Saturday, August 7, 2010

Getting a Jump on Fig Season

I came to appreciate figs relatively late in life. To be honest, I didn’t even know what a fresh fig looked like until my mid twenties, and up until then I'm afraid my only exposure to them came in the form of a Newton. I have definitely made up for lost time because I’m obsessed with them now. They're sweet, delicious, sexy and fleeting. So if you spot them in the market, definitely take advantage of their short season. I love the simplicity of this recipe and they can be served as a starter or as an elegant finish to any meal.

Figs with Goat Cheese & Port Syrup

Makes 8

1 cup ruby port

6 tablespoons honey

6 ounces soft goat cheese (Montrachet)

8 ripe figs

½ cup toasted* walnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, lightly chopped, for garnish

In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the port and honey up to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer slowly until reduced by half. Set aside and cool to room temperature, the syrup will thicken considerably upon standing.

Cut the goat cheese into 8 equal pieces, about 2 teaspoons each, and roll each piece into a ball. Place the figs upright on a cutting board and carefully make four cross cuts, slicing each fig into eight sections, being careful not to go all the way through the bottom. Gently separate the figs outward to form a “flower.” Place a ball of goat cheese in the center of each fig and drizzle with the port syrup. Garnish with the walnuts and chopped parsley.

* Place walnuts in a dry sauté pan and push them around over medium heat until they deepen in color and their nutty aroma wafts up under your nose. Once they begin to toast, they go quickly so whatever you do, don’t abandon them. They go from perfectly toasted to “toast” in a matter of seconds.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

John's Coffee Steak

I first heard the idea of coating a big juicy piece of steak with coffee from my friend John. It seemed strange, to say the least, and I must admit, I wasn’t at all sold on the idea. Then I read an article in the newspaper about a restaurant in Seattle that featured something similar and it was all the rage. So reluctantly, I decided to experiment and give it a try. It took a few attempts to get just the right balance of coffee along with the sweet, salty and spicy. My first incarnations were entirely too peppery, leaving my lips numb for hours, like a bee-stung-lipped-model during fashion week! Not a great look for me. But with a few tweaks I finally found the right balance of flavor. The coffee rub forms a beautiful, seared, almost black crust on the outside, and as you cut into the steak it gives way to the tender pink meat inside. One bite and I was hooked! Take my word, however odd coffee on steak may sound, it’s a killer combination.

Thanks, John!

Serves 4


½ cup coarse ground coffee beans, dark roast
¼ cup Kosher salt
¼ cup coarse ground black pepper

¼ cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons canola oil

4 (8 ounce) New York or Rib Eye steaks

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

To make the dry rub, place the coffee, salt, pepper and brown sugar in a small bowl and toss gently with a fork to combine. Any leftover rub can be stored in the freezer for another time.

Heat the canola oil in a large heavy oven-proof skillet (preferably cast-iron) over high heat until almost to the smoking point. Pat steaks dry with paper towels and generously and evenly coat all sides with the coffee rub. Sear well to form a good crust, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Don’t panic if the steaks look a little charred, that’s what you’re going for and will ensure lots of flavor.

Transfer the skillet to the hot oven and cook for 5 to 7 minutes for medium rare, or until desired doneness. Let the meat rest, tented under foil for 5 to 10 minutes before devouring.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chip's Fresh Citrus Margaritas

You know you’ve got a true friend when they’ll stand at the counter, practically developing a case of carpal tunnel, squeezing dozens of limes, lemons and oranges for what seems like hours to make fresh citrus margaritas for a party. That’s exactly what my friend Chip did at a summer gathering I had a while back. He made the mistake of telling me about these delicious, fresh margaritas he first had at the bar of the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, California, after a long, hot day on the golf course. The bartender bragged that he made the best fresh citrus margaritas, and now, so did Chip. Of course, I had to try these legendary margaritas and a party seemed like the perfect occasion. Well, needless to say, the margaritas lived up to their legend and they were a huge hit. Every time Chip finished making one, an empty glass would be shoved in his direction, ready for a refill. He stood there like a trooper, squeezing and shaking those drinks until the mountain of citrus was gone. When I told him I wanted to include the drink in this blog he looked slightly befuddled. “But it’s not really my recipe,” he said. I disagree. Anyone who will stand there for that long squeezing all that citrus has earned the right to lay claim to the recipe. So, for your enjoyment, by way of the Fairmont Hotel, here are Chip’s Fresh Citrus Margaritas. Oh, and just so you know, the next time he got roped into making these for a party, he came armed with an electric juicer.

Serves 1

Juice of 2 limes

Juice of 1 lemon

Juice of ½ an orange

2 ounces premium silver tequila

2 ounces Cointreau or Triple Sec

1 ounce simple syrup, or to taste depending on sweetness of the fruit

Kosher salt, for rimming glass

Lime wedge, for garnish

Rub the outside rim of a glass with a cut lime and dip lightly into a plate of kosher salt.

Combine the lime juice, lemon juice, orange juice, Tequila, Triple Sec and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Tumble in a handful of ice and shake until icy cold. Serve on the rocks, garnished with a lime wedge.