Orange Almond Semifreddo with Port Wine Poached Figs

An elegant do-ahead dessert, perfect for a party:
Light and Luscious Semifreddo with Orange and Almonds

Are you still unsure of what to make for a party dessert this season? Try making this light and luscious semifreddo, topped with a compote of port-wine poached figs. Fragrant with orange and spice, it’s reminiscent of English Christmas puddings and mulled wine. Semifreddo is an elegant frozen Italian concoction of whipped cream and meringue, and in this preparation, it’s flecked with toasted almonds and orange zest. Each bite is light and luscious, melting on the tongue in an airy poof. For a little extra sweetness (it’s the holidays, after all) a shard of caramelized almond praline crowns the dessert.

The beauty of this recipe is that each component may be prepared at least a day in advance, so all that you need to do is assemble it when you are ready to serve, which is a perfect gift to the cook when entertaining.

Orange Almond Semifreddo with Port Wine Fig Compote

Active Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes, plus cooling and freezing time
Serves 8

Semifreddo:
3/4 cup whole almonds
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Pinch of salt
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon orange liqueur, such as Cointreau
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Figs Compote:
16 dried figs, stems removed, halved if large
3/4 cup Port wine
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Cointreau
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange

Praline:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Prepare the semifreddo:
1. Line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with plastic, leaving a 3-inch overhang.
2. Place the almonds and the 2 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Add the orange zest and salt and pulse once or twice to blend.
3. Beat the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until they begin to hold soft peaks. Add the 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks. Transfer to a large bowl.
4. In a clean mixing bowl, beat the cream, orange liqueur, and vanilla extract in a clean mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the cream until no traces are visible. Gently fold the almonds into the egg whites until evenly distributed. Spoon into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Cover tightly with plastic. Freeze at least 8 hours or overnight.

Prepare the figs:
Combine all of the compote ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until the figs are soft but still hold their shape, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and cool completely in the liquid; discard the cinnamon stick. (Figs may be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Refrigerate until use. Bring to room temperature to serve.)

Prepare the praline:
Heat the sugar in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until sugar melts, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until sugar turns amber in color. Add the almonds and sea salt and stir quickly to coat. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and spread into a thin layer. Do not touch with your fingers. Cool completely. Break into small pieces.

Serve:
When ready to serve, remove the semifreddo from the loaf pan. Working quickly, cut in 3/4-inch slices and arrange on serving plates or shallow bowls. Spoon figs and a little juice over the semifreddo and garnish with praline shards. Serve

Rhubarb Compote with Lemon and Sage

rhubarb sage tastefood

They say what grows together goes together and that certainly applies to this springtime compote. Green rhubarb stalks, flowering sage leaves and spring lemons comprised the latest bag of loot I came home with from the farmers’ market. The green rhubarb was stunning, it’s puckery astringency melding beautifully with bright citrus and, yes, sage leaves. Serve this compote straight as it is or add a drizzle of heavy cream. Vanilla ice cream wouldn’t be bad either.

Rhubarb Compote with Lemon and Sage

Serves – 2 to 3 (or never enough depending whom you ask)

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup sugar
2 to 3 fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Finely grated lemon zest for garnish

Combine the rhubarb, sugar and sage in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and simmer over low heat until rhubarb softens, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.. Remove from heat and discard the sage leaves. Stir in the lemon juice. Cool. Serve garnished with lemon zest.

 

Homemade Granola

granola tastefood

~ Homemade Granola and Greek Yogurt with Plum Compote ~

Whenever I can I make my own granola – and you should too. It’s easy to prepare and you can mix and match your favorite grains, nuts and dried fruit to your taste, while avoiding excess sugars and additives. The only downside is that it never lasts long enough in our house before it’s gobbled up. So make a double – or triple – batch if you can.

Homemade Granola

Substitute other nuts and seeds such as walnuts, pecans, flax, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Other dried fruit such as cranberries, chopped apricots and blueberries may be substituted for the raisins. Add after baking so they won’t burn in the oven.

Makes about 4 cups

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup chopped or sliced raw almonds or other nuts
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 300°F (160°C) Combine oats, nuts, coconut, wheat germ, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Whisk the sugar, syrup, oil, and vanilla in a small bowl until combined. Pour over the oats and stir to coat. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until golden brown, stirring once or twice, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Add the raisins. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

To prepare a yogurt parfait, layer granola with fresh fruit or fruit compote and greek-style yogurt.

 

Plum Compote with Rosemary

Plum Compote with Rosemary

Plum Compote with Rosemary

We can never have enough dessert, can we? I comfort myself with that thought today as I push aside a blog post I planned to finish, in place of this lovely fresh dessert. You see, yesterday our freezer went on strike, or just plain quit, or read the horoscope and discovered that Mercury is in retrograde which is usually accompanied by massive appliance malfunctions, and decided to hop on the bandwagon. Whatever the cause, we woke this morning to a freezer filled with completely thawed food. So, instead of the shiny bright post I planned to write today, I spent the morning cooking meat – lots of defrosted meat – in a simple ragoût that I will use at a later point for pasta sauce and stews. That’s provided we can get the freezer working again so I can freeze it. Otherwise, we will be enjoying some pretty hefty dinners in the next few nights. Which makes this dessert even more welcome in its simplicity and lightness.

