Monday, November 19, 2012

Pumpkin Seed Brittle and the beginnings of a Thanksgiving menu

photograph from My New Orleans, by John Besh
Yesterday I started prepping for our annual Thanksgiving feast.  This year we're hosting a seated dinner for twenty, and house guests begin arriving tomorrow!  My husband is always in charge of the turkey, and he always spit roasts it over an open fire - more on that later this week.  Please forgive my short and slightly scattered posts over the next few days.  I could sit and write all day, but then we'd have nothing to eat!

 I found this salad recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, My New Orleans, by John Besh.  I purchased this several years ago at his restaurant, August, where my husband and I enjoyed one of the best meals we've ever eaten.  It is a beautiful cookbook, arranged by seasons of food, including Blackberries and Chanterelles, Gumbo and Thanksgiving.  His recipes are thoughtfully crafted and simple to follow.  The results are always delicious, and very popular with dinner guests.

I'm a sucker for anything with blue cheese (preferably a good english stilton), and the spicy/sweet nuttiness of the pumpkin seed brittle perfectly compliments the tangy blue cheese.  I especially like this recipe because one can make the brittle ahead of time, as it will easily keep in the pantry (in a plastic bag) for up to a week. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

quick! roasted shrimp

 Of course a well appointed pantry extends beyond dry goods!  I keep several bags of frozen shrimp in my freezer at all times.  It's one of the easiest and most versatile proteins to prepare in a pinch.  The best frozen shrimp are already peeled and deveined, with the tail on. You can find these details on the package. Frozen shrimp are sold by count to the pound.  Large shrimp are a 16-20 count.  I think this is the best size to use for a generous shrimp cocktail, tossed into a fresh salad, or prepared in a hot seafood entree.
 One of my favorite ways to prepare shrimp is to roast it.  Roasting the shrimp brings out its flavor and sweetness much more so than steaming.  I serve it with cocktail sauce as well as an aoli option.  If I'm in a pinch, I'll use good mayonnaise and season it with chipotle powder.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Harissa spread from Tunisia- your new "go to"

 This past Sunday I found the most delicious little jar of goodness! The sweet red pepper provides a fresh, slightly acidic base, while the Harissa adds a nice warm heat to the mix.
Les Moulins Majhoub is based in Tebourda, Tunisia.  Steeped in rich agricultural traditions of the region,  their products are of the finest quality - certainly some of the best  I have tasted.  From their website,
“Tebourba is one of a few towns in Tunisia whose population has a quite special original character. It is composed almost entirely of descendants of the Moors driven out of Andalucia who settled on the site of the old Tuburbum Minus, on the left bank of the Medjerda.  The district of Tebourba is rich and fertile. It produces large amounts of cereals; there are abundant crops of olives, market gardening (truck farming) is highly developed and very varied.”     (E. Lecore-Carpentier - L'Indicateur Tunisien - Annuaire des administrations de la régence de Tunis - Guide du commerce, de l'industrie de l'agriculture et des touristes. 1905.)"
photo courtesy of Les Moulins Majhoub
 Harissa is a hot chili sauce, traditionally from Tunisia or Libya.  The main ingredients are piri priri (which is a type of chili pepper), serano and other hot chili peppers, herbs and spices including garlic, coriander, caraway, chili powder.  Olive oil is added to create the right consistency.  You can purchase harissa paste from most specialty foods stores, or online here.  It is very spicy and should be used sparingly at first, but once you understand its flavor, it becomes a brilliant addition to any middle eastern style dish. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

the cheese shop, and new pantry finds to share!


breakfast accoutrements
It's been quiet here at Butter and Figs over the last few days.  My husband and I skipped town over the weekend for some much needed R&R.  I'm back now with new inspirations, and heaps of goodies to share with you over the next few days.  In the meantime, here is a sneak peak at one of my favorite cheese shops.
the cheese case at The Wine Merchant

delicious salamis, pates, and proscuitto

more delectable goodies

"snacks" for dinner - back in the Butter and Figs kitchen

Thursday, November 1, 2012

out for soup at Uprise Bakery

pepper pot soup

Because there are times when nothing in the pantry will suffice! Thank goodness for local spots like Uprise Bakery with all of their deliciousness!