Fig, Tahini, and, Dark Chocolate Cookies with Orange Peel

Fig, Tahini, and, Dark Chocolate Cookies with Orange Peel

I came across a recipe for these amazingly scrumptious cookies on David Lebovit’s food blog ( see recipe here)  that was inspired by Margarita Manzke’s recipe in her Baking at Republique cookbook. 

These cookies are decidedly Eastern Mediterranean in spirit along with a flourish of hearty home baked irresistible goodness. Gladly this recipe is open to personal interpretations that make for all that much more fun for the home baker.

My adaptations include using Lindt Intense Orange Dark Chocolate with Orange Peel that pairs perfectly with the dried Mission figs. I also used roasted sesame seeds instead of raw as the raw seeds which would not have enough time in the oven to to roast them and release their subtle flavor.

So without further ado…let’s get baking!

 

Fig, Tahini, and Dark Chocolate with Orange Peel Cookies  makes 20 cookies

Plan to make the dough the day before you intend to bake the cookies.

  • 1 1/3 cups + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 0z (115 g ) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup (120 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120 g) well stirred tahini
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup chopped soft dried Mission figs, hard stems removed
  • 100 g Lindt Intense Orange Dark Chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ½ to ¾ cup roasted sesame seeds (see recipe here)

In a small bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt until well combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and the vanilla extract on medium peed until well combined. Mix in the tahini and then the egg, Then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated,

Stir in the flour mixture on low speed, and then add the chopped figs, and finally the chopped chocolate, and mix until just combined.

Line a baking tray with parchment baking paper and portion the dough into balls using and ice cream scoop. Roll the balls gently between the palms of your hands and place them in the lined baking tray. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

The following morning preheat the oven to 350 f/180 c with the baking rack set in the middle of the oven. To insure even accurate temperature use an oven thermometer to verify the correct temperature.

Have 2 baking sheets on hand lined with parchment or silicone baking mats.

Put some of the roasted sesame seeds in a shallow bowl.

Remove the chilled cookie dough from the refrigerator and roll each ball gently, slightly flattening the dough. Then gently roll and press the top side of each cookie into the bowl of sesame seeds to coat evenly. Turn the cookie over and place on the lined baking tray. Be sure to allow about 2 inches between each cookie.

Transfer the tray of cookies to the oven and bake for 7 ½ minutes. Then open the oven and reverse the tray and bake another 7 ½ minutes. The cookies should be lightly browned around the edges and the centers slightly raised. This timing is accurate and insures that the cookies are baked to perfection without over baking.


Promptly remove the cookies from the oven and place the baking tray on a rack to cool for a couple of minutes.

Gently tap the top of each cookie with a flat spatula to pat down the domed tops of the cookies.

You can then transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Follow the same procedure for baking the remaining tray of cookies.

Store the cookies in an airtight container for Up to a week or refrigerate for longer storage, though I am pretty sure they will be devoured in no time at all!

Best served at room temperature.

 

A Summer Cassoulet

A Summer Cassoulet

 

A traditional cassoulet is not a dish that springs to mind as summer arrives, but it is one of my favorite go to meals, especially when entertaining. With a few considered adjustments a classic winter cassoulet can be transformed into a scrumptious lighter  cassoulet to add to your summer meals repertoire.

Cassoulet is a well known and much loved regional classic stew made with white beans and assorted meats from the Languedoc region of France. Traditional versions vary but typically include duck or goose confit, pork or lamb, and some well seasoned local sausage. All placed in a deep earthenware crock along with cooked white beans seasoned with aromatic herbs and slow baked to golden perfection. Very much a rich hearty meal for the winter months that is anchored and bound together by flavors derived from copious amounts of duck fat used to preserve the confit. Without a doubt, absolutely delicious!

However, by using lean meats and sausages, and chicken rather than duck or goose, dramatically reduces the fat content without sacrificing flavor. The resulting “summer cassoulet” is every bit as flavorful as a classic cassoulet by simply applying a lighter healthier approach to your summer cookery.

Another reason a cassoulet is a favorite is that all the elements required for the finished dish are made in advance which is ideal for entertaining or for easy assembly for consecutive meals.

There are essentially three elements to prepare for a cassoulet. Cooking the beans, creating a flavorsome cassoulet broth for braising, and a final browning of the meats and finally baking of the cassoulet.

 

A Summer Cassoulet

A Summer Cassoulet

 

A Summer Cassoulet:   serves 4 to 6

For the beans:  Prepare a day in advance

  • 12 oz / 350 g dried white beans
  • 2 ¾ oz 75 g pancetta, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 quarts water + more as needed
  • small bunch fresh thyme sprigs tied together
  • salt freshly ground white pepper

Rinse the beans, place in a bowl, cover with plenty of water, and soak for 8 hours or overnight,

Place a stock pot on the stove over medium heat. Add the diced pancetta to the pot and saute, continuously stirring, until the fat is rendered and the meat is lightly browned.

