Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Figgy Finale

Saturday night's dinner was the culmination of two and half days of cooking my way through a batch of twenty fresh figs (and some dried ones, as well). Ever since my friends Meghan and Lindsay took me to Sfoglia to celebrate my birthday (the day before -- twas a week full of celebrations), I have been obsessed with a dish the chef, Ron, actually came to my former employer to cook: Pasta with Figs, Brown Butter, Basil, and Hazelnuts. I had a bag of handmade, homemade pappardelle in my freezer. More figs than I could eat in one sitting. And some fresh basil I had been growing for the past two weeks in a NY windowsill.

I started the evening off making a red wine-fig vinaigrette with a 1/3 full bottle of one of my favorite red wines (Heitz Cabernet -- loved visiting this winery!) and five dried figs I had on hand. I tossed this with some baby spinach from the greenmarket, and voila - a healthy dose of greens!

I then proceeded to finish cooking off my pasta and browning my butter. I added the fresh figs and basil, with a pinch of salt, to the browned butter and tossed them together, cooking them til the flavors
melded. To that I added my cooked pasta with about 1/4 c pasta water. Brought the mixture to a gentle boil and tossed the ingredients together while the sauce reduced slightly. Served with a healthy dose of grated gruyere, and a garnish of sauteed spicy Italian sausage (I had no toasted hazelnuts on hand, but the pasta is very good with plain, roasted, salted mixed nuts), it was a delicious dish to end a busy day.

Spicy Italian sausage

The finished dish, pasta atop greens

Red Wine Fig Vinaigrette

1 1/2 - 2 cups red wine
5-6 dried figs, quartered
6 demerara sugar cubes
2 tbsp champagne vinegar
Grapeseed oil (I used about 1/4 c)

In a 8" saucepan, bring figs and wine to a boil and reduce until about 1/4" deep (1/2 cup of liquid, or thereabouts). Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour wine mixture into a jar and add oil and vinegar, shaking to homogenize. Season to taste.

Fig, Brown Butter, Basil Pasta
Serves 2

6 tbsp salted butter
8 figs, quartered
1/2 c basil leaves
Salt to taste
Pappardelle, or another thicker noodle, enough for 2 people
2 spicy Italian chicken sausages, cooked and sliced on the bias, optional
Toasted hazelnuts or mixed nuts, optional
Freshly grated gruyere to taste.

Boil water for the pasta. While the water comes to a boil, heat a 12" sautepan over medium heat. Add the butter and cook, swirling occasionally, until the butter begins to brown and smells nutty. Take the brown color to a dark chocolate color, remove the pan from the heat and add the figs and basil. Season to taste. Cook the pasta as instructed, draining all but 1/4 c pasta water. Add the pasta and reserved water to the sautepan (if it fits -- if not, add to pasta pot).  Toss gently and bring to a boil to reduce the sauce slightly. Plate the pasta, garnishing with chicken sausages and freshly grated gruyere. And basil chiffonade, if you please!

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