Tag Archives: figs

Xavi demonstrates my mood during much of the match.

It’s been a tough week for FC Barcelona and its cules: an unexpected loss earlier in the week to Chelsea in the Champion’s League finals was bad enough, and then on Saturday we had to suffer the indignity of Real Madrid coming to Camp Nou and do the unthinkable–win. While RM has likely taken La Liga this season, it’s not over yet for my Catalans as there’s the second leg of Champion’s League yet to play this week, and in a month they’ll be fighting for the Copa del Rey and won’t have to beat Real Madrid to do so.

In other words: I have plenty of opportunities to whip up more Catalan food in support of the blaugranas. Read More

Sweet and Sour Fig Pizza with Goat Cheese, Shallots and Thyme

Do you still have “Zou Bisou Bisou” stuck in your head after last Sunday’s Mad Men? (Did I just get it back in your head after you thought you had bested that earworm? Sorry.) While it was inevitable that we were going to celebrate its return after at 17-month long hiatus with food and drink, the fact that you only rarely see any of the characters with food (with none of it looking all that appetizing to boot) meant that I wasn’t going to adhere to any strict theme, save for insisting Michael make us a round of Old Fashioneds. Certain nods to the show, after all, must be made, and cocktails have always felt far more appropriate than food.

Caprese salad and old fashioneds.

Besides: we had finally gotten a couple of new half sheet pans at Chef’s the day before, and I was in the mood for homemade pizza.

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Pan con Tomate (Tomato Bread)

There’s so much to share from Saturday’s dinner that it felt appropriate to divide and conquer: I took on the bread-based tapas, while Michael handled the shellfish. One of my birthday gifts was a copy of The Book of Tapas and I knew that I’d want to dive in and start making dishes from it straightaway. Five recipes, one loaf of bread and some pretty interesting ingredients later, it’s clear that this book will make many appearances on our dining room table and here on this blog.

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Wild Mushrooms with Herbed Cheese

This time last year saw us frantically scrambling in our beloved New Haven apartment as we packed and cleaned and squeezed all of our possessions into a U-Haul on our trek to Manhattan (and this was after only finding out where we were moving to eight days prior to our move-out date). The month of August was, to be honest, a period of great uncertainty and stress for many reasons: my commute was becoming so bad that taking back roads from Milford to New Haven was preferable to standing in traffic on I-95, our apartment had been leased out for September at the beginning of the month and we didn’t have an apartment to go to in NYC until a week prior to our move-in, and we were faced with all of the normal stresses of moving without knowing where the fuck we were going to until the last minute possible…or so it seemed.

A small respite in the midst of all of that uncertainty was a trip to Barcelona’s New Haven location for a lovely meal for Michael’s birthday. I knew that the geniuses behind the restaurant had released a cookbook around that time and was hoping to check it out while we were there. While the food was amazing as always, the service was off and we ended up leaving in a huff (without me looking at the book) and I ended up bitching about said service on Twitter. They responded quickly, apologized profusely and even offered to give us a meal on them, but given that we weren’t living in the area anymore, I never took them up on it because we no longer lived in New Haven.

Of course, I ended up getting the cookbook as a birthday present a few months later and for the past year we have cooked our way through much of the book with every recipe taking us back to fun nights we’ve had at the restaurant…and that’s where our giveaway comes in.

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Duck Breast, Mission Fig and Fontina Cheese Pizza

It’s hard to ease up on a good thing, especially when it’s so easy to make the platform where it all rests.  Michael’s parents and younger brother came to visit us on Sunday (the start of a few days in the city) and we both knew that we wanted to wow them with the delights of our culinary expertise (though my BIL had his expectations set very high for quite a while).

Pizza Bianca

Deciding on the menu was easily the biggest challenge for us; with so many options, how were we to decide on what to make (and with only the day of arrival to run to the grocery store to get what we needed)?  The answer came in part from my homemade pizza dough, which naturally yields two small pies:   one would turn into another pizza bianca, and the other into a recreation of the duck breast pizza from a month earlier.

