As Seen At the Market

One of the things I assumed I would miss most when switching careers from journalist to cooking school owner was meeting interesting characters and walking into scenes you never dreamed you’d find yourself in, like walking up the steps of City Hall and interviewing Mayor Ed Koch during an election bid in 1981 at the ripe old age of 18.

 

 

Look at that hair....

 

But over the last two years, I realized my fears were completely and delightfully unfounded. If you really love to cook you can end up doing the same kind of research and probing as any journalist – you should see my library of cookbooks and magazine clippings!  Now, instead of hunting down subjects for a story, I’m hunting down ingredients and sharing recipes with people, from farmer’s markets to subway platforms. People always have a recipe to share, just like they had great leads to tell me in the past.

 

 

 

Of course you probably wonder how this relates to recipes and cooking, so I’ll step off memory lane and get to the point. Recently we started a new series of cooking classes called Spice Market, where we teach how to blend spices and herbs for exotic cuisines. Our first class took us to India, Morocco and Turkey, and we had to learn about ingredients even we rarely, if ever, used before, like asafoetida, preserved lemons and rosewater. Where do you get such ingredients? Some you can make yourself (come back soon and you’ll see a post on preserved lemons), but others, like rosewater, you may have to hunt for.

 

 

I googled preserved lemons and rosewater and was lucky enough to find a store called Sayad International specializing in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, not far from our house. The store was filled with exotically flavored ingredients, such as pickled wild cucumbers, Moroccan sardines, and dried hibiscus flowers. The store, which smells like Persian tea, dried fruits and spices was cramped and dark but full of discoveries. It’s the kind of place you say,  “I hope I remember this place next time I’m looking for [blank].” I can’t imagine we’d ever need Moroccan sardines, but I was thrilled to know that I wouldn’t have to travel long distances (or pay high shipping charges) if I did.

 

 

We’ve all passed over recipes because we don’t want to deal with finding a weird ingredient or an odd kitchen gizmo. Take these moments as opportunities for adventure. You can always order these things online, but your life will be so much richer if you jump in the car and track them down yourselves.

 

 

In honor of these adventures, I’m going to share a recipe inspired by the research I did for our first Spice Market class. The rosewater and mint really makes the watermelon come alive, and it’s the perfect, refreshing way to end a highly flavorful meal. So bring this tiny adventure into your home, and try to find mini food adventures where you live. You are almost guaranteed to have a great story to tell and maybe even a new recipe when you return.

 Enjoy!

Recipe!

Pomegranate-Watermelon Salad with Mint and Rosewater

Ingredients:

  • 1 small watermelon, weighing about 3 1/2 pounds (or a wedge of a larger watermelon)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of rosewater, depending on how strong a flavor you would like
  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 4 tablespoons pomegranate juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons fragrant honey (such as wildflower)
  • 12-15 small to medium sized mint leaves, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Cut watermelon into bite-sized pieces
  2. Add the pomegranate seeds
  3. MIx rosewater, pomegranate juice and honey in a bowl
  4. Pour over watermelon and seeds. Mix well.
  5. Cover and chill for about an hour before serving.

Fig Season is Here!

People often ask me if we sell figs or only teach classes that feature dishes made with figs. It’s fair question considering the names of this blog and my business, The Fig Cooking School, LLC. The truth is that the name was actually inspired by my three charming daughters, Francesca, Isabella and Gabrielle. But we also happen to adore figs and love cooking and baking with them when they’re in season, which is, sadly, oh so fleeting. We are now fortunately now in the height of fig season here in Connecticut and we’ve been cooking up a storm with them.

We thought we’d share with you one of our favorite recipes for honey roasted figs that is extremely versatile. Roasted figs on French bread paired with cheese and a bit of arugula and nuts make elegant hors d’oeuvres. They can also be used in a salad made of mixed greens, French string beans and fruits, or as a side dish with any roast in the early fall. Enjoy these recipes and tell us what you think. We’d love to get your feedback!

 

Honey Roasted Figs with Haricots Verts and mixed greens in a Shallot vinaigrette dressing

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • One batch of honey roasted figs (see above)
  • 1 pound of string beans
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 4-6 ounces goat cheese, dolce Gorgonzola, or blue cheese
  • 1 large apple or pear sliced thin
  • ½  cup toasted walnuts or almonds
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, cherries or cranberries (optional) or another favorite fruit
  • 3-4 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • ¼  cup balsamic (either traditional or white) or champagne vinegar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾  teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½  teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut the ends of the French beans and place into pot of boiling water for just two minutes (do not overcook)
  2. Quickly drain string beans into pot cold water with ice. Let string beans cool completely in the ice water in order to prevent the string beans from cooking further.
  3. When cool, dry the string beans in a tea towel or paper towels
  4. Place walnuts on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes until just slightly browned. Put aside.
  5. Wash arugula and mixed greens and place in a large bowl or platter along with the string beans.
  6. Add the fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts; toss gently
  7. Mix in a small bowl or measuring cup the shallots, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over mixture and gently toss again.
  8. Arrange the figs on top of the salad along with the cheese, making sure that each guest receives some figs and cheese when served.

Basic Honey-Roasted Figs

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 14 figs (about a pound)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Slice figs in half and place cut side up on cookie platter lined with foil and lightly greased with olive oil
  3. Brush figs with honey and sprinkle rosemary or thyme evenly over them (herbs optional)
  4. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper
  5. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the honey begins to caramelize. Let figs cool to room temperature

Honey roasted figs with French bread

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • One batch of honey roasted figs (see above)
  • 28 thinly sliced slices French bread
  • 6-8 ounces of your favorite goat cheese, dolce Gorgonzola, blue cheese, St. Andre, or mascarpone
  • ¼ cup coarsely coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 28 arugula leaves

Directions:

  1. Spread cheese on the French bread and place one arugula leaf on each one.
  2. Place one honey roasted fig on each bread slice and top with a few pieces of chopped walnuts