Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Fun! Authentic Guacamole, a Fig and Honey Salad, and a make-your-own Soft Drink

        Today I wanted to share three recipes that are fast and fun and amazingly delicious all at the same time.

A true Molcajete, sold at Williams-Sonoma
        First up, a recipe for that great summer favorite, Guacamole.  Every year, we look forward to a visit from Carlos, a friend of a friend who comes up from his home in Mexico City.  Last year, Carlos kindly gave us Diana Kennedy’s classic “The Art of Mexican Cooking” (Clarkson Potter 1989,2008).
This book is an incredibly rich collection authentic recipes culled from 50 years of living, traveling and cooking in Mexico.  If ever there was a place to look for a recipe for guacamole, this is it.  It should be made at the last moment because it quickly changes color with or without the avocado pit.  You can actually make it right in front of your guests if you have a ‘molcajete’, that stone pestle you see at every Mexican restaurant.  However, this worked just fine using a blender for the base and then mashing the avocado into another bowl. 

  Our second treat is a very simple salad, adapted from a marvelous new cookbook that I highly recommend.  It’s “Savoring the Hamptons” (Running Press 2011) by one of the great doyennes of East End cooking, Silvia Lehrer.  This book will be the subject of a complete post at a later date.  Today I want to share an adaptation of Silvia’s Fig, Honey and Cheese Salad.  Years ago when I was in Greece on vacation with my parents, my father could not wait to eat fresh figs.  Strangely, he never eaten the raw fruit even though he lived in Georgia at the time, certainly a climate warm enough for figs. In fact, my great friend Carl, grows figs in Yardley, PA, from a tree he transplanted from his grandparent’s garden in The Bronx.  The tree is carefully covered in winter and annually rewards Carl and his family with a crop of the delicious fruit.  Wonder of wonders, figs also grow on the East End and are a feature of this week’s Farm Stand offerings.  This salad is a wonderful way to, well, savor the fig.

      Finally, there’s something that’s great fun to make and perfect for kids.  In a recent Bon Appetit, an article called Fizz Ed spelled out the reasons why making your own soft drinks is such a great idea.  We used local strawberries and and ordinary canned soda water to make up a batch.  What’s great is they contain less than half the calories and the sugar of, say, a Sprite.  It’s simplicity itself to make.  You crush the berries with lemon juice and basil, of all things, and then pour in the soda water.  I am sure you can do this with all kinds of fruits once you get the hang of it, which should take you all of five minutes.Here are all three recipes:

Recipe for Authentic Guacamole adapted from Diana Kennedy’s “The Art of Mexican Cooking”

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped
4 serrano chiles, finely chopped (seeds and all), or to taste*
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Sea salt to taste
3 avocados (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup unskinned tomatoes, finely chopped
·         I used 2 Jalapeno chiles as Serranos were not available locally


1/4 cup tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tablespoon white onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Put the onion, chiles, cilantro, and salt into a molcajete and crush to a paste. Or combine those ingredients in a blender and emulsify.

Cut the avocados in half and, without peeling, remove the pit and squeeze out the flesh. Save the pit to put into the bowl with the finished guacamole. Mash the avocados  roughly into the base and mix well. Stir in the tomatoes and sprinkle the surface of the guacamole with the toppings. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

Recipe for Fig and Honey Salad adapted from Silvia Lehrer

6 large fresh figs
¼ cup pecans, toasted*
¼ lb natural rind nutty cheese*, shaved
Honey to drizzle

Rinse the figs and pat dry with paper towel.  Cut in half lengthwise and divide equally among two plates. Top the fig halves with the nuts and shavings of cheese. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon of honey over each serving. Serve at room temperature.

*Sylvia used pine nuts.
*Sylvia used a local cheese called “Shawondasee” made by Mecox Bay Dairy
in Bridgehampton NY.  I opted for “Beaufort D’Alpage”, a cow’s milk cheese from the French Alps. 

Recipe for Strawberry, Lemon and Basil Soda from Bon Appetit

    This recipe makes one glass of soda.  I tripled and quadrupled it easily.
    You can easily substitute a spoon, if you do not own a muddler. 

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon raw sugar
6 fresh basil leaves
    5 small strawberries (or 3 large         strawberries, quartered) plus 1 thin slice for garnish
1 pinch kosher salt
3/4 cup soda water

Combine fresh lemon juice, raw sugar, basil, whole strawberries, and salt in a pint glass. Muddle ingredients with a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Add ice cubes and soda water and stir until chilled. Strain into a 12-oz. glass filled with ice cubes and garnish with a strawberry slice.


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  2. Hello,

    Your figs with cheese, toasted pecans and honey drizzled over them sounds so delicious.

    I am wondering--What kind of figs did you use for this dish?

  3. Please excuse me for not getting back to you immediately. You can use absolutely any kind of fresh figs for this dish. Mission Figs are great. We just used what was at our local Farm stand. Believe it or not, there are people on Long Island who can grow them in the summer as long as they move or wrap the trees very carefully for the colder months. Enjoy!