Summer Bounty: Lavender Honeyed Seared Figs

Lavender Honeyed Seared Figs - A Stack of Dishes

Alas, once again I find myself in the throes of change. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, and for that I apologize. Know that my heart and mind has not been far from this place- I’ve just been overwhelmingly busy.

My life has once again taken me in a new direction. I am returning to New York City to begin again. The reasons are not complicated. I love a woman, she loves me, but we could not create an US that gave us joy and completion. It has been sad and frustrating, maddeningly so. In the end it was a realization of truth, which lead to a loving gesture to allow each other to go.

When I left Louisiana I spilled enough tears to overflow the bayou. It is indescribable the warmth and generosity of heart that the people have shown me there. I was an awkward scrappy Noo Yawk City gal who was quick to interrupt and spoke at a much faster cadence. My friends were patient, they were kind. Though I never lost my city edginess, I learned to slow down, smile more and breathe that Southern sultry air. I have come to recognize the drawling Southern accent as comforting, and I will sorely miss the “might could’s” and “fixin’ to’s”. Louisiana has left an indelible mark upon me.

Making Lavender Honey - A Stack of Dishes

Now that I am a returned New Yorker I see the city in a different light. Though I have visited plenty over the past two years, as a full time resident I feel it very differently. It’s true, New Yorkers are gruff and abrupt. I’ve heard quite a few “FU’s” and sharp bitter language between strangers that rattles my sensibility. Folks don’t slide and glide along, they often bump and butt against each other and the results are hissing cat standoffs. My reaction at first was to cringe, but now- now I find it endearing in a way. My NYer brethren, you make me smile. The truth about us city folk is that we may possess a scaly exterior, but inside there are tender golden hearts. There is generosity and community here too, you just have to patiently work past that tough outer skin.

And now begins the new. I found a sun filled studio apartment in Morningside Heights with a kitchen that is open and large enough to become a productive playground. I made an offer in May and it was accepted. Now I await the verdict of the board for my approval. It’s been three months of imagining and planning (Oh I can’t WAIT to show you!), but this trial is far from over. Welcome back to the Big Apple where no one buys an apartment without first tearing out much of their hair! In the end it will be worth it. I practice supreme patience.

In the meantime I am nested in my dear friend Claire’s apartment where she has generously cleared shelves and emptied a closet for me. Her cosy home is a safe gentle place to untangle myself from my past and reenter the new. I simply cannot fully express my gratitude- you should all be so fortunate to have such dearness in your life.

So here I am dear ones. I am back, in all respects, and it is now you that I turn my attention to. I have missed you.

One of my first acts of nesting here was to purchase a batch of herbs for my windowsill. They sit in front of me at my writing place so that I might look upon them as I think. To my left, in the corner I placed the lavender. I’ve never kept lavender before or even considered it for a potting, but this particular plant caught my eye at the farmer’s market, and that wink completely seduced me. Lavender is a fantastic thinking plant. I love its simple grace to gaze upon, and when my mind wanders I appreciate the refreshing scent it gives me when I stroke the leaves. And so naturally it wasn’t long before it made it’s way into a recipe.

Lavender in my window

Figs grew beautifully in Louisiana into beautiful plump jewels. My dear friend Candy Peavy handed me a bucketful last year that made me swoon with delight. Her tree hugs an outer wall of her home espalier style with elegant grandeur. It reaches up to the roof ridge with wide open arms. She has tended it beautifully, and it’s thanks to her is to drip sublime fruits off of it’s limbs. Whenever I drove past I always slowed to admire her gorgeous tree.

Here in NYC rich purple figs are everywhere on fruit market stands, tempting me at every turn. Late one recent afternoon at the end of a long walk, I grabbed myself a basket and headed home. I eyed them on the counter for a bit (that is after enjoying one or two), and my mind turned to the lavender.

Sliced Figs - A Stack of Dishes

I thought a fragrant honey would be perfect match for my ruby fruits. After snipping a stalk off my plant, I simply plucked the flower buds and put them into a small pot with a glug of honey. I gently warmed the little pot over a low flame and then set that aside for a few minutes to steep. The figs I sliced in half and seared in a cast iron pan to gently enhance their natural sweetness.  After a few minutes onto the plate they went, along with a dosing of fresh goat cheese and chopped toasted almonds- to be topped with the warm lavender honey. Salty, sweet, fragrant, with the mild crunch of almonds and fig seeds. Heavenly!

In this instance I gobbled these up myself, but think of these as a quick and delightful dish to accompany some of that summer rose wine you’re drinking with friends.

It is with friends and for friends that I believe the world exists. Gathering and sharing is what grounds us, connects us and feeds our souls. I have learned this to be more true than ever. In the kitchen cooking, behind my camera photographing, and writing has always been my solace, my joy and my best playground. I am supremely grateful for it.

