When I told Brady about this week’s menu from the Junior League of Oakland-East Bay’s California Fresh Harvest — prosciutto-wrapped figs with goat cheese, mango and brie quesadillas, candied ginger peach shortcakes– he raised an eyebrow.
“That doesn’t sound like anything I ate when I was in Oakland.”
I explained that it was the Junior League of Oakland AND the East Bay, and admitted that this meal was probably going to be a little more Berkeley than Oakland.
Admittedly, there’s a side of California cuisine that doesn’t quite make its way into California Fresh Harvest. If you’re looking for home-cooked versions of Oakland street food, taco trucks and banh mi stands, you won’t find them in here. While some recipes are clearly inspired by the cuisine of the Bay Area’s Asian and Latin American communities, most bear little resemblance to the source material.
However, if you have no idea what to do with the bushel of zucchini you just pulled out of your garden, or if you have five pounds of peaches that are about to go mushy, or if you’re just trying to find ways to get more fruits and vegetables into your meals, you’ve come to the right place. The recipes here are simple, elegant, and nearly every one calls for at least two or three kinds of fresh produce.
The first course I served was the scary one because it involved cooking with figs AND making a sauce.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs with Goat Cheese
This incredible recipe was shared by Private Chef Steven T. Smith of Napa. The skewered figs are drizzled with Sapa, a rich and flavorful wine sauce
40 to 50 small bamboo skewers
25 to 30 fresh ripe figs
4 shallots, minced, divided
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
10 ounces goat cheese
4 garlic cloves, minced, divided
1 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced
1 large bunch basil, trimmed
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups red wine
1 tablespoon butter
Cover the bamboo skewers with cold water in a bowl. Let soak during the preparation of the figs.
Cut the figs lengthwise into halves. Reserve ten of the ripest halves for the Sapa. Combine half the minced shallots, honey and balsamic vinegar in a bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining figs and toss gently to coat. Set aside to marinate.
Combine the goat cheese and half of the minced garlic in a bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
Cut the prosciutto slices in half lengthwise. Place one marinated fig half at the end of a prosciutto strip. Top with a dime-size dollop of the seasoned goat cheese and a basil leaf. Roll to enclose the filling and secure with a skewer. Arrange on a baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining marinated figs, prosciutto, seasoned goat cheese, and basil. Chill, covered, for at least one hour.
To prepare the Sapa, coarsely chop the reserved fig halves. Combine the chopped figs with the remaining minced shallots and garlic in a bowl and mix well. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small saute pan. Add the fig mixture and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture carmelizes slightly. Stir in the wine.
Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, stirring frequently. Stir in the butter. When the butter has melted, remove from heat. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing with a ladle to extract all of the liquid; discard the solids. Let stand until cool.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the skewered figs in batches and saute quickly until brown on both sides, adding additional olive oil as needed. Blot the figs to remove any excess oil. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees just before serving. Bake for 5 minutes or just until heated through; blot to remove any excess oil. Arrange the figs on a serving platter. Drizzle with the Sapa and serve immediately.
-Makes 40 to 50 skewers
The recipe doesn’t mention it, but these are addictive little suckers. Though there were only four of us, we managed to eat all but three of the figs. Now, I’m not a fan of goat cheese (I find it to be a little skanky), so I only put it in about a quarter of the wrapped figs. If you share my opinion, you’ll be pleased to know that they’re fine without it. And I did eat one with goat cheese by mistake, and was surprised to find that it was actually pretty good.
Next up, I made mango and brie quesadillas. The good thing about making quesadillas for company is that just about everybody likes them. The bad thing about making quesadillas for company is that you have to assemble and fry them immediately before serving. To minimize time away from your dinner guests, get the veggies sauteed, the mangoes chopped, and the lime sour cream made ahead of time.
Mango & Brie Quesadillas
1 yellow onion, cut into halves, thinly sliced
3 Anaheim chiles, finely chopped, or 3 cans diced mild green chiles
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 flour tortillas
1 pound Brie cheese, rind removed, softened
2 ripe mangoes, chopped
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sour cream
Grated zest of 1 lime
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Saute the onion and Anaheim chiles in 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat until the onion is translucent. If using canned chiles, add them to the skillet after the onion is translucent and cook for 3 minutes longer. Remove the mixture to a bowl using a slotted spoon.
Soften the tortillas by placing them in a heated nonstick skillet for about 15 seconds per side. Spread half of each tortilla with a thin layer of Brie cheese. Spread a thin layer of the onion mixture over the cheese and sprinkle lightly with the mangoes. Fold the other half of each tortilla over the top.
Combine the melted butter and 1/4 cupt oil in a bowl. Heat the skillet over medium heat. Brush the quesadillas with the butter mixture and lightly brown them on both sides. Place on a baking sheet in a warm oven while browning the remaining quesadillas.
Combine the sour cream, lime zest, and lime juice in a bowl and mix well. Cut each quesadilla into wedges and arrange on a serving platter. Drizzle with sour cream mixture and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve immediately.
-Serves 8 to 10
While this recipe isn’t exactly “wow” food like the prosciutto-wrapped figs, the mangoes and the lime sour cream are quite nice. And besides, they’re quesadillas… they’re going to get eaten.
Finally, for dessert, I made one of my summertime favorites — shortcake.
Candied Ginger Shortcakes with Peaches
The Point Arena Bakery originally developed this recipe for scones. It makes a perfect shortcake with fresh peaches and cream.
2 ounces candied ginger
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 ripe peaches, peeled, sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the candied ginger and sugar in a food processor. Process until the ginger is finely chopped. Combine the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and ground ginger in a bowl and mix well. Stir in the candied ginger mixture. Beat 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. Fold half the whipped cream into the flour mixture until combined, then fold in the rest of the whipped cream. The dough will look lumpy and unblended. Knead briefly on a lightly floured surface until a soft dough forms.
Pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick rectangle, and cut into eight equal rectangles or squares. Arrange the portions close together on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Brush with egg and sprinkle generously with brown sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until light brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Cut each shortcake horizontally into halves.
Combine the peaches, 1 tablespoon sugar, and lemon juice in a bowl and toss to mix. Beat 2 cups heavy whipping cream and 1 tablespoon sugar in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Place the bottom half of each shortcake on a dessert plate. Layer with the peach mixture, shortcake tops, and whipped cream. Serve immediately.
When making this shortcake, you might want to add a little more sugar to the peaches and the heavy whipping cream than the recipe calls for, but that’s just my sweet-toothed opinion. Otherwise, it’s pretty lovely. Ripe peaches and ginger together are hard to beat.
While this meal might look involved, it really doesn’t involve much time standing over a hot stove. All the sauteing is quick, and even the sauce comes together in about 15 minutes. Most of my time was spent chopping fruit and vegetables, which I actually find sort of comforting anyways. Together, the dishes are textbook summertime food — light, yet satisfyingly filling.
Thanks to our dinner guests, Josh and Christina, who were game to try everything, and gracious enough not to become visibly alarmed by my clattering and cussing around the kitchen during the ill-fated flipping of the quesadillas (I did manage to get most of the spilled filling crammed back inside the tortilla… no one would have been the wiser had I kept my displeasure to myself).