Blueberry Woodfired Figs

This dish pretty much combines all of my favorite things in one yummy bite: figs, blueberries, soft cheese, Balsalmic glaze, and woodfire. Yes, please! The woodfire provides a smokiness to the sweetness of the dish. The Balsalmic makes the flavor deep and rich. Basically, this is a perfect appetizer in my universe.

The Chaumes cheese comes from France and is a semi-soft, cow’s milk cheese with a creamy, smooth, springy and supple texture. Basically, it is good… really good. And on top of a fig with blueberries and Balsalmic… it is heaven. Try it… trust me.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup frozen blueberries (I prefer the small, sweet Maine blueberries.)

4 brown turkey figs, sliced in half

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 teaspoons Honey

8 slices Chaumes cheese

1 tablespoon Grana Padano parmesan, grated

Yuzu Glaze

8 ounces Yuzu sauce

2 ounces Balsalmic vineagar

3 finger-length strips sliced Valencia orange rinds

2 quarter sized slices of fresh ginger

Instructions:

Coat the bottom of a small oven safe skillet with olive oil, then place blueberries in the skillet. Position fig halves in the blueberries and drizzle with maple syrup and honey. Roast in 500-degree oven for 5-7 minutes until blueberries burst.

To make the Yuzu Glaze, combine yuzu sauce, balsamic, orange rinds, and fresh ginger in small saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half.

Remove pan from oven and place cheese slices on each fig half, then sprinkle grated parmesan cheese over the pan. Set the oven to broil and place rack 6-8 inches from the top.  Put pan back in oven and broil for 45 seconds to 1 minute until cheese is melted. Remove pan from oven and drizzle yuzu glaze over figs.

I enjoy shrimp cocktail in the summer as a light, refreshing meal. I especially like to spice up my shrimp cocktail with the flavors of Mexico. Instead of using tomato juice as the base, what about using a bloody mary mix? When I discovered The Bloody Buddy ready-to-drink bloody mary WITH vodka already in it… I just KNEW I had to make shrimp cocktail with it. I started with a black bean salsa that I make (recipe given to me by my sister Corey) then added the shrimp and bloody mary. It was great! One to drink and one to eat.

2 cups Key West pink shrimp, poached

1 tablespoon freeze dried cilantro

1 12-ounce can black beans, drained

1 cup canned corn

1 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 firm avocado, diced

1/4 cup red onion, chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 12-ounce bottle of Bloody Buddy RTD cocktail WITH vodka (or make a bloody mary for yourself and one for the food)

Instructions:

Chop the shrimp into large, bite-sized pieces. Mix together all ingredients. Let sit in refrigerator for 20 minutes to combine the flavors. Serve in a frozen schooner beer mug.

Note: This dish contains alcohol.

If you haven’t heard of Bloody Buddy, here’s the description from their website: Texas first and only ready to drink bloody mary. The Bloody Buddy™ is a chili pepper infused vodka and homemade bloody mary mix combined in one convenient bottle. Everything is made at our distillery in Dripping Springs, Texas with love. We are preservative free, non GMO and all natural. The Bloody Buddy is a spicy & fresh bloody mary for any occasion. Just shake and pour over ice.

This poke recipe is so light and fresh and easy. The key to the dish is getting very, very high quality and super fresh tuna. Without that, this dish is nothing. The essential oils really add a grand amount of flavor that you can’t get from any other source. Be sure to use food-grade high quality essential oils (like those from Young Living). Read the labels on the essential oil bottles. If they say “not for internal consumption”, believe them. This probably means there’s something in them they aren’t telling you — not all and only essential oil.

1 pound ahi tuna, large diced in ¼ to ½ inch cubes

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

3 drops orange essential oil

1 Meyer lemon rind, finely minced

1 tablespoon Black sesame seeds

 One pinch Tabasco powder or ¼ teaspoon tabasco sauce

Combine sesame oil, orange oil and tuna. Marinate for 30 minutes. Before serving, add lemon rind, tabasco, and sesame seeds and stir. Drizzle with ponzu sance and garnish with lemon rind and mint leaves.

