FIGS SHINE AT THE CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA
The Worlds of Flavor® International Conference & Festival, presented by The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), is widely acknowledged as our country’s most influential professional forum on world cuisines and culinary flavor trends. At the most recent conference, A Mediterranean Flavor Odyssey: Preserving And Re-Inventing Traditions For Modern Palates, Valley Fig Growers showcased an exceptional array of dried California figs and fig products including the newest member of the product family, Fig Balsamic Vinegar.
Sondra Bernstein and chef John Toulze, from the girl & the fig restaurant, served their newest creation, a divine fig-infused martini, called The Fig Blossom. It was a huge hit with the chefs, food editors, and culinary dignitaries from around the world in attendance at the conference, as was their Warm Thyme Crisp. Valley Fig Growers was honored to also feature culinary expert and cookbook author, Marie Simmons. She served two of her favorite fig dishes, Dried Fig and Black Olive Spread on Crostini and Marinated Herbed Figs, both are featured recipes in her book, Fig Heaven.
THE FIG BLOSSOM
- 1 oz fig vodka (see below)
- 1 oz blueberry vodka
- 1/2 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/4 oz ginger simple syrup
Shake all ingredients together. Serve over ice. Garnish with rosemary blossoms.
- Fig Vodka
- 1 part Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid Figs
- 6 parts vodka
Place figs and vodka together in a pan. Bring to a simmer and reduce by 1/3
Remove from stove and allow to steep over night. Strain. Now you have fig vodka! Recipe from: the girl & the fig, 110 West Spain Street, Sonoma, CA 95476; 707-938-2170; www.thegirlandthefig.com
DRIED FIG AND BLACK OLIVE SPREAD FOR CROSTINI
- 8 ounces Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid Figs, stems trimmed, quartered (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle or the side of a heavy knife
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- crostini, for serving
- 2 to 4 ounces crumbled feta or blue cheese, optional
Combine the figs and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Heat to a boil. Cook, covered, over low heat until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.
Combine the figs, olives, fennel seeds, garlic, orange zest, and black pepper in a food processor. Process until pureed, stopping to scrape the sides of the container down once or twice. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil. Transfer the mixture to a container or bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To serve, place the spread in a small bowl with a butter knife, and surround it with crostini. Alternatively, spread it on the crostini and serve plain or with a little crumbled cheese on top. Makes 2 cups.
From Fig Heaven, by Marie Simmons.
MARINATED MISSION FIGS
Plump 8 ounces Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid figs in boiling salted water to cover for 10 minutes. Drain, and toss with a drizzle of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon each of dried oregano, crushed fennel seeds, dried rosemary, 2 smashed cloves garlic, a pinch of kosher salt, and a grinding of black pepper. Marinate for 24 hours.
Adapted from Fig Heaven, by Marie Simmons.
On the Nutrition Front
By Cherryl Bell, RD, MS
Step Lively Into 2009
With a new year comes a new commitment to healthy eating. This year take the high road and use a positive approach to eating. Instead of looking at what you can’t eat, embrace the abundance of foods that are just waiting to be a part of your path to a fun, full, healthy life style. Little positive steps add up to big rewards.
Give a High Five to the Start of 2009
1. Choose nutrient-rich foods. Build a healthier diet by getting the most nutrients per calorie. Nutrient-rich foods, like dried Mission and Calimyrna Figs, are familiar and easy to find. Visit www.nutrientrichfoods.org for tips and recipes and a wealth of great ideas to start the year off right.
2. Eat together whenever possible. Make an effort to bring everyone together at the dinner table. Sure, everyone is busy, but research shows that eating meals together during adolescence, for example, has a lasting positive impact on diet quality into young adulthood; teens eat more fruits and vegetables and drink fewer soft drinks. When families eat together, both children and parents benefit physically, emotionally and intellectually.
3. Move more, every step counts. Step counters, also known as pedometers, are wonderful. They motivate you to move one step at a time. Wear one for a few days and see how many steps you average; then add a few steps each day. Research shows weight gain can be prevented in 90% of adults by burning at least 100 calories per day; that’s about 2,000 steps.
4. Eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Start by replacing your white bread with whole wheat bread. Buy a bag of brown rice; freeze extra cooked portions. Your goal is 3 or more whole grain servings a day. Check the package labels for serving sizes. Snack on low fat popcorn—it’s a whole grain and dried figs. Four Mission figs have 5 grams of dietary fiber. Fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods are great sources of fiber.
5. This one’s up to you. Choose to make a healthy, positive change that makes you feel good and fits your lifestyle. Perhaps you want to eat out less and learn to cook something healthy at home to share with a friend. Or, maybe you want to use more olive oil in cooking and less butter. Whatever you choose, don’t worry be happy and enjoy living the healthy life.
A Healthy Note
Vinegar has long been touted to relieve a multitude of ailments. Truth or myth? Most likely a little of both. Recently, vinegar has gained credibility in the health and nutrition community for its potential to help people with type 2 diabetes. Some research suggests that acids (like vinegar) lower the glycemic index of foods. Researchers in one study wanted to see whether a solution of vinegar changes the levels of glucose and insulin after meals. Blood glucose and insulin levels were measured and found to be lower 30 minutes after eating the test meal, which is good news. Participants also reported feeling full longer when vinegar was added to their diet. More research is needed to understand the health effects of vinegar. But for now, people with type 2 diabetes might be wise to talk with their doctors or dietitians about consuming more vinegar. Check back in our next issue of Fig Focus for more health tips and recipes featuring Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice Fig Balsamic Vinegar.
Valentine’s Day is the traditional day lovers express their love for each other by sending Valentine’s cards, presenting flowers, or offering decadent treats. Chocolate has long been associated with passion, romance and love. The Aztecs believed chocolate was a source of spiritual wisdom, incredible energy and elevated sexual power.
Throughout history, many foods and drinks have had a reputation for making romance more pleasurable. The word aphrodisiac, in fact, comes from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sensuality. Lists abound of popular aphrodisiacs and figs are definitely a must. Among the most popular foods purported to have aphrodisiac powers are: apples, arugula, carrots, chocolate, chilies, cinnamon, figs, fennel, honey, oysters, ginger, garlic, almonds, mangoes, rose petals, rosemary, and vanilla.
Figs have long been a symbol of love and fertility. The sweet allure of figs is legendary throughout history. Their romantic powers are well documented in literature. California figs sensuously avail themselves to the cook in dishes begging to be served on Valentine’s Day. Here are a few menu suggestions for salad, entree and dessert recipes. Choose wisely, depending on your desire.
Valentine’s Day—An Aphrodisiac’s Delight—Lovers Beware
California Fig and Arugula Salad (figs, arugula)
Pork Medallions with Honeyed Figs and Apples (figs, honey, apples)
Rosemary Chicken with Fig Orange Sauce (figs, rosemary)
Braised Chicken with Fennel and Dried Figs (figs, fennel, carrots, garlic)
Fig-Honey Nests (photo) (figs, honey, cinnamon)
Chocolate-Dipped Stuffed Figs (figs, chocolate, ginger, almonds, vanilla)
Warm Chocolate Fig Cakes (figs, chocolate)