Toast From Eden

I had a rather archaic breakfast this morning.

I wandered into work at the coffee shop bleary-eyed and stumbling, forcing my sleepy brain awake with minuscule sips of espresso.

I unlocked our stainless steel fridge, sleek and modern in the cool grey morning and found, to my surprise, a bag full of bulbous green figs.

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They were strangely out of place in my ultra-modern, sleek-is-everything curated coffee bar. I was drawn to them immediately, our old souls connecting. Figs have always amazed me with their sweet, succulent simplicity.

And if these little fruits have been around since the Garden of Eden, just imagine how wonderfully steadfast they’ve been through the ages. Didn’t Adam and Eve sew their first garments out of fig leaves? (I checked. They did.)

Yet here they were, sitting primly on the white marble counter as though they belonged there so perfectly. So very far from Eden.

I sliced one open with the back of a spoon, the tender flesh yielding without any struggle. How could I not eat one for breakfast with a little ceramic demi cup of warm milk and honey? It was the smallest homage to a breakfast of hope and promise and gratitude. It was staggeringly Biblical and also quite reassuring.

I ate my archaic snack and finished my shift. I took a tiny tupperware of figs home with me and made the perfect late-summer snack: caramelized onion and fig toast.

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(They did, in fact, come from the fig tree of one of my coworkers who was kind enough to share her bounty.)

Here’s my recipe!


 

You’ll need: 

a loaf of bread for toasting

a yellow onion, sliced thinly

bleu cheese

figs, also sliced thinly

honey

butter, preferably as whole and fatty as possible (I like Kerrygold)

optional: pork lardons, or very thick bacon

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How-To:

  1. Using a toaster or skillet, toast your bread. Spread with a thin layer of butter.
  2. In a saucepan, melt a knob of butter. Add onions and let cook until caramelized and tender.
  3. In another small saucepan, add about 3T honey and 1/4c water. Once combined, bring to a simmer. Add sliced figs and let simmer until figs are tender and glazed. (It’s ok if they fall apart.)

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4. To assemble the toast, spread first a layer of caramelized onions. Top with figs, cooked bacon lardons. Sprinkle with bleu cheese.

5. Enjoy!


 

Deuteronomy 8:7-9

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey, a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 

Twelve Grapes

“Are you trying to connect me to my culture?”

There I stood in the grocery store, clutching an enormous bunch of grapes. I was mid-argument, insisting that we needed them for New Years. It was tradition, I insisted, although I had never practiced it before and didn’t know exactly whose tradition it was.

I had seen mention of eating twelve grapes for New Years — one for each upcoming month — in an old, unopened cookbook titled simply, Phillipine Cooking. Clearly written by secondhand English speakers, it has become my favorite cookbook. It is brimming with ridiculous, unintentional humor and recipes specifying measurements in kilos.

As I stood in the aisle with a handful of large, seeded grapes, I could see perhaps why my native Filipino boyfriend thought I may be attempting to pigeonhole him into a stereotype.

But I was also very excited to have learned this wonderful new food tradition, just in time for the holiday.

We ended up buying the grapes. I was excited. I was about to enter (totally amateurishly) into a foreign food tradition. Food history is my jam.

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Of course, if you only eat twelve grapes at midnight, there’s still a hearty bunch left on the vine come the morning of January 1st.

And I don’t really even eat grapes.

So they sat there. It’s been a week and I’ve noticed a slight shrivel in their swollen purple bellies. It is as if their New Year’s resolution was to lose weight and aim for raisinhood.

So I did what any thrifty culinarian would do. I boiled them down with a little sugar, a dash of cinnamon, a hint of lemon zest … and folded them into hand pies.

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Not the healthiest resolution, I’m sure, but tasty nonetheless. And none of those grapes went to waste!

Also, if you’re curious: the original tradition, it would seem, has Spanish roots. This would make sense — the Philippines were conquered by the Spanish and left a flurry of mixed cultures and traditions behind. The goal is to eat all twelve grapes in the twelve seconds preceding the New Year, and must be calculated to finish with the ringing chimes or church bells welcoming in the year.

To not do so, some believe, is bad luck.

(But I believe that putting your spare grapes to use will even all that bad luck out in just a few bites.)

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Introduction? Appetizer? Maybe Both.

“You have to be a romantic to invest yourself, your money, and your time in cheese.” ~ Anthony Bourdain

 

If you were to look at my Google Search history, I imagine you’d laugh.

‘Quotes About Goat Cheese’ tops the list, followed closely by, ‘What Is A Filbert?’ For the record, a filbert is another name for a hazelnut. You see, 99% of my search history is food-related research, and not one iota of it has been driven by schoolwork. Curiosity, plain and simple, fuels my searches. Well, curiosity and a cappuccino served in a unique mug at my favorite coffee shop.

[Side note: any coffee shop willing to serve customers in actual mugs rather than sleeves is a winner in my book. ]

Anyway, despite the fact I am a shameless food history nut–no pun intended, after mentioning those Filberts–I always do my research away from home. I feel so much more productive studying food in a venue other than my apartment. Unless, of course, Anthony Bourdain is unraveling mysteries of the culinary universe on the Travel Channel, in which case I will sit with a pen and my notebook posed to jot down his clever phrases and outrageous discoveries from the comfort of my living room.

I devour food blogs. (Check out these favorites– Eat This Poem, Happyolks,and Plated Stories are my current top three.) I own more chef biographies than I do pairs of shoes. I have so many culinary magazines I could wallpaper a two-story house and still have enough to collage the patio.

I will also admit, I’m a menu thief. I find seasonal menus especially enchanting, better than a newspaper or a snapshot. It’s a moment in time. This is what’s seasonal, this is the price, this is right here, right now, this is what is good. Sometimes I smuggle them out in a large bag. Sometimes I ask. Sometimes they’re just given to me.

I am a culinarian. I am an epicurean. I am a student of gastronomy, I am obsessed, and that is perfectly okay, because I am not alone.

Although my favorite food blogs feature high-quality snapshots of gorgeous lighting and plating, I myself am an amateur photographer at best. My Instagram has less then 300 followers. I rely on a fancy camera that I don’t know how to use–point, shoot and sort through them later, that’s my motto.

So this post, this first interwebby combination of words, serves as sort of a preface. I love food, I adore it. I want to live in the cheese section of Whole Foods.

You’ll find a lot of good food here, and a lot of inspiration.

Welcome!