Baked Goat Cheese with Balsamic Glazed Figs

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Did you ever notice that no matter what else you serve at a party, if you put out any kind of warm, melty cheese, it will be devoured in about thirty seconds? This Baked Goat Cheese with Balsamic Glazed Figs is no exception. It’s a serious crowd pleaser and a lighter alternative to baked Brie or Camembert. And with fresh rosemary, dried figs, chopped pistachios and a generous drizzle of honey, it’s the perfect festive appetizer for a holiday spread.

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I love fresh figs, but with their short season they can be hard to find. Dried figs, plumped up with balsamic vinegar, honey and fresh orange juice, are just as sweet and delicious.  I spoon them onto warm goat cheese flavored with rosemary and chili flakes for a spread that’s savory, sweet, and a little spicy. If you can find Mike’s Hot Honey or another spicy honey, it’s especially good drizzled over the goat cheese just before serving. 

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Serve this right from the oven (on a hotpad!) with plain crackers or crusty baguette slices. Then take a step back and watch it disappear before your eyes. In fact, you might as well make two while you’re at it! I’m making these for a Christmas brunch this weekend and am planning on doing exactly that. 

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Baked Goat Cheese with Balsamic Glazed Figs

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces plain, creamy goat cheese, softened at room temperature for 30 minutes
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup dried Calimyrna figs
  • 1 tablespoon honey, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon shelled roasted and salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer) combine the goat cheese, cream cheese, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and salt. Beat for 2 minutes on medium-high speed, until smooth and lightly whipped.

Transfer to a small (7 or 8-inch diameter) ovenproof skillet or shallow baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes until puffed and lightly browed around the edges.

Meanwhile, remove the hard stems from the figs and cut them into quarters. Combine the figs, honey, vinegar, and orange juice in a small saucepan. (The figs should fit snugly in one layer.) Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the liquid has reduced to a thick glaze, about 8-10 minutes.

Carefully spoon the figs and any remaining liquid onto the center of the goat cheese.  Sprinkle the pistachios over the figs, drizzle the cheese generously with honey, and serve hot directly from the baking dish with pita chips or thin slices of baguette.


New Year’s Booze 101 & Bourbon Grapefruit Smash

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It’s easy to feel a little food-ed out by this point in December. After weeks of holiday parties and Christmas itself, all the excess starts to feel a little… excessive. While everyone is swearing they’ll never eat again, at least until breakfast, and since one of the biggest drinking nights of the year is this weekend (the biggest drinking of the night is not New Year’s Eve, but the night before Thanksgiving) I thought I’d dedicate a post to holiday drinking instead of holiday eating.

While I spend days obsessing over what to cook for friends for any given occasion, what we’ll be drinking is always an afterthought. Typically a few bottles of wine grabbed at the last minute, or a cocktail made out of whatever happens to be in the house.

Thankfully I have a great resource, and source of cocktail inspiration, at my disposal. My friend Paul Weinstein, who I went to high school with in Pittsburgh, ended up living in the Hamptons, too.  He works for Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack and over the last year has taught me a lot about wine… I have split many bottles with him purely in the interest of learning. Paul shared some great tips for choosing cocktails and wines – and making everyone think you actually know what you’re doing. Hopefully these guidelines will come in handy for your New Year’s Eve party- or any party!

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Party Booze Tips 101 

1. Pop a bottle of champagne or Prosecco when your guests arrive to ease everyone into conversation- the “pop” of the bottle opening really starts the party!

2. Don’t go overboard with festive cocktails. One is enough!  At the end of the day, most people already have drinking preferences and will stick to them.

3. For simplicity’s sake, pick one type of red and one type of white – think Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, or Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Part of being a good host is making sure your guests’ wine glasses are always full – so make it easy on yourself and eliminate the guess work!

4. Remember to chill your whites….and your reds! If you’re starting with cocktails, take the red wines out of the fridge when the guests arrive. By the time you get around to drinking them at dinner, they will be at perfect cellar temperature (around 60 degrees). This is an easy way to take your wine game to the next level and make everyone think you really know your stuff.

5. Local wine shops can be a fantastic resource and can help you find delicious wines and great values no matter your price range.

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Very important Bourbon Grapefruit Smash testing with Paul.

Because one festive cocktail is okay, I thought I’d share one of my favorites- a little concoction I call a Bourbon Grapefruit Smash. It’s a tart, not-too-sweet cocktail with a serious bourbon kick and a refreshing splash of grapefruit juice. The citrus and rosemary make this a perfect wintery cocktail, and fortunately, it’s as easy to make as it is delicious. This recipe only makes two drinks, so if I’m planning on making more, I make a big pitcher of the grapefruit juice, bourbon and Lillet mixture (keeping the proportions the same!) and shake it in smaller batches.

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Bourbon Grapefruit Smash

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice
  • 1/4 cup Lillet blanc
  • 3 tbs bourbon, such as Maker’s Mark
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, plus more for serving
  • ice, for shaking the drinks

Directions

  1. Combine the grapefruit juice, Lillet, bourbon and 2 sprigs of rosemary. Shake for 30 seconds and pour into coupe glasses, discarding the rosemary. Garnish each drink with a new sprig of rosemary and serve!
  2. Extra notes