When I was asked by Marx Foods, purveyors of rare and exotic ingredients, if I'd like to take part in a recipe contest, my response was an immediate yes. I promptly received a package containing samples of Fregola Sarda couscous, Iranian saffron threads, whole star anise and vanilla beans, along with instructions to make a dessert from the Fregola Sarda and at least one of the spices.
The fragrance from the package was indescribable. I spent more time with my nose stuck into the little baggies of anise and vanilla than I care to admit.
The arrival of the vanilla beans caused a request from the rest of my family for a batch of coconut milk vanilla bean ice cream, which made me think it would pair nicely with some baked apples, a fitting home for the unusual toasted couscous. I did do a trial run with Israeli style (pearl) couscous, which will also work in this recipe, but it didn't have the lovely nutty flavor of the Fregola Sarda.
Baked Fregola Sarda & Fruit Stuffed Apples
2 C coconut milk
1/3 C honey
1-2 star anise
1 pinch of kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 C raisin sized pieces of dried fruit (I used dried cranberries and golden raisins)
1 C Fregola Sarda
zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 large, firm apples, suitable for baking
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine coconut milk, honey, star anise and salt in a medium pot. Heat over medium high while stirring, until mixture begins to bubble. Reduce to low and allow to steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove anise, then bring mixture back up to a low boil. Stir in cinnamon, fruit, Fregola and lemon zest. Reduce to low again, cover and allow to cook for 15 minutes.
Prepare apples while the Fregola mixture cooks. Cut off tops about 1/2 inch from the top. Scoop out insides, leaving about 1/4 inch thickness on the sides and bottom. (A melon baller works well for this.) Use the juice from the lemon to coat the insides to prevent browning. When the Fregola mixture has finished cooking, place apples snugly together in a baking dish, and fill the cavities. Place tops back on the apples and pour 1/2 inch of water into the bottom of the baking dish. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.
Serve hot or cold. They are especially good with coconut milk vanilla bean ice cream.
I'm sharing my darling baked apples with:
- Allergy Friendly Friday, hosted by Cybele Pascale,
- Sweets for a Saturday round up at Sweet as Sugar Cookies,
- Sweet Indulgence Sunday at A Well-Seasoned Life and
- Presto Pasta Nights, the long running event begun by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast and hosted this week by Jamie of Cookin' with Moxie.
Disclosure: I received free samples from Marx Foods to participate in this blogger recipe contest.
P.S. The poll is open at Marx Foods if you'd like to pop over and give me a vote!