Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Roast Pork Belly: Burp! Gives Thanks

Yeah, we had pork for Thanksgiving.  But, before you start throwing your turkey carcasses at us, let me explain...

On November 27, 1998, Peef and Lo became one. That is to say, Peef and Lo got married. And if you look back, you will see that November 27, 1998 was a Friday. A Black Friday, in fact.

That's right, we got hitched the day after Thanksgiving.
So, suffice it to say, Thanksgiving has never really been an ordinary holiday for us.

In addition, you might have noticed that we have this little habit of cooking together, and we couldn't imagine any other way to celebrate our marriage than side by side in the kitchen. This results in rather non-traditional Thanksgiving feasts, and this year was by far one of the most inventive.

But more on that in a little bit...

A few months back, we were fortunate to benefit from an otherwise unfortunate event.
Our friend Scott from Bolzano Artisan Meats experienced the pangs of a busted appendix right after he'd received a hog fresh from the farm. During his recovery, he was unable to perform the work needed to transform a fresh pig into cured artisan charcuterie.  So, instead, he offered up a variety of freshly butchered pork cuts for sale to the general public.

When we got the email announcing the sale, I read through the list of available cuts. Pork belly... Picnic roast... Boston Butt...   Heh. I didn't even finish reading. The fact is, he had me at Pork Belly. Lo was excited about getting a picnic roast...but I was stuck on the Pork Belly.

"I needs one," I said to Lo (in a very whiny voice).

Fortunately, Lo loves me, and she agreed that a couple of picnic roasts and a Pork Belly would be a welcome addition to our freezer for future feasts.

One such future feast, as it happens, was Thanksgiving.

Our pork belly turned out to be a thing of beauty. Deliciously pink & beskinned, the belly had a delightful balance between fabulous meat and layers of beautiful white pork fat.  Although Lo decided it smelled a little bit like wet dog, I thought it looked pretty fabulous.

We'd chosen an Asian application from one of the latest issues of Saveur magazine -- mainly because it included step-by-step instructions for achieving a gloriously puffed and crispy layer of cracklin' pork skin -- a delicacy I've been waiting to experience for most of my adult life. 

Interestingly enough, we had most of the ingredients for the pork's marinade right in our cupboard.  All except the preserved red bean curd, which I easily procured from the Asian grocer down the street.

And then the fun began.

We poked the pork skin all over with a sharp knife (and yes, I am now coveting one of those official pork poking tools).  We scalded it with a baking soda and water mixture.  We mixed together the marinade (pausing a bit when we smelled the slighly funky odor of the red bean curd, but persisting nonetheless), and we let everything cure overnight.

On Thanksgiving afternoon, we removed our slightly funky-smelling pork belly from the fridge, placed it on a roasting rack, and set it in the oven.  About an hour later, we opened the oven door and were greeted by a sight for sore eyes.
That pork belly... well, it was positively stellar.

We broke off hunks of the crackled skin and nibbled like greedy little... pigs?   The puffed bits crackled and crunched and filled our mouths with enticingly porky flavor, while the deliciously tender meat, pleasantly caramelized and perfumed with the scent of five spice powder, melted in our mouths.

It was (dare I say it) quite nearly better than bacon.  And it was even better when paired with another of our holiday cooking projects...

...which we'll reveal to you on Friday.
Trust me when I say it's worth the wait. 

In the meantime, feel free to check out the recipe:  Crispy Pork Siew Yoke - Saveur Magazine

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens
Want more? Read Lo's latest ruminations at FOODCrush, her Milwaukee Magazine blog.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cinnamon Plum Tea Ice Cream: Holiday Awesome

For those of you whose taste for ice cream bleeds over insatiably into the cooler months of the year, this post is for you.

Making tea into ice cream is nothing new.   Green tea ice cream seems to be making its way into just about every grocery store around the nation.  And plenty of food bloggers are experimenting with recipes for Earl Grey Tea Ice Cream (Mac & Cheese), Irish Breakfast Tea Ice Cream (Coconut & Lime), and even Thai Tea Ice Cream (The Ivory Hut).

So, I decided to try my hand at making some of my own. I chose one of my favorite local brews from Milwaukee's own Rishi Tea, a local company whose tea has been given a variety of top honors, including seven First Place Awards at the 2010 North American Tea Championship. 

Made with fresh local whole milk and cream, cinnamon plum tea, a bit of sugar and a dash of honey, this ice cream is not only stellar on its own, but it makes the perfect filling for ginger snap ice cream sandwiches & an awesome accompaniment to a slice of hot apple pie.