In my last post, I featured apricots it their glorious simplicity, lightly adorned with  a sprinkle of sugar. In this post, I do something equally simple with plums. For the past month it’s been raining plums in our garden: Little mirabelles are everywhere, dangling from trees, cascading down our hill, and always underfoot, enjoyed by all of the inhabitants of this garden oasis in which we live. We’ve popped them in our mouths until our stomachs ache. We’ve bestowed brimming baskets as gifts, and we’ve graciously deferred the unreachable gems to our resident squirrels. In the kitchen I’ve made crostatas, tarts and crisps, and when I finally tired of so much plum-ness I scooped as many as I could fit into a stock pot and cooked them down into a compote. Twice. The second batch of compote was inspired by the fragrant rosemary bushes in our garden, which happen to lie beneath many of the plum trees. As I gathered my fruit, the aroma of rosemary wafted through the air, nudging me to pick it too. And, as growing things do, these two ingredients make a fine pair not just in the garden but also in the kitchen, which I discovered when I tossed  a handful of rosemary sprigs in the last batch of bubbling compote.

Plum Compote with Rosemary

This recipe may easily be adjusted in quantity and sweetness. Depending on the flavor and tartness of the plums, more sugar may be needed. Add additional sugar a few spoonfuls at a time, tasting frequently until you find the right balance. If desired, use less sugar for a savory accompaniment to grilled meats.

1 pound plums, pitted, halved if small, quartered if large
1/2 cup granulated sugar, or to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large rosemary sprig

Combine plums, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until plums begin to break down and sugar dissolves. Add rosemary sprigs. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until plums are soft and the compote is thick, stirring occasionally. (Be sure that the rosemary sprig is submerged in the liquid at all times). Remove from heat and cool completely. Discard rosemary. (Compote may be made up to 1 day in advance. Cover and refrigerate until use). Serve cold or at room temperature. To serve, ladle into small bowls or cups. Spoon a dollop of lightly sweetened crème fraîche, Greek yogurt or whipped cream in the center of the compote. Garnish with a pinch of brown sugar and a few rosemary leaves.

Yogurt Parfaits with Rhubarb Compote and Almond Granola

Yogurt Parfaits with Rhubarb Compote and Almond Granola

~ Rhubarb Compote, Almond Granola, Greek Yogurt ~

Every morning I remind my kids to eat breakfast – and then I don’t eat one myself. I confess that a strong cappuccino is enough to propel me out the door each day, when I know – I know – it’s not smart. How to change my ways and correct this parental double standard? Well, if I had the fixings for this yogurt parfait in my refrigerator each morning, you can bet I would eat it. The good news is  the compote and granola are easy to make in large quantities ahead of time. So no excuses. Eat your breakfast.

Yogurt Parfaits with Rhubarb Compote and Almond Granola

This is delicious for breakfast, lunch or a snack. Feel free to double the quantities so you have extra on hand for breakfasts during the week.

For the Rhubarb Compote:
Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds rhubarb stalks, ends trimmed, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

For the Almond Granola:
Makes about 4 cups

2 cups oats
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins

Greek-style yogurt

Prepare the compote:
Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the rhubarb begins to release its juice. Simmer, partially covered, until rhubarb is soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely. Compote may be made up to 3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate until use.

Prepare the granola:
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 300 F (150 C). Toss the oats, almonds, coconut, wheat germ, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk oil, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar and vanilla together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Add to the oats and toss to thoroughly coat. Spread the granola on the baking pan. Bake until toasted golden brown, jiggling the pan once or twice, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the raisins. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

To assemble the parfaits, spoon alternating layers of yogurt, compote and granola in a glass, finishing with a topping of granola.

Rise and Shine: Yogurt, Plum and Granola Parfait

~ Spiced Plum Compote, Maple Granola, Greek Yogurt ~

If you need a reason to get up in the morning, then try this sumptuous breakfast parfait. A slick of stewed plums swirls through clouds of rich greek yogurt flecked with nuggets of granola. If it weren’t so early in the morning, you might be tempted to call this dessert.

Spiced Plum Compote
Not overly sweet, this rich plum stew is delicious with yogurt. If you are calling this dessert, do not hesitate to ladle some over a bowl of ice cream, too.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

1 pound plums, pitted, sliced
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the plums soften and the compote thickens, about 20 minutes. Cool, cover and refrigerate until use. The flavors will develop with time. (May be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Granola
Feel free to fiddle with the ingredients. Substitute or add hazelnuts, pecans, flax, dried cranberries … you get the picture.
Makes about 2 cups.

1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped almonds
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 300°F (160°C). Combine the oats, coconut, almonds, wheat germ, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Whisk maple syrup and vegetable oil together in a small bowl. Drizzle over the oats and toss to combine. Spread in a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake until golden brown, about 30  minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from oven and cool. Add the raisins. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

To assemble parfaits:
Alternate plum compote, granola and whole milk Greek-style yogurt in a bowl or glass. Serve for breakfast, lunch or whenever you please.