Goat Cheese with Pistachios and Figs in Balsamic-Maple Syrup

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Spring means fresh maple syrup is on tap …. wonderful paired with figs and goat cheese!  Photo by White Point Imaging

A sweet and savory hors d’oeuvres reminiscent of Tuscany.  The balsamic-maple reduction makes this dish special.  Place a jar of syrup on the side for extra dipping and drizzling.  Serve with fresh figs if desired.

10 ounce log of goat cheese
1 cup pistachios, finely chopped plus whole nuts
1 cup dried figs, halved
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup

Macerate figs in balsamic vinegar for 1 hour or more. Meanwhile, roll goat cheese log in chopped pistachios. Wrap and refrigerate.

Place maple syrup and vinegar in a small sauce pan. Stir and add figs. Simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove figs and continue simmering until 1/4th of liquid is reduced, approx. 15 – 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate for 1 hour. Note: Be careful not to overcook or balsamic-maple syrup will thicken to taffy like consistency when cooled.

Sprinkle whole pistachios on the plate and serve goat cheese log with figs and drizzled syrup.

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Roasted Butternut Squash over Wilted Arugula

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Sweet and savory with maple laced pecans and oven roasted butternut squash. Add crumbled feta or goat cheese for an extra layer of flavor.

Vibrant colors of orange and green make this dish a hit at any autumn harvest table. The added sweetness of a good quality balsamic vinegar (fig is nice) blends all the flavors together and tempers the peppery bite of the arugula.

Serve it as a salad or a side ….with what else? Turkey, of course.

2 – 3 cups cubed butternut squash
2 – 4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, minced
1 bunch arugula
1/2 cup pecans
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
Balsamic vinegar (aged with syrupy consistency)
Optional: crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Split butternut squash in half and scoop out seeds and stringy fiber. Peel each half with a vegetable peeler and cut into cubes of similar size.

Place squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Toss  to evenly coat, adding more oil if needed. Sprinkle with garlic powder (I like Simply Organic’s finely granulated garlic powder). Salt and pepper to taste. Roast in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until tender.  Some pieces should be caramelized from roasting in the pan.

Meanwhile, toss maple syrup and pecans in a heavy skillet on medium heat until syrup bubbles but does not burn. Remove and cool.

In large bowl, toss arugula with a very light coating of the Dijon Lemon Vinaigrette. Add red onion (scallions can be substituted as shown in the picture) and pecan. Place hot-out-of-the-oven squash on top of arugula and toss. Greens will unevenly wilt for nice texture. Add optional cheese and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Serve.