6. Add the 5 cups of water, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and lemon juice to the wok and bring to a boil. Once the broth begins to boil, reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and add the cooked squash. Discard the lemongrass leaves at this stage.
7. Transfer and stir in the drained noodles to the simmering broth.
8. Season the broth with salt and pepper, according to taste. Stir in the chopped cilantro to the broth. Prior to serving, garnish the broth with a few whole cilantro leaves in individual soup bowls. Serve hot.

Hurricane Sandy in D.C.

spiced fig preserves


It's getting chillier by the day and something tells me this winter is going to be a little intense. Thankfully, I have some canning recipes in the works that are helping me stock the pantry up. Yes, I might be surviving on a whole lot of jams and pickles this cold season. I thought my previous post on the poached fig sauce would be the last, but I was so wrong! The last time I came back from my grocery store, a couple of figs magically popped up in my grocery bag. I could have just eaten the entire batch directly but then I knew I would miss them for the rest of the year. So what's one to do but stretch their presence out a little longer, perhaps till the next fig fruiting season? Since canning is my new culinary addiction, I turned to making a sticky and sweet fig preserve with bold flavors that would happily remind me of autumn.


This preserve uses whole figs that have their stems removed but I keep their skins because I like them. If you are not a big fan of the fruit's skin, then by all means peel them off with a paring knife. Use good quality dry spices for this recipe because they will make the preserve taste better. The cinnamon flavor is gentle yet warming but the dry ginger powder gives the figs a delicious and bold zing. Instead of using brown sugar in this recipe (which you most certainly can try), I find honey to be my preferred choice of sweetener for the fig preserve, somehow that marriage between honey and figs is truly blessed. Yeah, I also like to add a bit of booze to everything I cook, so here it is a cup of Riesling. It brings everything together in my opinion without taking away from any of the flavors of the figs. Serve this on top of some thick plain yogurt for breakfast or spread it over buttered bread. You can also serve this with some sharp cheeses at your parties for an appetizer. Remember with this preserve, a little of it goes a long way!


spiced fig preserves

ingredients 


3 cups chopped figs with stems removed
2 cups of a good quality honey
1/4 cup crystallized ginger 
juice of one fresh lemon
1 cup riesling wine (a good quality moscato would also be good here)
1 heaped tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon ground ginger powder

1. Put all the ingredients together in thick bottomed saucepan. 
2. Heat on a medium to high flame and bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil. Stir constantly. This should take about 10 minutes. Don't be surprised if the viscosity of the honey decreases and the hot liquid begins to thin, this is absolutely normal. 
3. Mash the figs with a potato masher to release the fruit's pulp. 
4. Reduce the flame to the low setting on the stove's dial. Cook the figs for total time of 1 hour. Stir the mixture once or twice every 5 or 8 minutes. The volume will reduce during the process.
5. Transfer the hot preserves to sterile four, 4 pint jelly jars and seal. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Cool for another 5 minutes in the water bath before removing to cool and store.



Here is the label that I designed for this set of jams, feel free to use them as needed. Click on the image to the right to download the label pdf.

Disclaimer: These labels are for personal use only. If you do use them or credit them, please post a link back to the related original recipe and not the file. © A Brown Table   

Update: The recipe has been updated to reflect the addition of the lemon juice.

gingersnaps


Sometimes, I like to walk around the Smithsonian Art Museum to relax and basically do nothing. Sometimes it is nice to do nothing. Though admiring and viewing the art at the museum surpassed my ability to do nothing. In the end my ability to do nothing got defeated by my wandering eye, even in a place as quiet as the museum. Okay, I need to stop short of going on a crazy ramble here and get to it!


We are off to the farm at the Mouth of Wilson in Virginia for this wonderfully long Christmas weekend. This will be a good trip since it will be my first time up in the mountains during winter. I secretly hope that there will be a little bit of snow up there but the weather gods seem to be planning otherwise. For this trip, I've baked a batch of gingersnaps. I love ginger and I love ginger snaps too much, in fact I think at this point my blog has several ginger based dessert recipes



I like ginger snaps dipped in either hot tea or coffee. They make me terribly happy. Biting into a gingersnap is always exciting, well at least for me, it starts with a bite and ends in a surprise burst of crystallized ginger in the cookie. No wonder this cookies is a favorite during the holidays in our home. At times I have been known to extend my gingersnap obsession to others by sending them a stack of gingersnaps to friends and family alike.


