Figs with Cream and Honey

figs and honey
Fresh figs are exceptionally hard to find around here.  I’m not exactly sure, why, because our climate is perfect for the fig plant.  Maybe I’m just going to the store at the wrong time of day.  Maybe some old lady waits till she sees the truck and loads up the back of her Cadillac so she can make jam.  Whatever the reason, I’ve never had much luck finding them.  Most that we can find are dried and the fresh ones are crazy expensive.  So when I happened to pass these by, I got really excited.  I got some from a friend a few years ago and made some killer port wine figpote, but I’d never just given the fig a chance to be eaten plain without dumping a bunch of sugar on it.  (I know – I dumped honey on it.  But not a lot, really.  And it seems okay when it’s not white sugar by the cupfuls in a huge jam pot.)

These figs are currently at Market Street and they are beautifully ripe.  A fig is nearly an instant dessert without doing any fancy prep to it.  It has such a luscious texture and the flavor is mellow and pairs well with so many things.  So, with just a little work, you can escalate a simple fig into a high-end dessert you might get charged $12 for at a restaurant that claims to be “up-scale.”  Not to mention, it’s wonderfully easy for a baby or toddler to eat, and it goes so well with wine, you might just feel like it’s the weekend in the middle of the week.  Desserts can do that.  And because this is a very sensible dessert, I’m giving you permission to eat it on a Tuesday, instead of waiting for the weekend.

figs with creme fraiche

Figs with Cream and Honey
serves two

4-6 fresh figs, depending on size
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 tbs honey, plus more for drizzling
2 tbs roasted, salted pistachios

So, basically, the ingredients are the instructions.  Wash the figs, slice them down the middle and remove the stems.  Arrange them on a plate and whip up the creme fraiche with the honey until smooth and place in the center of the figs.  Top the creme fraiche with the pistachios and drizzle the whole thing with extra honey and serve!  Creme fraiche can be replaced by greek yogurt, fresh whipped creme, or even marscapone cheese.  The pistachios were a last minute addition but they totally brought everything together and added real depth to the dish.  In the tone of James Oseland, I give this dish 3 and a half starrrrrrs.

figs with creme fraiche, honey and pistachios

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Homemade Goat Cheese

pure goat cheese

Good Monday Morning to you all!  I’ve been meaning to blog about homemade goat cheese for several weeks, now.  I stumbled upon this process because I’d bought a quart of goat’s milk when Olive was starting to wean and I read or heard or saw somewhere that goat’s milk digests easier than cow’s milk, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  I naturally tasted it before I gave it to her.  It tasted like liquid goat cheese.  I wouldn’t personally want to drink that, but I let her try it in the name of not pushing my personal tastes onto my child.  She wouldn’t take more than one sip.  Actually cried (this was around 9 months) so I bought a quart of whole cow’s milk instead and we haven’t looked back.  So I turned the goat’s milk into a nice, creamy 4 ounce log of goat cheese with garlic and herbs.  It was delicious.

I guess I’ll take this time to tell you that I don’t believe in eating something just because it has health benefits.  Eating grass straight from the yard is probably beneficial in some way, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to do it.  I believe things should have flavor, seasoning, and should taste wonderful in addition to however many antioxidants they might have.  So this, I suppose, ties in to the way I have always cooked for Olive.  I haven’t ever given her something without seasoning.  From 6 months, whatever she’s eaten has been seasoned with something (yes, less salt than I’d prefer, don’t worry.) And now that she’s eating from the table, it’s game ON.  Welcome to the wonderful world of food, Ollie.  We have chocolate!

Making goat cheese is easier than making bread, but the two go together quite nicely.  I don’t personally think that it’s easier or cheaper than buying goat cheese at the store.  I think a quart of goat’s milk is comparable to a cheap log of goat cheese.  However, it’s fun to do stuff from scratch, it’s creamier, tastier and gives you a sense of self satisfaction that you did something the old way.  Isn’t that reason enough to at least give it a try?

 

DIY Goat Cheese – adapted from Serious Eats
makes one, 4 oz log of goat cheese

1 quart of full fat goat’s milk (I bought this brand)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from one large lemon, maybe two)
1/2 clove freshly grated garlic
a few pinches of salt
Herbs – whatever sounds good to you (rosemary, chives, herbs de Provence, non herbs like honey, chopped dried fruits, etc.  Possibilities are endless.  If you use something sweet, omit the garlic)

Fill a medium saucepan with goat’s milk.  Heat gradually until it reaches 180F.  Watch closely.  It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.  A candy thermometer works nice in this situation, but I used a probe meat thermometer the second time because it was more accurate (pictured here was my first attempt.)
cooking goat milk

Once it hits the magical temperature, remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let stand until milk starts to curdle, about 20 seconds. Don’t expect curdles, like cottage cheese curdles. Slight clumping will occur, but nothing too drastic. You can add a few extra droplets if nothing is actually happening.

Line a colander with a thin, flour sack kitchen towel.  Or lots and lots of layers of cheese cloth that you probably don’t have on hand.  Most of you have a thin kitchen towel that you can almost see through. As long as there aren’t holes, use it.  It’s efficient, it works great and just remember to wash it quickly and don’t throw it in the used-towel bin for a week all wadded up in a sweaty goat cheese smelling ball.  Like I did.

Set your lined colander over a deep bowl and ladle in the milk.  It will seem like it’s all seeping through, but don’t fret. Tie up the ends of the towel and suspend over the bowl and let it drain for about 2 hours.
straining goats milk

Transfer the cheese to a bowl and mix in seasonings to taste.  The first time I did it, I added the grated garlic, salt and about a teaspoon of herbs de Provence.  The second time, I roasted my garlic and added in olive oil.  SO GOOD. This time, I left out the garlic and stirred in some raw honey and a little salt and used it in a salad recipe from the Bonne Femme cookbook.  Amazing results.  Have fun with it!

After you mix in your flavors, if you want to be able to cut it or have some sort of shape, wrap it up in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for a couple hours to let it firm up.  (see below) then you can cut it for bread or whatever you like.

goat cheese with baguette and raw honey

 

With just bread and extra honey it’s basically a dessert!

goat cheese honey salad

 

On top of baguette slices, broiled and then drizzled with extra honey.  Set on top of a mixed greens salad with toasted pine nuts and a sherry vinaigrette.  An excellent lunch!