I wouldn't normally double post a recipe like this -- but I know that not everyone is reading my posts over at DEVOUR Milwaukee, and I didn't want anyone to miss this one.  Cuz yeah -- it's really THAT good.

Rishi Cinnamon Plum Tea Ice Cream:
Warming Tea Makes Delightfully Chilly Holiday Dessert

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Das Truthahn Ist Sehr Gut: Turkey with Riesling & Sauerkraut

Our last name being "Fredrich" and all, you may have already guessed that there's a bit of German heritage floating around in Peef's veins.  We probably pay homage to that heritage best in the summertime when drinking a nice dark brew & indulging in one of those awesome Wisconsin bratwurst with kraut.  However, this year's turkey feast makes me wonder if we should capitalize on that heritage a bit more often.

Peef first spied the recipe for Turkey with Sauerkraut, Riesling, and Pork Sausages in the latest issue of Saveur magazine.

"You've got to take a look at this,"  Peef said, with that tell-tale drooly look on his face that not-so-secretly declared that he'd experienced love at first sight.

I perused the recipe, first noticing that it called for four pounds of raw sauerkraut.  FOUR POUNDS.  I almost shut down right then and there. After all, four pounds of high quality raw kraut could run upwards of $50 in these parts... unless of course, you know someone who's brewing up a nice 5 gallon crock of fresh kraut made with local cabbage.  Heh. 

I immediately emailed my friend Steph to see if she could part with four pounds of her kraut. Upon her affirmative response, the challenge was ON.

Turkey. Check.
Onions. Check.
Bottles of Riesling. Check.
Locally grown Black Willow Twig apples. Check.

Once we had gathered all the ingredients and thawed the turkey, the process was simple.   There was no brine. No overnight marination. No puttering or futzing.  Just a few simple steps.

First, we chopped up 3-4 of the Black Willow Twig apples into julienned strips.  We mixed the apples with drained sauerkraut and set that mixture aside. We made a bouquet garni with garlic, juniper berries, cloves, thyme, and parsley and tossed it into a large roasting pan. After cleaning and seasoning it, the turkey was stuffed with the sauerkraut-apple mixture and laid atop a bed of Riesling-infused onions, slab bacon, and more sauerkraut. It was topped with more strips of bacon, tightly covered in a cloak of parchment paper and aluminum foil, and left to roast for 3 hours in a 350 degree oven.

We joked that our house was sure to smell like a nursing home with all that kraut cooking away in the oven.  But, the truth is, it wasn't until the last half-hour of baking that we began to smell the delicious odor of the roasted bird -- seeping quietly and subtly out from under the oven door.  It was like a perfume.  Barely sweet, scented with juniper and garlic, and not nearly as "cabbagey" as I'd expected.

It was the easiest turkey I've ever made. And quite possibly one of the most delicious.  The breast meat was meltingly tender, and the dark meat was succulent -- vaguely redolent of the sweetness of the apples, the savory notes of the saurkraut, and the perfume of those mysteriously piney juniper berries, it was a perfect match for the bottle of German Riesling we chose to serve with dinner.
Served here alongside a very delicious herbed stuffing (Peef declared it the "best stuffing ever") with mustard greens and some of that deliciously tender kraut.

Turkey with Riesling & Sauerkraut

Herbed Stuffing with Mustard Greens

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens
Want more? Read Lo's latest ruminations at FOODCrush, her Milwaukee Magazine blog.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Char Crust: Product Review & Giveaway

I'll be frank. I'm a control freak.

This means I'm seldom a fan of things like spice blends. For, although they have the potential to make my life easier, they also require me to confine myself to the nuances of someone else's palate...

Maybe that makes me a food snob.  But, I hope I can redeem myself by admitting that -- although I don't regularly use pre-made spice blends -- I'm always a big fan of supporting local businesses.  And that's why, when one of the owners of Char Crust, a Chicago-based company, wrote to us and asked if we'd like to sample their seasoning blends, we decided to give them a try.

