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.



Healthy Labneh with Honeycomb and Seeded Crackers

Homemade fat free labneh served with honeycomb and pistachios.

Homemade labneh has become a salvation. September has come barreling in with its usual madness. The days are whirlwinds of new routines, the sorrow as Summer fades, and the scramble to make sense of the new feel and rhythm of the season.

I am back to graduate school and this semester is packed. I’m only taking 3 classes, but they are all reading and writing heavy. This week alone was approx 400 pages of books and articles. It’s all wonderful stuff, and I am not the least bit unhappy about the subjects- it’s just well… whew! The tomes and pages are lined up at the end of my desk and they just haunt me. Reeeead meeeee. Reaaaad meee nooooooooow!

In another week or so I will get into my groove. I always do. Patterns will develop and a cadence and pace will fall in line and soon all will be in lock step. But for now- it’s more like organized chaos and that just freaks me out. Sometimes a lot, sometimes only a teeeny bit.

Cooking always brings me solace, and though it’s time away from demanding pages- it’s also a break from my thinking mind. There is quiet in my kitchen, and satisfaction in seeing something come to life in my hands as a result of time spent. There is something to that right? This is one of the reasons we like to cook, isn’t it? After putting in time and energy and your own particular flair into your food, there it is. On a plate. Looking all yummy and lovely. Look what I made!

And then, of course, you get to eat it.

Every day is theater. Every go round is a creation. Sure, not every day is award worthy, but hey, that’s okay- but I find it so soul satisfying. Sort of like coasting on a bike after long uphill climbs. What a blessing.

Homemade Labneh is a wonderful snack to have around. Making your own Labneh requires little more than time. Somewhere along the line I acquired a yogurt strainer (which I also use to make homemade ricotta btw). I dumped in a carton of Greek yogurt, covered it, and forgot it over the weekend. After 2 days I had lovely thick “cheese”. A very similar consistency to cream cheese with 0% saturated fat. Awesomeness. Nibble on it for your breakfast, or dress it up, like here, when you want to impress.

Rosemary fig seeded crackers

For now it’s the perfect snack for me to nibble on while I read. The Seeded Fig Rosemary Crackers above are the perfect accompaniment. I made these for a post earlier this year. I keep an unsliced loaf in the freezer and then defrost, slice and bake off when needed. There recipe is here. The beauty of that? I can slice off just as much or little as I need. (just a nice little aside).

The honeycomb I brought back from Thailand. Yes, it did ooze a bit into my luggage. Yes, I did have it wrapped up, but what can I say? It’s worth it. I am a bit excited about honey these days. I’m falling in love with it the way a sommelier can fall in love with Pinot Noirs. They are all so different tasting and aromatic. Sort of like golden jewels of deliciousness. My friend Gail Dosick has a friend who started a bee colony not too long ago (Thank you! the world needs people like you!) and I’m hoping I might get a bit of a taste of her first harvest. I hear it’s floral and divine. {fingers crossed}

Here come the holidays. This is a great go to. Lovely and rich tasting- but healthy and wonderful.

So no real recipe- like I said, strain a container of 0% Greek yogurt through a fine sieve or cheesecloth in the fridge for a day or so and you’re good to go. If you can’t find honeycomb regular honey is just fine.

Happy early Fall my darlings!