The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Stagnola Blu Stuffed Black Figs
with Awards

Candied and boozed up, these late summer or early Fall treats are a snap to
 put together.And they can play equally well as an appetizer as they do dessert.

In the States, California produces nearly all of the fresh fig population with a season
 spanning May through January. Along with many dried varieties available year round.

Figs have long been used for medicinal purposes through out history and in many
 cultures.They are high in nutrients with no cholesterol, fat or salt. Also being a good
 source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, making them quite an excellent snack.

The fruit as we know it is actually a false fruit and are the inverted flowers of the
 Ficus Carica tree or common fig tree. Once the fresh fig is cut open, the meaty strings
 are the flowers containing an individual seed. These individual sections are the
 true fruit. They are also the only fruit to be fully ripened on the tree until semi dried. 
The dried variety is allowed to fully ripen and naturally fall off of the tree until dried.

We’ve used a creamy variety of blue cheese here known as Stagnola Blu. This cheese
 has a creamy buttery texture with a slightly nutty and sharp palate, making it a 
perfect partner for the sweet fleshy interior of the fig. However any similar 
soft cheese will work well here.

What you will need:
1 lb fresh organic black figs, or other variety
4 ounces Stagnola Blu, or other creamy blue cheese
4 ouncesraw sugar crystals, halved
2 ounces pistachio nutmeat, ground
8 ounces plum brandy, halved
2 ounces water, halved

Let's get cooking:
With a sharp pairing knife remove the upper stem of each fig, then cut cross wise
 to nearly the bottom of each fig. Allow figs to fall open into a flower and place a small
 amount of cheese into the center of each fig.

Sprinkle with 1/2 of the sugar and the ground pistachios. Then press each fig back into 
shape and place into a baking dish, stacking them closely together.

Drizzle pan with 1/2 of the plum brandy and 1/2 of the water. Bake uncovered in a
 pre- heated oven at 325 degrees (f)  for 5-8 minutes, or until softened and juices 
begin to flow but cheese is still firm.

In the meantime prepare a syrup using remaining sugar, plum brandy and water 
by placing in a small sauce pan. Bring the syrup mixture to a boil over medium/high
 heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Arrange prepared figs as desired and drizzle with plum brandy syrup, 
then serve immediately.
Note: If using dry figs, place liquids in a pan and bake loosely covered in oven
 for 8-10 minutes prior to stuffing. Allow to cool to touch then stuff 
before serving and drizzle with syrup.

This recipe was earlier a featured article on Honest Cooking.

The Awards

We were honored with this fist award "Cute Little Chef Award"
by my dear friend Elisabeth of  Food and Thrift, a  beautiful 
blog with one delicious delight after another.

The second award "Cherry on "Top Award" was passed
onto us by Tina of Flourtrader, a fantastic place to get
your baking fix along with a good dose of fun.

If you are not already acquainted with these wonderful ladies
and their sites, I encourage you to pop over and drool for awhile!

And don't forget to enter our giveaway here to win your very own
copy of the cookbook "An Epiphany of the Senses". Enter by
leaving a comment on that post on or before
Sunday October 3rd Midnight PST US!

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Moonfish in Chili Lemon Sauce
 and a Giveaway

This wonderful dish was adapted from a fantastic cookbook written and
photographed by my dear friend Nancy "An Epiphany of the Senses"
The original recipe calls for Pangasius which is a catfish, that Nancy describes
 as both tasty and inexpensive. I did not have catfish available but
 substituted it with Moonfish or Opah Fillets

Adapted from An Epiphany of the Senses recipe
for Pangasius in Chili Lemon Sauce.

 What you will need:
4 thin Pangasius fish fillets
(I used 2 lbs Opah/Moonfish)
3 whole lemons juiced
3 teaspoons granulated garlic
(I used minced garlic)
1 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
(I used cayenne)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Let's get cooking:
In a small bowl combine chili powder and garlic with lemon juice, salt and
pepper as desired. Heat oil in a large Sauté until hot, add fish and cook for 7 minutes
more or less depending on thickness and type. Turn fish then pour the lemon juice
mixture over fish. Cover and cook additional 7 minutes or until done.
Serve with rice or other side dish...Serves 4 

The Giveaway!

So now on to the giveaway...Nancy has generously offered to award one of
our readers here on The Ardent Epicure their very own copy of this
delightful cookbook. If you are not already aquainted you can
visit her here on Spicie Foodie

If you would like to be included in the random drawing just leave a
comment below, or if you have trouble commenting please email us
at and we will draw by time stamp.
Drawing through Sunday October 3rd Midnight PST US and
winner will be announced Monday October 3rd. Giveaway is
open to all participants worldwide...

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Cheesy Crostini with Tomato
 and Sweet Pepper Relish

Crostini or “little Toasts” are just about the easiest crowd pleaser to pull off. 
These versatile bites can be served alone or with just about 
any topping you desire.