The flavors provided to us included:
All American Barbeque
Ginger Teriyaki
Original Hickory Grilled
Roasted Garlic Peppercorn
Smoky Spicy Southwest

Since 1998 Bernard Silver and his wife Susan Eriksen have marketed the Char Crust line -- a collection of dry spice rubs based on the classic flavors made popular by the legendary Al Farber's Steak Room in Chicago.  Farber's was famous for "Eye of Prime Rib" and unique charcrust steaks. The popular restaurant, which faced Lincoln Park, was the recipient of many top honors including The Perfect Steak Award, the Epicurean Award, and the Gourmet Society Merit Award. Although the restaurant closed in the 1977, the legacy of the famous steaks remained, embodied in Char Crust® and Roto Roast dry rub seasonings, which were marketed and sold to other restaurants in Chicago.  These days, the line has been expanded to include nine rubs which are available to consumers at a variety of small, independently-owned businesses: butcher shops, gourmet stores, grocers, and even hardware stores.   Read more at Charcrust.com

I'll should admit to being quite curious about their products, which are marketed heavily for use with meat and fish -- and which promise to "seal in the juices". That said, I decided that, for the purpose of our review, we'd branch out a bit. So, we decided to try the rubs strictly on vegetables.  We tested out all but one of the seasonings (the Roasted Garlic Peppercorn), which we figured would be easy to pair with just about anything.

Overall, we were quite pleased with what we discovered. The blends, which are some of the few certified kosher spice blends on the market, were unique -- some delicate, some more assertive.  And every single variety surprised us with one stunning feature -- unlike many seasoning blends, they are remarkably low in sodium.  In fact, we found that every one benefited from the addition of a bit of salt to pull out some of the more subtle nuances of flavor.  So, the seasonings would be excellent options for anyone watching his/her sodium intake.

One caveat for our gluten free readers:  all the blends we tried did contain some element of wheat, and so they would not be safe for consumption among consumers suffering from gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.

That said, here's what we found during our weekend of recipe testing!  We tried out four vegetables/legumes: chickpeas, sweet potatoes, blue potatoes, and cauliflower.  And every single one turned out pretty darned good.

First up:  All American Barbeque Roasted Chickpeas
Technique:  Rinse & drain chickpeas. Dry them off and spread them on a baking pan.  Bake them at 350 F for 20 minutes, or until quite dry.  Toss hot chickpeas with a bit of olive oil and about a tablespoon of barbeque seasoning. Continue baking for 15-20 minutes or until crisp and browned (watch closely to prevent burning).

Our verdict:  TOTALLY addictive.  These chickpeas would make the perfect snack to serve to company during cocktail hour or at a casual gathering.  The seasoning is pleasantly sweet, with a hint of tomato and lots of great garlic & onion flavor.  In addition to using it for chickpeas, it would be great worked into meat for burgers, or slathered on ribs or barbequed chicken.

Next: Ginger Teriyaki Sweet Potato Fries
Technique:  Slice sweet potatoes lengthwise into 3/4 inch wide strips. Toss with olive oil and 1 T of Ginger Teriyaki seasoning.  Roast at 450 for 15-18 minutes, or until just tender.  Toss with salt, to taste.

Our verdict: These potatoes were genuinely delicious.  The spice blend is a nice balance of soy, ginger, and a hint of orange -- all of which really complement the sweetness of the potatoes. This would make an excellent seasoning for salmon, chicken, or even roasted broccoli.  Flavor might be overpowered if used for grilling.

Then:  Original Hickory Grilled Roasted Potatoes
Technique:  Slice potatoes in half, and then slice each half into three pieces.  Toss with olive oil and approximately 1 T of Hickory seasoning.  Roast at 425 F for 20-25 minutes, or until potatoes are crisp on the outside and fully cooked through.  Remove from oven and immediately toss with salt, to taste.

The verdict:   These potatoes had a delightfully subtle smoke flavor that made them taste as if they'd been grilled.  Great for the middle of winter when the snow is flying and you don't want to haul out the barbeque!  This seasoning would be awesome for making burgers or steak indoors.

And finally:  Smoky Spicy Southwest Roasted Cauliflower
Technique:  Cut small head of cauliflower into florets.  Toss with olive oil and approximately 1 1/2 T Southwest seasoning.  Roast at 425 F for 20-25 minutes or until florets are browned and crisp-tender. Toss with salt, to taste.  (Optional: Serve with chipotle mayo for dipping).

The verdict:  We really liked the smoky flavor of the chipotle in this Southwest inspired seasoning.  Not particularly spicy, this blend would appeal to a broad range of palates, including children.  Would be a nice seasoning for chicken, white fleshed fish, or pork.  I think we'd also like this added to roasted potatoes.


And now... the best part.

