Cooking Challenge: Figs!

Randy and I have been watching a lot of Top Chef and Next Food Network Star.  As a result, Randy’s been inspired to give me a cooking challenge!  Today we finally had an evening at home to our self, where I could actually complete the challenge. We biked to the Farmer’s market to look for the main ingredient, which ended up being figs!

Figs!

Figs!

The second part of this challenge was that we had a coupon for Iowa Meat Farms that we needed to use today, and definitely wanted to use for a good ribeye steak.  Figs and steak don’t necessarily go together, but that was part of the fun, right?

$20 at the grocery store, and 2 hours at home to create an appetizer, a side dish, and a dessert, all utilizing figs.  What did I come up with?

Appetizer:  Phyllo purses with a fig compote (and bonus: fig & shallot jam on a goat cheese crostini)

I have a recipe for something similar that has always looked good, but I’ve not had the opportunity to try. I had to wing it though, because no recipes!

-Combine 2 sliced figs, 4 cardamom pods, honey, currants, balsamic vinegar, and enough water to cover in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil and reduce for about 20 minutes. Layer 4 sheets of phyllo and olive oil, cut in half. Put half reduced fig mixture in center of each phyllo pile. Twist the phyllo up into a purse/pouch shape and bake for 15 minutes at 350.

These turned out pretty good. The filling was delicious. The only problem was there was a lot of phyllo dough where it all twists together at the top.  Maybe use less dough? or figure out how to get some filling up in the top.

I also sauteed some shallots and figs in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, low and slow, to make a type of fig-shallot jam, spread on top of goat cheese topped crostini.  Tasty!  My overall score for appetizers: 7.

Entree sides: Couscous with Figs, Blue Cheese, and Pistachios AND Roasted Rosemary Potatoes and Figs

-Dice and saute 1 fig. Toast handful of pistachios and chop.  Cook couscous normally, and toss with figs, 2 tbsp crumbled blue cheese, pistachios, and fresh chopped parsley.

-Dice 4-5 red potatoes and 1 sweet potato, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Roast at 350 for 40 minutes. Add diced figs, toss, and roast for 10 minutes more.

The Main Course

the main course

Entree sides only earned me a 5. Presentation was great, and the food tasted good, it just didn’t entirely incorporate the figs. (Randy’s a tough judge!)

Dessert: Mini Fig Tart

Inspired by a larger fig tart we made in a cooking class, I tried to recreate this from scratch and play with the presentation.

-In a food processor, combine 1/4 cup cornmeal, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, dried rosemary and thyme, and 2 Tb water and pulse until the dough sticks together. Pat into a greased muffin tin to make a cup.  Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.  For the filling, combine 1/4 cup cream cheese, 1/4 cup marscapone cheese, 2 Tb sugar, 1 Tb honey, fresh rosemary and thyme. Spoon into cooled cups. Top with fresh figs (or strawberries are really good too). Drizzle with honey or aged balsamic vinegar.

Delicious tart!

So good!  I could eat this filling on it’s own. This scored a 9, the only downfall being that the figs were a topping, not an integral part of the dish.

Overall score: 7.  Not too shabby for my first cooking challenge, and no recipes for guidance!

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