Monday, September 28, 2009

Fair Game- Deep Fried Oreos

How did this idea of adding more fat to an already high calorie sweet treat come about? I would like to think that the story goes like this...

When there is not enough time to thaw out ingredients for a regular meal the kids can quickly decide they want breakfast for dinner, and suggest pancakes. As long as it is still nutritious we mom's say "Why not". As we are getting all the ingredients ready (come on everyone has done it at least once) there is that cookie jar, or opened cookie package in the pantry calling out our name. Hunger pains reinforce the idea that a few bites will not spoil our dinner.

Yeah... come on... admit it. As you are whipping up the batter in a frenzy, because they need to get their homework done, you pick up the cookie, and as it goes towards our mouth; it suddenly slips from your fingers and falls into the bowl of pancake batter. Apparently someone pulled it out of the batter and an idea went a little bit further. Out came the oil and a frying pan... Voila! Deep Fried Oreos hit the market place.

Okay, so how did it happen? My story seems to make sense in so many ways. Although I will admit that my oil and frying pan would not have been brought out. Nor would my pantry be harboring such a thing, and I never cared for Oreos that much. Give me some oatmeal raisin, or some chocolate chewy cookies. Well, what in the world gave me the idea to try it?

This IS carnival and fair food at its best...right? Things like this part of the freak show of the food world? Much like its comrades fried Twinkies, Snickers, and other junk treats.

One night recently on my travels back to Texas, a bunch of friends were sitting around talking about how the State Fair was opening the following weekend after my plans to leave. How on earth could we miss this great event that takes place each year they tried to convince me. Suddenly a voice in my head said, "Funnel Cake", and that was what started it all. "I would only really miss eating funnel cake" I said out loud.

Henry said he would miss fried Oreos! Then the conversation went array, and Henry suggested we make fried battered coconut cake like we were eating at that moment. He said we could make a fortune. Yuck! My mom's middle name was fried- Fried everything to be exact. I had enough of fried anything once I left home. Nope, he could start that venture all by himself, but I would give making fried Oreos a try my last night just for him.

While out shopping the next morning I noticed that Central Market had Oreos on hand, and I would put that commercial heavy cream to use once again! I suggested we try another flavor, like mint, but no one jumped on my idea. Hours later, lots of company, a chipotle marinated pecan smoked fajita spread; I made deep fried Oreos for dessert.

Making these once was enough. I ate only one. This sweet concoction is not my cup of tea. The others devoured all the rest. I also made my funnel cake, minus powder sugar (none in the house), and that turned out still, to be my favorite fair food. Thanks to Henry's Fry Daddy, and my pancake batter recipe memorized from the days of small feet going pitter patter through my kitchen.

The only information I could find on deep fried sweets like this- Deep Fried Twinkies were introduced around the year 2001 at the Arkansas State Fair. Being a hit for the first few days; it took off from there...

The cookie recipes I found online did not mention the cookies being frozen, but I tried it both ways. The frozen cookies did not melt into the gooey center like the unfrozen ones did. I used a cup of the high fat heavy cream I received from a friend who works for Maggiano's in Plano, and a basic pancake recipe. You can purchase the cream from a local dairy farm, or twist a chef friends arm to order it for you. I did mention that this cream is available (Smack N Cheese post) if you search in your area, but conventionally it is only sold to restaurants, or through select dairy farms (if any in your area, or look online).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ooops I did it again!

October will be a year since I started this food blog. I have enjoyed my life with all its changes, and ignoring the negative to live a healthy existence. Even my son changes every six months by way of maturing, and through changes I have seen via phone calls and visits. He is in college, and a big time bachelor. Aaron has lived in his own apartment for three years now. Yes, this mom is proud as he works as a butcher's assistant, and can cook...almost as good as I can. I was at his place in December and made the same dish above. I make this every time he is around. Why?

As mom's go we all know what it is like when they want us to cook favorite dishes for them when we are around. Smothered Steak is his favorite, and has been since he was small. I came through St. Louis on my way home from Texas, and we visited the meat department he works in full time. I selected an unusual cut that he said they are playing around with for customers, English Steak. A cut that come from the shoulder clod. Shoulder clod is part of the beef chuck. The meat resembles smaller round steak.

