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Archive for April 7, 2014

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Chocolate Covered Figs (Higos)

Higos (EE-gose) is the Spanish word for figs. Take just one bite of chocolate covered figs, and you’ll never forget the word. These bonbons are not broadly enjoyed in the U.S., but they should be.

We can’t remember who sent us the box of ChocoHigos, but thank you so very much. We’d had bites of them at trade shows, but a whole box to ourselves was indeed a luxurious experience.

ChocoHigos are figs enrobed with chocolate. This artisan confection is handmade in Aragón, Spain by brothers Fernando, Manuel and Pepe Caro, the third generation to prepare the family recipe.

The sweet, plump Pajarero figs, from Extremadura in western Spain, are a thin-skinned, delicate variety that are smaller and sweeter than the varieties most common in the U.S., such as Black Mission, Brown Turkey, Calimyrna (Turkish) and Kadota.

The figs are harvested, dried and then hand-dipped in the 68% dark chocolate also made by the Caros. The family recipe uses 100% Forastero cacao grown on the Costa de Marfil of the Côte d’Ivoire. The flavor is a perfect counterpoint to the figs: earthy with notes of cinnamon and clove.

 

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ChocoHigos: delightful fig bonbons. Photo by
Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

 

The taste: sublime. Enjoy them after dinner with coffee, brandy or liqueur. Give them to foodie friends. A box of 10 figs, 4.94 ounces, is $9.89 on Amazon.com.

Another fig confection from Spain is Rabitos. The recipe is a bit different: The figs are soaked in brandy, stuffed with a brandied chocolate ganache, and then enrobed in dark chocolate. We personally prefer ChocoHigos.

 

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Dried Pajarero figs. Photo courtesy Forever
Cheese.

 

HOW TO ENJOY CHOCO-HIGOS

  • With cheese, especially blue cheese and triple-crèmes.
  • With a cup of coffee or tea, as a snack or a mini-dessert.
  • With a glass of Port or late harvest Zinfandel.
  • As an anytime chocolate fix.
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    A BRIEF HISTORY OF FIGS

    The fig was one of the first plants domesticated by man, roughly around 9000 B.C.E., in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley of Mespopotamia*. Easy to grow, nutritious and delicious, it quickly spread to other areas bordering the Mediterranean. Over time, new varieties were bred and cultivated.

     
    Figs came to America in the 1500s; by the 1700s, they were a major food crop planted by Spanish missionaries in settlements along the West Coast of Mexico and California. Figs came to America in the 1500s; by the 1700s, they were a major food crop planted by Spanish missionaries in settlements along the West Coast of Mexico and California.

    By the late 1800s, the commercial fig industry was well established in California’s Central Valley; along with Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey it is one of the largest fig-producing regions in the world.

     
    *The modern area includes Iraq, Kuwait, the northeastern section of Syria, and portions of southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Crabtini, A Simple & Elegant First Course

    A delicious crabtini. Photo courtesy Ruth’s
    Chris Steakhouse.

     

    When you’re cooking a fancy dinner, there are tricks to shave time and effort. We typically do this by making first courses and desserts that are simple yet impressive.

    One of our go-to first courses is a slice of store-bought pâté with a lightly-dressed mesclun salad, cornichons, pickled onions and some halved grape tomatoes for color. Another is a crabtini.

    A crabtini is a crab cocktail served in a Martini glass. Thanks so much to Lynne Olver of FoodTimeline.org, whose research indicates that the originator of the concept appears to be Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, circa 2005.

    The crabtini has inspired chefs to create even more elaborate preparations like this molded crab cocktail. But, seeking the quick and easy, we emulated Ruth’s Chris to make our own crabtini:

    RECIPE: CRABTINI

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 1 pound lump or white crabmeat (types of crabmeat)
  • 1/2 cup capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Herb vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • Romaine
  • Garnish: salmon caviar, red tobiko or tiny dice of
    red bell pepper; lemon or lime wedges
  • Preparation

    1. GENTLY toss the crab with capers, onion, parsley, Creole seasoning, salt and pepper and vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

    2. PLACE romaine leaves upright in a Martini glass. Place a mound of the crab salad in the glass.

    3. GARNISH with caviar and serve with lemon or lime wedges.
     
    RECIPE: HERB VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup mixed leafy fresh herbs: basil, mint, parsley, tarragon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1-1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A few shakes Worcestershire sauce
  •  
    Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
     
    WINE PAIRING

    Enjoy your crabtini with a festive glass of sparking wine—another quick and easy way to add glamor to a simple course—or a clean, crisp dry white wine.

      

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