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southern food blog
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Blueberry Fig Ice Cream

I make no secret about the fact that my birthday is very important.  As the eldest child, the eldest grandchild on both sides, and a completely spoiled brat, I’ve gotten used to celebrating in style.  And by “in style” I mean “pool party and pie.”  Because I’m classy.  And because I love pie.  This year, my 24th year on this beautiful planet, is no exception.  And while there probably won’t be a pool party (unless you count rehearsals for the water ballet I’m in), there will be pie.  Loads of it.

Tomorrow, July 7, is my actual birthday (though I’ve been celebrating for a while).  Dan, the best husband in the world, has an elaborate plan involving savory pies followed by sweet pies followed by MAGIC!  Because he’s amazing.  And because he knows I love magic almost as much as I love pie.  But frankly Internet, I feel like I’m cheating.  Due to the nature of being born 3 day’s after America celebrates its big day, I’ve been indulging in delicious food for almost a week.  There was pie and then mountain pie and then grilled pizza and fig ice cream followed by more pie and because I have oldest child syndrome I’ve been pretending it’s all for me.  BACON BLUE CHEESE BURGERS WITH PICKLED ONIONS? YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE!

And I have to say that of all of the foods that were made (and ate) in celebration of America (cough, Elena, cough), this fig ice cream was up there.  It was sweet but also tart, creamy but refreshing.  The perfect accompaniment to the rooftop 4th of July party we attended wherein there was a 360 degree panoramic view of every fireworks show in Baltimore County.  All for me!  Just kidding.  Kind of.  Happy Birthday, America!

Blueberry Fig Ice Cream

6-10 black mission figs

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 orange

1 pint blueberries

1 cup heavy cream

Cut your figs into eighths.  In a nonreactive saucepan, heat figs, water, and sugar over low heat.  Grate in the zest from one orange.  Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has the consistency of jam.

While your figs are cooking down, cut your berries into quarters.  When your figs are done, toss half the berries into the pan.  Stir, cooking only long enough to heat the berries.  Pour the whole mixture over the remaining cut berries.  Add the juice from your orange and the cream.  Stir everything together and chill.

Follow the directions on your ice cream maker.

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Pork, Fig, & Rosemary Browned Butter

To frame this post, I’d like to tell you Dan’s recommended names.  First was “Pork Fig Fat.”  Secondly, he went with PORK FIG AWESOME.  I was partial to both, but thought I’d give a more descriptive title.  No matter what you call it though, this dish was exactly what I needed.  You see, tonight was the first night that we have been home to cook dinner since last week, something that has left me feeling off center and a bit cranky.  Also, I ate some old marshmallows so that could be a contributing factor.

I started dreaming about figs mid last week, but beyond stuffing them with goat cheese and wrapping them in proscuitto (done) and fig ice cream (coming soon), I couldn’t think of anything interesting.  I wanted something sweet yet salty, juicy yet firm.  Figs are such a strange texture and flavor, I knew I needed to pair them with something that wouldn’t overwhelm them.  Something that would act as the facade broach to your neck scarf.

Incidentally, this dish was over 50% accident.  On Sunday night I was drinking a beer, but then I got too tired to finish it.  I didn’t want to waste half of a very nice beer, so I thought beer brine!  And that is what I did.  I was going to cook this Monday night.  But then we had to go to Pennsylvania to sort out some issues transferring the title of our car, so instead of marinating 24 hours, the pork marinated 48.  I was also going to put goat cheese on top of the pork, but I forgot that one.

I am glad to say that, with the exception of forgetting the cheese, this dish was a combination of happy accidents.  Like making a mixed tape of a handful of artists that don’t seem to go together but completely work (so much so that you start writing letters to them encouraging a tour).  I want to write letters to the pork and fig boards.  I want to let the browned butter association know about this.  I’ll probably just settle for letting you know.  It’s good.  Damn good.  As Dan described, the fig almost tastes like it’s the pork fat, but sweeter and more succulent than expected.  Which explains his first title suggestion.  Also, it explains his face whilst waiting for me to finish taking pictures.

Pork, Fig, & Rosemary Browned Butter

2 boneless pork chops

6 black mission figs

1 cup beer

2 tbsp honey

1 stick of butter

1 sprig of fresh rosemary

2 garlic cloves

4 slices goat cheese

Salt & pepper

Olive oil

Place pork in a bowl and pour honey and beer over, completely submerging.  Stick in the fridge and marinate at least 4 hours, or up to 48.

