My neighbor came over today to sound the annual alarm that the figs on her glorious backyard fig tree are ready to be picked. Henry and George and Andy and I all bounded over there with a big bowl in hand and got to work. Our idyllic summer activity didn’t last long though, because Henry and George both had horrifying and almost-instantaneous allergic reactions to the milky sap that comes out of the fig tops when you pick them. They rubbed the stuff all over their faces, god knows how or why, and ended up with swollen eyes and red rashes that made them look like Vigo the Carpathian after he’s transformed into that alien-demon thing. I need to watch that movie again. Anyway, they’re doing better now. And I’ve got a giant bowl of figs from before everything went to hell, so that’s good. Providing that the kids can eat figs? Ohh anyway. Looking at this picture I’m a little alarmed to realize that we ate that whole bag of popcorn in less than a week 😐 I also pickled that okra! It takes a month to cure but then you get to cut them in half and stuff them with pimento cheese and I’m real real excited about that. Here’s the rest of the stuff we ate this week.
Southern Fried Chicken, Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Salad. This dinner was my favorite. I made that corn salad over and over again last summer, but kind of burned out on it and hadn’t made it again this year. It is really so wonderful. I spooned some of the fat I fried the chicken in into a cast iron pan and tossed in the kernels I cut off of four ears of corn with a generous pinch of salt. I cooked that until it was sweet and bright yellow and then let it cool down before tossing it with halved sungold tomatoes, cubed avocado, basil, the juice of a lemon, and more salt and pepper. My favorite fried chicken is from The New Best Recipe Cookbook, and it has the best crust ever, because you double dredge it in flour plus a baking soda-buttermilk mixture that gets super thick and foamy and makes tons of flour stick to the chicken. But this is a new recipe from my celebrity crush J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, so I had to try it. The crunchy outside is not as good as TNBR’s recipe (which could very well have also been a Lopez-Alt recipe since he worked there before moving to Serious Eats (I love you Kenji! ❤ ❤ ❤ ), but the inside is waaay better- so perfectly flavorful. Plus I like his technique of finishing the chicken in the oven, because mine always ended up a little dark when cooked completely in oil.
Peach and Blueberry Cobbler. This is an adaptation of Thomas Keller’s blueberry cobbler in Ad Hoc, which is all blueberry and calls for eight cups(!) of the fruit. I’m sure it’s great, but my god man, that’s like $20 worth of blueberries and I just cannot. I used peaches plus one pint of blueberries. The cakey stuff on top is ok but not amazing. You sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top which makes it taste like coffee cake. I think I prefer the biscuit-style cobblers.
Tempura Vegetables, Cilantro Cardamom Sauce, Sparkling Limeade. Growing up, my family would occasionally go out for a fancy dinner at Shogun, a Japanese place that’s still going strong in far south Austin. I loved eating there because we always sat in a little room with paper walls, and you got to take off your shoes and eat at a table on the floor, and what could be more fun? My sister and I always ate vegetable tempura with white rice and I still love it. When I saw a kabocha squash at the market I knew I had to tempura it. This is Ottolenghi’s recipe, and it’s great and adaptable to whatever vegetables you have on hand. I had somehow gone through a whole box of cornstarch (how does that happen? what do I use cornstarch for?) and had to omit it and the stuff came out great anyway, though I did have to add quite a bit more sparkling water to get the batter to a nice thin consistency. What I really love about this recipe is the dipping sauce- instead of the traditional salty brown soy saucy sort, this is bright and tart with tons of cilantro and lime juice and zest. It’s perfect with the fried vegetables. I had a few splashes of sparkling water left over so I made Henry and George bubbly limeade drinks.
Roasted Kabocha Squash, Lentils, Tahini-Tangerine Sauce. I only used half of the kabocha squash in the tempura dinner, so I searched my pinterest dinner board for ideas for what to do with the other half and came across the linked recipe. I subbed cooked French lentils for the rice, because that’s what I had and I thought it was delightful. The squash is roasted in coconut oil with little flecks of minced garlic that get deliciously crunchy in the oven. The tahini sauce is gorgeous with it. Click on the link to see a really lovely picture of this dish that will do more to convince you to make it than my ramblings ever could.
Chard Yogurt Dip, Chard Stalk Hummus, Cream Cheese with Pepper Jelly, Hard Boiled Eggs, Pita Chips. I’ve blogged about that yogurt dip before- I love it. But a new recipe for chard stalk hummus went up on food52 recently and I thought that those two things together would be real nose-to-tail cooking, so to speak, and use up every bit of the chard- the leaves in the yogurt dip, the stalks in the hummus. I love shit like that. Problem is nobody loved the chard stalk hummus. It is indeed hummus-like, but mine turned out sort of thin and watery tasting, which makes sense because you boil the chard stems for 20 minutes. Maybe I shouldn’t have let them go as long. I loved the idea in theory but don’t think I’ll be trying it again. Maybe I’ll just serve the chard dip with pickled or grilled chard stalks instead as another means to get that zero-waste boner. You’re welcome for that.
The habanero apricot pepper jelly is just the tops. I linked to the recipe on Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s blog, but far prefer her revised recipe for the same stuff in her new cookbook. The new recipe is way less work, with way smaller quantities of expensive ingredients (local honey, specifically) and just as delicious. I had tried to make a batch of this stuff earlier this summer, and overcooked it so badly that it turned to solid rock in the jars and smelled vaguely of charred onions. It’s the saddest when you mess something like that up- so much work mincing peppers (and habaneros too that require such careful handling lest you inadvertantly nurse your
baby almost-two-year-old and get the pepper oil on your ever-widening areola), carefully monitoring the jelly, testing it, sterilizing jars, waiting an hour to get your giant canning pot to come to a boil, only to have to throw it out and start all over. And you don’t even get to just throw it out! You have to save the jars, which means soaking your rock hard jelly in four changes of hot water. Actually Andy did that part because he’s dreamy, but still. It’s a sad loss. Anyway, I’m thrilled that this batch turned out, and it did so because I completely ignored my candy thermometer, which I’m pretty sure is broken. Ooph, that was a lot about pepper jelly. And areolas.
Grilled Vegetable Pizzas. I under-sauced and under-cooked these pizzas, but even in their slightly doughy state they were so great. There are two recipes embedded in those links- the first is for my friend Abbie’s “marinated garden”, which is grilled garden vegetables layered in a jar with oil and vinegar. She made grilled pizzas for a food52 party 5ish years ago (?!) with these vegetables on top, and I still remember how fantastic they were. It was also the meal that convinced me that eggplant doesn’t have to taste like a watery sponge. Every year I make vegetable pizzas in an attempt to recreate some of that Abbie magic, and they’re always delicious but don’t quite live up to my memory of hers. This is Roberta’s pizza dough, brushed with oil and grilled less than it should have been, then topped with pureed cherry tomato sauce, mozzarella, and the grilled vegetables. The second link is a good overview of how to grill pizza, if you haven’t done it before.
Next week: mini eggplant, corn dogs, potato and poblano tacos, and lots of fig stuff assuming this allergic reaction works itself out Until next time!