The Fresh Chef

What makes Emeril Lagasse cook

By Nancy Rutman

Photography by Steven Freeman

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'Black Mission' Figs Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Lavender Honey
Fresh figs are the ultimate local fruit. They don't travel well. If you're fortunate enough to get your hands on a few pints, embellish them as below. Though we suggest 'Black Mission' figs here, you can certainly use any variety that's available.

  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers, plus more for garnish
  • 2 ounces creamy blue cheese (such as Valdeón, Gorgonzola dolce, or any Rogue Creamery blue cheese)
  • ½ cup mascarpone cheese
  • 12 fresh firm-ripe 'Black Mission' figs, stem ends trimmed

1. Combine the honey and lavender flowers in a small saucepan, and warm over low heat. Remove from the heat and steep the lavender in the honey for at least 10 minutes. Strain the honey into a small bowl and discard the solids.

2. In a small bowl, combine the blue cheese with the mascarpone and half of the lavender honey. Stir until almost smooth (slightly chunky is okay). Place the mixture in a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and set aside until ready to serve. (Refrigerate the bag briefly if the mixture becomes too soft.)

3. Using a paring knife, cut downward lengthwise into each fig as if you were preparing to cut the fig in half, but cut only about halfway through the fig. Turn the fig 90° and make a second cut perpendicular to the first. Using your fingers, gently pry open the top portions of the fig to create space for the cheese mixture. Pipe the cheese mixture from the pastry bag into the figs. Arrange the figs on a serving plate and garnish with lavender flowers. Drizzle the figs with the remaining lavender honey and serve at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings

Nectarine and Mascarpone Tart in a Sugar Cookie Crust
The nectarines and mascarpone here play on the quintessential flavor combo of peaches and cream, and work extremely well together. The result is a simpler and lighter version of cheesecake that will impress even the most hard-core cheesecake aficionados. The uncooked nectarines give this tart a cool, fresh quality.

  • 25 sugar cookies, coarsely broken (about 6 ounces or 2¼ cups pieces)
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 or 5 small firm-ripe nectarines, halved, pitted, and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup peach jam, warmed

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Finely grind the sugar cookies in a food processor. Add the melted butter and blend until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Press the mixture over the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Bake until the color darkens, pressing the sides with the back of a spoon if they begin to slide, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, set aside on a wire rack, and let cool completely.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the mascarpone, cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and almond extract, and beat with a handheld electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Spread this filling in the cooled crust. Cover loosely and refrigerate until the filling is set, for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

4. Carefully arrange the nectarine slices on the chilled filling, fanning them in concentric circles to cover as much of the tart as possible. Brush with the warm jam.

5. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 6 hours before serving.

Makes 8 servings

Recipes adapted from Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh, by Emeril Lagasse (New York: HarperStudio, 2010), courtesy Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.

For more information:
Emeril Lagasse (restaurants, recipes, and videos)
Emeril Lagasse Foundation
Valdeón cheese: Artisanal Premium Cheese, 877-797-1200
Rogue Creamery blue cheese: Rogue Creamery, 866-396-4704

 

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