Fig Mint Pesto

Trio Pesto

This week we have been blessed with a bounty of ripe and juicy Brown Turkey figs, straight off the tree.  Figs have always been one of my favorite fruits, because they are slightly unusual and have a unique textural and color spectrum mix-up with their thickish purple skin, soft  crimson flesh, and crunch yellow seeds.  The scent of fig is also something to behold, as you will see in any boutique candle or fragrance shop; their aroma is deeply sweet and pairs well with both fresh/herbal and woody notes.

My childhood friend Ann had a fig tree in her back yard, and I have early memories of eating really fresh figs straight off the tree.  Fig trees spawn their fruit in the summer and here in Southern California we are high on the fig hog.  Yesterday as we were heading out on our daily 3 mile hike/walk, I spied more figs ready to be picked off the tree, and as I approached I saw two nearly prehistoric looking, armory-jacketed, wildly green bugs with fluorescent green and silver legs, gnawing at a half-eaten fig.  These fellas were not letting go, even despite my angling closer and closer for a photo.

Fig Bugs (1 of 1)

I would have been happy to eat all of these figs raw, with some yogurt for breakfast, in salads with burrata and almonds, drizzled with balsamic and paired with a sharp piece of pecorino, or on top of ice cream for dessert.  But M prefers figs dried, so I experimented with home-drying.  I set a cookie sheet full of figs in the oven at 175 degrees for about 10 hours, and they turned out dried, but still retaining some moisture.  They were slightly juicy and caramelized rather than leathery-dry.  Dried 2 (1 of 1)

 

As the days went on this week I pondered recipes, and in the recesses of my memory was a recent pesto recipe I’d seen on Sofia’s wonderful blog.  I remembered it had dried figs, but beyond that wasn’t sure.  Since my basil plant died this week, I used some fresh mint from my mom’s garden, added spinach to mellow the flavor, and rounded out with raw cashews, olive oil, grey salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper.  I needed to add a few drops of water as I blended to thin out to proper consistency, and it worked without compromising the flavor.

The pesto was unique and very delicious.  I paired it with soft scrambled eggs, a lovely match.  I imagine it would also go well with cold roasted meats on a sandwich; as a dip for raw vegetables, chips or flatbread; as a pizza base; even on pasta with some fresh peas, snap peas, or potatoes and green beans.

 

Strawberries!

I’ve created 5 wonderful recipes using strawberries for my friends over at Foodlander that are perfect for summer parties, simple lunches, and sweet endings.  Head over and check them out!  What is your favorite way to use strawberries?

Strawberry Gallettes with Pistachio and Fennel Pollen

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Strawberry Thyme Margaritas With Black Lava Salt (Smoothie Style)

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Strawberry Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

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Strawberry Ricotta Crostini with Bacon

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Strawberry & Black Quinoa Salad

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Pie Lesson: Strawberry Lattice Top Pie

My wonderful friend Amy over at huckleberryandco, who is a baker, gluten-free cookbook author, elite level clarinet player, chair caner and all-around creative genius, recently gave me a pie lesson.  We had so much fun visiting between the various stages of the recipe, talking about Tennessee (where she’s from), motorcycles (her beau has 5 vintage bikes); making tinctures and salves (she’s also a medicine woman!); and of course taking a lunch break for punk tacos at Tacos Puntas Cabras.

She taught me how to gently roast berries to get them to release their juices; to save the syrup for sodas or other creative concoctions; how to properly roll my crust; how to dock the bottom crust; how to “spank” herbs to release their flavor; and, how to weave a top crust.

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Here’s the Recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 1½ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar

Filling:

  • 3 lb. strawberries, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbps lemon basil
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream

Preparation:
1. Pulse flour, butter, and 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. sugarin a food processor until pea-size pieces form. Add ½ cup ice-cold water; pulse until dough forms. Form into a ball; halve and form into two disks. Wrap; chill for 1 hour.

2. Heat oven to 425°. Take herbs and slap each leaf between palms of hands, then thinly slice.  In a bowl, toss together remaining salt, berries, sugar, herbs, and set filling aside. Roast strawberries in foil on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes.  Let cool.  Unwrap dough; roll both into 11″ wide and 1/8″ thick circles. Transfer one circle to a 9″ deep-dish pie pan; dock crust by pricking with a fork 3 or 4 times; mound filling inside. Cut ¾”-wide strips of dough from remaining circle; transfer to top of pie, creating a lattice pattern. Trim and crimp edges. Brush dough with cream and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake until golden and bubbling, about 1 hour. (If crust begins to brown before pie is finished baking, cover with foil until pie is done). Let cool.

A Popsicle A Day: 7 Recipes

If you wonder what I’ve been doing lately, I can sum it up in 1 word:  Popsicles.  Researching, recipe testing, eating, freezing, blending, delivering to neighbors.  I’ve eaten, read about and made more popsicles this last week than I did during my entire childhood probably.  You’d be astounded to learn the wild flavor combinations some Farmers Market vendors are coming up with (apple wasabi, honey blue cheese, plum cardamom) and also how easy they are to make at home.  My favorite:  the ginger ice cream, chocolate covered”scoopsicle” . . . . head over to Foodlander for the article & recipes.

Sidewalk Surprise: Loquats

The lovely painting above is entitled “Loquats and Mountain Bird,” by Anonymous Southern Song artist, in the Collection of the National Palace Museum, Beijing.

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Side Yard Loquats

Ever been surprised by a flash of realized abundance in your life, when and where you were least looking for it?  That’s what happened when we realized the tree on our “private property” part of our Santa Monica sidewalk is a loquat tree, and that the fruit it yields not only edible but delicious.  It’s flavor is a perfect marriage of sweet and sour (think mango, citrus and apricot) and I’ve got a motherlode in my kitchen waiting to be eaten as is, or become granita, syrup for kombucha, jam, barbeque sauce, who knows what else.

This morning I made loquat kombucha

This morning I made loquat kombucha

See you in a week

See you in a week

I had always wondered what was growing on our side yard tree, then this weekend at my favorite cafe Red Bread a fellow sat down next to me with a  backpack full of what I recognized to be our tree fruit.  On his way to the weekly community produce swap, he explained to me that these were indeed loquats.  Down the rabbit hole of internet research I went.  Later that afternoon, after reading around, my enthusiasm for our newfound crop at its peak, I brought my husband a piece of loquat who, though he loved the puckering flavor, dampened my glee with the comment, “I think I taste a faint essence of diesel fuel” (we have a bus stop smack in front of the tree, about 10 feet from our front window).

Our Tree

Our Tree

The Loquat up close

The Loquat up close

The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a species of flowering plant in the family Rosaceae,native to south-central China. It is a large evergreen shrub or small tree, grown commercially for its yellow fruit, and also cultivated as an ornamental plant.

Eriobotrya japonica was formerly thought to be closely related to the genus Mespilus, and is still sometimes known as the Japanese medlar. It is also known as Japanese plum and Chinese plum. In Japan it is called biwa. And in China, it is called Lo Guat in Cantonese and pipa  in Mandarin.

The loquat has a high sugar, acid, and pectin content. It is best eaten dead ripe.  On the internet you can find many recipes for loquat  jam, jelly and pie, and on the private website entirely devoted to the fruit “Loquatworld.com” you can find links to some pretty offbeat delicacies, like pickled loquat and loquat grappa.

The large seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide and should not be eaten.

For an impressive source of information on loquat history, including different varieties, availability and commercialization (or lack thereof), I refer you to my local produce celebrity writer and David Karp and his 1999 article in the LA Times, “Loco for Loquats.”

Stay tuned for loquat recipes!