"This cut is not sold conventionally" he shared with Lisa and I. He also told us that they do not come up with the names, and there is no reason he knows of for English Steak except it is used in Kidney Pie. We took home three pieces for $5.99 a pound, minus his discount. These make for fairly tough steaks in the skillet; unless you slow cook them in a liquid, or marinate it overnight; then cook it on the grill.

My son went behind the counter (his day off) and proceeded to tenderize them, but the machine used had been bent; therefore he could not tenderize them commercially for our dinner. I told him that it was alright, and that we could use a can of mushroom soup to pound it out. We laughed as I described how my own mother did that when I was young, before gadgets existed, and I promised him it would not take long. His job starts at four in the morning, so early to bed he must go.

As a side dish we had tomato jalapeno greens with bacon and red onion. Cook in olive oil, garlic, black pepper, salt, and paprika to give it a good flavor. We also picked up some roasted garlic bread to sop up the gravy. Aaron has decided to make this on his own after cutting the bread up, spreading some gravy on top, and toasting it off with cheese would be a great super bowl party dish. We dubbed it 'Aaron's Leftover BS', and then we laughed. He will let us know how it goes over with the guys in February.

Maybe he was just a little too hungry when it came out of the oven!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Smack & Cheese- Heavy Cream Revision

[My friend Carol and husband Henry got crazy into taking the photos, and adding mustard to my plate]

After visiting Chris @ Nibble Me This in his hometown in Tennessee and tasting his wife's macaroni and cheese dish (I dubbed 'Smack & Cheese'), my friend, Lisa and I vowed to duplicate it for our friends in Texas. Why? Because it was the creamiest and best either of us had ever had! I am normally not a big fan of mac and cheese since my two children burnt me out on wanting the box version for fourteen years, and my mom's oven dried out version as a child; I just never wanted to eat it again, but Alexis and Chris have made a believer out of me.

Have you taken a trip somewhere across the pond, like Ireland, and had cream with your coffee or tea; milk on your cereal or fresh fruit; spread a thick and rich butter on your toast, and thought it was like none you have ever had in the states. Have you eaten at high end restaurants like Maggiano’s, and had pasta dishes like their Veal and Mushroom Ravioli Alforno (meaning ‘oven baked’, or pasta that is "al forno" is also often al dente; which means "at/to the tooth") with its thick and rich cream sauce, and thought it was to die for? Well, it is because they do not have regulations, or food standards in place on things like milk, cream, and butter. Anything you purchase in our stores here in the states is regulated.

I did replicate Chris @ Nibble Me This, wife’s ‘Smack & Cheese’ recipe using a restaurant grade heavy cream (38-40%) given to me by a chef friend here in Texas to replace the regular store bought cream and milk recipe below.

When I introduce high milk fat cream sauces such as this to my friends outside of the restaurant, well, they ‘ew’ and ‘ah’ over the taste and texture, but then conversation goes straight to how they all feel guilty about the consequences of eating dishes like this. Not me, since I do not consume much cheese or regular milk at all. His wife Alexis and I discovered after talking that we both have a love affair with heavy cream, and I often substitute it for milk in recipes. Heavy Cream is a regular staple in all my kitchen(s). I knew once I saw the recipe I had to make it my own.

I looked for a unique cheddar cheese topping, as well as my favorite prosciutto from the San Danielle region of Italy to add as an extra touch.

The only thing we did not find in Central Market (Lisa had never been, and I love seeing their jaws drop on the first visit) was the large macaroni noodles needed, so we agreed on shell pasta. With so much shopping that day we wanted a one stop market visit. The cheese and cream factor IS the star in this production. As long as the pasta has spaces to hold the mixture, and squishes out when your eating; its all good!

Henry smoked some German sausage with pecan on his seasoned grill, and Lisa cut up some avocado to compliment the 'Smack & Cheese' for our dinner. I must say that with all the flavor combination's going on in our mouths that night...the avocado was the most brilliant addition for the pecan smoke and cheese on the palate.

