Homemade Tamarind Jam + Brown Sugar Brûléed Goat Cheese, Bacon, & Black Pepper Crostini

Okay, let's talk about my love for Whole Foods.


I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee where I was spoiled with fancy grocery stores and restaurants and beautiful farmer's markets that seemed to go on for miles. I think part of the reason why I love cooking so much is because of my childhood surroundings.
One of my most fond memories was taking trips with my dad to downtown Nashville, wandering the many aisles of Whole Foods, and picking out tons of unique ingredients to cook with. I could roam around for hours on end, and still could, today. I remember first discovering kumquats one day and instantly falling involve with the tart little fruits. Thinking back, my parents probably spent the same as a week's worth of groceries to feed my family of five on just the few specialty ingredients I picked out.




Who am I kidding, I still do that.


After moving to Mississippi,  I found out the closest Whole Foods or Fresh Market was two hours away. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE where I live now and the people surrounding me, but I do miss Nashville from time to time (okay... maybe a little more than that).
I've come to appreciate and realize how fortunate I was (and still am!). Getting to go to these upscale grocery stores and restaurants has become such a treat for me.
Yeah, I probably go a little overboard, but I can't help that I only get to indulge in it three or four times a year.

   

Anyways, the last time I went to Whole Foods was about three weeks ago after a cross country meet in Jackson-- trust me when I say the only thing getting me through the race was the idea of grocery shopping after. Okay, that sentence officially makes me the weirdest 15 year old ever, but I'm okay with that... as long as I get my whole foods.


One of the cool things I picked up was tamarind, something I've seen and heard of before, but never tasted. I wasn't really sure what it is or what to do with it, but after a little research I found it is an exotic fruit popular in Asia. It takes some labor to actually get to the fruit, but it's well worth the trouble. I can't really wrap my words around the taste-- it's a little tangy, but sweet, and there's a faint spice that lingers. That's what made me think it would pair well with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, or cardamom. The only downside is that there is very little fruit per pod, making it difficult to do much of anything with it. I'm also a huge fan of the sticky, date-paste like consistency of it.


I knew I wanted to make a jam with it, and then I had the crazy idea to brûlée a crostini. Mostly because I like playing with fire, but also because I thought it would be really cool... and delicious. And it was both cool and delicious.




First I smeared a pretty thick layer of goat cheese on, followed by a few sprinkles of brown sugar, then I torched it to get that burnt glass look. My mom ate it just like that, and freaked out. I tried to explain to her that it wasn't even near finished, but she just kept munching on.

 
 
So, if you're a big fan of goat cheese and brown sugar, you can eat it just like that, but if you like bold flavors, you should definitely finish it with the tamarind jam, bacon, and black pepper.



Either way, it's insanely delicious, and a perfect appetizer... or midnight snack.









Brûléed Goat Cheese Crostini + Tamarind Jam, Bacon, and Black Pepper

for the Tamarind Jam:
  • 500 grams of tamarind (about 20 pods)- shells & strings removed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar (brown, raw, and granulated work as well)
  • 4 cups water

Fill a pot with all ingredients, stir, and cover. Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, and then turn to a simmer for about an hour or more, until the water and tamarind has come to equal level. Remove cinnamon stick. Use a potato masher or fork to gently mash the tamarind. Strain, preserving 1/4 cup of the tamarind water. Let the tamarind preserves cool, and then weed out all the seeds. Once seeds are removed, pour back in the pot, add water and let simmer until combined and thickened (3-5 minutes). 
Let cool for 5 minutes, and pour into a jar to store (keeps for about a week- go through the canning process if wanting to keep longer).

  • french baguette or baguette style bread
  • goat cheese
  • brown sugar
  • bacon- sliced into 1 in. wide/1 1/2 in. long strips
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • fresh basil
Fry bacon in a cast iron skillet until curled and browned in color. Let oil drain on a paper towel and allow bacon to crisp up.
Slice the bread into 1- 1 1/2 inch. thick slices and toast until crispy and golden brown on both sides (I like to broil it). Spread an even layer of goat cheese (1+ tablespoon) on each piece of bread. Top with a generous serving of brown sugar, gently pressing down to create an even layer. Brûlée the tops with a torch or broil again to crystalize. Let the sugar set and harden. 
Top with jam, bacon, black pepper, and basil.




XOXO 
Cecilia A.

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