First, ALL of our readers qualify to receive FREE SHIPPING on all products ordered on the Char Crust site between November 19 - December 19, 2010 (savings of $7 or more).  To receive free shipping, simply use the code BURP!121910 at checkout. 

In addition, Char Crust gave us enough seasoning blends to share the wealth!  Enter to win and we'll send one lucky reader a package filled with FIVE full sized packages of Char Crust Seasonings.

For your chance to win, please read the instructions below. Be sure to leave a comment for each entry (and leave your email address if you don't have it listed on your blog/contact info).   Please note that this contest is limited to readers in the United States & Canada. Contest ends 12/1/10 at NOON (CST).

Mandatory entry (must be completed or no other entries will count):   
  • Tell me which of the Char Crust rubs you most want to try
Extra entries – please leave a comment for each additional entry, letting us know you completed it
  • Give us a "like" on Facebook!
  • Follow @Burp_blog on twitter
  • Use the following text to tweet about this giveaway (please leave a link to your tweet in the comments for credit):  
    • Char Crust Dry Rubs - #win five varieties @Burp_blog:  Ends 12/1 #giveaway

NOTE:  The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Facebook before the end of the week (12/3).  The winner will be emailed separately to arrange for mailing of the prize pack.

Full Disclosure:  Although we were given Char Crust products free of charge for the purpose of this review and giveaway, all opinions expressed in this review are our own.

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sourdough Focaccia with Olives & Rosemary

I killed them both in one fell swoop.
Both were tragic deaths. Unfair. And sudden. And utterly inelegant. And I mourned them both privately and on Facebook.

I now maintain that it was a matter of simple cross-contamination -- yeast meets beast --but I spent weeks wondering about the untimely fate of both my sourdough starter (of 7+ years) and my kombucha scoby (which I'd maintained without fail since early last spring).  I also acted quickly to find replacements.

The scoby was easy enough to replace, since I've given out quite a number of baby scobies to friends & neighbors all over town (and I seem to have developed a waiting list of others who are still awaiting the chance to own a 'booch baby of their own).  But the sourdough...

Fortunately for me, R from Cakewalk was passionately working on one of her latest obsessions -- sourdough culture derived from the fermentation of grapes (a la Nancy Silverton). And she was kind enough to offer me a bit of her brand new starter.

It was gorgeous stuff -- smelling of yeast and ferment and the ever-so-slight perfume of grapes (or was that my consistently overactive imagination?). In any case, it was a wonder of a living food. And I couldn't wait to take it for a test drive.

Interestingly enough, Peef was craving foccacia.  So, we planned a lovely casual weekend dinner of cheese, wine, fruit... and a lovely sourdough experiment.

The dough mixed together beautifully.  I used a mixture of bread flour and a half and half blend of all purpose and white whole wheat flour.  And I gave the loaf a nice long rise (nearly 8 hours total) -- to ensure that the wild yeast had an opportunity to thoroughly develop.
When the dough was finished rising, I hand shaped it on a piece of parchment paper, allowed it to rest, and then put together the toppings. Olives... rosemary...thinly sliced garlic... I hoped that this would be the focaccia of my (sometimes easy to please of late) dreams.

I watched the loaf in the oven as it slowly lifted -- as if levitating -- air flowing through every bubbly crevice. And, as a crust formed along the outer edges of the dough, I saw the bread take form and color beautifully.
The final product was crisp & airy, with a beautifully tender exterior pleasantly dappled with air tunnels.  Although it would have been perfect for sandwiches, we sliced it simply and ate it in big, manly chunks -- spread with tomato basil jam and followed with sheep's milk cheese and a swig of wine.

It was love at first bite - which is exactly why I feel the need to share.  If you can manage to get your hands on a bit of sourdough starter, you must try this recipe.

Sourdough focaccia with olives & rosemary

Oh!  And before I forget -- stay tuned later this week as we write about our adventures with locally made spice blends... I don't think I'd be giving too much away if I suggested there might be a giveaway involved...

Want more? Read Lo's latest ruminations at FOODCrush, her Milwaukee Magazine blog.

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Friday, November 12, 2010

Getting to the Heart of the Artichoke: Conversations with Chef David Tanis

Early November in Milwaukee is usually cold. However, if we're experiencing a particularly lovely stint of Indian Summer, it can also be amazingly comfortable.

Tuesday was one of those beautiful autumn days that you wish would repeat itself every single day from Labor Day through Thanksgiving. Bright sun, cool breeze. Just Perfect.