[Photo by Henry]

Henry walking into the house with the sausage, and opening up the oven was like the heavens opening up after leaving Central Market in my photo. The smell was almost too much to bear!

Cream (including light whipping cream) is a dairy product that is composed of the higher-butterfat layer skimmed from the top of milk before homogenization. In un-homogenized milk, over time, the lighter fat rises to the top. In the industrial production of cream this process is accelerated by using centrifuges called "separators". In many countries, cream is sold in several grades depending on the total butterfat content. Cream can be dried to a powder for shipment to distant markets.

Cream produced by cows (particularly Jersey cattle) grazing on natural pasture often contains some natural carotenoid pigments derived from the plants they eat; this gives the cream a slight yellow tone, hence the name of the yellowish-white color, cream. Cream from cows fed indoors, on grain or grain-based pellets, is white.

Half and half (10.5 – 18%)
Light, coffee, or table cream (18–30% fat)
Medium cream (25% fat)
Whipping or light whipping cream (30–36% fat)
Heavy whipping cream (36% or more)
Extra-heavy, double, or manufacturer's cream (38–40% or more) - generally not available at retail

For cooking purposes, both single and double cream can be used in cooking, although the former can separate when heated, usually if there is a high acid content (like sour cream).

Other countries cheese products, creams, and butters might taste better than ours, but food standards are not always regulated in European countries, and therefore labels and packaging can say anything they like. To keep consumers from being deceived and defrauded by such schemes, standards have been established for a large number of common food products in our country. The standards--some set by the Food and Drug Administration, others by the U.S. Department of Agriculture--define the products so that a shopper knows that a food really is what its label says it is, and not a cheapened substitute.

Most UK chefs always use double cream- Double cream is the British term for heavy or whipping cream in the United States, but it is a little thicker than our whipping cream. It contains about 48% butterfat. Double cream is so rich, in fact, that it is easy to over whip it and get it too thick.

Full-fat crème fraiche when cream is added to a hot sauce, to prevent any problem with it separating or "splitting". In sweet and savory custards such as those found in flan fillings, crème brûlées and crème caramels, both types of cream are called for in different recipes depending on how rich a result is called for. It is useful to note that double cream can also be thinned down with water to make an approximation of single cream if necessary.

Note: Unlike heavy cream, lower-fat substitutes like half-and-half and evaporated milk tend to "break" or curdle when added to sauces. To prevent this from happening, heat the sauce over low or medium heat, or reduce the cream substitute before adding it to the sauce. Don't let the sauce boil. Cream sauces made with lower-fat cream substitutes also tend to have less body; to correct for that, consider adding 1 tablespoon flour or 2 teaspoons cornstarch to the sauce for every cup of evaporated milk substituted. Stir the thickener into a paste first to prevent lumps. Ultra-pasteurized whipping cream is harder to whip and has some unpleasant flavor notes.

[Photo by Carol; hand by me]

I was waiting for Chris to email me the recipe, and not rely on memory, as the copy I had disappeared during our get together...hmmm)

Alexis 'Smack & Cheese' Original, and alterations made by Chef E
(The original recipe was double this amount. Original recipe was reported by Chris to be popular by over 166 BBQ'ers, and off of BigOven 3+, GBolten and an unknown Kelli)

In sauce pan heat together-

1 cup milk (I used heavy cream, so 2 cups altogether)
1 cup heavy cream
16 oz velveeta, cubed (I used 16 oz Tillamook creamy cheddar, grated)

after cheese melts, add-

1/2 stick butter (I used salted)

Cook 1 medium package macaroni or shell pasta just to an al dente state; drain well; place in roasting, or baking dish; pour cheese mixture over pasta and stir; sprinkle on top-

1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese (I added a few ounces of chopped prosciutto)
1 teaspoon paprika powder

Bake, 350 degrees, and until bubbly; serve 1/2 cup portions.

Alexis, Yours was to die for, but I would suggest you and Chris befriend a local chef who cooks with restaurant grade heavy cream, or find a local dairy farm for a good ole low pasteurized, or raw cream, and 'milk' them for a few quarts of the good stuff for her addiction!