Unlike our last pizza with the same ingredients, we had some alterations to make:  dried figs were only available, and we had to cook duck breasts as opposed to dealing with a whole duck, but we certainly made do.  Michael simmered the figs in some vinegar and wine to give them more plumpness, and I naturally added some Fontina di Valle d’Aosta to make it richer.

Happily, both pizzas were well-received without a hint of “we should eat this even if it’s strange.”  The rest of our meal took a decidedly different turn in the employment of Mexican anotjitos…which requires another post entirely.

Pizza Bianca With Jim on Foodista

Pizza Napoletana

I have a confession to make:  the pizza above incited a bit of yelling on both our parts due to it not-so-successfully transitioning from pizza peel to cookie sheet in the oven.  I was so excited about this pie; fresh off of my successful red-sauce adventure the weekend before, I found this pizza recipe while flipping through The Silver Spoon and wanted to try my hand at making a pizza-friendly red sauce.  While the sauce came out perfectly fine, it would turn out that another ingredient would be the near-death of this pie.

Friends, I nearly suffocated half our dinner that night with too much fresh mozzarella.

I blame Fairway for this.  If they didn’t make such large, delicious fresh mozzarella–perfectly seasoned, I must add–I wouldn’t feel compelled to slice the whole ball up and try to get as much cheese on the innocent dough as possible.  The mozzarella made me do it, I swear!

Oh, who am I kidding–this was all on me.  And then I had the gall to yell at Michael for not getting the pie into the oven properly.  I think that the fact that we had already enjoyed finishing up the rest of our duck and figs from the night before on the first pie (paired, of course, with delicious Fontina di Valle d’Aosta) that mollified things a little, though, as well as being able to eat most of this one to boot.

Fig, Duck and Fontina Pizza

The experience did remind me of an important lesson:  not only can eyes belie the size of one’s stomach, so can it overestimate the hardiness of your pizza dough against the weight of cheese.  Mistakes can be made in the kitchen all the time–what’s important to do, though, is laugh at yourself, eat what you can, and always have takeout menus readily on-hand.

Duck Fillets with Figs

Duck Fillets with Figs

Two words: duck and figs.  I was watching Fine Living Network after dinner one night (I know, it’s so embarrassing…), and they were showing a classic Emeril Live! The big guy (who, having done cooking on live-tape TV myself, is incredible in what he pulls off) was gushing over duck, and I think the entire episode may have been about duck.  Alton Brown did a duck episode a few years back, but it involves cast iron pans and while we have one, I haven’t cured it in fat yet (still, actually).  I have wanted to go for duck for so long, but without direction, these urges have never come to fruition.

I had been more than a little depressed about having to do Thanksgiving at my in-laws, only because I don’t do the holiday cooking when we’re there.  So the weekend before, I decided to go for it.  Elizabeth found an incredible meat counter at the Citarella’s at 75th St.  They stock fresh Long Island Pekin duck, the ancestors of a few ducks brought to the US from China in the 1870’s (more on this later).  I needed a simple and traditional preparation that would allow me to focus on the birdie and so, I did what I always do in this situation:  I took out the Silver Spoon, tossed it to the wife and asked her to pick us a winner.

I should have guessed what would come of this.  Duck and Figs.  It’s a simple and delicious as it sounds.  The recipe calls for 5 lbs of figs, which at today’s rates would run you just over $50, so we settled on 2 lbs, which was perfect. [Ed.–the figs were also on the large side (definitely not Mission figs), so had we purchased more than we did we would have been overwhelmed.] Essentially, you oven roast the duck at 400 degrees F for and hour or so than make a sauce out of the duck fat, the raw liver and red, red wine.  The figs get roasted for a few minutes afterwards and it all gets served family style on one big plate with fried bread crumbs.  I loved that while not at all cheap, there were so few ingredients, we could focus on making them great, both in purchasing and preparation.

As alluded to above, I was watching my beloved Good Eats tonight an lo and behold, he roasts a duck for Christmas dinner.  What’s more, he employs a battery of tricks to ensure perfect cooking and crisp skin that are brilliantly unorthodox.  I guess it’s just inspiration for next time and now that the beast has been demystified, I will go forth without fear.  Until then, dear readers, cook on!


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