You might be wondering why, on Tuesday of all days, I took particular notice of this nice weather. Well, to be honest, the weather here has been great the entire week. But Tuesday was special, because I had the unique opportunity to to enjoy lunch at Roots Restaurant with Chef David Tanis of Chez Panisse.

We were privileged to be contacted by his book publicist a few weeks ago, and she wondered if Burp! would be interested in conducting an interview with Tanis while he was in town for another event. Of COURSE we were interested -- and so we decided to gather up a few of our other blogger friends and invite them to participate in a blogger junket of sorts. We contacted Roots to see if they'd be interested in hosting the luncheon, since their menu (based on local, seasonal produce) seemed to really capture the best of Milwaukee dining.

Tanis has been working at the infamous Chez Panisse Restaurant on and off since the 1980s. These days he acts as co-Chef of the restaurant, splitting the year with his colleague Jean-Pierre Moulle. When he isn't cooking up wonderful things at Chez Panisse, he can be found in Paris, where he hosts a private dining club.

Chef David was in Milwaukee to promote his new book, Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys -- a lovely little tome, if I do say so myself. The book includes not only a collection of gorgeous photos and simple-but-delicious recipes, but it also contains memorable and entertaining anecdotes from Tanis' life & culinary adventures.

I arrived at Roots as the afternoon sun began to shine through the clear glass patio windows and glisten off of the bottles sitting along the bar on the back wall. I could hear the sounds of the meat grinder whirring in the background as the staff prepared for dinner service, and I wondered what Chef Paul had in mind for our lunch.

I needn't have worried -- the menu was brief, but fantastic.  It featured items like seasonal maple frisee salad, fried lake perch sandwiches, and a lovely grilled cheese with arugula, sliced pears and mushroom pate.
 As the bloggers wandered in -- first Otehlia from A World of Flavors, then Nicole from On My Table and Neil from Stream of Consciousness... and then Chef Tanis himself and Anna from Tallgrass Kitchen.

Tanis greeted each of us with jovial handshakes. He'd just spent his morning doing a cooking demonstration on Fox 6 News - making (of all things) a simple ham sandwich with a deliciously fresh baguette from La Reve. He mentioned that he was impressed by the high quality of the supermarkets in Milwaukee, and commented that we were fortunate to have access to such great produce & sundries.

We were seated along the southeastern windows of the restaurant -- a perfect place to catch a glance of the lovely Milwaukee city-scape while enjoying the warmth of the sun at our backs.

A few of us came prepared with questions to ask Chef David -- though the conversation flowed more naturally than I would have expected. Tanis seemed quite intrigued by the idea of food blogging, and the blogger culture as it has developed in Milwaukee, as well as across the country. And then, the food was delivered to our table... and everyone pulled out their cameras.
"What's with people taking pictures of their food?" Tanis laughed, "Everyone can't be blogging about their food all the time. Isn't there just a point where you want to unplug and enjoy the moment?"

It's difficult to capture the spirit of what happened at the table -- Our conversation was so casual -- and Chef Tanis so zen about the process of cooking -- we all felt as if we were among friends, rather than gleaning bits of wisdom from one of the great masters of seasonal cooking.

Here are a few highlights that really stuck with me:

"Dishes are public domain," Tanis said, "From there you simply extract the elements from the base and make it your own."

Seasonal cooking:
"It just makes sense. Why would you want asparagus from Peru in the middle of winter when it tastes so great in the early spring when grown locally?"

"There's good food to be found everywhere," Tanis commented. It just takes a bit of legwork to find the little shops -- the nooks and crannies that house local delicacies and homemade products.

The size of a kitchen:
"I like a small kitchen. Everything is within reach and you can't get lost." (Tanis' kitchen in Paris is a minute 6'x10')

Heart of the Artichoke

"The stories and the recipes are really inseparable. They're intertwined. The stories make the book less of a manual and more of an inspirational device for creative cooking."

Tanis also let on that he's contemplating the idea of starting his own blog -- possibly discussing the dinner parties he hosts at his home in France.

Wow. If he does, we're totally there.

Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys is available online through various retailers, though we'd encourage you to patronize your locally owned independent bookshop.

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Monday, November 8, 2010

Think Pink: Indian Chickpeas & Greens

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball.  And sometimes that curve ball smacks you right upside the head and gives you one doozer of a bruise.