I have an abundance of tomatoes in my garden this year, so as many ways that
 I can find to enjoy them, I will. Pairing them along with these colorful and adorable
 sweet baby pepper was an easy choice. However large sweet peppers
 in a variety of colors will do just as well.

I have chosen just a few simple spices to enhance or draw out the flavors
 of our fresh organic produce.  We have a bit of raw sugar, peppercorns to be
freshly ground, cardamom and a pretty pink rock?

Well it definitely is pretty and it is a rock, but it’s more accurate name is
 “Himalayan Pink Rock Salt”.

These beautiful crystal like rocks occur with the drying up of an enclosed lake
or sea known as an endorheic basin. These basins retain water with no outflow to
open water bodies such as an ocean, thus leaving behind a floor layer of salt
 crystals or rocks. These salt rocks can be purchased in either
rock formation or in various grinds.

Then of course we have our cardamom pods, and although one of the more
 pricier spices, these whole pods are far preferable in getting your monies worth
 over ground or seeds.With the whole pods you simply open the outer shell casing
 to reveal the inner seeds, these seeds can then be processes in any
manner you would a whole spice.

Topping our crostini with a bit of Raclette adds subtle sweetness and smooth texture
 that plays of nicely paired with our relish, or any slightly acidic condiment. However 
any of your milder semi soft to soft cheeses will work exceptionally well.

What you will need:
For the relish
1 pound tomatoes, chopped
1/2 pound sweet baby peppers, chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1 teaspoon cardamom (3 pods), cracked
1 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoonsalt
1 small lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 splashed white balsamic vinegar
For the crostini
1/2 large baguette, see note
Olive oil for drizzle
2-4 cloves garlic, split
fresh ground pepper
1/4 pound Raclette, grated

Let's get cooking:
Start by prepping tomatoes, peppers, shallot and garlic, then place in
 a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and gently toss until
 well coated. Set aside at room temperature for 15-20 min, then
refrigerate until 20 min prior to use.

Slice baguette into 1/4 – 1/2 in slices and drizzle with a bit of olive oil,
 rub over the oiled bread with halves of garlic, a few grinds of
fresh pepper then top with grated cheese.

Place on a baking sheet in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees (f).
 Bake for 7-10 min or until cheese has melted and sides are a deep
golden brown. Serve topped with relish or alone with
relish on the side.

Note: It is best to make the relish a few hours ahead of time and allow
 the ingredients to marinate for full flavor. Resist the temptation to add
additional salt to the relish until the mixture has marinated at least 2 hours.
It is best to have a finishing salt and fresh ground pepper available
 for individual servings.  * It is preferable to use day old or slightly
stale bread for the crostini.
Serves 15

This recipe was originally a featured article on Honest Cooking.

This is going over to Fusion Fridays

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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11:53 AM

What's for snack time? Puff Pastry Pizzas - Two Ways

Posted by Magic of Spice

Champagne Grape, herbs and Ricotta
 Tomato,Arugula and Le Petit Crème

These are fun and simple appetizers that can be put together with just
about anything you have available...and fast!

For our slightly sweet version I used rosemary and thyme along with
the champagne grapes and ricotta. Then for the savory version we
have strawberry tomatoes (named for shape not flavor), along
with arugula and some lovely Le Petit Crème. 

What you will need:
For the sweet
1/2 puff pastry sheet
3.5-4 ounces ricotta
1 small bunch champagne grapes
1 sprig fresh rosemary leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves
1-2 teaspoons raw sugar

For the savory
1/2 puff pastry sheet
2 tablespoons pistachio oil
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup loosely packed arugula
4-5 strawberry tomatoes or 2 medium Roma
4 ounces Le Petit Crème

 Let's get cooking:
Prepare your pastry sheet by rolling out onto a lightly floured surface or
cutting board. Cut in half lengthwise and allow to thaw for 40 minutes.

Pre-bake sheets in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes until lightly
golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

For the sweet 
Spread prepared sheet with ricotta to about 1/2 inch from edges. Sprinkle
with herbs then champagne grapes. Scatter with raw sugar.

For the savory
Brush pastry sheet with pistachio oil, again to about 1/2 inch from edge.
Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Layer on arugula and tomatoes, then
drop cheese in teaspoon sized dollops as shown.

Place both sheets back into the oven for 5-7 minutes or until
Le Petit Crème has melted and the champagne grapes begin to peel.
Let stand for a few minutes then slice and serve.
Serves 4 as appetizers

This is week three of the "Tailgating Game Week Party" over
at my good friend Drick's place. So stop over and check out the menu
and bring along a tasty treat of your own. You can link your delicious
party style foods until tonight 9-12-2011 at midnight.

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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11:23 AM

What's on the side? A Dirty Banana Shake

Posted by Magic of Spice

A Dirty Banana Shake

This cocktail has many varieties as well as methods of preparation. Typically you will
 find this drink containing crème de bananes,crème de cacao, coffee liqueur, 
dark rum and vanilla ice cream.