To Grill This Dish:

Remove the pork from the marinade.  Pat dry and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.  Fire up the grill.

Cut figs in half.  Brush both sides with olive oil.  Set aside.

In a medium skillet over low heat, melt butter with rosemary and sliced garlic.  Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until it is dark brown.

Grill pork for 5-7 minutes.  Flip.  When you’ve flipped the pork, put the figs on the grill open face down.  Place cheese on top of the pork, allowing it to melt slightly.  Cook 5 minutes and remove everything.  Let meat rest at least 5 minutes.

Combine figs and pork on a plate.  Top with browned butter sauce and serve.

To Roast This Dish:

Remove the pork from the marinade.  Pat dry and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 350.

Slice figs in half.  In a roasting pan combine pork and figs.  Slice the butter and place the pats around the dish.  Slice the garlic thinly and sprinkle over everything.  Add rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Cover.  Let cook about 30 minutes.  Top with cheese and serve.

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Blackberry Purple Basil Pielets

Last week we were in North Carolina for my brother Ryan’s high school graduation.  We spent a whirlwind 23 hours in Durham seeing family and friends, eating and drinking and laughing and dancing.  One of our last stops out of town was barbeque with my brothers at the famous Allen & Son’s in Chapel Hill.  As a way to pack as much south as possible in our trip, Dan and I had a (very late) breakfast of chicken biscuits about an hour before we were supposed to be at my brother’s farm.  So when we rolled into Reid’s driveway, I didn’t think I was in any position to eat anything, let alone slow cooked pork in a vinegar based sauce topped with cole slaw.  With a side of fried okra.  And sweet tea.

However, it turns out I am always in a position to eat something.  Which is what I realized when I spotted Reid’s blackberry bush, bursting with ripe fruit, and started stuffing my face.  I ate, and ate, and ate, and then I made a few references to children’s books about hungry bears.  And then I ate more blackberries.  And when we left North Carolina, I was unable to think of anything else.

At the Baltimore Herb Festival a few weeks ago I picked up a purple basil plant, something that  is the strangest combination of sweet and a little savory, warming almost.  I spent the drive home from North Carolina daydreaming about blackberries, then blackberries and basil, then blackberry and basil pie.  And ginger whipped cream. So while I was planning the menu for our housewarming party, I knew what was happening for desserts.  It was a give in.  It was all I could think about.

The day before the party I baked off eighteen or so little pie shells.  The pied dough was infused with honey and basil and baked the shells in a cupcake pan, all by their lonesome.  The next morning I hit a major roadblock when I realized (at the farmer’s market) that blackberries aren’t in season yet in Maryland.  So, I adjusted and mixed a pint of North Carolinian blackberries with two pints of black raspberries.  I tossed the berries in honey (that I purchased during our bbq lunch at Allen & Son’s) and minced basil.

And it was so good.  They weren’t very sweet, but the honey was warm and inviting.  The blackberries and raspberries were tart and juicy, and the basil pulled everything together.  I was happy with them, and I think my guests were too.  The real star of the show, however, was the sprinkler.

Blackberry Purple Basil Tart

Pie Dough:

2 1/2 cups flour

3 tbsp sugar

Pinch of salt

Pinch of powdered ginger

5-10 leaves purple basil, minced

1 1/2 sticks butter (cold)

4 tbsp shortening

4 tbsp honey

1/3 cup water, cold


3 pints blackberries (or black raspberries)

1/4 cup honey

Handful of purple basil leaves (or regular basil), minced

Whipped Cream:

1 pint heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp powdered ginger

Start with the dough.  In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, sugar, ginger, and basil.  With your fingers, work in the shortening.  Chop the butter into squares and cut that in with your hands, until the texture resembles cornmeal.  Stir in honey and water.  The dough should form a loose ball.  If necessary, add more water/flour.  Wrap the ball in plastic and refrigerate for at leas an hour.

After your dough has chilled, break off pieces the size of ping pong ball and roll them out.  Place the dough rounds into a greased cupcake tin, trimming the edges so that they are neatly sized.  Bake the shells at 400 for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Allow to cool.

About 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve these, mix your berries in the honey and the minced basil.  Then, use a beater or stand mixer to whip the cream, sugar, and ginger until stiff.  Serve a scoop of blackberries in the shell, topped with whipped cream.

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