Fall at its Finest

I love autumn for so many reasons – the soft lighting, the crisp air, and the beautiful foliage – but somehow things always come back to food for us. Even when I was a little girl, great food superseded all other experiences. Sure, I was excited to go back to school and for Halloween, but what I really loved were the comfort foods my mother made in the fall. She used to make these wonderful Austrian plum dumplings called Zwetschgenknoedel. These cozy and rich Austrian potato dumplings are filled with Italian plums and have just enough sugar and cinnamon to be called dessert.

When I went to college, I had Zwetschgenknoedel withdrawal every fall, and for years afterward I would beg my mother for the recipe. Like so many great cooks of her generation, she said there was no recipe and she would add a little of this and that each time. But in recent years, Gabrielle and Isabella got so tired of hearing about these special dumplings they begged their Oma to try to write it down. Fortunately, it was much easier to do than she predicted. They’re actually quite easy to make, and they’re spectacularly delicious.

Most Americans have never had these delectable dumplings before. I’ve never seen them on a menu or sold anywhere. In Germany and Austria, they are as common as apple pie and it’s easy to see why. There is nothing better than one or two of these dumplings with a cup of tea after a light lunch or dinner. Help me spread the word and share this link with all of your foodie friends. I assure you, they will be grateful.

Zwetschgenknoedel (Austrian Plum Dumplings)


  • 2 Russet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons butter
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • About 12 Italian Plums (sometimes called prunes) or damson plums
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup bread crumbs

1. Boil 2 russet potatoes until soft (at least ½ hour).
2. Peel off skin and add 3 tablespoons butter. Mash potatoes and butter until smooth.
3. Add a dash of salt and mix again. Let cool.
4. Meanwhile, melt 1/2 cup butter in a 12 inch saucepan.
5. Add sugar, cinnamon, and bread crumbs and heat until breadcrumbs are slightly browned. Set aside and cool.
6. Mix one whole egg and one yolk into the potatoes, along with one cup of flour.
7. Mix well and knead until dough is smooth (you may need a little more flour).
8. Shape the dough into a 4 inch by 6 inch rectangle.
9. Wash and dry plums.
10. Cut approximately 1/2 inch of dough (depending on the size of the plums) and flatten into round shape in the palm of your hand (dough should be about an 1/8 of an inch thick when flattened out).
Wrap dough around the plum, making sure to cover it completely.
11. Repeat until all the plums are wrapped.
12. Fill a 6 quart pot two-thirds of the way with lightly salted water.
Place the dumplings  gently in the water and let come to a boil again.
Reduce to a simmer and cook until you can see the juice “bleeding” inside the dumplings.
13. Remove with a slotted spoon and roll into the bread crumb mixture.
14. Let cool 15 minutes and serve.

Wednesday Night Chopped

Like any busy household, we sometimes/always have a hard time planning out our meals and we end up with a random mishmash of ingredients that were meant for one thing and are now sitting forlornly in our fridge. This week the stars of the show were figs (simply because we can't stop buying them), the lone Boursin cheese left over from a three pack meant for God knows what purpose, and the ground beef that never made it to a TV shoot for Fox News. Using up the ingredients in the fridgermarket can sometimes feel like an episode of Chopped. Which is really frustrating on a weeknight, but hey- it tests our culinary skills and makes us better cooks in the process, right? 

For todays' episode of Wednesday Night Chopped, I present you with Fig-Boursin Burgers. The sweetness of the honey-butter figs marries perfectly with the herbs and onions in the cheese and the meatiness of everything blossoms explosively on a crispy brioche bun. Truth be told, this could have been improved with some arugula, but we didn't have any and running to the store would have ruined the magic.

We're hoping to bring back this feature on a regular basis because let's face it, we've all been there. But for now let us know: what's the most brilliant thing you've ever magically thrown together? Comment bellow or email us about it!

Fig-Boursin Burgers


  • 3 figs

  • 1-2 tbsp honey

  • 1-2 tbsp good salted butter, like Kerrygold

  • 1 1/3 lbs ground beef, shaped into 1/3 lb patties (or 4 pre-formed hamburger patties)

  • 1/3 – 1/2 container Boursin cheese (any flavor should work but we used Garlic and Fine Herb)

  • 2-3 tbsp canola oil

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 4 buns of your preference (but we think Brioche works the best)

For the Figs:

  1. Melt butter and honey together in a medium/small non-stick pan over medium-high heat.

  2. Cut figs from top to bottom into 4 slices and place in pan. Be sure to place end slices pink-side down.

  3. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, flipping every so often to make sure they cook evenly on all sides. If pan gets dry, add a little more butter. 