Matt could not let me walk out of the restaurant with the quart due to silly restaurant rules, so he gave me two containers full of the heavy cream. I saved one for my next post...Deep Fried Oreos...something I had not had, or made before...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tennessee Hospitality

On my down to Texas I stopped in Virginia to pick up my childhood friend, Lisa. Before we headed to our reunion, we popped in on a fellow blog, Chris @ Nibble Me This in Knoxville.

Chris and his wife Alexis opened up their house to us with some real down home hospitality. Even Lisa felt like family when we sat down to the fabulous meal they made for us. Yes, Chris can smoked some kick butt ribs on that green egg of his!

Did I mention the 'Smack & Cheese' (my given name) they served us? Oh my gosh... we held him at gun point for that recipe! (over to the right, and I am making that tonight for my friends) Alexis and I share a love affair with heavy cream, and that makes everything so much creamier and less fattening (yeah right).

He made two flavors of ribs... A cherry dry rub, and a spicy dry rub... Oh and I forgot, Chris could you share the name of that cherry rub mixture for everyone on here, and so I can look for it while on the way back through.

I would have taken yours, but that freakin big container would not fit in mine or Lisa's purse!

Chris sent us off with some of his son's smoked bologna... We ate those in some sandwiches on the way down to the reunion.

We had a great time with Chris, Alexis and their son, and I hope I can repay their hospitality back soon! Are you and Alexis up to goat on the fire pit in Lisa's back pasture?

PS- Chris reminded me I made bread at Lisa's, and we took a loaf to his house...I am partial to my own cooking, so without bragging too much- it was good (was, since none was left after only a day of camping)!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Philly's Best- Osteria

Are you in the mood for some thin crust brick oven pizza, but dinner without the kids? Would you like to wow some friends with an antipasti platter served on rustic wooden boards as you all drink some mid to high range priced wine while dressed casual, and not worry about being too loud? If you answered no to the first answer then you might want to retry your google search, but if you answered yes; then Osteria is for you. If you answered no to the second question, then you might want stay home; order in delivery; make your own party, but you will not have as much fun!

A group of my friends did decide to venture away from their New Jersey digs for a city get away. Being able to take off like this for a few days is just one of the lures of living in the north east for my family moving from Texas. We live only an hour in most directions from other states of exploration. Philadelphia, being one, is full of great restaurants, museums, shopping and sightseeing. With a click of my fingers, and the help of online bargaining sites I found hotel rooms for each couple just a little over fifty dollars, and in walking distance of the downtown’s many offerings.

Dinner in Philly is always challenging, why… because there are so many great places to eat. We personally have eaten at many of the top liners such as Morimoto, Le Bec Fin and Striped Bass (which was directly across the street from Fin, but no longer exists to our great sadness). We feel the city has always attracted great establishments. We are excited to see rising chefs open not only one restaurant, but two as Marc Vetri has done in the past few years. This trend in building culinary empires seems like it always begins with a higher end establishment, and then on to a casual menu and setting (but there usually does remain a high end price tag attached).

Do not get me wrong…my favorite pie experience in the world is a brick oven slice, and I would drive the distance, paying that extra buck or two, or four if it makes my taste buds swoon like a Frank Sinatra song. Crust that snaps like a cracker with lovely burnt edges and just a whisper of unique ingredients like local corn, charred scallions, bufala mozzarella and black truffle listed as pannocchia on the menu under Le Pizze.

Minus the crooner, Osteria is quite the foodie experience; of course, you must stay away from reading oodles of mixed reviews (not always a good idea)before you at least give the place a try. I believe that walking blindly into the door of any place is always worth a shot, and a second visit gives you a chance to really get a good feel for the quality of service and menu flavors. Following my own advice I entered the Broad street renovated apartment building ground floor restaurant, and was hit by the smell of brick oven heavenly'ness. The rest of the group commented on this immediately, so it is not just my own imagination.

