When the days begin to shorten, and the weather get a little cooler we know that autumn is about to make its entrance. School has started and our days become a little more hectic. I get a little melancholy when September comes because the lazy fun filled, vacation time of summer is over and because of busy school schedules I get to see our grandchildren less frequently. We still have family dinners but there is less interaction during the week. Then quick as a wink I cheer myself with what I know is coming. I am definitely a holiday person. Move over Halloween and just bring on Thanksgiving. That for me is the entrance to the Christmas season. I’ll start sorting out cookie recipes to bake very soon now.. I like all the planning, card writing, and hustle and bustle that is not too far away.
I love sweater weather. I savor snow too, but we don’t get that down south, so I have to let snow days live in my memory because I grew up with snow, lots of it.
So, September, bring it on. I’m ready!
It’s still a daily fight to get to the figs before the birds and squirrels. The chipmunks enjoy the figs that the squirrel leave half eaten on the ground. But we managed to pick a good amount today, so I made this tasty little Fig Tart appetizer for my family
FIG AND BLUE CHEESE TART
An easy and tasty appetizer of figs and blue cheese
on a golden bed of puff pastry.
1 SHEET OF PUFF PASTRY – thawed
1 POUND FRESH FIGS
PINCH OF SALT
2 – 3 TABLESPOONS HONEY – your favorite
A DRIZZLE OF GOOD EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1 ½ TABLESPOONS BALSAMIC VINEGAR – a good thick balsamic
1/3 CUP BLUE CHEESE – or more to taste
PREHEAT OVEN TO 375º.
You can make your own puff pastry dough if you prefer but I always have a frozen package so that is what I used.
On a lightly floured surface roll out 1 sheet of puff pastry until about ¼-inch thick. This is a free form production so don’t worry too much about shape. Once rolled out place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Once the rolled-out pastry is on the baking sheet make a border all around the pastry to control the fig juice by folding over the edges of the dough, just as you would do with a pie.
Clean, de-stem the figs and cut in half. Place cut side up all over the crust, filling it up as much as possible. With a pastry brush paint each fig with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle each fig with a little bit of salt, drizzle balsamic over all and then sprinkle honey overall, too. Crumble the blue cheese and spread all over the figs.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the figs are soft and covered with slightly melted blue cheese and gooey balsamic vinegar.
NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER
This is the quintessential clam chowder served
at the Union Oyster House on Union Street
in Boston. The recipe comes out directly from
the Union Oyster Cookbook.
¼ CUP DICED SALT PORK
2 TBS BUTTER
½ CUP DICED ONION
½ CUP DICED CELERY
2 TBS FLOUR
½ TSP DRIED THYME
2 CUPS PEELED AND DICED POTATOES
2 CUPS MINCED FRESH CLAMS –
Frozen but not canned
2 CUPS CANNED CLAM JUICE
SALT, PEPPER, HOT SAUCE – to taste
1 CUP HALF AND HALF
WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE – to taste
MAKES 2 ½ QUARTS
In a large pot over medium-low heat, render the salt pork until it is crispy – about 5 minutes.
Add the butter, and melt. Add onion, celery and cook until translucent – about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour to form a paste and cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes.
Add the thyme, potatoes, and clam juice, and bring to a boil, stirring almost constantly. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes until potatoes are tender.
Add the clams and bring quickly to a boil, stirring almost constantly.
Add the half and half and bring quickly to a boil. Season with salt, pepper, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to taste, and serve immediately.
NOTE: At the Union Oyster House the chowder is always served with a little packet of oyster crackers. However, you would be doing yourself a great disservice if you turned down their Corn Bread the recipe of which dates back to the earliest days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Cornbread is believed to be one of the earliest American dishes.
It is likely that native Americans had been making it and/or similar
dishes long before the first settlers arrived. Cornbread in different regions
is also called Johnny Cake. However, the Union Oyster House
is righteously famous for its cornbread. And their recipe follows.
¾ CUP BUTTER – softened
2 CUPS SUGAR
2 TBS BAKING POWDER
2 TSPS SALT
½ CUP CORNMEAL
3 ¼ CUPS FLOUR
2 CUPS MILK
Preheat oven to 350º. Serves 6-8.
In a mixing bowl, cream together butter sugar baking powder and salt.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add vegetable oil and cornmeal and mix for about 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl and beat about 15 seconds more.
Add flour and mix. Add milk and beat until smooth. Scrape sides and mix for a few seconds longer.
Grease and flour a 13 X 9-inch baking pan. Pour batter into pan and bake for30-35 minutes or until a toothpick* inserted in the center comes out clean.
NOTE: There is an interesting story about toothpicks connected to the Union Oyster House. It is believed that the toothpick was first introduced to the public at the Union Oyster House in the 1800s. Inventor Charles Foster, inspired by time spent in South America where he saw people cleaning their teeth with small slivers of wood, invented the toothpick using birch from Maine. To foster his business, he tried to get the Union Oyster House to offer them to dining guests. They refused so Foster engaged a group of money struggling Harvard students to go there for dinner and demand toothpicks after their meal. In return he paid for their dinner. The students complained loudly and from then on toothpicks were offered. Toothpicks caught on in other Boston establishments and later on through out many other parts of the country.