*July 2009 COTM* SPICE: Allspice, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg
Our Chowhound July 2009 Cookbook of the Month is Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun.
Please post your full-length recipe reviews here for dishes from Chapter Four: Allspice, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg, page 102 to 139. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe. Let us know if you would like to make the recipe again, and if you would change anything in the future, too. Photos welcome!
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Thanks for participating and enjoy!
Sheesh! All the brouhaha about how everybody was in love with Spice and NOTHING posted here halfway through the month.
Poached Figs in Spiced Red Wine, p. 132
This dessert was a great success. It had a wonderful spicy, winy flavor that was perfect with the figs. She serves it with a creme fraiche Bavarian, but I just wasn't up to that on a hot day. I served it with vanilla frozen yoghurt and it tasted great.
The sauce in which the figs are poached is made of 4 cups of red wine (I used an Aussie Shiraz and something else mixture that was on sale at Berkeley Bowl and it was very good), 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 split vanilla bean, 3 allspice berries, 6 black peppercorns, and a strip of orange zest. I didn't have any fresh oranges and was starting to get depressed it wouldn't have the full flavor when I remembered that I'd jarred some homemade candied orange peel last winter. That I could actually find it in the labyrinth that is my spice cabinet wss miraculous. This concoction is cooked down so that it thickens and becomes a bit syrupy. The figs are added (she calls for black mission but all I had was some green figs from the CSA box and they were delicious) and poached for 8 minutes. They are then removed and the sauce is cooked down until it's quite syrupy. The figs are cut in half and tossed with the syrup after it cools down and chilled. She says they're best left overnight, but the 3 hours or so I chilled them seemed fine. Served this over vanilla froyo. Wow! Is all I can say. This was a real find and I'll make it for guests.
I have been poaching figs a lot recently. We dont see many fresh, but the dry ones poach wonderfully, especially good for those which have gotten too dry and tough to chew - the absorbig the wine and spice flavors and plump up very nicely. Red wine, white wine, lemon, orange, different combos of spices. I like to add some fennel and a bay leaf. The only flavor I havent liked is star anise, which just gets too dominant. throw in some raisins too for a little visual contract in the finished product.
I have a very prolific green fig in my yard, so I poach & freeze a lot of figs! I like mulling-type spices with red wine (cinnamon sticks, allspice, cardamom, orange peel). I use less wine to start with and I don't add any sweetener. But I often cook them much longer, to an almost sauce-like effect.
They're also really nice poached in fortified wines like Marsala or cream sherry. Nutmeg goes really well there.
Sympathies! I'm not sure how I manage not to get a lot of squirrel damage, though all of my neighbors have both cats and dogs, so I think they keep the squirrels somewhat at bay.
Regarding birds, so far I've had enough figs that I haven't usually minded sharing, and the birds haven't taken an undue proportion. But when I had a fig that produced only sparingly, I tried a hint that worked, and maybe it would for you also: cut nylons into pieces 2-3" long and slip the pieces over the figs. It disguises them sufficiently that the birds leave them alone, and maybe the squirrels would too. Yes, it's a bit tedious. But if you love the figs enough (or have few enough of them), it's worth doing. Good luck!