Tag Archives: Late summer fruit

FIG LEAF INFUSED OIL

This is Kingfish crudo, fig leaf, mascarpone, grape, as presented at Chianti Restaurant in Hutt Street in Adelaide.

The restaurant prides itself in serving fresh, seasonal food. This is exceptionally good, modern Italian food! As for seasonal produce, figs and grapes are in season.

I did not know what to expect of the taste of fig leaf infused oil, but it was very pleasant – for me, the fig leaf oil tasted grassy, slightly nutty and with a hint of bitterness.

And look at the colour! It is so intense.

I have made parsley, coriander, dil, mint and basil infused oil and making fig oil appears to be no different.

When making oils infused with herbs I have always used a blender and I have used the the aromatic oils to drizzle over foods like labneh,  fresh cheeses like fior di latte, ricotta, burrata or fresh mozzarella (this category includes bocconcini), vegetables, especially potatoes and of course carpaccio, raw fish, usually referred to as crudo.  As you can see by my suggestions for its use, the green looks particularly spectacular with white colours, but you can also imagine how a blob will look good on pureed soups – for example, think about Gazpacho (or Gaspacho), pumpkin, Vichyssoise, zucchini soup. Visualize it on pasta dishes too. And why not use a combination of fresh figs, a fresh cheese with a drizzle of fig leaf oil!

I do not  measure ingredients, but as a rough estimate use 1 cup of good quality, fragrant, extra virgin olive oil to 3-4 fresh fig leaves (depending on size) or 4 cups loosely packed fresh herbs –  use only the soft leaves of soft leafed herbs, for example – basil, parsley, oregano, dill, chives, chervil, fennel, coriander, tarragon.

Make sure you use bright green, healthy, fig leaves and not too mature.

Blanch fresh fig leaves, or the leaves of fresh herbs (with no stems)  in some boiling water to soften. The blanching preserves the colour and the leaves will turn bright green. 

Quickly transfer the leaves or herbs from the boiling water to an ice water bath and cool quickly. Remove the herbs from the ice bath, strain and squeeze out as much excess water from the herbs as possible.

Add the squeezed  leaves to the oil with a pinch of salt and blend. Infuse in the oil  for at least  1 hour.  if you leave it overnight it will not suffer and in fact will turn a darker green. Strain the puree through cheesecloth or a fine meshed strainer.  When I did this, strangely enough, the blend had coconut aromas.

Keep oil refrigerated, bring to room temperature before use.

I used a tea strainer to filter the oil for the photo below. I am not at home and therefore do not have access to muslin or a fine meshed strainer. If I had filtered this through muslin, I could have  intensified the colour by squeezing  the muslin and squeezing  the green colour through. It still tasted great.

Experiment.  Below: sorrel, basil, rocket.

See also:

PESCE CRUDO, raw fish dishes in Sicily

SARDINE, CRUDE E CONDITE (raw and marinaded)

PRICKLY PEARS Fichi d’India and a paste called Mostarda

I first wrote about prickly pears in a post dated Apr 15, 2009. The photo above was taken in the market of Siracusa (Syracuse).

This is an update of the post and I have added a recipe for a paste made with prickly pears (Mostarda di fichi D’india): March 5, 20015  .

Whenever I purchase fichi d’india (literally figs of India), I find myself telling others about the delights of eating prickly pears, but most importantly how to handle and peel them; I should set myself up at the Queen Victoria Market and give advice to the customers.

The fruit can be yellow, purple or red and ripens in late summer and in autumn. Use tongs when selecting your own fruit (store /stall holders should have those available) or wrap your hand in plastic or a paper bag because the fruit is covered with small, almost hair like spines that penetrate the skin, and stay there.

Sicilians love them and those of you who have travelled to Sicily would have seen them growing all over the countryside, eaten them after the meal in restaurants (as the cleansing fruit) and seen them for sale from the back of trucks on roadsides and in markets. They also grow in Calabria and in Puglia (all in the South of Italy).

Mareblu photos-10

Once peeled, eat the fruit raw. They are full of seeds (edible) and many non Sicilians may not like them but they really are worth trying. My aged Sicilian aunty who lives in Ragusa always warns me not to eat too many – apparently the seeds can group together and form a lump in the bowel causing constipation.

IMG_1239

The photograph should be self explanatory, but just in case here is what to do:

Place the prickly pears in a bowl of water to clean – this also helps to remove some of the spines. My father used to soak them in water overnight but I do not think that this is necessary.

Remove the fruit with tongs.

Place on a plate. Use a fork to hold the fruit while peeling.

Use a sharp knife and cut off each end of the fruit.

Make one long vertical slice down the body of the prickly pear.

Peel back the thick fleshy skin with the use of the fork and knife that’s wrapped around the prickly pear. Discard the skin.

 

Mostarda di Fichi D’india

Like quinces prickly pears can be made into a  paste (called mostarda) See: Mostarda and Cotognata– Sweets shaped in molds / moulds (spelling depending where you come from(. The Sicilian molds  are ceramic shapes, called Formelle.

formella

Peel the prickly pears and crush them with a fork. Place them into a saucepan.

Heat them over moderate heat until they boil – the prickly pears will be more liquid. Strain the mixture through a colander (with small holes) to remove the seeds.

Cool the mixture.

Add some vanilla, sugar, some Marsala, grated orange peel, ground cloves and ground cinnamon (all to your taste). Some also add  a few almonds to the mixture.

Add 100 g of cornflour per litre of juice – do this slowly, a little bit of flour at a time and make sure that there are no lumps. You may need a whisk or a blender.

Cook on low heat, stirring often until the mixture thickens into a thick paste to the consistency of a thick custard or polenta. Pour into moulds. Leave overnight.

Take them out of their moulds, place them on a wire rack and dry in the sun for 2-3 days. Turn them over often and bring indoors overnight.

Store them in a dry cardboard box with a few bay leaves (fresh or dry). The surface of the mostarda will become covered with a light and fine white coating of sugar – this means that they are now dry and can be stored in a  well sealed ceramic or tin container.

The photo below was taken in Siracusa in a shop called Il Mago Delle Spezie. Because of their dark colour these are likely to be mostrada made with grape must (vino cotto).

 

 

Weekend Herb Blogging.

On this site bloggers can post information about any herb, plant, fruit, vegetable or flower – I submitted my information about prickly pears to the host for the week: The Cabinet of Prof Kitty.