figs, bacon, goat cheese on a bed of greens with a roasted hazelnut vinaigrette
For most of my life, I have not been a fan of figs. I remember a eccentric church member, we’ll call her REW, stopping by my office years ago with a basket full of figs that she’d hoped to give away. When I declined, REW cut off a hunk of fig, shoved it at me saying, “taste it!” She forced me at knife point, so to speak. Despite her forceful nature, I again had to decline, explaining the the texture was too gritty for me. REW proceeded down the office hallway with her figs looking for a more appreciative recepient.
The theme of our time in Poland could be described as “try new things” or “try everything you can.” When my friends from the Poznan International Ladies Club were raving about the figs with goat cheese wrapped in prosciutto they’d sampled recently, I had to give this a try at home. If your history with figs has been like mine, let me suggest that you try them roasted. It’s a totally new experience, not at all gritty!
We began to talk about planting a fig tree when we returned to Arizona. Figs are one of the few fruit trees to thrive in our hot climate. When I mention his to my mother, she said not to buy one because they had a fig tree they would happily give us. We now have a fig tree that comes with a story.
Our tree has grown from a cutting taken from one of the first fig trees brought to the area by the Spainish. The young tree was intended for the Mission Garden, part of the Rio Nuevo project. Rio Nuevo was a downtown revitalization project that fizzled out during the recent economic slump. During this delay, the little fig in a six inch pot was given to our family friend, the late Bunny Fontana. Bunny was a brilliant, charming man, but he would have been the first to admit that he was not a gardener. He said as much when he gave the six inch pot with the now five foot tall fig tree to my mother.
My parents moved the tree to a 5 gallon container and had hoped to harvest enough figs to make something similar to this dish, thinking it would be fun to serve Bunny figs from his tree. The tree grew a lot, but it never produce more than one ripe fig at a time.
Our fig tree has been in the ground for almost two years. The one fig at a time trend continued until this summer. Now, we’re finally getting a harvest with which you can do something. This summer, we’ve had fig pastries, figs in bacon, and if my luck holds out, we might even have fig jam, a wonderful addition to a charcuterie platter.
We’ve been eating bacon wrapped figs with goat cheese all summer, but only recently added the hazelnut dressing and greens. It’s a winning combination!Print
Quick and easy to make these figs are a yummy appetizer or the perfect topping for an elegant salad,
- 4 figs
- Honey (optional)
- 1/2 cup goat cheese
- Sprig of fresh thyme
- 4 slices bacon, cut in half crosswise
- Preheat oven to 350
- Remove stems from figs and slice in half lengthwise
- Fill the cavity in the fig center with honey, if using
- Top each fig half with a tablespoon of goat cheese
- Sprinkle with thyme leaves, if using
- Wrap each fig with half of a bacon strip and secure with a toothpick
- Bake for 25 minutes or until bacon is crisp
- Serve as is, or place atop a bed of spring greens and drizzle with roasted hazelnut vinaigrette (recipe below)
The perfect topping for a green salad or try it on grilled chicken!
- 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
- 1 clove garlic
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Water, if needed
- Add hazelnuts and garlic to a food processor or blender, process until almost smooth
- Add oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar and blend until well combined
- If too thick, thin with a few drops of water
Between work and weekend travel, I was looking for nibbles that could be made in advance for our Easter “tea” party. I wanted things I could make in the evening after work that would still taste great a few days later. I found this recipe on MarthaStewart.com and thought I’d try it. Now, I can see that the danger is that if you make these gingered nuts in advance, you might be tempted to nibble before your party. You might be tempted to nibble a lot!
One of the few changes I made was making my own candied ginger. I love the stuff, but it’s crazy expensive. It’s not difficult to make and will keep in a jar for months.
One of the reasons I wanted to do some advance prep for this party, is that we spent the last 36 hours in Las Vegas. We joined Ed’s brother and our sister-in-law for the tail end of their vacation. I had some surprising observations about Las Vegas this trip.
