FIGS & BALSAMIC, TWO WAYS

September 5, 2012

From  a very young age, I have always known two things very distinctly to be true: that, someday, I wanted to parent a child, and that, someday, I wanted to write a book.

When you’re twelve, these life goals seem a lot simpler and fresher and cleaner in your mind; you imagine yourself breezing through your early twenties and into just the very things you’ve imagined for yourself because you haven’t learned yet that there will be a great deal more to your life than what you are capable of imagining at twelve, or at any given age, for that matter.

Because, you know, my life got messy–and it got awesome.  And pretty much none of it has gone the way I thought it would.  I did not get into Brown, which I was convinced for years was the college of my dreams; I did, however, get into Rice, where I was incredibly happy for four years, and which gave me a very fine education, some even finer friends, and Jill.  Oh, and speaking of Jill; I didn’t see her coming at ALL.  I thought I would have to wait a long, long time to meet someone to love–not that I would meet her my freshman year of college.  Goes to show how much I know.

This summer, when Jill & I got the best email ever–the one that told us about Shiv–I was a few solid days of work away from completing my long-nursed manuscript of essays.  What I had thought: that I would write a book first, and then have a baby, has turned out to be the complete and delightful opposite of every plan I had ever made.

Before Shiv, this would have certainly frustrated and discouraged me to no end–I would have seen the fact that I had not yet accomplished one of my major life goals as a failure, and I would have used that interpretation to berate myself such that no further writing was done (vicious cycle).  But now, as I sit here typing this with the cutest little frog-legged being in my lap, I feel that there could be no better time for me to finish my book than now.  I have a whole new set of perspectives to bring to some unfinished work, and know that the joy of the accomplishment will only be amplified by the fact that I did baby first, then book: reverse order of what I had imagined.

I’m on maternity leave for the month of September, and plan to finish my manuscript by the end of the month!  The book is a collection of essays, some of which have already been published here, but most of which are new.  I plan to self-publish The Pomegranate King and hope to have it up for sale by Thanksgiving.

My thanks to all of you out there who have taken the time to read an essay of mine or drop me a note of support and encouragement.  I can’t wait to share this book with all of you, and hope it will be of value to those of you who choose to read it.

FIGS PICKLED IN BALSAMIC VINEGAR & FIG BALSAMIC

We had a plethora of figs from a neighbor’s tree earlier in the summer–more than we could just eat straight–so I decided to try and capture their flavor in these two ways.

I pickled the firmer figs according to the recipe below and have kept them in jars in the fridge–they are excellent on grilled pork or as an addition to a cheese/nut plate, and I think they would also be great flavor-add-ins to braises or tagines this fall.

With the softer figs, I decided to make a more syrupy balsamic, which is excellent on almost anything: in salad dressings, on ice cream, with pizza or pasta, as a glaze or part of a marinade, drizzled on fresh fruit, etc.  They sell pricey infused vinegars at specialty stores, but why bother with that when you can make your own?  Figs will enjoy a second season through the end of this month, so go for it!

PICKLED FIGS RECIPE
adapted from Food & Wine

ingredients:

1 cup sugar
2 cups water
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 pound small firm-but-ripe Black Mission figs

optional: flavoring elements for the jars, such as bay leaves, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, etc.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the figs and simmer over low heat, stirring a few times, until they are barely tender, about 10 minutes.

Pack the figs into clean canning jars, along with any other flavoring elements you like, then ladle the hot vinegar on top.   At this point, you can let the jars cool and then store in the fridge, or process the jars for shelf-stable pickles.

 

FIG-INFUSED BALSAMIC VINEGAR RECIPE
adapted from White on Rice Couple

I love the combination of figs and cherries, so I added the latter to the mix.  If you can’t find fresh, you could use dried cherries as well, or you could just leave them out.

If vanilla seems like a strange ingredient here, trust me–it adds a nice rounding note to the bite of the reduced vinegar.

ingredients:

1 cup fig pulp (from approximately 1 dozen ripe figs)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
handful of fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Simmer the fig pulp, cherries (if using), and balsamic vinegar until reduced by the desired amount, up to half.  Keep in mind, more you reduce mixture, the stronger it will be.  (I reduced mine by about a third).

Allow the mixture to cool, then process in the blender.  Pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds, then stir in the vanilla extract and enjoy!

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1 Comment »

  1. You are my hero.

    Comment by Katherine — September 5, 2012 @ 11:26 am

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