Archive | September, 2016

Chocolate Fig Ricotta Pie

28 Sep

It will be FIG season for exactly 2 more minutes– hurry up and make this super-easy pie that got good reviews from many normal eaters. Alternatively, try this Raspberry FIG Challahcrowd-pleasing FIG appetizerFIG tartFIG scones, or FIG jam. I love ’em all.

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Chocolate Fig Ricotta Pie

Ingredients

  • pie crust of your choice (I used GF)
  • 2 c Ricotta cheese
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (or substitute 2 tsp vanilla extract… but bean is really best here).
  • 2 TBS sugar (I used coconut sugar) + more for sprinkling on top
  • 4-8 TBS grated dark chocolate (this is somewhere between a 1/2- 3/4 bar)- I used this sugar free kind and no one could tell the difference
  • 15 dried figs, sliced in half lengthwise.
  • 2/3 c liqueur of your choice (I used Godiva chocolate)
  • about 9 fresh, ripe figs, sliced

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. If using premade pie crust, use a fork to poke holes throughout the bottom of crust. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until just golden brown. When done, set aside.
  2. Throw the dried figs in a small pot and cover with liqueur. If they aren’t almost all the way covered, add water until they are. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 10 minutes, or until soft and fragrant. Do not burn! Once soft, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  3. Combine the ricotta, vanilla, and sugar until just combined. Do not go nuts mixing this.
  4. Sprinkle about half the grated chocolate throughout the cooled crust. Spoon half of the ricotta mixture over the chocolate and spread evenly. Push the dried figs into the ricotta layer, cut side up, distributing them evenly. Cover the figs with second half of the ricotta and spread evenly. Arrange the fresh figs as you’d like, sprinkle with sugar.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until crust is golden, figs are a bit caramelized, and center is set. Take out of oven, sprinkle with remaining grated chocolate, and place back in over for 2-3 more minutes, until chocolate is a little melted.
  6. Allow to cool, then serve.

Two Timely Books

26 Sep

Presented with minimal comment: two absolutely phenomenal novels that, although set nearly 200 years ago, contribute immensely to the conversation of residual racism and racial violence in America.

The Underground Railroad- Colson Whitehead

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I have loved Whitehead since The Intuitionist, and was thrilled to find he had a new novel coming out. The Underground Railroad is a book that commands your attention from sentence one: “The first time Caesar approached Cora about running North, she said no.” What follows is a freedom struggle that’s as bold as it is devastating. Whitehead loves to veer his readers right to the border of fantasy and reality, and uses his penchant for the bizarre to blur the lines between the shocking realities of life as a slave and events so strange you can’t help but wonder if they’re true. Jumping through time and characters, Whitehead delivers a cat-and-mouse chase so fraught with generational guilt and ancestral entitlement even Javert might have opted out. The ending feels just a little too made-for-the-big-screen, but still delivers the visceral punch of a tremendous story told by a tremendous writer–Ana Duvernay, if you’re reading, PLEASE consider adapting this for your next movie! I would absolutely call this a must-read in 2016.

Homegoing: A Novel– Yaa Gyasi

Whew lordy, where to start? Gyasi is a Ghanian-born writer who moved to Alabama in her teens and, after graduating with her MFA from Yale, chose to take on the nearly impossible: tracing a direct line from the slave trade to modern systemic oppression using the stories of only two families. Not impressed yet? She does it by devoting just a single chapter to each generation’s character. And, for her final trick, she makes you care deeply about almost each of those one-offs as if their story had spanned the entire novel, not just a short chapter.