Ponzu sauce

3 teaspoons fresh oregano, minced

2 pinches Black lava salt

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup Yuzu sauce

1 teaspoon Black sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients and stir well.

Garnish

1 Meyer lemon rind, finely zested

1 tablespoon mint leaves, finely sliced (Chiffonade)

Combine lemon rind and mint in ice water and hold for garnish.

½ cup peeled and roasted hatch green chiles

¼ cup 1 year aged asiago with rosemary cheese

¼ cup 1 year aged gouda

¼ cup manchego cheese

¼ cup Cabot Farms Vermont white cheddar cheese

½ cup milk

3 tablespoons butter

1 pound  elbow pasta

¼ cup pecarino romano, grated

1/8 cup Parmesan cheese

¼ cup cracker crumbs

Boil pasta in water until al dente and drain. Add butter, milk, asiago, gouda, manchego, and cheddar cheeses. Stir until melted and combined. Pour into a baking dish. Combine pecarino romano, parmesan, and cracker crumbs, then sprinkle over the pasta. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes minutes until the crust is lightly browned.

Nothing says summer in the South like peaches. Whether you are in Georgia and get some peaches from the peach truck, or in Texas at a road-side peach stand, summers are made for peaches. We buy boxes of peaches anytime we can and freeze them so we will have fresh summer peaches all year long. This cast iron pie recipe is super easy to make. Everyone will think you worked so hard on it. The key, for me, to this recipe is to make the best butter pie dough you can make. The better the pie dough, the better the pie. Serve this with a little Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream or make your own ice cream at home.

Shout out to the Georgia Peach Truck — they stopped in Plano during their Texas tour. We bought 2 boxes (50 pounds) of their yummy, sweet, delicious peaches. We froze some to use later in jam and other stuff. But these were fresh off the truck!

Pie dough (see my pie dough recipe here or buy prepared top crust)

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

6 cups peaches, chopped or squished

Make pie dough first. Roll out to about ½ inch larger than the size of the pan. Refrigerate while preparing the peaches so it’s not too soft when you put it on the pie.

Put butter in cast iron skillet on stove over medium heat. Let melt and get hot. Add vanilla and sugar and stir to combine. Add peaches and stir. Cook until reduced by 1/3. The mix will be more liquid-y than you expect because it will keep cooking and thickening in the oven.  Remove pie dough from refrigerator and lay over peach mixture in the cast iron skillet. Fold the edges of the pie crust over up the sides of the inside of the skillet. Cut slits in the pie dough to let it breath. Make egg wash with egg and water and brush over top of pie dough. Bake at 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Note: I use a really good butter, like the one from Lewis Road Creamery. For vanilla, I use Usumacinta Mexican Vanilla or I make my own vanilla at home.

Thinking about a margarita party which, of course, led me to think about food to go with margaritas. At a restaurant I used to work at, we made this margarita chicken using the frozen margarita straight out of the machine as the marinade. Spatchcocking is a method of preparing a chicken for cooking by removing the backbone from tail to neck so the chicken can be opened out flat. This gives a shorter cooking time and better access to the exterior of the bird for seasoning. Essentially, the bones of the ribcage are down and do all of the work in cooking.  I also like to use this method for Cornish game hens and most poultry. Choosing Spatchcock style gives the chicken more juicy texture and crispy skin, which is why I love to make chicken this way. In cutting out the backbone, my preference is to use a good, sharp boning knife, but you can also use a sharp, clean pair of kitchen shears.

Homemade Jalapeno Liqueur

½ cup flour

2 jalapenos, sliced in quarters lengthwise with seeds (If you want the drink a little hotter, use serrano or even habanero)

2 tablespoons peppercorns

2/3 cup tequilla

2/3 cup vodka

½ cup water

1 ½  cups sugar

Zest of three lime

Place peppercorns, jalapenos, tequilla and vodka in mason jar. Tightly seal lid on jar and store in a dark place away from sunlight. Shake daily for 3 weeks or so until the jalapenos resemble pickles. Strain and keep to use.

Bring sugar and water to boil in saucepan, add lime zest and stir until sugar melts. Remove from heat. Add ½ cup of infused jalapeno alcohol. Pour into clean mason jar and reserve to use.