Add the olive oil to the pan and when hot add the onions. Lower the heat slightly and stir until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute while stirring.

Add the bay leaves, the water, and the drained and rinsed  pre-soaked beans. Bring the water to a boil and lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Add the thyme leaves. Cook the beans until they are soft but still holding their shape. Be sure to stir the beans now and again so they do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Add more water as needed until the beans are finished cooking.

When the beans are finished remove them using a slotted spoon and place them in a large storage container.

Continue to simmer the cooking liquid until it is reduced and thickened slightly. At this point season the cooking broth with salt and pepper to taste. Keep in mind that the broth will be used later and reduced, so do not overly salt the broth.

Remove the bay leaves and thyme and discard, Transfer the broth to the container holding the beans and set aside on a cooling rack. When completely cool, cover the container and refrigerate.

For the cassoulet broth:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups diced onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled whole
  • ½ cup diced peeled carrots
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 quarts chicken stock, hot
  • herb bouquet; sprigs parsley, sprigs thyme, sprig rosemary 2 bay leaves

Hat the olive oil in a stock pot and when hot add the onions and cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and carrots and cook a couple of minutes. Move the sauted ingredients away from the center of the pan and place the tomato paste in the center. Press the tomato paste against the bottom of the pan for a minute or until caramelized and a deep red color.

Add the stock and stir well. Add the herb bouquet and adjust the heat so the broth is gently simmering. Cook until the liquid is reduced by 1/3, about 1 ½ hours.

Remove from the stove and strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Then transfer the broth to a storage container, or containers, and set aside to cool. When cool, cover and refrigerate if not using immediately. Discard the solids.

Meats:

  • 3 chicken legs and thighs, detached, skin, on
  • 1 pound / 450 g pork loin, cut into chunks
  • 1 pound/ 450 g well seasoned lean sausage
  • salt pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup white wine or water

Season the chicken and the pork generously with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat a large dutch oven or deep wide cast iron roasting pan over medium heat on the stove top. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and when smoking add the chicken pieces and evenly brown on all sides. Transfer them to a platter and set aside.

Add another tablespoon olive oil to the pot and add the pork and brown on all side. Transfer to the platter along with the chicken.

Add a final tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and dd the sausage to the pan and brown on all sides. Add a half cup of wine or water to the pan and stir until the liquid is reduced and the sausage is coated with the deglazed pan juices. Transfer the sausage to a separate plate and set aside to use later.

Assembling and roasting the cassoulet:

  • reserved cooked white beans with their broth
  • cassoulet broth
  • browned chicken
  • browned pork
  • browned sausage
  • flat leaf parsley

preheat the oven to 325 f/ 170 c

Add about 1/2 of the cooked beans along with some of their broth to the cleaned Dutch oven or cast iron roasting pan you used previously. Arrange the chicken pieces and pork on top of the beans and add just enough cassoulet broth to nearly cover the chicken and pork.

Transfer the pan to the oven and cook about 45 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and add the remaining beans tucked in around the edges of the pan and between the chicken and pork. Then tuck in the sausage in around the chicken and the pork. Add any remaining beans around the edges. Add cassoulet broth to nearly cover all and return the pan to the oven for another 45 minutes.

At this point if the liquid around the edges of the pan is not bubbling away increase the heat to 400 f/ 200 c. Add a little broth over the meats and return the pan to the oven for another 15 minutes.

When the cassoulet is done remove from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes before serving.

Combine and warm any remaining bean broth and cassoulet broth and set aside to use when serving.

Serving:

The cassoulet may be served directly from the pan or transferred to individual shallow bowls.

I like to present the cassoulet right out of the oven for all to feast their eyes on before serving.

You can then spoon the cassoulet into individual shallow bowls. Be sure to add some of the reserved combined broth mixture which is absolutely delicious when sopped up with crusty bread! Garnish with flat leaf parsley and serve.

The overall appearance of the cassoulet should be neither dry nor soupy. I lean toward ample amounts of broth as it really is the element that binds the cassoulet together.

Garnish with flat leaf parsley sprigs.

Suggested: Serve with a copious summer salad and a loaf of crusty bread!

Bon Appetite!

Summery Vegetable Soup with Chicken

Summery Vegetable Soup with Chicken

 

Early summer is a perfect time to utilize fresh from the garden produce for light soups that are as lively and colorful as they are delicious. Freshly made soups are ideal for easy summer meals that celebrate the season’s ever evolving bounty. A beautiful soup accompanied with a crusty loaf along with a freshly made pesto (see recipe here) is a perfect summer meal in and of itself!

 

Summery Vegetable Soup with Chicken       Serves 4

  • 2 ears sweet corn
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • handful of celery leaves
  • 1 cup diced onions, divided
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
  •  sprig of Italian basil leaves, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • whole basil leaves as a garnish

First thing you want to do is cut the corn kernels off of the cobs and set them aside to use later. Then holding the cobs vertically in a small bowl, scrape the cobs with the back of a knife to extract the corn milk and set the milk aside to use later. Reserve the scraped cobs.