Remove from heat and set aside.

Burgers & Assembly:

  1. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add canola oil, spreading it around so it lightly coats the pan.

  2. Add burgers, season them liberally with salt and pepper, and cook, flipping often, until cooked to your liking.

  3. Toast buns and place each burger on a bun. 

  4. Spread each burger with 2-3 tbsp of Boursin and top with 3 fig slices and some arugula if you want.

  5. Admire your handiwork and eat.

Fig Season is Here!

People often ask me if we sell figs or only teach classes that feature dishes made with figs. It’s fair question considering the name of this blog and my business, The Fig Cooking School, LLC. The truth is that the name was actually inspired by my three charming daughters, Francesca, Isabella and Gabrielle. But we also happen to adore figs and love cooking and baking with them when they’re in season, which is, sadly, oh so fleeting. We are now fortunately in fig season here in Connecticut and we’ve been cooking up a storm with them.

We thought we’d share with you one of our favorite recipes for honey roasted figs that is extremely versatile. Roasted figs on French bread paired with cheese and a bit of arugula and nuts make elegant hors d’oeuvres. They can also be used in a salad made of mixed greens, French string beans and fruits, or as a side dish with any roast in early Autumn. Enjoy these recipes and tell us what you think. We’d love to get your feedback!

Basic Honey-Roasted Figs


  • 14 figs (about a pound)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice figs in half and place cut side up on cookie sheet lined with foil and lightly greased with olive oil.
  3. Brush figs with honey and sprinkle rosemary or thyme evenly over them (herbs optional).
  4. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the honey begins to caramelize. Let figs cool to room temperature.

Honey Roasted Figs with French Bread


  • One batch of honey roasted figs (see above)
  • 28 thin slices of French bread
  • 6-8 ounces of your favorite goat cheese, Dolce Gorgonzola, blue cheese, St. Andre, or mascarpone
  • ¼ cup coarsely coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 28 arugula leaves


  1. Spread cheese on the French bread and place one arugula leaf on each one.
  2. Place one honey roasted fig on each bread slice and top with a few pieces of chopped walnuts.

Honey Roasted Figs with Haricots Verts and Mixed Greens in a Shallot Vinaigrette Dressing


  • One batch of honey roasted figs (see above)
  • 1 pound of string beans
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 4-6 ounces goat cheese, Dolce Gorgonzola, or blue cheese
  • 1 large apple or pear sliced thin
  • ½  cup toasted walnuts or almonds
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, cherries or cranberries or another favorite fruit (optional)
  • 3-4 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • ¼  cup balsamic (either traditional or white) or champagne vinegar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾  teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½  teaspoon pepper


  1. Cut the ends of the French beans and place into pot of boiling water for just two minutes (do not overcook).
  2. Quickly drain string beans into pot cold water with ice. Let string beans cool completely in the ice water in order to prevent the string beans from cooking further.
  3. When cool, dry the string beans in a tea towel or paper towels.
  4. Place walnuts on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes until just slightly browned. Put aside.
  5. Wash arugula and mixed greens and place in a large bowl or platter along with the string beans.
  6. Add the fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts; toss gently.
  7. Mix in a small bowl or measuring cup the shallots, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over mixture and gently toss again.
  8. Arrange the figs on top of the salad along with the cheese, making sure that each guest receives some figs and cheese when served.




Too Many Mangoes- An Adventure in Mango Lassis

One of the challenges of operating a cooking school (and being bargain shoppers!) is that we run the risk of buying lovely ingredients, like fragrant, juicy mangoes and not finding the time to cook with them. These mangoes were intended to be turned into Heide's Mango Soup, but three days passed and I decided that they were no longer reserved for soup. They were getting ripe and I was getting impatient. More importantly, I couldn't let the opportunity to develop a perfect mango lassi recipe pass me by!

So, I pulled out my trusty blender and got to work. There are several difficulties to successfully pulling off a mango lassi. The first is the mango. Many recipes call for Alphonso Mango Pulp, a pre-sweetened puree that you can buy on Amazon or at Indian Supermarkets. This is certainly the most authentic way to go about doing  things and it’s made with super-flavorful Alphonso mangoes that only grow in India. But I opted out for several reasons. First of all, I had twelve ripe mangoes sitting in my kitchen. Second, canned Alphonso mangoes are kind of hard to get, and really expensive if you do have to buy them online. And since I would never wish to expense anyone, I decided to go with fresh. To mimic the sweetened puree, and maximize mangoey-ness, I mashed the mangoes first, to release the juices, and then mixed them with a little bit of sugar (but not too much) to intensify their flavor but not sweeten them too much. It worked perfectly.