Jalapeno Frozen Margaritas

½ cup melted butter

½ ounce lemon juice

2 ounces lime juice

1 ounce orange juice

1/3 cup fresh chopped pineapple

2 ounces jalapeno liqueur (above)

2 ounces tequilla

Ice

I like to use a Frozen Margarita Maker Machine to make this recipe because the shaved ice makes a smoother drink. Put all ingredients in the blender part of the machine. Put the ice in the top. Shave the ice into the blender until full. Turn on the blender function just until blended. Pour margarita into glass and garnish with small slice of jalapeno or lime wedge. (I don’t like salt with my frozen margaritas, but if you do, salt the rim before pouring.)

Jalapeno Margarita Marinade

1 16-ounce container small curd cottage cheese

1 cup  frozen margarita

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon hatch green chile powder

1 teaspoon pureed garlic

½ cup olive oil

Pour frozen margarita into a Ziploc bag. Sprinkle in spices and olive oil. Zip the bag shut and massage to mix. 

Spatchcock Style Chicken

To prepare the chicken, remove any neck parts and gizzards. Rinse the whole chicken, inside and out, and dry with paper towel. Place chicken, breast-side down, on a cutting board. Use boning knife or kitchen shears to cut along the backbone of the chicken from tail to neck on both sides to remove the backbone. Press down on the wings to break the backbone and flatten the bird. Because the wingtips usually burn in cooking, cut these off and save with the other chicken parts. Freeze the wings, backbone, neck and gizzards for later use in making stock.

Place the whole chicken in the bag with the marinade and let it sit for 45 minutes. (Unless you plan to let it sit for longer than 45 minutes, you don’t need to refrigerate the chicken. Just keep it somewhere cool in the kitchen. Because of the citrus in the marinade, don’t let the chicken sit longer than 45 minutes. The citrus will break down the chicken too much. 

Jalapeno Margarita Chicken

3 tablespoons olive oil + 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves sliced garlic

½ red onion, sliced

1 yellow onion, sliced

½ green bell pepper, sliced

½ red bell pepper, sliced

1 teaspoon chili powder

Fresh ground black pepper

Salt

Steam the potatoes in water until just barely fork tender. Place potatoes in a bowl with one tablespoon olive oil and heavy pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Place the potatoes in the bottom of an oven-safe cast iron skillet. In a separate skillet, heat one tablespoon olive oil. Saute peppers and onions until translucent. Add chili powder and a dash of salt and pepper and stir. Layer the peppers and onions on top of the potatoes in the oven-safe skillet. Do not stir. Remove chicken from marinade and lay it on top of the skillet, meat side up. Generously salt and pepper the chicken. Pour some of the marinade over the chicken. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes until golden and done throughout. 

To serve, make another pitcher of margaritas and eat chicken and drink margaritas until your tummy is full.

I love figs because the sweet, light flavor and delicate texture lends itself to a nonassuming addition to all sorts of dishes from appetizers to desserts and everything in between. So whatever you plan to make, there’s a type of fig for every application. I love figs when they are in season. We used to have the most awesome fig tree that would produce a month’s worth of fresh, homegrown figs. Because the birds like figs too, we’d have to get up early to pick the ripe ones every morning. In fact, at times we would pick the one that were almost-ripe just to keep the birds from getting them. Having so many figs, we’d make fig preserves, and fig appetizers, and fig desserts, and fig sauces, and fig everything we could think of.

I created this dish to be the-most-perfect-dish, combining all of the things I love into one little cast iron skillet – cheese, balsamic vinegar, and figs in season in the wood-fired oven. Oh and blueberries… how can I forget those luscious little bombs! The cheese in this receipe is called Chaumes – it’s a French cows milk cheese, similar to Brie but a little firmer, that’s slightly aged for a couple of weeks. The flavor of the cheese is complex with a slightly nutty aftertaste. The blueberry, honey, and balsamic create a deep, rich flavor to bring the figs and cheese together for a wonderfully delicious one-bite appetizer.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup frozen blueberries

4 brown turkey figs, sliced in half

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 teaspoons Honey

8 slices Chaumes cheese

1 tablespoon Grana Padano parmesan, grated

Yuzu Glaze

8 ounces Yuzu sauce

2 ounces Balsalmic vineagar

3 finger-length strips sliced Valencia orange rinds

2 quarter sized slices of fresh ginger

Coat the bottom of a small oven safe skillet with olive oil, then place blueberries in the skillet. Position fig halves in the blueberries and drizzle with maple syrup and honey. Roast in 500-degree oven for 5-7 minutes until blueberries burst.

