Farmers Market Inspirations: Figs Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Walnut Cream

Figs stuffed with blue cheese and walnut cream[Jump right to the recipe:  Figs Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Walnut Cream]

We’ve all watched awards show where the famous celebrity laments that they can’t properly thank everyone who contributed to their success? I feel that way just a little about this fig dish. Not that it will win any awards (although you never know). Suffice it to say I don’t expect to be teetering on too-high heels toward a stage lit to resemble the sun whilst sewn into an inappropriate dress any time soon.

Even so, the inspirations for this post were so varied and many it’s worth dwelling on them just a bit. Back at the beginning of summer I had the marvelous opportunity to enjoy a dinner at the nationally-acclaimed Olivia restaurant with the also nationally-acclaimed — and oh so very fabulous — Mollie Katzen, all courtesy of California Walnuts. When I received the invitation to the dinner I jumped at the chance to attend because Chef James Holmes’ cooking is a real treat, I’m a huge fan of Mollie’s, and I love walnuts. As a source of healthy fat and protein they are hard to beat. So it was a trifecta of admiration on my part and the evening was all I expected and more.

I sat across from Mollie and we talked about what seemed like every topic under the sun, from the role food bloggers play in the food world to education funding and how hard it is to raise kids. Woven throughout the lovely evening of conversation was a collection of one-of-a-kind walnut dishes prepared by Chef Holmes. What I learned from the chef that night is that the applications of walnuts are seemingly endless and I need to think about them as more than the crunch factor in a cookie or a healthy addition to a salad.

Fast forward a few weeks later to my long over-due trip to Monument Cafe and the Monument Market in Georgetown, Texas, just a short drive from Austin. The cafe has been open for a while now and many of my food blogging friends have had nice things to say about it. The cafe is a quirky cross between an old-school diner and an upscale restaurant. The food is very much diner food although it’s locally sourced and much better than your typical greasy spoon. The interior is accented with dark cherry and leather and the waiters all dress, and have the demeanor of, those you would find in a find dining establishment.

It’s a bit of a trek for Georgetown residents to find their way to the farmers markets in Austin, so the owners of Monument started one right behind the cafe. Given their strong relationships with local growers, setting up a market was a natural extension of their restuarnt. Besides carrying local produce they have meats from reputable, sustainable growers, and artisan goods like small batch jams and preserves made by my friend Stephanie of confituras. While we were browsing the market I came across these tiny figs and just had to have them. They were fresh and sweet and just begging to come home with me.

Figs

And finally, speaking on confituras, the fig and walnut conserve Stephanie made last year and that I’m hoarding several jars of my pantry was the last inspiration for this dish. She comes up with the most unexpected flavor combinations and they are always tasty. As I was standing in my pantry trying to decide what to do with the figs, I saw a jar of conserve and I was almost there.

I’m happy to report the addition of the blue cheese was all my doing. I’ve come to love sweet and salty combinations and I knew the super-sweet figs would need a strong salty partner to balance them out. I initially thought of goat cheese but I decided a stronger blue would help create a mellow bite in the end (how’s that for counter-intuative).

So there you have it, a dish inspired by many of my food adventures, which is what those adventures are all about, right? Now where’s my little golden statue?


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