There is a lot to love about this book–it’s character driven, beautifully written, and never looks away from the cruelty of the slave trade and its lasting implications. One story branch follows an Asante family as alliances shift and colonial capitalism takes root in West Africa; the second branch follows the descendants of a kidnapped, enslaved, and tortured Fante woman through several decades in America. I couldn’t get enough of the West African  stories–Gyasi does such justice to the customs, character, and culture of a people usually mis-represented as primitive, hapless, and uncalculating. The chapters that take place in America, while just as interesting, lack the self-possesion Gyasi allows their counterparts in modern-day Ghana. There’s a bit of symbolism attached to the American chapters– we are meant to understand that each of the characters is representing something, drawing a line from past to present. A powerful point, to be sure, but there are a few chapters that feel just a bit contrived as a result.

This book is a wonderful insight into the struggle to be free, the systems that hinder progress, and the generational melancholy of people who are black in America. Gyasi’s command of history is tremendous, and her carefully-crafted characters become beloved tour guides to America’s dark side. Please let me know when you’ve read it!

Friday 5: Cookbooks I Love

23 Sep

It’s Friday, school’s back in session, and I’m looking forward to the weekend–so today, we’re talking cookbooks. For a more substantial read, check out this not-new-but-really great essay from Brit Bennett.

Plenty- Yotam Ottolenghi

This book is worth it just for that cover recipe- but, seriously, here’s a man who knows how to treat a veggie. For more of his genius, search “Ottolenghi” on this blog and see the million ways he’s changed my life.

Run Fast, Eat Slow- Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky

Everyone and their brother is eating the Superhero muffins from this book– what could be better than zucchini, carrots, nuts, and cinnamon all wrapped up in the perfect pre-run muffin? The amazing American marathoner Shalane Flanagan teamed up with a college teammate to create a book dedicated to athletes and the fuel that nourishes them. Lots of the book is gluten free, most of the book is sugar-free, and all of the recipes are DELICIOUS. In just this week I’ve made the aforementioned delicious muffins, zucchini-quinoa risotto, cherry tomato and shrimp pasta, and a sweet potato salad that might have changed my core character– I’m obsessed.  The best part about this book is that they’ve given a purpose to each recipe– sweet potato fries are “whole foods carb0-loading,” giddy up energy bites are “for preworkout energy,” and the Greek bison burgers are just perfect “for pumping iron.” Makes meal planning painless.

The Complete Book of Greek Cooking- Rena Salaman & Jan Cutler

NePaKef found this for me in the bargain bin at Books a Million (tells you how long I’ve had this book, DC people!), and I was highly skeptical of a book about Greek food written by two people with very unGreek last names. HOWEVER. Some of my favorite Greek recipes come from this book- this twist on the old spinach pie classic, a surprisingly good pine nut tart, and this sausage-meatball hybrid that’s quickly become MrKef’s favorite that I really need to share on this blog. Unlike many Greek cookbooks, there’s no discussion of tea cups for measurement– the recipes are easy to follow and their success is easy to replicate. My copy is well-loved, and I bet yours would be, too.

The Whole 30- Melissa & Dallas Hartwig

I missed the Whole 30 train –but I love this dang book. It’s filled cover to cover with grainfree, glutenfree, dairy free, sugar free recipes that are quick, easy, and delicious. The sweet potato salmon cakes are a staple in my lunchbag these days, and MrKef is loving the grilled curry-coconut chicken. I love not having to dream up substitutes for sugary sauces. All the flavor, none of the crap–totally my bag.

Cake Love: How To Bake Cakes from Scratch- Warren Brown

This was my first “grown up’ cookbook wayyyyy back in my Bryant Street days, when GrewUponASoybeanFarmKef and I would try to make the Swiss Meringue buttercream ten times in a weekend before we finally got it to set up correctly. Brown’s recipes aren’t simple– these are day-long, sometimes full-weekend baking projects–but the payoff is huge: a mojito cake with fresh mint and a rum buttercream icing? Yes please. If you want to learn about the art of cake making, I love this approachable, clearly-written, gonna-be-delicious-even-if-you-eff-it-up cookbook as a starting point.

Thanks to Courtney, Cynthia, and Mar for coordinating the Friday 5 Link Up!

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