To make the Yuzu Glaze, combine yuzu sauce, balsamic, orange rinds, and fresh ginger in small saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half.

Remove pan from oven and place cheese slices on each fig half, then sprinkle grated parmesan cheese over the pan. Set the oven to broil and place rack 6-8 inches from the top.  Put pan back in oven and broil for 45 seconds to 1 minute until cheese is melted. Remove pan from oven and drizzle yuzu glaze over figs.

My mother-in-law Sandy used to make this for breakfast on Christmas morning. It was so easy, but rich and warm. It was a fast favorite of mine after opening presents. It is also easy to make when travelling for the holidays because the ingredients are easy to get and available. The cottage cheese gives a light and fluffy texture that makes this a memorable breakfast, but also adds a good amount of protein to compensate for the remainder of the day’s indulgences. You can also make these in muffin tins and freeze for an easy on-the-go breakfast.

12 eggs

½ cup flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ cup melted butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 16-ounce container small curd cottage cheese

1 pound grated Monterrey Jack/Colby Jack Blend Cheese

2 4-ounce cans diced green chilies

Beat eggs. Add other ingredients. Mix well. Pour into 9×13 pan sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350ºF for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.

I remember my grandfather’s second wife, Mimi, making this green chile stew at the holidays. She was from New Mexico, so she made many dishes with green chiles. I especially remember this one because she used the leftover pot roast instead of pork – because my grandfather loved pot roast. The heat in the green chiles feels good on a cold day.

4 cups chopped green chiles, divided

1 quart chicken stock, divided

2 soft corn tortillas

7 cloves chopped garlic, divided

4 tablespoons dark chili powder, divided

2 large red bell peppers, chopped

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 quart (32ounces) chicken stock

2 cups roasted corn, cut off the cob

1 can drained and rinsed black beans

2 cups leftover pot roast, chopped

Place ½ cup of the green chiles, 1 cup of the broth, tortillas, 3 of the garlic cloves, and 2 tablespoons of the chile powder in a blender. Puree until smooth. Set aside until later. In a large dutch oven over medium high heat, saute onions, peppers, and remaining garlic for 5-7 minutes just until a little color appears. Add remaining green chiles, remaining broth, corn and beans and bring to a boil. When it starts to boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add pot roast, and tortilla puree and simmer for an additional 10 min. Serve with corn chips and cheese (this was how I had it as a kid).

Vegetarian option

This can be made into a vegetarian stew if you eliminate the meat and use vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth.

This recipe is another of my family’s recipes, handed down through many generations to my mother. It is a staple in our home at the holidays and pretty much anytime that blueberries are available. In Maine, the area of the eastern part of the state is called “down east” where the small, sweet blueberries grow wild. On the rare occasion that I can get fresh wild Maine blueberries, this is the first thing I make. But even using frozen berries, it is still delicious. The bigger blueberries grown in other parts of the U.S. are still good, just not quite as sweet and will add a considerable amount of water to the cake. For this recipe, the small wild blueberries are the best.

1 ¼ cups sugar

½ cup butter (1 stick)

2 eggs Dash of salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon vanilla

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ cup evaporated milk

1 ¼ cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Cream together 1 cup of sugar (reserve remaining sugar), butter, eggs, and salt. Add milk and vanilla and combine. Fold in 2 cups of the flour (reserving the remaining flour) and baking powder. Roll blueberries in the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. This will keep the blueberries from sinking to the bottom. Gently fold blueberries into the batter. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Combine the remaining ¼ cup sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of cake. Bake in oven at 350 degrees until done – about 40 minutes.