Thursday, July 31, 2008

Recipes for Sausage and Lentils with Spiced Figs & Crostini with Gorgonzola and Spiced Figs

It’s nearly August and the peas are just coming into bloom. Usually, we’d've been eating them for weeks, but this year the weather has been unseasonably cold and rainy. The local newspaper is referring to it as “the so-called summer of ‘08.”

Blame it on La Niña. When the ocean off Peru is 2 to 4 degrees lower than normal, as it has been this year, the “La Niña” weather pattern brings cool weather to Alaska.

Most food sold here comes from “outside,” the Alaska word for the world beyond our state. Walking through supermarket produce sections, full to the gunnels with summer fruits and vegetables, it’s clear that outsiders are enjoying summer weather.

Last week Costco had pallet-loads of fresh fruit from California, including the first figs of the season to arrive in Alaska. I’m a sucker for figs, and these were in perfect condition.

We ate them plain, stuffed with cheese, and wrapped in prosciutto. But with the final six figs, in honor of our “so-called summer,” I wanted to make something warming.

Time to pull out one of the recipes on my “must try someday” list: Sausages and Lentils with Spiced Figs from Diana Henry’s book Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons.

The combination of sausages, lentils, and spiced figs was wonderful. Even my husband, who typically doesn’t like fruit and meat together, thought the figs added terrific flavor to the dish. It was one of those meals where I actively enjoyed every bite.

The recipe made more figs than we could eat in one meal. The leftovers were a fortuitous kitchen bonus that I used to make Crostini with Gorgonzola and Spiced Figs.

The piquant flavor of blue cheese blended seamlessly with the spiced figs. It was so good I want always to keep a jar of spiced figs in the refrigerator for quick and easy last-minute appetizers. Each bite was a flavor revelation.

Sausages and Lentils with Spiced FigsSausages and Lentils with Spiced Figs
Serves 4
Adapted from Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons: Enchanting Dishes from the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley 2002)
Spiced figs enhance the flavors of earthy lentils and succulent sausage. Be sure to serve the figs in a bowl on the side, so diners can eat as many or as few as they like. Although I modified Diana’s sausage and lentil recipe for our palates (the below recipe is as modified), I followed her directions for the spiced figs. They were delicious, though next time I’ll simplify the recipe by using equal quantities of red and balsamic vinegars; sherry vinegar’s flavor is lost in the mix. Not all figs need to be peeled; I peel only when the fig skins are beat-up or unusually thick.

Spiced Figs:
12 – 15 fresh figs
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick

Sausages and Lentils:
3 pieces thick-cut bacon
4 bratwurst or other fresh pork sausages
2 cups diced onions (1/2” dice)
1/2 cup diced carrots (1/4” dice)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup small lentils, such as Puy or beluga
1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
1 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 cup white wine
3 - 4 cups chicken stock

Make the Spiced Figs: Peel the figs, if necessary, and cut them in half. Mix the vinegars, sugar, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the figs, cut side down and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, turn the figs over, and let them cool in the saucepan.

Make the Sausages and Lentils: Cut the bacon into thin, cross-cut strips. In a large pot, cook the bacon until it’s crispy. Remove the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels. Brown the sausages on all sides (there’s no need to cook them through) and remove to a plate.

In the same pan, sauté the onions and carrots, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in the bacon fat, being sure to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When the onions soften and start to turn golden, stir in the lentils, garlic, and rosemary and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine, 3 cups chicken stock, bacon, sausages, salt and freshly ground black pepper, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 – 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender but not mushy. If the lentils dry out as they cook, add the remaining stock. When the lentils are done, taste and add salt or freshly ground black pepper, as needed.

Serve immediately with the spiced figs in a bowl on the side.

Crostini with Gorgonzola and Spiced FigsCrostini with Gorgonzola and Spiced Figs

If you keep spiced figs as a refrigerator staple, this appetizer can be quickly put together for 2 or 20.

Thinly sliced artisan-style bread
Gorgonzola or other blue cheese
Spiced figs (see above recipe)

Lightly toast the bread and cut into 2" pieces. Spread it with gorgonzola. Top with a piece of spiced fig.

This is my entry for My Legume Love Affair: Second Helping, an event created and hosted by Susan from The Well-Seasoned Cook. The deadline for legume entries is August 24.


Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

Figs, sausages and lentils...the making of a complete meal Laurie. i can only imagine the flavour as this is something I have never tried before...and your appetiser looks truly amazing!

eatingclubvancouver_js said...

