Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Saganaki with Pickled Figs

One hot hot hot day I found myself dining alfresco at a Greek restaurant in a busy neighborhood outside of Perth. M and I were sipping on some daytime cocktails and ordering from the Mezze menu, which are little dishes similar to tapas, when my eye spotted “Saganaki with Pickled Figs”. I immediately thought – Hot cheese! Figs! Pickled stuff! I ordered it and loved it.

A couple weeks later in my own kitchen, I pickled the figs overnight in a simple brine. They plumped up and took on the lightly salted, astringent liquid which tempered the fruit’s natural sweetness. The next day I seared the cheese and presented 4 beautiful plates of contrasting flavors. It made for a divine Mediterranean start to the meal.

Saganaki in Greek cuisine refers to the frying pan the cheese is cooked in, not the cheese itself, which I just discovered about 10 seconds ago after I googled it. There are several cheeses that can be used here – kasseri or haloumi are probably the most common. These cheeses hold their shape when cooked and have a mild, salty quality to them.

I used the leftover pickled figs in a salad with lots of red leaf lettuce, some walnuts, a sprinkling of chevre and some sliced leftover steak. It was tasty! I can also see them chopped up, stirred into some couscous and topped with a handful of chopped fresh herbs.

For 4 servings:
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 6 ounces (180 grams) haloumi or kasseri cheese
  • *Pickled figs, drained
  • 2 cups baby rocket (arugula)
  • Lemon wedges
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Cut the haloumi into 4 rectangular pieces about a ½ inch (1.25 cm) thick.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. When it’s hot, add the haloumi and cook, searing on one side until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Flip and repeat on the other side. Keep the haloumi warm while the other ingredients are being plated.

Divide the rocket amongst 4 plates. Add 4 fig halves to each along with a wedge of lemon. Put a piece of warm, seared haloumi in the center, grind a little pepper over the top and serve at once.

*Pickled Figs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dried figs, cut in half from stem to end
Stir together all the ingredients except the figs in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Put the figs in a sealable container and pour the hot brine over them. Allow to cool for 30 minutes and then cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to a day ahead.

1 comment:

Hani said...

Your blog has really great mouth watering recipes and pictures.. Can't wait to try some out.
I love to craft and bake.. :)