Friday, June 17, 2011

Grilled Fruits and Fig Compote with Bread and Cheese

With the hot weather and afternoon storms here in Colorado, there's no doubt that summer is really upon us! One of my favorite activities is cooking outside on the grill, especially after the rain has cooled off the heat of the day. Today, I want to give you a great way to enjoy the grill and still feel like you're eating in the Middle Ages!

Putting fresh fruit on the grill is a trick that so many people don't know about! Grilling brings out the most amazing flavors in fruits, and it also serves to caramelize some of the sugars in the fruit, which adds a depth of flavor you just can't get without grilling. You can grill all sorts of fruits, from peaches to bananas, but to keep it medieval, use fresh citrus, apples and pears. Add in some freshly baked bread lightly toasted over the flames, fresh fig compote and a variety of cheese with some delicious honey, and you have a wonderful camp treat, breakfast, or appetizer course. Served after supper, this combination makes a lovely way to end an evening, and an easy dessert that everyone will love! And your friends can take part in the magic; let them grill their own fruits!

Grilled Fruits

Apples, Pears, Lemons, Oranges cut in half or large slices, about 1/4 inch thick

Place fruits down on the grill for just a moment or two. The goal is to get just a bit of those char marks on the fruit. Grill them with the skin on!

Serve grilled slices of fruit with some toasted country bread, fresh cheese and honey or a delicious fig compote! Did you know that figs are the sweetest of all fruits? There are hundreds of varieties, but in the Western US, the black mission is the most common.

Fig Compote

1 big orange- you need as much juice as you can get out of it, and you can add in the pulp if you remove the membrane covering the pulp
1/2 lb. figs, roughly chopped
2 T. honey- make it a good one, as fresh as you can get!
1/2 c. red wine *Note: if you wouldn't drink it from a glass, don't cook with it!
1 c. water
3 sprigs of thyme, tied in cheesecloth

Mix orange juice, figs and honey in medium saucepan. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Add the other ingredients, and stir while bringing it to a boil. Once it's boiling, turn it down to a very low simmer. Stir it off and on for about 20-30 minutes. It should be thickened, and most of the liquid should be gone. You want a nice thick compote. Toss out the thyme and cheesecloth, and let it cool if you can keep people out of it long enough! Store in the fridge.

This recipe could likely be done in a crock pot as well, but I wouldn't want to  underestimate the time. If you try it in a crock pot, please let me know how long it takes! Over a fire, you'll need to be careful that it doesn't start to scald in the pot. Definitely use a lower flame for this compote, and be sure to keep stirring to avoid any sticking at the bottom. It should take about 15-20 minutes over a fire.

This compote is delicious on fresh toasted bread. Top the bread with a bit of delicious Mizithra cheese and a little dollop of the compote for a delicious breakfast. Add in a slice of grilled apple or pear, and you have the most amazing treat!

For the cheese, I would recommend substituting any good, fresh goat's milk cheese if you cannot find Mizithra in your market or make your own medieval-recipe cheese. Mizithra can also be found labeled as Anari or Nor, depending on where it was made. Check out your local stores for specialty cheese sections; King Soopers has some stores that have beautiful cheese sections that are manned for lots of sampling!

Mizithra is a cheese that can be used for many delicious recipes, mixed in a salad or as part of the mix in mini-pies, which make amazing hand-held snacks. Blend some of the compote and pieces of Mizithra cheese and put little spoonfuls in phyllo dough squares. Fold over and seal with a bit of beaten egg, crimp the edges and bake till golden!  Yum!

This is a very sweet mix of foods, and some may find it too sweet! Once sugar made its appearance in the medieval world, it was a luxury that the wealthy indulged in as often as possible. The sweeter the food, the higher one's status!

It was the Byzantines that gave us the extensive use of honey and sugar that we continue to enjoy today. Baklava, the gloriously sticky, sweet stuff, came from Byzantium, and it was Byzantines who first enjoyed the blending of sweet and savory flavors. It boggles my mind to think of all the sugar that is in our diet today. Nearly everything has some form of sugar added, and the artificial foods in our diets are often full of hidden sources of it. In Byzantine times, there was very little sugar in the diets of the common man and woman, and what sugar was consumed was usually in the fruits and honey they ate. Our use of processed and artificial sweeteners has removed the decadence of sweet things. The recipes I've shared here help bring back some of that natural sweetness that doesn't need anything artificial to make it better. Enjoy!

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