If we’re honest, it’s hard to spend time in Las Vegas without surprising observations. Here’s the story from this trip. I work in a church. I spend a lot of time there every week. I am probably more aware of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter than the average American. We stayed in a hotel off the strip, had one meal off the strip, one meal at Gordon Ramsey’s BurGR in Planet Hollywood, and one meal at the airport. It’s not like we didn’t leave our hotel, we weren’t just in the tourists areas. Just as the casinos make sure you have no sense of time, day or night, I felt like Las Vegas had no sense of the season. Good Friday, just another day. Even in our Tucson supermarkets, they’ve started writing “your Lenten headquarters” on the glass over the frozen fish. Not a commercialization I adore, but they acknowledged the season nonetheless.
a few weeks later. . .
It’s taken me a while to finish up this post, but at least it’s still Eastertide. These gingered nuts are a tasty snack whatever the season. The ginger and sesame seeds are just enough to hint at an Asian flavor, something unique that really sets these apart. Do you have a favorite way to jazz up mixed nuts?Print
- 1 puns salted mixed nuts ( 3 cups)
- 3/4 cup mined candied ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- Preheat oven to 350
- Combine nuts, candied ginger, cayenne, pepper, and sesame seeds
- Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small pan, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes
- Pour the sugar/water over the nuts and toss to combine
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the nuts in a thin layer on the prepared pan
- Bake 15 – 20 minutes
- Cool before breaking into small pieces
In honor of Celiac Awareness Month, here’s one of my favorite recipes: Cauliflower Crust with Avocado & Aioli
Restrictive diets of one sort or another always seem to be popular in the United States; some are medically necessary, many are only a fad. A chef friend of mine mentioned his aggravation and frustration after jumping through hoops to accommodate a diner who had requested a dairy-free meal because of an allergy. During the meal, she was sampling dairy dishes from her husband’s plate. Ugh!
The same is true of the gluten-free fad. For people with Celiac Disease, such as my friend Linda’s daughter, avoiding gluten can be a matter of life and death. Linda has told me that the gluten-free craze for people without Celiac has it’s good and bad points those who must stick with this diet for the rest of their lives. The good side is that because so many people are requesting and buying gluten-free items, that they have a lot more prepared foods and restaurants from which to choose. The bad side is that they run the risk of not being taken seriously as they strive to keep gluten-free in all aspects of their life, from their foods, to health and beauty products, and even their dogs’ food.
Their are over 300 symptoms (gastrointestinal to neurological and everything in between) associated with Celiac, so making a diagnosis can be difficult. One in 133 Americans have Celiac, but 83% of them are undiagnosed! If you suffer from any of these mentioned in the link above without explanation, it’s time to speak with your doctor.
Whether you have Celiac or not, I have a gluten-free recipe to share with you. I’m a big fan of cauliflower crust. Usually we top it as if it were pizza, but recently, we tried something new. Cauliflower crust topped with avocado and aioli.Print
Low carb and gluten-free, a vegetarian treat!
- 1 cup riced (or grated small side) steamed cauliflower
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- olive oil
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 – 3 avocados, sliced
- Chives, snipped for garnish
- Preheat oven to 450
- Combine the riced cauliflower, cheeses, egg, oregano, garlic, garlic powder, and salt
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper; brush paper with olive oil
- Spoon the cauliflower mixture onto the prepared pan, using the back of a spoon and your hands if needed, shape into small 3 – 4 inch circles
- Bake for 15 minutes
- While the crusts are baking, combine mayo and minced garlic
- Remove crusts from oven and cool (you can trim the little pancake-like crust with scissors to clean up the edge for a more perfect round or to make other shapes)
- Top with avocado slices, a dollop of aioli, and garnish with chives
In honor of Bastille Day, let me share with your a quick and easy appetizer that we enjoyed on a recent road trip through France. It was Ed’s favorite on the plate of amuse-bouches that began our meal on an adventurous evening when we trusted our GPS to find a restaurant for us. Not to worry, I don’t think you can get a bad meal in France. You’ll get very expensive meals in Paris, but we were just outside of Langeais along the Loire river.
The next day, July 4th, we were seeing friends who have a home in the area. Our friend Bill and Ed flew together 30 years ago. Bill’s wife, Anne is French, and they are in the process of restoring an old limestone house that will become their full-time home when they’re both retired. We popped in on them just after they’d arrived from the US for their annual vacation in France. It’s a different and richer experience to visit a foreign country when you’re with locals. You get a feel for how people really live rather than the top tourist attractions.