As we traveled past the hostess area the open air kitchen (housing the brick oven up front) and bar seating are to your right; then guided past tables on the left we entered the atrium style room patio area where a larger table awaited our arrival. We all must have been drugged by the intoxicating smells coming from each table we passed. One by one we grew exceedingly hungry to try everything on the tables in our path. Like the large rustic wooden board covered by fresh marinated vegetable antipasto (12 pp), wooden bowls filled with fresh house made bread, bowls of pasta, and so many others. Our very attentive waitress gave us the specials, and then answered all of our questions.

The group decided after eating all the bread with truffle butter we should share Antipasti and a Primi dish- the above mentioned pizza, beet and goat cheese plin with tarragon, and the lamb "battuto" with grilled apricots and pecorino salad. From their Secondi side of the menu, we ordered- rabbit "casalinga" with pancetta, sage, brown butter and soft polenta, wood grilled grouper with corn brodo, chanterelle mushrooms and charred baby leeks, chicken "alla griglia" with radicchio, olive salad and fennel agro dolce, and one of the specials mentioned: slow roasted baby suckling pig with brick oven roasted potatoes (perfectly cooked in olive oil I must say!), and topped off with a pork rind.

After ordering we decided on a bottle of wine to go with all the ingredients gracing the table- 2007, Tenuta ArgenteiraareitengrA, Bolgheri, Poggio Al Ginepri. This Tuscan wine worked perfectly with each dish.

Everything was wonderful. No, it was fantastic. Simply, we were stuffed. The entire table was happy with the whole experience, so much that I kissed the cook! I do not think that when Chef Jeff Michaud came over to our table; offering out his hand in introduction, and to ask us how we felt about the food; that he expected me to pull him in so I could plant one on his cheek. Only since our dining experience at Elements in Princeton a while back have I felt everything was as perfect in detail as a restaurant should be.

Osteria's partners Marc Vetri and Jeff Benjamin were not in sight, but they along with Jeff have created a fun and tasty trip to northern Italy. That brick oven smell they possess should be bottled as a room spray! Well, I think we will just have to come back. Do not take my word, or any one else's for that fact...go try it for yourself!


Cuisines: Italian & Seasonal Menus

Address: 640 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Phone: (215) 763-0920
Fax: (215) 763-0926

Did I mention the Ricotta Cheesecake was divine?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Artichoke Chimichurri Skirt Steak

Let's just face something here...when we go to each others sites and see those mouthwatering plates of food, we wish it was right in front of us! Maybe we had already eaten, but now we are hungry again. About a month ago I kept seeing steak or other dishes with chimichurri sauce. Hubby and I had already had flank steak not that long ago, and I do not like to repeat dishes too often. Honestly, my diet has gone up and down, but I refuse to give up, so meat is only prepared once or every other week in my kitchen to cut back on fat in our diets.

My personal chef client is mostly vegetarian, and we both have a great love affair with eating lots of vegetable based dishes each week. I even brought Quinoa and other gluten free foods with me to Virginia (just in case I could not find it locally). Lisa's farm has provided plenty of garden fresh vegetables to go along with my fru fru food. Her daughters loved the muung bean sprouts we let sit out over night. I will miss eating meat dishes like this during my stay here, but with all the hiking, river fishing, camping, and site seeing I already feel great!

Artichoke Chimichurri Marinade

1 cup drained, canned artichoke hearts, small chop
1 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

Puree all ingredients in processor; stir in chopped artichoke. Transfer to bowl. Marinate steak for two hours on each side. Grill (I used grill pan, since we had lots of rain lately).

I grilled some asparagus to go along with the main course, and let's just say now looking back on my own dish...drool...I am making this again!

If you are interested, I have posted some of my Virginia pics on my TMI blog...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Is A Pickle A Pickle When Its Not a Pickle?

First things first...three wonderful blogs have given me awards, so I want to say thank you to them now before I forget, so that I am not in a pickle later...

A great big Thank You to all who have given me awards, especially these three...

- Miranda @ My Food And Life Encounters
- Katherine @ Smokey Mountain Cafe
- Rebecca @ Chow & Chatter

I appreciate your comments on here, and enjoy all of your sites as well...