Fill a large pot with 2 quarts of water and add the bay leaves, celery leaves, ½ cup diced onions, peppercorns, the scraped corn cobs, and the reserved corn milk scrapings. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the whole chicken breasts to the pot and simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set the pot side, covered, for about 30 minutes. Then using tongs remove the chicken breasts and set them aside in a bowl to cool.

Remove the corn cobs from the pot and discard them. Then pour the contents of the pot into a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Press all the liquid out of the solids. Discard the solids and set the broth aside.

Rinse out the pot and return it to the stove top, add the olive oil, and set over a medium flame. When the oil is hot add the remaining half cup of onions, the diced yellow and red bell peppers, diced jalapeno, and saute until they soften about 5 minutes. Then add the carrots, celery, and potatoes, and continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Then add the reserved broth to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are soft, but still holding their shape. Then add the reserved corn kernels.

Gently pull the chicken breasts apart and into bit size pieces and add to the both. Stir in the sliced basil and season to taste with salt. Add the saffron threads and stir to combine and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Just before serving stir in the lemon juice.

Serving

Ladle the soup into shallow soup bowls and garnish with whole basil leaves and lemon slices.

With Cinco de Mayo fiestas well underway north and south of the Mexican border, it is Mexican food that is at the center of all the celebrations and, of course, Mexican beer and margaritas as well. So why not make a zesty margarita pie as a final flourish for the celebrations.

The recipe that follows mirrors a classic margarita made with freshly squeezed lime juice, a good silver/blanco tequila, triple sec, sugar or agave syrup, and crystallized flaked salt. These very same ingredients provide the essential flavors for a sensational chilled sweet sour margarita confection with just a hint of green earthiness from the tequila and a crisp salty after note.

Margarita Pie

Margarita Pie

As popular as a pretzel crust seems to be for a margarita pie these days, I have to say I favor a classic sweet pastry crust for this pie which allows the flavors of the margarita lime curd to take center stage. Served chilled, this pie is as bedazzling and refreshing as an icy margarita on the rocks would be on a hot summer evening in the tropics.

Margarita Pie

Margarita Pie

Margarita Pie

Needed: 1 10 inch pie dish

Crust:

  • sweet pastry dough
  • butter for brushing
  • crystallized salt

Use your favorite sweet pastry dough recipe and chill the dough for several hours before you intend to roll it out.

Roll out the dough and place it in the pie dish. Even out the edges. Transfer to the the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c

Melt a small amount of butter. Remove the chilled pie shell from the refrigerator and lightly brush the entire surface of the dough with melted butter.

Then evenly press salt flakes onto the outer rim of the dough.

Line the inner surface of the dough with baking parchment and trim off excess paper so the salt studded surface of the rim of the pie is exposed. Place pie wights (or dried beans) into the parchment lined pie dough and transfer to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the salted edges are lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and, using a spoon, remove the weights and set them aside to cool. Remove the parchment and return the pie shell to the oven and bake another 12 minutes, or until the interior crust is lightly colored and dry.

Remove from the oven, place on a cooling rack, and cool to room temperature. You can then refrigerate the crust.

Margarita Pie Curd Filling

  • 4 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons silver tequila
  • 1 tablespoon triple sec (or other orange liquer)
  • 3 oz chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Combine the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lime juice, tequila, and tipple sec in a non-reactive stainless bowl.
Gently whisk until the ingredients are well combined.

Place the bowl over a pot of hot, but not boiling, water and gently whisk continuously until the mixture thickens and mounds onto itself.

Promptly remove the bowl from the heat and scatter the butter over the surface. Stir with the whisk until the butter has completely melted and is mixed evenly into the curd.

Remove the chilled crust from the refrigerator and, using a silicone spatula, spoon the curd into the pie shell. Spread the curd evenly and return the pie to the refrigerator to chill.

Sour Cream Topping:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

Preheat the oven to 400 f/ 200c

Combine the sour cream, sugar and lime juice in a bowl and stir until well combined.

Remove the chilled pie from the refrigerator and spoon the sour cream mixture over the surface of the lime curd. Giggle the pie to even out the surface and place in the oven and bake for or 5 minutes.

Promptly remove from the oven, cool for 5 minutes, and return the pie to the refrigerator to chill.

Lime garnish:

  • 2 seedless thin skinned limes, sliced into paper thin rounds
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a wide saute pan. Cook until the liquid is bubbling, thick, and clear. Add the lime slices and cook for 3 minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat and let the lime slices rest in the syrup until completely cool. Remove the slices to a rack to drain off excess syrup.

Remove the pie from the refrigerator and carefully arrange the lime rounds over the surface of the pie.

Cover the pie with cling film and refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Serving:

About 20 minutes before serving transfer the refrigerated pie to the freezer and chill for 15 to 20 minutes. This final chill gives this pie a crisp icy sensation when served. 

Slice using  a very sharp knife dipped into water for each slice made.

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