We went to Bill and Anne’s for lunch which in true European fashion turned into leisurely meal that goes on for hours. It didn’t truly end until 6 PM when the guys went next door to watch the World Cup quarter-final match with France and the Netherlands. I kept Anne company while she was cleaning up the kitchen; I really did offer to help, but the kitchen is tiny and a second person would have just been underfoot.
Shortly after the clean up was over, our football fans returned and we sat down to eat again. That evening, our hosts took us to see Mille Feux (1000 lights) in the gardens of Chateau Villandry, the grounds were lit with more than 2,000 candles. Anne told me that there are so many miles of boxwood plants in the garden that the staff of 32 full-time gardeners is able to trim them only once per year. They looked perfect the night we were there. The courtyard offered games of skill for visitors, a concert at the lake and at 11 PM, a fireworks display that was so close, I almost pulled out my sunglasses. It was so special for us to be with American friends on the 4th of July and to see fireworks with them in France of all places.
I knew the French weren’t celebrating our independence day. When I asked Anne what the occasion was, she said that it was in anticipation of July 14th — that many chateaux were spreading our the celebrations, so that people could attend more than one event. It was a really special time, one that we’ll always remember.
When we returned to our Bed and Breakfast, the owner asked how our day had been. We said that we had eaten all day long. He didn’t seem surprised and said, “of course, you’re in France!” He told us that you know you’re in France when your meal time conversation is about the next meal.
To make your next meal memorable, here’s our new favorite little nibble that uses only three ingredients!Print
A tasty bite with drinks or to start a meal
- frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
- olives, any variety, pitted
- Preheat oven to 425 F
- Cut the pastry into rectangles just big enough to wrap around your olives
- Wrap the olives and pinch the pastry to seal the sides
- Sprinkle with paprika
- Place on cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until puffy and brown
Variation: brush with an egg wash (made by whisking 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon cold water and 1 tablespoon of canola oil), sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese.
Salmon patties are something I remember from my childhood. My mom made them with canned salmon. I’m sure it was an effort in every mom’s most challenging pastime, trying to get a variety of nutritious food into her children.
I didn’t like them at all. Everything I wanted from the sea came in the form of fish sticks with tartar sauce and butterflied breaded shrimp with ketchup — not very sophisticated, I know.
Have hope, moms, tastes change. I now quite enjoy salmon. (Because Polish is a language with no silent letters, let me just toss this out here for my Polish friends, the l in salmon is silent. It’s pronounced something like sa-men.)
I just returned to Poland after four weeks in the USA. I’m sure some of you picture me returning to an empty refrigerator, but that’s not the case at all. Ed had the fridge stocked and cooked all the meals for the first 24 hours that I was home.
We had some great beef from Argentina, a green salad, and Gordon Ramsey style scrambled eggs with fresh chives. There was also some salmon in the fridge that Ed had cooked earlier in the week, which I used to make salmon patties for our lunch this afternoon.
I topped them with a sauce we could call a lazy woman’s hollandaise, mayo and Dijon mustard mixed together. Garlic toast, a pickle and a couple of sun dried tomatoes on the side, and Ed looked at Benson (our dog) and said, “the Polish Housewife is back.”
Try the salmon patties; I hope you’ll like them. I also hope this has struck a chord for you — reminded you of something your mother wanted you to eat, something you’ve come to enjoy, the state of your kitchen after being away.