It’s good to be back amongst you. Thanks for waiting for me.

drops

 

Ginger Herbed Rice Cake with Smoked Chicken

Gingered Herb Rice Cake with Smoked Chicken - A Stack of Dishes

My life will be taking me back to NYC on a more regular basis, one week out of every 5 if all goes well.  My reasons are many and good, but that’s not important here. How that affects my writing here is it gives me some juice, some much needed verve.

I hate to whine on about the have nots that I face in my small Southern city (to be fair things are improving rapidly and well), but I will admit to a lack of inspiration for me at times. I will not place all the blame on place- I’m more of a grown up than that. Art, beauty- it’s all a creation out of nothingness so I should be glad for the grist. But still…

But still, so what.

So freakin’ what.

I cook for others often, but my real mistake is not cooking more often for myself. I LOVE food. I mean I just think it’s the bomb! Do you share my feeling of potential when you enter a well stocked market? There are things that can me done here people! But I now share my life with a fairly picky eater and often dieter, and well… I’m not as able to spread my wings as much as I would like. But I will.

So now- enough of all that- here we have it. Something from more of my wheel house. My gorgeous supermarket stocks these lovely small smoked chickens (and dare I say they are not pricey either). I just adore them. Chicken chicken chicken- I how I can eat thee everyday- but man, is it exciting to have it ready to eat and so tasty! I’ll add it to pasta or top my cheese and cracker snack with a slice. It’s faboo.

After making a batch of chili for a crowd a few days ago I ended up with a rather large bowl of white rice (don’t you know the brown rice went in a flash, bravo!) I hate to waste food and so what to make of it? I thought about rice pudding, and I thought about a casserole, but this is what I came up with. A lovely pan fried cake laced with ginger, parsley and bits of diced chopped dried cherries- the perfect pairing to my smoked chicken. Tadaaaa!

This would be also stupendous in the morning with a poached egg on top, or serve these cakes alongside roasted fish etc. They take no time flat to throw together- use those bits of herbs in your bin, add a jot of cheese if you wish!

And so we have lift off. Cooking from my soul for the freakin’ heck of it. I”m jazzed.

Herbed Rice Cake with Smoked Chicken and Cherries- A Stack of Dishes

Ginger Herb Rice Cakes with Smoked Chicken
make as an appetizer or side dish.
Print
201 calories
21 g
77 g
5 g
18 g
1 g
198 g
937 g
2 g
0 g
4 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
198g
Servings
4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 201
Calories from Fat 47
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 5g
8%
Saturated Fat 1g
5%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 77mg
26%
Sodium 937mg
39%
Total Carbohydrates 21g
7%
Dietary Fiber 2g
10%
Sugars 2g
Protein 18g
Vitamin A
21%
Vitamin C
26%
Calcium
3%
Iron
8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup cooked rice (any kind will do)
  2. 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  3. 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  4. 1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
  5. 1 large egg, beaten
  6. salt and pepper to taste
  7. 8 slices smoked chicken (smoked salmon, trout, etc would also work well here)
  8. 1/2 avocado sliced into 8 pieces
  9. extra parsley to garnish
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl combine the rice, ginger, parsley, cherries, egg, salt and pepper and stir well to combine. Let it sit for a minute while you prepare the pan.
  2. Warm a large skillet over medium heat with a teaspoon of oil and swirl to cover. Add large spoonfuls of the rice mixture to create a 4"patty when tamped down to a 1/2" thickness.
  3. Cook gently for 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook the other side until toasted, about 2 minutes.
  4. Serve with two slices of avocado and chicken on top and flourish with some parsley.
Notes
  1. If you would like to serve these at a gathering you may make the patties in advance, not over cooking them. Before serving, gently warm them up in a pan and you're golden.
beta
calories
201
fat
5g
protein
18g
carbs
21g
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A Stack of Dishes http://www.astackofdishes.com/

Creme Brûlée {for my birthday}

Creme Brûlée~ A Stack of Dishes

I am skilled at making many things, including some pretty faboo cakes. The result is my birthday is often a conundrum for my loved ones. Who can/will make a cake for the baker?  For most of my adult life I felt frustrated by always being the baker and not  being on the receiving end as much. Now that I have retired from the cake business things are getting better. My beautiful Mother in Law is an excellent baker, and does not shy away from baking for me. One of the many things I love about her.

This year she made me a gorgeous and delicious coconut pecan cake, that I absolutely adored and devoured. But somewhere along the line it occurred to me that I actually could make myself anything- I mean ANYTHING- that I wanted. Heck! Why not indulge myself? Who’s to say no? and I am free to cook without having to please anyone but little ol’ me!!

It didn’t have to be the quintessential cake, or treat, or anything like that- just plain old “what am I in the mood for right now?” And Voila! This is what I came up with. [Read more…]