21 September 2006

Goats cheese with figs and radicchio

Two and a bit weeks in, and Chefette is starting to get her groove on in the restaurant kitchen. Not everything is going perfectly, you understand. Still the odd cock-up from time to time. Such as getting a bit flaky last night during a busy patch, and somehow misreading 'agnello' (lamb) for 'caprino' (goat's cheese). Luckily, the head chef caught it before it got sent out to the customer.

But my first attempt at ricotta cheesecake seemed to come out okay. And I think I have impressed everyone with the biscotti I made last week. Even the Italian waiter -- who criticizes everything as not being authentically Italian -- said they were really good, and asked me what I put into them.

Anyway, I thought I'd post an example of the kind of food we serve at the restaurant. We've been doing this dish for a couple of weeks now, and it's proved so popular that we're keeping it on the menu for a bit longer. We do it as a starter at the restaurant, but I think it would also be fabulous as a 'savoury' served at the end of the meal, with a nice dessert wine. Steps 1 and 2 can be done ahead of time.

Goats cheese with figs and radicchio

6 ripe figs
125 grams goats cheese
4 leaves radicchio
1 tsp honey
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2-3 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil + extra for drizzling
Salt and pepper

1. Cut the figs in half lengthwise, and lay them cut side up on a lipped baking sheet lined with silicone paper. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and lightly drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil. Bake in a moderate oven until some juice just starts to run from the figs. (Maybe 15-20 minutes, it will depend on the ripeness of your figs.) Put the roasted figs into a bowl, and pour over the accumulated juices from the baking tray. Allow to cool to room temperature.

2. Make the honey-balsamic dressing. Start with a teaspoon of honey, a couple teaspoons of balsamic and 2-3 T of olive oil. Taste and season carefully, with a bit of salt and pepper. Adjust the balsamic-honey ratio as necessary so that they counterbalance each other. This vinaigrette will not emulsify, but that's okay -- you're going for that attractive 'split' look when you spoon it onto the plate, an archipelago of dark balsamic dots floating in small islands of olive oil.

3. Lay the roasted figs out in groups of three with the cut side up on a grill tray. Cover each trio with a couple of generous slices of goat's cheese. Put the tray under the grill until the cheese starts to brown and bubble slightly.

4. While the cheese is grilling, tear off a large-ish leaf of the radicchio for each plate. When the cheese is done, put three cheesey fig halves onto each leaf. Spoon some of the honey-balsamic dressing decoratively on top of the figs, and around the edges of each plate.

Let me know what you think if you try it.

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