We received our first dousing of rain a few days ago, cooler air is making its way across the ocean and in through the open windows, and I'm getting back into the mood to start cooking again. Trapper is romping more on his morning jaunt to Starbucks and continues to amuse his local and Facebook fans. He managed to Newfanize close to 75 likes in a few hours with his recent "green duck kinda day" photo. We're getting along just fine, but a ruggedly handsome
boytoy man, bottle of red, pot of cassoulet, and another long rainy night would be a nice diversion about now....
Meanwhile, I've kept busy with work, local weekend events, finishing up a few articles for Wine & Dine San Diego (Celebrity Chef Tyler Florence Turns Winemaker), and searching for a charming little cottage to rent.
A few Saturdays ago, I had a great time tasting wine and nibbling on bites prepared by local chefs at the 10th Annual Celebrate the Craft hosted by The Lodge at Torrey Pines, and still had time to make it to the polo field for closing day.
|Chef Matt Gordon (Urban Solace)|
BBQ Liberty Duck, Sweet Corn and Chili Griddle Cake, Duck Tongue Cracklin'
|Jason Knibb (NineTen)|
Niman Ranch Kansas City Style Ribs, Poppy Seed Coleslaw
|Jack Fisher (Jack Fisher Confections)|
Smoked Dark Chocolate with Rosemary Marshmallow S'more
Michael Totah, The Wheel - Custom Stoneware
|USPA Spreckels Cup Finals|
Since I just don't know where my life is headed at the moment, my blog posts may be a bit sporadic and scatterbrained. It's not too exciting cooking for one and dining alone, but it is a good time of year to make big pots of soups, pasta sauces, and things that freeze well to make it easier on those nights when you just don't have the energy or desire to make a mess - those kind of nights when a glass of wine and bowl of soup is all you really need or want. On the nights when I feel like getting out and about, Wine & Dine San Diego has promised to keep my busy with restaurant reviews. I'm also contemplating some holiday solo travel this year. Any suggestions?
Speaking of the holidays, it's not too early to start thinking about holiday baking ideas. I came across this recipe for Spicy Fig Cake in Bluestem, one of my neglected cookbooks. Bluestem is a gorgeous cookbook with fairly challenging recipes organized by season, written by James Beard nominated chef Colby Garrelts and his wife, Megan, owners of Kansas City's highly acclaimed Bluestem Restaurant.
This is not your grandmother's fruitcake. Moist and soft, this is the antithesis of those dense bricks that modern mythology has us passing annually from family to family like a hot potato. With meaty pieces of dried figs, a generous amount of ginger liqueur, vanilla bean, apricot jam, fresh ginger, orange zest, and holiday spices, this is an amazing fruitcake worth baking and sharing this holiday season.
|Spicy Fig Cake|
Spicy Fig Cake
(Makes one 9-inch loaf)
10 ounces dried figs
1 cup ginger liqueur or brandy (I used Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons apricot jam
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/8 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional: Confectioners' sugar, for dusting, or fresh whipped cream
Soak the dried figs in the ginger liqueur overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the loaf pan.
Drain the figs, reserving the liqueur. Cut the little stem off the top of each fig and halve the figs.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl once more.
Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using a small knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the batter. Add the sour cream, jam, honey, vanilla extract, zest, fresh and ground ginger, allspice, and cloves and mix well. Scrape down the bowl.
With the mixer on low, mix in the cake flour and salt until just incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and fold in the drained figs.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Rap the pan firmly against the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake the loaf for 40-45 minutes (mine took about 55 minutes), until the surface cracks and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
When the loaf is right out of the oven and still in the loaf pan, poke holes all over it with a wooden skewer. Pour the reserved liqueur from the dried figs over the top, letting it seep into the cake.
Allow the cake to cool completely. Flip the pan over to release the cake. Slice and serve, with a dusting of confectioners' sugar or dollop of fresh whipped cream if desired.
Wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, this cake will keep for up to 3 days. Wrapped in multiple layers of plastic wrap and stored in the freezer, it will keep for up to 3 months.
|Moist and soft, with meaty boozy ginger figs|
|Trapper and his new green duck|