I hope every one of you out there has a great start to the holidays, beyond the crazy rush to the store for those last minute errands and gifts. I know, I have been there myself and will probably be there again a few days after Christmas.


gingersnaps

ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
11/2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 large egg
1/2 cup crystallized ginger
1/2 cup white sugar (for rolling the cookie dough balls)

1. In a large bowl sift the flour, the ground spices, the baking soda and salt.  
2. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg, vanilla and the molasses to the creamed mixture. 
3. Add half of the dry ingredients first to the wet mixture. Once mixed in add the remainder of the dry ingredients. 
4. Fold in the crystallized ginger to the dough. Transfer the cookie dough to a sheet of parchment paper. Bring the dough together to form a large ball with the help of the parchment paper (the dough is sticky and using the parchment paper to get the dough together in a ball becomes easy). Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, prior to baking. 
5. Preheat your oven to 375F. Make 1 inch balls with the palms of your hand and then toss them in the white sugar to gently coat each side of the ball. Bake the gingersnaps at least 2 inches apart on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes or till golden brown. Let them cool on the sheet and then transfer to a wire rack for further cooling. Store in an airtight container.



Happy Holidays Everyone!

ginger and sage drop cookies


We have a chewer at home, someone who loves to chew everything in sight especially when we are out of sight. After finally caving into leaving Snoopy alone for a few hours last Friday, I was a bit shocked to come home and find my comforter chewed at one end. How could I berate him though? First, this happened when I wasn't home and there was no point in correcting him after the event happened. Second, the wet nose and wagging tail welcome procession that I received when I clicked the door open, failed to justify any sort of corrective method. To make matters worse, we decided to leave him out again the same evening while we went off to the gym. This time the unfortunate victim was one of our couch cushions. 


Well, lesson learned! Snoopy is still too young to be left out by himself. I wish he would sincerely focus on destroying his gazillion toys. But then again even a "barbarian" must rest after a busy day of plunder, pillage and destruction.


For some reason, I think of sage as a fall and winter herb. There is no logical explanation for this. I've grown regular sage and purple sage in the garden during spring so there is no reason for me to have any basis for mentally confining sage to chillier conditions. I think I might now have an excuse to use sage a little more often and spread it around the year.


A few months back, we  got together with  with Tyler and John who introduced us to Room11. It's a tiny cozy little restaurant with a selective but delicious menu and a delectable assortment of wine and aperitifs.  They have a cookie of the day and I distinctly remember sinking my teeth into their scrumptious rosemary cookie. Ever since then I craved, hunted and went back for more rosemary cookies without much luck.  There's nothing like having a cookie to dip in your daily cup of tea, so thus came the birth of the Ginger Sage Drop Cookies in my kitchen. These cookies remain deliciously moist in the center but still crisp.


A few tips while baking cookies in the oven that I always follow especially for these type of "drop cookies". First, both the base and the top of the cookie surfaces should be evenly golden brown. Second, NEVER EVER put raw cookie dough on a hot baking sheet, it will melt way too soon before even entering the oven and lead to an overly spread out cookie. I run it under cold water to cool the sheet down fast. Finally, halfway through the baking process, rotate the baking sheet so all sides of the cookies get baked evenly.


Alas, this is midterm week and I need to spend time cramming, so I will be on a little bit of a break this week with my posts.

ginger and sage drop cookies

servings: Approximately 25 - 2" diameter cookies
ingredients

2 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground ginger powder
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
4 tablespoons freshly chopped sage leaves
3/4 cup crystallized ginger

1. Using a large sieve, sift together the flour, salt, ginger powder, and baking powder. 
2. In a separate mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter on medium-high speed using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Then add the eggs and vanilla and combined on medium-high speed. Add the sage and ginger and mix evenly. Now mix in the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on medium-high speed. Collect the final cookie dough, wrap with cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
3. Preheat the oven to 350F. Either using an ice cream scoop or two teaspoons, lay out cookie dough (approximately one heaped teaspoon per cookie) on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake the cookies in batches, till both the bottom and top appear evenly golden brown. Let the cookies cool on the parchment paper and then let them cool further on a wire rack. Store the cookies in air-tight container between sheets of wax paper.