artisinal

Fig & Lemon Gin Fizz

I know I am not alone when I say I tried my share of cocktails this holiday season. Thanks to the recent boom in cocktail culture, and rising popularity of artisanal recipes and ingredients, there seemed to be much more variety this year than the pas sangria, eggnog, and poinsettias. This one in particular stood out to me, due to my blinding love affair with figs, naturally.

The original recipe refers to this drink as a “Sexy Fig and Lemon Fizz“, and is made with vodka. Since vodka and I aren’t on good terms, and never really have been for that matter, I decided to replace it with another favorite of mine, gin. This drink has all the components of a great winter-time cocktail; a little sweetness, some zing, earthy tones, and substance. The meat and seeds of the fresh figs, and please, please always use fresh figs when you can, adds an unexpected but very enjoyable texture. There is also a great undertone of rosemary. Now, before I show you the recipe for this luscious, juicy, perfect, life companion of a drink, I want you to see the completed product in all its glory. Please excuse the plastic cup and table cloth. I am a college student after all! Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset In the hopes that I have peaked your curiosity to what actually goes into this amazing concoction, here it is! There are 2 main components to this drink that do take a little prep, a rosemary infused simple syrup, and a fig puree.

Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary

**Keeps for 5-7 days when refrigerated**

Fig Puree

  • 1 cup fresh figs
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Blend to preferred consistency

The Basics

  • 2 oz. Gin
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Club soda

The ideal way to combine these fresh and delectable ingredients is in a cocktail shaker. However, if you are like me and are living on a college budget (abroad or stateside), and do not have one of those handy little devices, it works just as well to to put together a makeshift shaker, or just mix the ingredients in a separate glass. Then comes the final, and most rewarding step: pour over ice, top with club soda, and enjoy!

Not having a shaker adds a little more meat and texture to the drink, since there is no strainer to catch the bigger pieces of figs. But, true fig lovers should appreciate figs in all forms, I say. If you’re feeling extra fancy and want to impress your guests, or even just yourself, garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a few pieces of lemon rind. It really elevates their flavors! Now you have a simple, go-to artisanal cocktail recipe to keep in your back pocket for the new year.

To all my friends in Italy, and my family and friends back home Salute! Chin-chin! Cheers! Drink up!

Eggplant Flan

I am so thankful that one of the many cooking class I’ve taken in Florence was hosted by Mama Florence cooking school because they opened my eyes to the thriving gastronomic scene here! Chefs are taking inspiration from classical Tuscan cooking and creating modern, conceptual dishes. I feel so inspired and exhilarated by the food culture here, from the classic cooking traditions that are centuries old, to the new innovative dishes.

The most recent class I took was called ” Italian Savory Baked Goods“. It was a very intimate class of 4 people and 2 chefs, and was as far from your average “baking” class as you could possibly imagine. We made such a wide variety of baked goods, utilizing the freshest seasonal produce. Our dishes consisted of traditional Tuscan bread, a pumpkin loaf, eggplant flan, escarole salt pie, and a rustic apple cake. However, the star of the class was, without a doubt, the eggplant flan. However, I hesitate to call this a flan because it’s the farthest things from the sweet, sticky dessert we’re familiar with in the states.I had never seen anything like it before and was amazed at how simple it was to prepare, and the amazing flavor profile we were able to coax out of the eggplant. The recipe also utilizes all parts of the eggplant so there is no waste!

Ingredients

3 tsps extra virgin olive oil

2 large eggplants

1 red onion, diced finely

2 tomatoes

2 bunches either mint or basil

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2.25 ounces grated parmesan cheese

bread crumbs

1 1/4 tsps fine grain salt

butter and flour (to prepare baking dishes)

Add half of the olive oil into a sauté pan and add diced onion. Allow to cook until softened, approximately 10 minutes. Peel the eggplant, conserving the peels in order to line the baking container for your flan. Cut eggplant into cubes about 1/4″ in size, and add to the softened onion. Raise the heat slightly, add the bunches of either mint or basil. Add salt and let cook for approximately 25 minutes, adding water if necessary to avoid sticking to the pan (keep in mind that at the end of cooking, the eggplant should be dry without any excess liquid in your pan).