Then I had to think about the yogurt. A bunch of recipes swear by goat yogurt, which I find a bit suspect. But I tried it anyway, and frankly, even if it were more authentic (which it’s not) it doesn’t taste that different from cow yogurt – just a bit more like goat cheese. It’s delicious, but it’s also much runnier than regular yogurt, so it hurts the lassi’s texture. Regular yogurt, on the other hand, passed both flavor and texture tests.

Finally I had to consider what other ingredients the lassi might need. Some recipes call for only mango and yogurt, several call for cardamom and many others call for milk. I made one with just mango and yogurt. It tasted delicious – like a fantastic mango smoothie. But it didn’t taste like a lassi. I tried adding the cardamom – also delicious, and decidedly Indian, but definitely not a lassi. I decided to try one last time, eliminating the cardamom and adding a cup of milk. It was perfect. It was tangy, mangoey and creamy – everything a lassi should be.

Rest assured this recipe has been meticulously tested and adjusted to taste just like it would at your favorite restaurant – we would never stand for sloppy imitations! These are super healthy, and super easy to make. And they’ll be perfect for keeping you cool when that New England Summer humidity gets to be too much. 

Mango Lassi


  • 2 cups mango in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1-1.5 cups yogurt (less yogurt will taste more mangoey, which I prefer, but more will taste a bit more authentic)
  • 1 cup milk


  1. Mash mangoes in a large bowl, and stir in sugar. Let stand for 20-30 minutes. There should be around 1.5 cups of puree.
  2. Pour mangoes, yogurt and milk into blender. Blend until completely smooth. I recommend going on your blender’s highest setting, because otherwise the mangoes can end up stringy, which is gross.
  3. Pour into glasses and try not to drink all of them yourself.





Blueberry Bliss

Going shopping while hungry is almost never a good idea. Last night, in addition to a giant bar of dark chocolate, I came home with about 4 pints of fresh blueberries. No problem, I rationalized, I'll make muffins. I wanted a better blueberry muffin, so I ran to the computer for inspiration. Blueberry muffins, like banana bread, always seem like a great idea and we love eating them, but when it comes time to find a recipe it's chaos. I was quickly reminded that there are an endless amount of muffin and bread recipes on the internet all claiming to be the best- but none are ever quite right. An hour later I was still looking at the screen, zombie-like, when my mom came to my rescue waiving, in victory, the recipe card for my great Aunt Sonia's blueberry muffins.  I almost cried in joy. I had almost forgotten about these muffins- these glorious, sugar crystal encrusted, giant muffins.

When you first look at this recipe, it seems so normal. There's sugar, butter, flour- all typical baking ingredients. For the most part  (save for the almond extract and vanilla bean paste-but more about those later) the muffins are made with everyday ingredients and I think that's what makes them magical. The proportions of those ingredients are just right, allowing the blueberries to really shine through while the almond extract and vanilla bean paste lend this warm, comforting, background. (Note: vanilla bean paste contains the scraped out seeds from a vanilla bean. It saves you time and money and can be found in the food/baking section of TJMaxx/Marshalls for around $6.00. Once you start baking with it, you won't be able to stop- we promise!)

 Needless to say, I am forever indebted to my Great Aunt Sonia for passing down this muffin recipe. These muffins have become my go-to, preventing me from becoming a screen staring, muffin-less zombie. And as I am sure to be making many other impromtu berry purchases at the markets, I'm am thrilled to have this recipe in my arsenal. 

Aunt Sonia's Blueberry Muffins


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter 
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • large, crystal sugar for topping
  • pinch of kosher or sea salt


1. Preheat the oven to 375 and butter and flour large muffin tins. These muffins are meant to be giant! You can also bake them in large ramekins if you don't have large muffin tins. 

2. Cream together the sugar and butter.

3. Add the milk, eggs, vanilla bean paste, and almond extract.

4. Mix in flour, baking soda, and salt. The batter will be quite thick, but that's okay. The moisture from the blueberries will loosen it up a bit. 

5. Gently fold in the blueberries.

6. Spoon batter about 3/4 way up the muffin tins. Sprinkle generously with the large sugar crystals (sprinkling with large sugar is essential!) and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes about 8 large muffins or 12-16 regular sized muffins.


Disaster to Delicious- Cast Iron Corn Salad

Let the 2015 Summer Corn Debate commence! The first of the summer corn is out at the market, and for my family, that means debate. We have a small (or maybe not so small) obsession with fresh summer corn which means at every summer gathering we have to discuss, evaluate, and discuss again all the corn we eat like the true bunch of weirdos we are. Was it too sweet, not sweet enough, or just right? So, when I saw that first batch of corn, even though it is still a bit early in the season, I bought a dozen ears and went to work on making our chilled, burnt summer corn salad.

