SUMMER’S SWAN SONG

August 31, 2009

Today’s post marks the last in our Summer Classics Series.  I know summer’s not quite done yet—the temperatures alone here in Houston will attest—but it seems we are shifting into late summer, that mode in which we savor the last of the stone fruit, can and jam what we can, begin to long for a little nip in the air and think “Hmm, maybe I need that jacket even though it’s 80 degrees outside.”

When the weather cools and necessitates a long-sleeved shirt, I’ll be glad.  Of all the seasons, autumn makes me swoon the most.  But, summer’s not half bad, especially when it comes to eatin’, so for now, I’m going to hang onto tomatoes and corn, keep buying berries by the bushel and sweat it out.

farmer's market pasta

Wrapping up our series is a sweet ode to summer in the form of a meal, the kind you might be inspired to whip up after coming home from the Farmer’s Market or grocery store.  It’s one of life’s greatest pleasures, is it not, having a free swath of time in the kitchen and all possibility spread before you?

Should you be lingering over summer, or inviting summer to linger over you, consider one last key lime pie, a big bowl of vegetable-studded pasta salad, or these rather tasty lamb burgers.

We’ll be starting a new, fall-friendly series next Friday and going back to regular, miscellaneous posts on Tuesdays.  As always, if you have any requests or suggestions for us here at Blue Jean Gourmet, please leave them in the comments.  We heart comments.  We heart you, too.

figs in pan

SUMMER’S SWAN SONG DINNER

These dishes are homey and forgiving.  For the pasta, feel free to switch in whatever noodle you have handy.  Buy the veggies that look good, throw in herbs from your garden.  Serve with some wine and maybe a salad.

You may be skeptical about the idea of figs + balsamic vinegar + ice cream.  Trust me.  It’s freaking GOOD.  My dear friend Stephen, who inspired this recipe & fancily has his very own backyard fig tree (I’m jealous), often switches in Port for the balsamic, and you know what?  That’ll do.

FARMER’S MARKET PASTA

1 lb fettuccine (would be even better with fresh, but I used dried)
1 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined
large bunch of spinach, washed & chopped
2 ears corn, kernels cut off the cob
herb-flavored goat cheese, such as chevre (between 2-4 oz)
a handful of cherry or grape tomatoes
fresh herbs, like basil, chives, parsley
white wine
lemon juice
2 cloves garlic (or more or less), minced
olive oil

Start the pasta cooking in the background.

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat; add shrimp.  After just a minute or two, turn down the heat and add the garlic.  Allow another minute to pass, then pour in a glug of white wine & a squeeze of lemon.  Test your shrimp for doneness—be careful not to overcook!—and let everything simmer for just one or two minutes more.

Remove the shrimp from the pan and reserve off to the side.  Crank the heat back up on your skillet, adding a bit more olive oil if necessary.  Wilt the spinach, add the herbs, corn, & tomatoes and cook until heated through.  Toss in the goat cheese and just a few spoonfuls of pasta water to make a sauce.

Your pasta should be al dente by this point; drain it, add to the spinach mixture, and add in the shrimp.  Toss together and serve with Parmigiano-Reggiano, if you like.

BALSAMIC FIGS OVER ICE CREAMbowl of fig & ice cream

figs, halved

balsamic vinegar, preferably a fig or other fruit-infused variety

sugar

a little butter

walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped

high-quality vanilla bean ice cream

Melt a little bit of butter in a large skillet.  Place the figs, cut side down, over the bottom.  Sprinkle a few tablespoons of sugar over the whole mess, allow to cook for a few minutes so the figs get nicely caramelized.

At this point, if you’re feeling fancy, you can remove the figs before adding the balsamic, thereby freeing up your skillet to reduce down the vinegar into a syrupy glaze.  It will work just as well, though, if you drizzle a generous amount of balsamic (say, a tablespoon or two) right onto the figs, turn down the heat, and leave them alone for a few minutes.

Whatever you do, don’t forget the nuts, because crunch is a good thing here.  Over vanilla ice cream, these figs make for a very elegant, very grownup, but nonetheless satisfying sundae.

Share/Save/Bookmark

8 Comments »

  1. Any tips on figs? They are my new favorite but I’m not sure what kinds are best or how to pick them. I have noticed the turkish brown figs to be larger but not very sweet, and the black missions to be sweeter but tiny. I usually pick the ones that are soft but not oozy. Does it matter for this recipe since you put sugar in it? (I usually just make blue cheese suffed figs with prosciutto and balsamic because it’s easy peasy but sometimes feel like I don’t get enough sweetness from the figs.)

    Comment by Tricia — September 1, 2009 @ 7:18 am

  2. Tricia, I’m a big fan of the smaller, black Mission figs for this dessert. They can be tricky to pick–firmer and darker is my standard. I prefer to ripen them at home because that way I can control how ripe they get (and hopefully not mushy). Brown paper bag on the counter works well!

    Green figs (with lovely pink insides) are, I think, perfect for salads (with some shaved pecorino & prosciutto) and just snacking. The dark brown Turkish figs I prefer dried or for baking.

    Now I have the line from “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (figgy pudding) stuck in my head. oh well, occupational hazard I suppose!

    Comment by bluejeangourmet — September 1, 2009 @ 9:41 am

  3. I seriously need to find fresh figs! So far none have appeared around here but this is making me crave them, and on ice cream with balsamic- perfect!

    Comment by Phoo-D — September 1, 2009 @ 9:57 am

  4. Hmm, now I need to search out some imported figs at the market this weekend. That dish would go over well in my house, better than the roasted fig fro-yo I tried last summer.

    Comment by Cheryl Arkison — September 1, 2009 @ 10:17 am

  5. New to your blog…wishing you were my next door neighbor here in H Town because I know you’d take pity on me and my Lean Cuisine lifestyle…Keep up the fabulous work and I just may try — I repeat try — the pasta and the figs…

    Comment by Carole — September 1, 2009 @ 2:20 pm

  6. Cheryl & Phoo-d–I hope ya’ll get your hands on some yummy figs! speaking of figs & yogurt, perhaps a more popular offering would be David Lebovitz’s fig ice cream from Perfect Scoop? I’ve been lusting after the picture because it comes out this gorgeous purple hue. think I’ll have to try soon.

    Carole, welcome to BJG! so glad to have you here. I hope that we’ll inspire you to do some cooking, at least every once-in-a-while! If you ever have suggestions or requests, please let us know…we strive to offer recipes that are friendly for even kitchen newbies.

    Comment by bluejeangourmet — September 2, 2009 @ 9:54 am

  7. I’m going to try the pasta. Just got a roller/cutter attachment for my mixer and I’ve been wanting a good fettucine recipe! Already did lasagna with it and boy you just can’t beat fresh pasta.

    Comment by Heidi — September 2, 2009 @ 4:52 pm

  8. […] Figs are almost assaultingly sensual and luscious; I love how they look atop a bed of mixed greens. Since several varieties are still in season, fig salad can be a great counterpoint to roast chicken or other fall dish. If you decide to add prosciutto, though, you could serve large bowls of the salad alongside a vegetable soup with some crusty bread.  Leftover figs?  Serve them for dessert over vanilla ice cream. […]

    Pingback by A FAREWELL TOAST « Blue Jean Gourmet — October 6, 2009 @ 8:11 pm

Leave a comment