Next, I have to say that I am heading out of town for a week, and by this time I am probably in Virginia on my friends 100 acre cattle and nursery farm. A little R&R until my cooking classes start again, and my first experience working in a grass feed beef area. I will be visiting another friend in Knoxville, as well as a blogger. Anyone else out there love road trips to places they have never been? I am sure I will have lots of food experiences (we are making these pickled okra, as she has a garden and wants to can a few things) along the way. *hint hint* Chris...maybe some good BBQ will be waiting in Knoxville?!

Lisa, and I will be driving down to Texas for our 30th high school reunion together in a few days as well. grandfather used to say we were in deep pickle if we disobeyed their rules while spending the weekends with him and my grandmother. Now that would have not been such a bad thing... She grew okra in her back yard, and like my mom's pickled cucumbers...her pickled okra was just out of this world.

I had the chance to visit one of my cafe clients gardens recently. He only had about seven okra ready to pick, but he offered them to me. Now went I got home I sat them on the counter. They laid there for quite a few days, and then began turning black here and there, so I knew if they did not get used up...well, I would have wasted a beautiful gift.

This past week I catered a five course wine and food pairing. There was a marinated beet salad in which I needed an extra garnish...then it came to me...pickle the okra in a similar marinade I was using on the beets!

So, I got myself out of another pickle by making a damn good pickled okra...have a great weekend friends!

Asian Pickled Okra

This is probably way more pickling solution than I needed for a small amount of okra

In a 2 quart sauce pan I added 1 cup water, and 1 cup rice wine vinegar; add 1 teaspoon grated ginger, and 2 cloves garlic, 3 plus tablespoon Himalayan sea salt, and a splash of Louisiana hot sauce; bring to boil for seven minutes, and turn off heat; add chopped okra, and let sit until cools. Place in jar, and keep overnight in refrigerator. My next batch here in VA will have garlic rice wine vinegar, and some of her garden chillies thrown in. My friend and her girls love spicy food just like I do!

I ate a few while warm and they were great, but they will keep for at least two weeks in this solution. Growing up we ate them to fast to even worry about preserving them for a later date. Use them for salads, or even stirring in a pot of stir-fry or just plain rice...

Fig-Cranberry Cobbler

First Fig-

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

-- Edna St. Vincent Millay

When Nancy, a wine and food loving friend here in Jersey, first asked me if I liked figs, I responded "Yes, I adore them".

Ed, her husband told me they had several fig trees in their garden; then he said they also have more than they ever could eat themselves. Explaining that they usually all begin to ripen at once he asked if I would like some.

Me? Say "No thank you" to food I could use in a new recipe, of course I was available to pull weeds for even just one bite of a fresh off the tree fruit.

Ed told me they would be ready by August.

I only had two months till August arrived; so did I, and now they are history in my Fig-Cranberry Cobbler.

Figs in New Jersey? Yes, some avid gardeners and farmers have been growing sixteen varieties of fig trees in pots here for years.

[Photo courtesy of Figtreeman]

I talk about fond memories of food experiences growing up in some of my past writing. Fresh picked tomatoes, concord grapes, as well as many other goodies from my grandmother’s yard, but my first kiss on the lips were from a fig; it will forever ring out in my early teen chapter of my foodie memoirs...

Clifford was an unusual man living next door to us. His wife Peggy left early every morning to go to work, but her husband was always working around their house, the yard, and the garage where he kept a refrigerator full of Pabst beer. Anytime I mention them to old neighborhood acquaintances, they mention that refrigerator. A sign of ingenious we did not recognize as children, our parents could not afford, but a clue to just how eccentric Clifford might be.

To wrap up this sweet tale without a long paper trail... Clifford was in his backyard one hot and boring Texas day. He and the lanky awkward teenager were only separated by a three foot chain link fence. He would speak to me for the very first time. See the neighborhood kids were scared of him. A once marine who wore tattered jean shorts, sandals, and barred many a tattoo; well Clifford Alverson just looked mean. When he spoke I did not understand him clearly. He had lung cancer surgery, and only spoke through a tube in his throat. Was, he speaking to me, and with his hand reaching out across the fence with several small greenish looking objects, or was he trying to poison me? I knew it, he did not like kids.