While the eggplant is cooking, boil water in a large sauce pan. Add salt and lower the heat. Add the eggplant peels and let cook between 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peels from the boiling water and lay out on a dish to allow to cool. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour each muffin form in a standard 12-muffin tray. Gently place eggplant peels on the bottom of each muffin form in the shape of an “x.” Press each peel to the bottom of the form, and let excess drape outside of form. Fill with eggplant flan and use the extra peel from outside the form to sit on top of the flan, as if you’re closing a lid over the flan.

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Greased breadpan lined with blanched eggplant skins

Once the eggplant and onion mixture is cooked, allow to cool. Once at room temperature, blend well in either a blender or using an immersion blender. Combine lightly beaten eggs with parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt, then add to the eggplant mixture. Mix well with a wooden spoon. The eggplant mixture will look fairly soft, so you will need to add enough breadcrumbs to the mixture to give it a slightly denser, more robust consistency. Add salt to taste, and now you’re ready for baking!

Hot out of the oven!

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove flans from oven, and allow to cool for a few minutes. Flip onto plate, and slice each flan either horizontally or vertically in  3/4″ thick pieces, plate and enjoy!

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Eggplant Flan

You and your guests, because you should share this great recipe with as many people as you can, will fall in love with the light and airy, but still oh so creamy consistency of this unique dish. It’s not too filling so it would make a nice side dish. It would also work great as a main dish on a bed of greens topped with fresh pomegranate seeds, balsamic reduction, and a nice grated parmesan.

Never be afraid to push your culinary boundaries! This dish may look complex and intimidating but it was one of the easiest dishes I have made thus far. Embrace the Tuscan gastronomic chef within!

**Recipe and instruction courtesy of Mama Florence Cooking School**

Luca & Bosco

Luca & Bosco is a local creamery pumping out ice cream flavors, sauces, and toppings that will make you reevaluate your entire outlook on the life! (Okay, well maybe not life, but definitely frozen flavor combinations) Sold in the Essex Street Market, this delicious gold mind is the workings of  Catherine Oddenino and Ruthie Vishlitzky and is made with all-nautral ingredients, organic whenever possible. Although Luca & Bosco is a small start-up, their flavors are anything but small. With exquisitely unique flavors like milky tea, goat cheese, and their superstar Drunk & Salty is impossible to pass by their cart without at least asking for a sample. They’ve also got some killer sauces which include Butterscotch Diablo, Cilantro Syrup, and the Drunk & Salty Caramel (match back to the ice cream flavor).

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Goat cheese ice cream w/ balsamic reduction

When I paid them a visit I was greeted by who I could imagine to be either Catherine or Ruthie, all smiles and willing to answer any questions. I sampled the Drunk & Salty and Goat Cheese. While the D&S was everything I could have wanted from a sweet and salty ice cream, the goat cheese had a unique and enticing, creamy, tangy flavor. The lovely lady behind the counter suggested I pair it with the balsamic reduction syrup, and I’m glad she did because it was fabulous! Even with my notoriously ginormous sweet tooth I was pleasantly satisfied with this tangy, savory treat!

Luca & Bosco is open Wednesday-Sunday to make all your artisanal ice cream dreams come true. You should also follow them on Instagram to get the inside scoop (sorry guys, couldn’t resist) on their newest creations!

Hotel Delmano

Hotel Delmano is a great little bar tucked into the corner of Berry and N 9th Street in Williamsburg. It has a New Orleans inspired parlor feel to it, and some seriously clever mixologists behind the bar. A variety of unique flavors and infused liqours contribute to their one-of-a-kind cocktail menu. With infusions of pineapple, thyme, chipotle, and tarragon, and mix-ins like fig jam, rose water, and beet syrup these cocktails are strong and not for the faint of heart. My personal favorites are the Alibi (pineapple infused tequila, cinnamon-vanilla syrup, fresh lime, and molé bitters), Castaneda (tarragon infused tequila, alpine liqueur, orange curaçao, and fresh lemon juice), and the simple and always satisfying 3 Amigos (tecate, tequila, sangria).

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The Alibi

They also offer an impressive raw bar with oysters, crab legs, and clams along with some larger plates and charcuterie. In addition to their wide variety of fair, once the warm weather rolls in Hotel Delmano opens up their outdoor seating! This is a solid people (and dog) watching spot, and all-around great local spot to kick back and bask in the sunshine with a kickass cocktail and some friends.