Let’s get the conversation started. Maybe my dear sister-in-law, Carol, will share a story about husbands in the kitchen. 😉
A quick and tasty use for leftover cooked salmon
- 10 ounces cooked salmon, flaked
- 1 small onion, finely diced (1/4 – 1/3 cup)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs, divided
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley (1 tablespoon fresh)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- olive oil for frying
- chopped chives for garnish (optional)
- In a bowl, combine salmon, onion, egg, 3 tablespoons bread crumbs, mustard, parsley, salt, and pepper
- Without overworking the mixture, form into four patties, flattening to about 3/4 of an inch and also pushing in on the sides to make sure the patties are structurally sound
- Coat the patties with the remaining breadcrumbs
- Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a frying pan, over medium high heat
- Add the salmon patties, reduce heat to medium, cooking until golden brown, 2 – 3 minutes
- Turn the patties (I like to use two spatulas when turning delicate things, place one underneath, and then a second spatula over the top to gently flip it and ease it back into the pan; it also keeps the oil from splashing because the patty doesn’t plop back into the pan) and add more olive oil if necessary, cooking until the second side is golden
For my “lazy woman’s hollandaise sauce” mix 2 tablespoon mayo (I like Best Foods or Hellmans) with 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
For dinner last night, we visited the first ever Browar Fest Poznan — a festival featuring craft beers from Poland and other places. A write-up on this, which we hope becomes an annual event soon!
This black sausage on a potato and sauerkraut pancake is so traditionally Polish. The fact that the pancake is glazed with chutney adds a modern twist and for me, totally makes the dish. I must give full credit to a new friend and Poznan chef, the creative genius behind Kuchnia Chrisa: bo kuchnia jest sztuka. For those of you who don’t speak Polish or spend less time on Google translate than I do, it means Chris’ Kitchen: because the kitchen is art.
You never know where you’ll pick up a new recipe. We joined another expat friend for a drink last Friday at The Voyager Wine Club, a local wine bar (thanks for the suggestion, Yana). We happened to be there, during the filming of a short documentary on the eastern expansion of the European Union. It’s been 10 years since Poland joined the EU. A camera crew had spent a couple of days following Chris around Poznan, to tell the story of a German national who has moved east to live and work. They had us sign a release and went about filming as we sampled two of Chris’ dishes and he chatted with patrons.
We spoke with Chris at length about this dish and kaszanka. Kaszanka is a black or blood sausage made with pork, blood, barley or buckwheat, and spices. Chris buys his sausage from Marek at the Organic Market at Plac Bernardynski just like our friend Norbert (who has taken us shopping at this market). He offered to meet us at the market on Saturday morning and introduce us to Marek because they were planning to film some outdoor shots at the market. We sampled many of Marek’s goat’s milk cheeses and bought some kaszanka and chorizo.
In addition to providing the culinary side of the wine bar, which includes a once-a-month four course meal, Chris takes people on culinary tours of Poznan and the Wielkopolskie region – just the thing for any foodies vacationing in Poland!
On it’s own, I find kaszanka a little on the bland side. I prefer sausages with a lot of garlic and a smokey flavor, but in this application, it was brilliant. For me, dining out is ideally a source of inspiration for my cooking at home. I had to try making these. I added a few things to my usual potato pancake recipe and made nine 6-inch pancakes. Ed wanted to take some to his office the next day, so we cut the pancakes into fourths to make them finger food. I think making the pancakes small, maybe 2 inches, would make for a terrific canape. The larger size is perfect for a modern Polish or MoPo first course.
PS – I’m sorry to say that our friend Chris has passed away. He was such a dear, young man and we cherish his memory.Print
Traditional Polish, made modern with chutney!
- 2 medium potatoes, shredded
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 teaspoons fresh dill
- salt & pepper
- olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 cup sauerkraut
- 4 links kaszanka (blood sausage), about 1 pound or 500 g
- 1/2 cup chutney (I used mango, Chris made pear)
- radish sprouts
- In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onion, egg, flour, dill, and season with salt and pepper
- Add the caraway seeds and just a little oil to a pan and cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes.
- If you are using a basic American sauerkraut, drain and rinse. If you have a good natural kraut, like Polish kapusta, just drain, and add to kraut to the seeds, cook just enough to dry it out a bit, not to brown it.
- Add the seeds and kraut to the potato mixture.
- Over high/medium-high heat, add oil, about 1/4 inch (.5 cm) deep to a frying pan. The potato mixture will separate a bit, so always give it a stir before spooning into the pan.
- To make 6 inch pancakes, add about 1/4 cup of the potato mixture to oil and spread it out into a circle, for smaller, bite-sized pancakes, spoon a tablespoon of the mixture into the oil and spread into a circle.
