Thursday, January 29, 2015

Damiana Poached Mission Figs with Cassis Gastrique, Ginger Crème and Pita Bread

     Mission Fig Season!  
     Fresh ripe mission figs are plump tender sweet little figs that have a rich flavor.  Fresh mission figs can be poached whole.  The steam that is trapped under the fig's skin helps tenderize the fruit and intensify the flavor.  The skin of a mission fig actually is thin enough to allow a trace of the poaching liquid flavor to infuse.

     I once listened to a culinary arts instructor state that no vegetable or fruit stains a blue color.  Old culinary books say the same thing.  Those antiquated statements were made long before exotic fruits and heirloom vegetables became commonplace in markets.  Mission figs stain Royal Blue and some purple carrots stain pure Navy Blue.
     Reducing the mission fig poaching liquid yields a royal blue color glacé.  The blue color of the fig poaching liquid reduction looks nice on the plate when it is streaked with the golden color damiana liquor reduction.

     Damiana is a medicinal herb that is native to the southwest, Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.  Damiana leaves and flowers have a very complex aroma and flavor that is one of a kind and very appealing.  Natives of the Americas hold this plant in high esteem for its relaxing effects.
     Basically the flavor and aroma of Damiana is so nice, that it causes relaxation.  There are active chemicals in Damiana that add to the relaxing effect, but the properties of the chemicals remain a mystery.  Damiana has a reputation for increasing the sex drive and it is often marketed as an aphrodisiac.  Native women, traditionally use to Damiana to increase fertility.  Damiana is usually prepared as a tea, incense or it is added to smoking mixtures.

     Damiana Liquor
     Mexican Damiana Liquor has a full ranging Damiana herb flavor.  Damiana Liquor is sweetened and it has a comfortable aperitif alcohol content percentage.  Damiana Liquor bottles are shaped like an Incan Fertility Goddess and these bottle have collector value.
     Damiana Margaritas are popular in Los Cabos, Mexico.  According to witnesses and food historians, triple sec (curacao liquor) was not one of the ingredients in the original Margarita Cocktail recipe.  Damiana Liquor was paired with Tequila to create the very first Margarita!  This fact does makes sense, because the original Margarita was created to please a female VIP patron.
     Damiana is certainly the ladies liquor of ladies liquors!  The Incan Goddess shaped glass Damiana Liquor bottle spells out fertility and feminism, no matter how it is interpreted!

     Today's Recipe
     The Black Currant Gastrique in today's recipe tastes nice with mission figs.  Black Currants are champagne grape raisons.  Back Currants are called cassis in French, so a Black Currant Gastrique can be called a Cassis Gastrique.  The flavor of this gastrique is very deep and intense.
     Poached figs are not just a dessert.  Fancy poached figs can be served as an appetizer or as an early sweet course during a multi course dinner.
     The stack of pita bread on a skewer confirms today's poached Mission Fig creation is meant to be an early sweet course or appetizer.  If you prefer to serve this Mission Fig creation as a dessert, then leave the pita bread skewer out of the recipe.
     Today's recipe is not difficult to make on a first attempt.  Reduction sauces and glacé are easy to make.  It is important to not reduce sugar sauces till they are too thick or they will solidify like candy when they cool.

     Black Currant Gastrique:
     This gastrique recipe yields about 1 1/2 to 2 ounces! 
     Step 1:  Chop 1/4 cup of black currants into small pieces and set them aside.
     Step 2:  Place 1/2 cup of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of sugar.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Boil and reduce the liquid, till the water has nearly evaporated and the sugar begins to rapidly bubble as it enters the candy making stages.  (Use caution, boiling sugar can cause very severe burns!)
     Step 3:  When the sugar turns from a light amber color to an amber brown color, immediately add the chopped black currants.
     Allow the amber brown sugar "seize" the black currants for a few seconds.  (Do not stir!)
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice vinegar.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add sea salt.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of thyme leaves.
     Add 6 whole black peppercorns.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped shallot.
     Step 5:  Simmer and reduce the gastrique, till it becomes a thin syrup consistency.  The gastrique should be able to lightly glaze the back of a spoon.
     Step 6:  Pour the gastrique through a fine mesh strainer into a ceramic cup.
     Keep the gastrique warm on a stove top.
     This gastrique can be refrigerated for up to 6 months.

     Damiana Liquor Glacé:
     Only about 1 or 2 teaspoons of damiana glace are needed for this recipe! 
     Place 2 ounces of damiana liquor in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Place the sauce pot over low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the damiana liquor, till it becomes a thin syrup.
     Place the damiana glacé in a small ramekin and keep it warm on a stove top.

     Ginger Crème:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 ounces.
     Place 3 ounces of cream in a sauce pot.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1 tiny pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 ounce of dry white wine.
     Place the sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce the cream, till it becomes a thin cream sauce consistency.
     Place the ginger crème in a small plastic squeeze bottle and keep it warm on a stove top.

     Damiana Poached Mission Figs:
     Place 8 fresh mission figs in a small sauce pot.
     Add enough water to barely cover the figs.
     Add 2 ounces of damiana liquor.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 small pinch of white pepper.
     Place the pot over medium heat.
     Poach the mission figs till they become plump and tender.
     Remove the mission figs from the pot and place the on a dish.  Leave the poaching liquid in the pot.
     Keep the poached figs warm on a stove top.

     Damiana Mission Fig Glacé:  
     Place the pot of Mission Fig poaching liquid over medium heat.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce the poaching liquid, till it becomes a thin syrup consistency.
     Pour the glacé through a fine mesh strainer into a ceramic cup.
     Place the cup on a stove top to keep it warm.

     Pita Bread Skewer:
     Warm a small pita bread in an oven or on a dry griddle.
     Cut the pita into 7 or 8 square shapes that measure about 1 1/2".
     Run a fancy bamboo skewer through a small basil top sprig.
     Place the pita bread pieces on the skewer.
     Set the skewer aside.

     Damiana Poached Mission Figs with Cassis Gastrique, Ginger Crème and Pita Bread:
     Use a paring knife to split the poached mission figs in half, but leave the halves attached at the stem end.
     Slightly fan each mission fig open.
     Arrange the figs in a circle pattern on a plate.
     Place the pita skewer vertically on the center of the plate.
     Spoon the black currant gastrique on the plate between the skewer and the mission figs.
     Use the squeeze bottle to paint streaks of the ginger crème over the poached mission figs.
     Use a spoon to dab dots of the blue color damiana mission fig poaching liquid glacé on the plate.
     Use a spoon to dab dots of the Damiana Liquor Glacé on the plate.

     This Poached Mission Fig appetizer certainly is decadent and appealing!                

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