figs

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!

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Eggplant, Fig, & Ricotta Stack

Fig season is in full swing here in Florence, and I must admit I am LOVING it. I had never tried fresh figs until earlier this summer back in the states, and they were okay. However, the figs here in Italy seem to be a whole other fruit! They are sweet, succulent morsels full of a unique pulp and sticky sap. They come in both black and white varieties and are about the size of an oblong golf ball. White figs are on the sweeter and a little tarter side, while black figs have a more subtle and decadent flavor. I am truly infatuated with them both! In fact, earlier today I picked some up at the local market and couldn’t stop myself from snacking on one as I strolled past the other vendors.

But I digress. Since these figs are just such a prime produce item of the moment I wanted to incorporate them into an actual meal, not just an all day snack. So again I dove into the depths of the internet and found a variety of pairings with cheeses such as ricotta and goat. I am in Italy after all, so I went with something that hit close to home, the ricotta. Along with more pondering and considering the other seasonal produce I decided on a take on eggplant lasagna consisting of layers of sautéed eggplant, ricotta, and sliced figs atop a bed of spinach. In my opinion, it looks like the leaning tower of Pisa, but that may be too cheesy of an Italian comparison (oops, there I go again!). My humor is usually much more along the lines of sarcasm than puns, I promise!

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Ingredients

1/2 of a medium-sized eggplant

4-6 fresh figs

Ricotta

Spinach

Rosemary

Salt & pepper

Oil & Balsamic vinegar

Instructions

1. Slice the eggplant into medallions, about 1/2″ thick

2. Roughly chop the rosemary

3. Drizzle eggplant with olive oil and vinegar and season both sides with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Let marinate for about 5 minutes

4. While eggplant is marinating heat sauté or grill pan over medium heat. Place the eggplant in the pan so none of the pieces overlap.

5. Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes, checking on them once or twice, and flipping them after 5 minutes.

6. While eggplant is cooking, quarter fresh figs to be layered between the eggplant. I also like to take the ricotta out of the fridge while the eggplant is cooking so it gets closer to room temp, as to not cool down the dish.

7. The eggplant will be done once it’s tender and the skin is slightly shriveling. Make a nice bed of spinach leaves on a plate or bowl and begin building your tower! I went with a pattern of eggplant, ricotta, fig. And in regards to the amount of ricotta per layer, that really depends on how much you like ricotta 😉 But I spread about a tablespoon of ricotta between each layer and could fit about 4 pieces of fig.

8. Top with a dollop of ricotta and any extra fig and enjoy!

All of these measurements should make enough for 1 dish, but could also be enough for 2 smaller stacks or even multiple mini stacks if you wanted to make this for an appetizer (may be a little messy, but who cares when it tastes this good?!).

I really enjoyed making this dish because it seemed more like an arts and crafts project to me cooking. And I must say folks, this dish is as good as it looks. It’s sweet, savory, and oh so creamy. The perfect transition dish from summer into fall when we all wouldn’t mind something warm and cozy in our stomachs.  Embrace your inner child and really play around with the construction (or deconstruction) of this loose take on no-bake eggplant lasagna.

As always I love to hear feedback, so let me know how this dish worked for you! Did you add some more savory? Bake it like a more traditional lasagna? Make it into a pizza perhaps?! My favorite thing about cooking is seeing all the different interpretations of a dish!