It's painful. And ugly. And even though you know that the bruise will heal, it can be pretty rough to walk around with a big purple goose egg on the side of your head for weeks on end.  But, you do. Maybe you try to cover it up with make-up. Or a hat. Maybe you decide to make the most of things, and you wear that nasty old bruise like a badge of honor.  It's true, after all, that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Eventually, the bruise heals and your life goes back to normal. But, when you're in the moment... it's pretty difficult not to be at least a little bit angry with the cards you've been dealt.

My point is, sometimes life doesn't go quite as you expect. And often cooking is an adventure that brings unpredictable results. Take for instance, the chickpeas & greens I made a few weeks back.

It started innocently enough.  I spied a gorgeous bunch of Asian Red Spinach at the market. And I decided I needed to take it home. After all, greens are GOOD. They're healthy. And they're versatile. Before whisking the beautiful purple-and-green-tinted leaves into my market bag, I did manage to ask a few basic questions.  Was it bitter? (no)  Stronger flavored than regular spinach? (slightly)  Did it cook down similarly? (yes)  Would it be recommended to eat the stems? (no)

What I failed to ask was -- is it going to turn my dinner pink?

Honestly, I should have suspected it.  But, I didn't.  In fact, I didn't realize the dish was going the way of Candy Land until I started to stir the kefir into the greens... and slowly, fantastically, that gorgeously fuschia color started to seep out of the spinach leaves and into the yogurt.  The chickpeas started to glow like some sort of iridescent pink light bulbs. The pink turned from fuschia. To salmon. To a color which verged upon red. And I began to wonder if I was going to be able to bear the thought of taking the leftovers of this dinner in to work the next day.

Truth is, as disturbing as they looked, the chickpeas and greens tasted positively fabulous.  The garam masala, coriander, and curry powder danced amid minced ginger and garlic. The fresh tomato brought forth a pleasantly sweet acidity, while the tartness of the kefir kept things lively.  The chickpeas & spinach gave the dish substance -- and yes, that sauce (pink and all) was just amazing when soaked into a nice warm piece of flatbread.  If you appreciate the rich, intoxicating flavors of Indian food, you'll love this easy weeknight dish.  And if you don't want that lovely pink hue, my suggestion would be that you stick to using regular old spinach.

Whatever you decide, there's a lesson to be learned here. Whether it's cooking or living, it pays to be flexible. And adventurous. After all, you never know what kind of delicious things are waiting behind that putridly pink facade.

Indian Chickpeas & Greens

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lamb Burgers with Figs, Caramelized Onions & Blue Cheese

Once upon a time... probably in late September... I spied a luscious looking pint of fresh Turkish figs at the market. And I was smitten.

For some (and maybe I should include myself here), figs are a nearly religious experience.  And it's no wonder. Succulent, sweet, and amazingly beautiful, the fig has a long history of adoration.  The fig tree was a common theme in the Bible, and the Egyptians considered figs to be sacred, often burying the dead with baskets of figs. Even the tale of how the infamous Mission figs made it to the U.S. has everything to do with the Franciscan monks from Spain who filled their pockets with figs and journeyed to San Diego, California to plant them.

Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. California fig season runs from Mid-May right into December -- though the peak of the season generally hits between July & September when all four varieties of figs (Brown Turkey, Black Mission, Kadota, & Calimyrna) are available.  Although they're widely available throughout the United States (thanks to the advances in food transportation -- both good and bad), we consider figs a special treat.  And because we can't grow figs ourselves here in Wisconsin, they have a particularly irresistible mystique.

I have a number of "favorite" ways to enjoy seasonal fresh figs -- wrapped with crispy bacon, chopped and added to cakes, or served simply with a dollop of Greek yogurt and honey. But, I also look forward to the opportunity to make these delicious burgers.

The burger itself is crazy simple -- a combination of freshly ground lamb, chopped fresh figs, a splash of balsamic vinegar, a dash of cumin, salt, pepper, and a bit of garlic. But, when the burger is topped with with caramelized onions and a bit of crumbled blue cheese -- wow. Reminiscent of a Mediterranean lamb stew with figs & red wine, these sandwiches were a treat that made us redefine what we think about weeknight burgers.

The sweetness of the figs & caramelized onions plays off of the rustic, assertive flavor of the lamb. And the saltiness of crumbled blue cheese makes every bite really snap.

Perfect with a side of crispy oven baked zucchini fries.

Lamb Burgers with Figs, Caramelized Onions & Blue Cheese
Baked Zucchini Fries

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens