April/May/June 2010 Fig Focus

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A Dazzling Dessert for Spring

Mini Ginger Pear Cakes with Warm Figs and Pears in Brandied Honey Sauce

Whether you’re planning an Easter brunch with friends or a family dinner, these festive Mini Ginger Pear Cakes with Warm Figs and Pears in Brandied Honey Sauce make a delicious dessert offering. You can make the cakes ahead of time and keep them frozen, leaving only the yummy fig and pear brandied honey sauce to prepare Easter Sunday.

Along with the mini cakes, Valley Fig Growers has several other recipe ideas for Easter. Two entree favorites are Fig Stuffed Pork Loin with Roasted Vegetables and Herbs de Provence and one of our newest recipes from the experts at Cook’s Country TV, Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin. Both entrees give family and guests a break from the traditional ham.

Passover starts this year March 30 and continues seven days until Monday, April 5th. One of our favorite Passover recipes is Pistachio Fig Macaroons.

Mother’s Day is right around the corner on May 9. Gather the kids and have them help bake the mini fig and pear cakes; they’ll love the fun little shaped cakes. Substitute orange or tangerine juice for the brandy and serve on a homemade place mat. Kids can create a special place mat for mom by gluing photos on a piece of card stock about the size of a place mat. Decorate with stickers and write a special note to mom. Cover with clear contact paper or laminate. Mom will treasure the personalized place mat for years to come.

While our sweet, chewy California figs are available in peak condition all year around, fresh produce is seasonal. Today, many people are trying to buy fruits and vegetables during their season. Looking at the months of April, May and June, we see it’s the season for: lemons, strawberries, squash, cherries, peaches, melons, cucumbers and peppers.

California Mission and Calimyrna dried figs are so versatile and lend a sweet, light crunch to a wide variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables. There are several recipes that come to mind featuring this season’s fresh fruits and vegetables enhanced with our dried figs. Here are a few suggestions for your spring cooking: Four Seasons Fruit Salad with the spring variation featuring dried figs, pineapple, strawberries, cherries, apricots, kiwi, and grapes; Fruit Salsa with Figs, Pineapple and Mango; Fig and Feta Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette; and Lemon Fig Bread with Almond Streusel.

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Our Fabulous at Fifty anniversary contest was so much fun and we had so many great entries. We will be featuring some of those winning recipes and stories in our upcoming issues of Fig Focus. Here’s Michael Cohen’s winning recipe to bake for Father’s Day, June 20.

Tunisian Fig Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almonds, ground
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid Mission Figs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, toasted

In medium bowl, combine flour, almonds, baking soda, salt, cloves and allspice; stir well. In large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add granulated and brown sugars and mix until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, and lemon juice; mix well. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients; stir well. Fold in figs and toasted coconut; stir until the ingredients are well combined. Preheat oven to 350° F. With a 1/4 cup scoop, portion out dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet, placing the scoops 2 inches apart. Bake 15 to 17 minutes, or until cookie edges are golden brown but centers are slightly soft. Remove cookie sheet from oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack. Cool for 10 minutes. Makes about 24 cookies.

Figs In the News — Here, There and Everywhere this Spring

Figs, both fresh and dried, continue to grow in popularity. Here are just a few of the recent sightings and some great recipes to try. Don’t forget to order figs from our Growers’ Store for all your spring cooking.

  • Bon Appetit, February 2010, Easy Winter Salads: Combine baby spinach leaves with chopped dried figs, crumbled blue cheese and spiced pecans. Toss with a Sherry vinaigrette. Note: sounds like this would be good all year round. Change it up for spring by using spring lettuce mix and a fresh lemon vinaigrette.
  • Bon Appetit, January 2010, Oatmeal, Fig and Walnut Bar. Find this and other fig recipes at Epicurious.com.
  • In the Eat This Now column, Yishane Lee shares tips on dried figs, noting they are rich in fiber, iron, calcium and potassium. Also noted under Kitchen Simple is that Pam Anderson, author of The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great, adds dried figs to stews, and also stuffs them into pork loin. “It’s a great way to dress up and flavor a lean cut,” she says.
  • Flavor & the Menu recently published their Top 10 Trends for 2010. Figs made it again. This year as part of the trend toward Signature Sausages. “Sausage takes the spotlight as a tasty way to make indulgence affordable.” “The sausage list at Rosamunde Sausage Grill, in San Francisco numbers 14 versions, from …to duck with figs.” Don’t be afraid to add dried fruit and nuts, says Rick Perez, for added flavor and texture.

On the Nutrition Front

By Cherryl Bell, RD, MS

(Eurekalert, March 2, 2010)–University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: An apple a day? Study shows soluble fiber boosts immune system. A new University of Illinois study touts the benefits of soluble fiber—found in oats, apples, and nuts for starters—saying that it reduces the inflammation associated with obesity-related diseases and strengthens the immune system.

One of the study researchers, noted that “good sources of soluble fiber are oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, lentils, citrus fruits, apples, strawberries, and carrots.” Looking at the amount of soluble fiber found in these foods compared to dried figs, I see that researchers would be well served to include figs in their study next time. On a 100-gram basis, figs have 3.47 grams soluble fiber compared to apples at 0.7g, strawberries at 0.6g, and carrots at 1.6g.

Recipes for you to try on our web site with ingredients containing soluble fiber are: Barley & Bow-Tie Pilaf with Figs, Lemon and Thyme; Chunky Northwest Pear and Fig Sauce; Granola Bars with Dried Figs and Ginger; and Dried Figs and Apricots in Vanilla Wine Syrup.

Spring in the Orchards of Valley Fig Growers

At this time of year, most fig growers are completing the last of the winter deep watering. Pruning is near completion and new weeds are mowed and cleared. It is now the time that replacement trees are planted in place of trees lost since last year’s harvest. Young trees, from last year’s replacement projects, are also shaped through pruning in anticipation of future crops. Until the caprification/pollination of the Calimyrna figs in late May, this is the time that growers enjoy spending time in their orchards watching the bright green new leaves form and the first figs of spring appear.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and tag us @valleyfig —we’d love to see what you’re cooking on Instagram and Facebook!

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