This recipe began almost a full year ago during a farmer's market class I was teaching. One of the top concerns of any cooking teacher and chef is food allergies. I am pretty crazy about food allergies so when I learned that a student had a dairy allergy, I momentarily panicked. We were making a Chilled Corn, Lime, and Ancho soup- a vibrant soup full of fresh corn, spices, and of course, dairy. But inspiration struck and I decided to make the student a warm, burnt corn with lime and ancho chile side dish.

Phase 2 of Cast Iron Corn Salad happened as soon I returned from a trip to New Orleans months after the class. I am always fearful when I open the door to our house after a trip. Something a little scary seems to happen when we’re gone, only this time I was hardly worried since my parents were house sitting for all but the last day. Yet, I walked in and there was this vague scent of musty vegetables. It took me a good long while to realize the freezer wasn’t completely closed from ice build-up, which happens from time to time. Everything was still vaguely cool, but definitely not frozen.  Most things had to be thrown away, but there was a lot of corn that was still cold. So, with that farmer's market side dish in mind and two pounds of somewhat frozen corn on the kitchen table, I took out my cast iron skillet, turned up the flame, and later had the most refreshing chilled burnt corn salad with dinner.

In honor of the glorious, fast-approaching corn season, here is the recipe for Cast Iron Corn Salad with Lime, Ancho Chile, and Avocado. Enjoy!

Cast Iron Corn Salad with Lime, Ancho Chile and Avocado


  •   3 tablespoons canola oil
  •   2 pounds (about 4 ½ cups) frozen or fresh organic corn
  •   ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  •   2 limes
  •   ¾ teaspoon pepper
  •   1-1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  •   2 teaspoons ancho or chipotle chili powder divided
  •   ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  •   1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  •   1 medium red onion coarsely chopped
  •   2 avocados diced
  •   2 tomatoes coarsely chopped (optional)


1.    Heat canola oil in a non-stick pan, preferably cast iron.

2.    Add corn. Mix well to assure all the kernels are coated with oil.

3.    Add the salt, stir and cook on medium high for 10 minutes, or until the kernels start to brown and even burn in some places. (It will smell vaguely of popcorn and may even pop a kernel or two, so be careful!)

4.    Zest both limes (you should have 2 teaspoons of zest).

5.    Add the zest and the juice of one lime to the skillet. Mix well and then add the ancho powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.

6.    Let the corn cool for at least an hour in the refrigerator then add red onions, avocado and tomatoes. Sprinkle the juice of the second lime over the salad, mix well and serve.



To Market to Market

Welcome to the Fig Cooking School's blog! For our first official blog post, we could think of nothing better than Cityseed's Wooster Street Farmer's Market. As I started thinking about the fabulous farmer’s market in Wooster Square and as I looked through the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken in recent weeks, I was struck not only by the vibrant colors, the luscious fruits and vegetables, but the remarkably diverse and colorful people who come to this special place Saturday mornings.

We’ve met so many wonderful people here who genuinely care about food and are meticulous about the quality of ingredients they use in their everyday lives. My hat's off to them. For those of us who live in or near New Haven, waking up before 11:00 is a small price to pay for this well run market with so many accessible local and organic foods.

One of the things I just love about the market is that it is one-stop-shopping; you can and should pick your menus for the week based on what the local Connecticut farmers are harvesting that week.

I fell in love with beets since they were so plentiful and were offered in so many colors: orange, white and of course that beautiful dark purple that turns a gorgeous pinkish lavender color when pureed with a bit of cream. We ate them in chilled borschts, we caramelized them for salads with avocado and goat cheese, and sometimes we just ate them roasted with a just a sprinkle of sea salt and coarse pepper.

You can also pick up gorgeous wild flowers, sunflowers and the most spectacular dahlias to decorate your table with too. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to pick up some of the finest baked goods in Connecticut at the Sono Bakery.

One of the reasons to go to the market, of course, is the people watching. It’s some of the best in New Haven.  The shopkeepers and the customers have a lot of pizzaz and personality.

People find many ways of transporting their goods home too. Most, of course, are environmentally friendly- you see re-usable bags and wheels of every kind.

Of course, pampered pets enjoy the morning at the market too. And why not?

I hope I’ve whet your appetite to visit the market, or one nearest your home. But I’m warning you- they’re addictive. Supermarket produce will never look the same again.