I walked slowly and carefully over to the fence; making sure plenty of space was still between he and I. His words became clear,"Do you like figs", he asked. I had never had one before, or even seen one. Taking them I am sure he saw me starring at them strangely. Should I peel them I thought. Generally green fruit are either peeled or change color in my food world. I watched as he took one and bite straight into its flesh. You should have seen the joy light up his face, as he devoured a few more, so I took the plunge. Finding them a bit bland at first, but it was soon replaced by sweetness. Downfalls I admit tingly have; an addiction for sugar in my adulthood.

Clifford would find me each summer afterward standing at that fence like a browsing goat; it was like those out of my reach fruit bearing limbs would not yield and bend to my weak teenage mental powers. Only a handful passed from his giving hands to mine, but still allowing me to take in their sweet delight. We became good friends he, Peggy, and I; an unusual foodie relationship before its time. A memory brought on by nostalgia when seeing this fruit, and it has partially melded my passion to try everything that only a fence might now hold back.

Figs are believed to be indigenous to western Asia and to have been distributed by man throughout the Mediterranean area. Remnants of figs have been found in excavations of sites traced to at least 5,000 B.C.

In the United States, the major centers for commercial production of cultivated figs are California and Texas. The more popular Californian varieties are packed fresh or dried. Most Texas figs are canned.

Figs were brought to California by the Spanish missionary fathers who first planted them at the San Diego Mission in 1759. Fig trees were then planted at each succeeding mission, going North through California. The Mission fig, Californias leading black fig, takes its name from this history. The popular Calimyrna fig, golden brown in color, is the Smyrna variety that was brought to Californias San Joaquin Valley from Turkey in 1882, and was renamed Calimyrna in honor of its new homeland.

Figs grow on the Ficus tree (Ficus carica), which is a member of the Mulberry family. They are unique in that they have an opening, called the "ostiole" or "eye," which is not connected to the tree, but which helps the fruit's development by increasing its communication with the environment. Figs range dramatically in color and subtly in texture depending upon the variety. The majority of figs are dried, either by exposure to sunlight or through an artificial process, creating a sweet and nutritious dried fruit that can be enjoyed throughout the year.

They are available for picking anywhere from May to June, and through September, but dried varieties are available much of the year. August is the month that figs are available here in New Jersey, and information for doing so is here

Nutritional Facts:

· Figs are fat-free, sodium-free and, like other plant foods, cholesterol-free.

· A small serving of about 1 1/2 dried figs equals one fruit exchange, or 15 grams of carbohydrate, provided in the form of glucose and fructose.

· Figs are high in fiber, providing 20% of the Daily Value --- more dietary fiber per serving than any other common dried or fresh fruit.

· Figs have the highest overall mineral content of all common fruits.
Detailed nutritional information can be found by searching the USDA Nutritional Database . Enter "Fig" (no quotes) as the keyword and select the link and report of interest.

Scientific classification: Figs constitute the genus Ficus, of the family Moraceae. The common commercial fig is classified as Ficus carica.

Information provided by Culinaria Books, and Food Around The World, a guide to global eating text from my culinary studies.

Fig-Cranberry Cobbler

I have been told that unless you make jam, or dry figs you should use lemon and a tart fruit in baking these delicate fruit into a dessert of sorts, as to offset the overly sweet fruit...

1 lime, juiced
1 cup frozen cranberries (I always buy a few extra at Thanksgiving and freeze for baking)
12 or so sliced figs, rinse and pat dry
1 cup orange juice, no pulp

Place this all in a baking dish, I used an oval ceramic, or you could use what works... Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cobbler Crust

I just used one of my mom's old biscuit recipes; added some walnuts and garam masala, and sprinkled on top.

2 cups Flour
1 tsp Salt
2-1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tbs Sugar
1 teaspoons of garam masala powder
1/4 cup Butter, cold
3/4 cup ice cold Milk

Bake until brown and bubbly...

Recommended with ice cream, and it practically turns out like a candied, sticky, gooey sweet mess of goodness!