We are going to our version here today just slightly differently. Just a bit less 
sweet with fresh ripe bananas  and fresh brewed coffee.

Our version will be blended and served in a chilled pitcher, but you can divide the 
ingredients and make per cocktail utilizing a shaker if you prefer.
A fun and refreshing cocktail…The Dirty Banana

What you will need: 
1 large banana
4 ounces strong brewed coffee, chilled
4 ounces chocolate liqueur
4 ounces dark rum
2 ounces cream
8 scoops vanilla ice cream
1/2 cup ice, crushed

Add ice to blender and pulse until crushed.
Add remaining ingredients except ice cream, blend well.
Add ice cream blending until fully incorporated.
Place in chilled pitcher or cocktail glasses.
Serves 4

This is gong over for week three of the "Tailgating Game Week Party" over
at my good friend Drick's place. So stop over and check out the menu
and bring along a tasty treat of your own. You can link your delicious
party style foods until tonight 9-12-2011 at midnight.

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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9:00 AM

What's on the side? Baked Asparagus Fries

Posted by Magic of Spice

Baked Asparagus Fries

Fresh baby asparagus is a tender delight who's primary harvesting season is spring.
However this versatile and adaptable California joy is also harvested during during the
 months of September and October. In fact depending on the production are in
 California, you can find asparagus through most of the year. The more tender "baby"
asparagus is not as easily acquired but when available, I of course jump right in...

I served these with two dipping sauces that I make on several occasions.
A Champagne Mustard Aioli, here, and an Ancho Honey Cream, here.
I substituted the sour cream in the ancho honey cream with
Crème fraiche this time, but either works great. 

My choice of flour was a Garrbonzo Bean Flour that is a gluten free flour.
For a alternate glutton free version of this recipe try replacing the the
panko bread crumbs with unsweetened coconut flakes. 

What you will need:
1 pound baby asparagus
2 eggs
1/2 large lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1 arbol chili pod, ground
1/2 teaspoon ocean smoked sea salt, ground
1/2 teaspoon fresh pepper, ground
1/2 cup panko
Ice and large pot for blanching.

Let's get cooking:
Start by preparing your eggs by gently whisking them, add lemon juice and
minced garlic, stirring to incorporate. Then take two separate plates,
or one large serving plate, and place your flour on one with the panko on
another (or side by side on large plate). Finely grind your salt, pepper
and chili pod then mix into your flour. Set aside.

Now take a large pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Have ready
a bowl with an ice bath. Drop raw asparagus into the boiling water
for no more than 2-3 minutes, then quickly remove placing in the
ice bath until completely cool.

Leaving the asparagus still damp, dredge through seasoned flour shaking off excess.
Next place into egg bath and coat all sides, then dredge through panko. Then lay
coated asparagus onto a lined baking sheet, slightly spaced.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees 10-12 minutes, turn and continue
to bake another 10-12 minutes until panko crumbs are golden brown. 

My friend Drick over at Drick's Rambling Cafe is hosting a Football Food Party.
So stop over and see what is on the Tailgating Game Week Party menu...
P.S. there's voting and prizes involved :)

We would also like to extend a Very Happy Labor Day to
everyone celebrating here in the States...stay safe and have fun!

This is going over to Torview Food Palette Series.

And over to Your Best Recipe September 2011 on Spicie Foodie  

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Mango Melon and Lime Soda
with Mint and Geranium

Homemade sodas are a fun and simple thing to prepare right in your own
kitchen. No fancy equipment required, with an endless possibility of flavors.

Making your own soda is also a great way to use up any leftover fruits, herbs
or whatever you may have on hand. Or perhaps you are like me and have
an over abundance of certain herbs crowding out some of your more
docile plants in your garden...

What you will need:
1 mango melon, peeled and seeded
10-15 large spearmint leaves
1 medium bunch geranium leaves and flowers
2 cups water
2 cups raw sugar
2 fresh limes, juiced
2 liters sparkling water
Chilled pitcher or soda bottles

Let's get cooking:
Roughly chop your melon and set aside. Tear mint and geranium leaves
to release the essential oils.

Place 2 cups of water into a sauce pan, add melon, herbs and sugar.
Bring to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for
an additional 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and steep for 20 minutes.

Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve until the syrup is free of debris.
Add lime juice and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

When ready to serve mix 1/2 cup syrup to 2 cups sparkling water. Or
begin with a lesser amount of syrup until desired taste is acquired.
Serve immediately. Serves 4

This recipe was originally featured on Honest Cooking The Food Magazine.
For more refreshment on the web
Blackberry Mint Margaritas - Honest Cooking
Pineapple Margarita - Sweet Life
Watermelon, Strawberry and Banana Smoothie - The Comfort of Cooking

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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