- When the edges begin to brown, turn the pancakes over and brown the other side. (I rotate the pancakes in the pan before flipping because the centers cook faster than the edges. Using two spatulas to maneuver the pancakes while flipping will keep the oil from splashing,)
- When both sides are nicely browned, remove to a paper towel lined plate and repeat until you’ve used all the potato batter.
- Remove the casing from the kaszanka and slice. I cooked it in the same pan with just a little of the oil used for the pancakes.
- Cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes (kaszanka is already pasteurized), turning occasionally. The slices will crumble and it will begin to look like ground meat, remove from the pan and set aside.
- Heat the chutney in the microwave or in a small pan just to make it easier to spread, using a pastry brush, brush a thin glaze of chutney over each pancake.
- Top with kaszanka and sprouts.
Thanks to the generosity of my friend, Klaudia, who shared her bounty of buds, we had fried zucchini blossoms for the first time. I mixed up equal parts of cream cheese and a soft goat cheese. I gave myself a head start by getting the Philly with herbs. I added a bit of salt, garlic, and some herbs from out balcony (parsley, chives, thyme, and basil).
The cheese mixture went into a sandwich size zip-lock bag; I snipped the corner and piped the filling into the blossoms.
The filled blossoms were dredged with flour and dipped into a light batter made with equal parts flour and sparking water and a pinch of salt. Then, fried in oil over medium high heat until light brown.
They’re so delicate and a beautiful medium for conveying fried cheese! A little marinara sauce or ranch dressing for dipping would have been great.
A wine bar meal in Ireland with Erin and Tim, our niece and her fiancee, inspired this recipe. It was our first meal together in Galway – a very fun evening. When they make a movie about the trip, I expect the working title to be Four Foodies on a Roll. We all like to try new things, and it was one of those trips where I’m making notes about things to try at home and interesting presentation ideas.
We don’t have a big selection of beans in Poland, so this was made with fasolka, a small white bean.
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans or 15 ounce can drained
2 – 4 tablespoons liquid from beans
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 – 3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon tahini
leaves from one sprig of thyme, or a pinch of dried thyme
- Blend all ingredients in a food processor, using just enough liquid from the beans to get a nice spreadable texture
- Serve with bread and/or raw vegetables
Tortilla is a Spanish favorite – usually a potato omelet (no similarity to the Mexican tortillas). I wanted to omit the potatoes, which taste terrific, but add a lot of carbohydrates to the dish. So in their place, I’ve added broccoli, cauliflower, and red bell pepper. I usually serve tortilla in wedges for dinner (or breakfast) or 1-inch squares for an appetizer. We ate this plain for breakfast, but you could also top with salsa.
Adapted from The Foods & Wines of Spain
head of broccoli, sliced 1/4 inch thick (leaving the core behind)*
head of cauliflower, sliced 1/4 inch thick (leaving the core behind)*
red bell pepper, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 – 8 large eggs
*save the cores for soup; I’ve been making this one without the cream and it’s still thick and tasty!
DirectionsThis technique takes some practice, be sure to read through it before beginning.
- Preheat oven to 375
- In a 9 x 13 baking dish, toss the broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper, and onion with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, bake until tender (about 45 minutes)
- Beat 6 eggs in a large bowl, salt lightly
- Add the hot cooked vegetables to the beaten eggs, pressing them down so they are completely covered in egg. Add additional beaten eggs if necessary. Let the mixture sit 15 minutes
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over high heat until very hot
- Add the vegetable and egg mixture, spreading it evenly in the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-high and shake the pan to prevent sticking
- When the mixture begins to brown, invert a plate of the same size (or slightly larger) over the skillet. Flip the tortilla onto the plate; add 1 T. of reserved oil to the pan, slide the tortilla back into the skillet to brown the other side. (If the pan wasn’t hot enough, some pieces may have stuck to the bottom. Scrap them off and fit them back into place. They’ll reattach as you continue to flip the tortilla.)
- Lower the heat to medium. Flip the tortilla 4 or 5 more times (this helps with the shape), cooking for a bit on each side, 8 – 10 minutes in total. Spaniards like their tortilla to be a little juicy inside; I prefer my eggs cooked all the way through. Adjust cooking time accordingly. Transfer to a platter and serve hot or at room temperature
Serving Size 155 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Nutrition Grade B+