Thursday, December 9, 2010

the last of summer

It's time to work on catching up with the 52 Weeks of Food project again.  Even though the chilly, rainy weather of S.F. winter is upon us—and I'm starting to think about Christmas cookies—I'm still recapping summer food.

In San Francisco, some of the nicest days of the year usually come in September or October, once the fog is out of the way for the summer.  There are a few ridiculously hot days, but by the official beginning of fall, the hot days have the influence of a cool breeze to make them pleasant.  Sadly, although October may still feel summery once in a while, the local food is turning definitively toward fall by then.  As a result, September feels like the last gasp for summer produce.

Once the peaches and nectarines of the summer months are gone, the focus can shift to figs.  And this was the summer/fall that I fell for figs.  They seemed to be everywhere in September, but it may have just been that I was looking for them.  We did the Jamie Oliver fig salad in late August; that was a bit of an outlier, though.  The real fig obsession began around Labor Day, after our trip to the farmers market and the resulting lunch of figs, goat cheese, and other stuff.

Some of the many figs that we had purchased were used in our dinner on Labor Day with Dan, Carmen, and Steve's parents: Fig-Stuffed Roast Pork Loin from the Ad Hoc Cookbook.
fig-stuffed tenderloin

Through a combination of factors—no pictures of the dish on Labor Day, leftover fig jam for inside, and a general tastiness the first time—we ended up making it again a few days later and counted it as our new dish for the week after Labor Day.  This time, Steve used a pork tenderloin so that it would be enough for just the two of us, and he made some macaroni gratin (fancy mac & cheese) to accompany it.  The mac & cheese didn't make it into the final picture, but some of the fennel and preserved lemon that Steve roasted with the pork did.  Personally, I was a bigger fan of the former, but that's no surprise.

The next week, Steve put figs with something else I like: lobster.  This dish was from the French Laundry Cookbook, so it was a more involved Thomas Keller recipe than the previous week's.

figgy foie lobster

The Figgy Foie Lobster, as like to call it, was amazing.  The real name is Five-Spiced Roasted Lobster with Port-Poached Figs and Sautéed Foie Gras.  There's a sauce or two, a flattened fig, a lobster tail and claw, and a piece of foie gras on top of it all.  It's not the kind of recipe one makes every day; it's a little excessive.  But it was oh so good.  Thomas Keller knows his lobster.  All of the flavors balanced each other beautifully, and the dish didn't feel heavy, despite the foie gras on top.
The biggest challenge for Steve seemed to be stacking it all in such a way that it wouldn't fall and mess up the plate before I could take the picture.  The plate that made it into the photo was actually a do-over, which involved washing off the plate completely and building it again with a fresh spoonful of sauce.  Happily, it worked out that time.

For dessert, we had... more figs!

goat cheese custard with figs

The recipe was from Tartlette: a goat cheese custard, much like cheesecake, with figs and a sweet balsamic syrup on top.  Steve improvised with cooking containers on this one.  The smaller custards cooked in ring molds worked out pretty well, but the ones he did in ramekins and one that he did in a larger tart pan didn't cook quite right.  He ended up buying some small tart pans and rings after that, so we'll be ready next time.

Finally, at the end of September—on Dan's birthday, actually—Steve made our last summery dish of the year: Cheesy Heirloom Panini Batons from 101 Cookbooks.

panini batons

Steve even went a step further than Heidi and made his own rosemary focaccia from the bread book that I had given him for his birthday.  The panini batons ended up being a little bigger than the suggested size, but they were a good size for our lunch.  We used some of the last heirloom tomatoes of the season, mozzarella, and the green spread from the recipe—ricotta, garlic, basil, chives, and olive oil.

Then I got creative with the leftovers.  I was in rehearsals for my fall show at the time, so I had to eat lunches and dinners without Steve most days.  We had leftover focaccia, green spread, and mozzarella; so instead of firing up the stove for paninis, I got some sliced turkey breast and put it all on the focaccia to make a nice cold sandwich.  The downside of the focaccia was that it was pretty oily, which made it messy to hold.  A little parchment solved that problem, and kept the sandwich from falling apart too.

leftovers sandwich
In the next installment, we move from September into October.  In other words, from figs to mushrooms.

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