It's been rainy and unseasonably cold here for the past week too! Raining and raining. . .

Your sausage and lentils look so very hearty and heartwarming right now. . .love that char on the sausage!

Maria Verivaki said...

that weatehr you're having isn;t too different form ours in hania: this is the coolest summer i can remember in a long long time. this past week it hasnt even gone up more than 30 degrees celsius, which is pretty incredible given that most times were broiling under a humid 37-degree sun!

Valentina said...

I am such a big fan of Diana harris and that book was the first one of her books I purchased. Great dish. I would have not thought of combining the sausages and the lentils. great!

Joanne said...

I always have a jar of fig jam in my kitchen cupboard as my husband loves fig jam with peanut butter/or almond butter in a sandwich...I know, an unusual combo but it's actually good. Then there is the fig and feta canapes that I make when I have guests...crumbled feta with a dollop of fig jam on piece flat bread or mini melba toast.
I love the idea of spiced figs with lentils. It is rare to find fresh figs in the market even here in my city. I once found some fresh figs that were imported from Greece and bought 3 for $10 - seriously!! Talk about expensive. Anyway, I took them to my mother to enjoy as she would not have purchased them herself had she known they cost that much. Now I need to keep my eyes peeled for fresh figs so I can enjoy them spiced.

Paula said...

Those spiced figs sound terrific. I've never had anything like that. My neighbor has a fig tree that is just over loaded with figs. She's always telling me to please take the figs because they don't eat them. This will give me something new and fun to try!

Cakelaw said...

Figs and blue cheese is a tantalising combination.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my YUM.... now if we can find some fresh figs...I love both the blue cheese-fig, and fig with lentils combos... I have just enough of each vinegar to make these and it would be a great way to finish them all off! This Costco doesn't have the fire-roasted tomatoes, and no figs during last week's visit... Maybe our next Costco will... we can hope...

Anonymous said...

I love "Crazy Water", but I have tried very little from there because I have the same problem: hubbie doesn't like fruit with meat much and most of the recipes have fruit in them. I will give this recipe a go though. Figs and gorgonzola are a great combination. Add some prosciutto to the crostini next time for a very sexy appetizer!

NKP said...

Oh my goodness, this looks so good. I'll be right there. I'll bring my fork and a bottle of Cab Sauv.
I have always wanted to see Alaska in the summer.

Katie Zeller said...

I have to admit (on pain of being driven out of the foodie world) that I find most figs and fig recipes too sweet for my taste.
This one sounds perfect!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Laurie, you've been busy! The spiced figs sound great, and I'm sure both combos were delicious. I haven't gotten outside yet since I got back from vacation to see how the figs are doing, because I've been inside going through my feeds. Which is kind of sad, now that I think about it! :-P

Anonymous said...

Congrats Laurie! You are the winner of my blogoversary gift giveaway! Please send me your mailing address so I can send it right out to you!
Maryann xox

Anonymous said...

Hi Laurie,
We just got a package of figs yesterday. Your recipes give me a few good ideas. On the fruit with meat combo, I don't always like it although I have noted it in Persian and Jewish food over the years. I just read a great book called The Man in the Sharkskin Suit, a memoir by Lucette Lagnado about her dad, a jew from Aleppo in Cairo. Her paternal grandma always slipped the apricots called mesh-mesh, into every dish. Apparently the food was marvelous.

maybelles mom said...

I love sausages and meat. We did a similar thing with black currants not too long ago. And, I will definite do that crostini. My husband does a similar thing but as a pizza.

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Sausages and lentils! Wow, a gourmet take on the old American classic Wieners and Beans. And those crostinis with gorgonzola and figs must have been a nice treat. :)

Susan said...

Mmmmm. I'm a sucker for figs, too, yet I have yet to see them in my East coast supermarkets. Might as well live in Alaska. ; )

Thank you for the beautiful recipe for MLLA2, Laurie. Food this good transcends all seasons.

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Anonymous said...

Shame about your lack of summer. It has, however meant that we've had a 'cold' winter. Which, in a dry and hot place like ours, has been much needed!

Beautiful book. Beautiful flavours. Gorgeous, Laurie. I hope you do get another day or two of warmth before the weather closes in around you again.

Shayne said...

ohhhhhh bread blue cheese and sweet spiced fig I am so hungry now it looks so so good.

Anonymous said...

A fantastic combination Laurie! We have a favourite sausage/lentil casserole recipe and I can just imagine how nicely a spicy fig compote would go with it. We've had a rubbish Summer too - not a single fig on out fig tree :-(

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