January/February/March 2011 Fig Focus

WHAT’S IN-STORE FOR 2011?

Macaroons

Cupcakes and pies are winding down in 2011. Macaroons, usually made with ground almonds or almond paste, sugar, and egg whites, will be 2011’s sweet sensation, reports Epicurious.com.

Valley Fig Growers’ sensational Pistachio Fig Macaroons are positively delicious. These gluten-free, tasty confections are made with pistachios, figs (of course), egg whites and sugar. Try adding a chocolate drizzle for a little flair. 

Meatless Mondays & Tofu Thursdays

Epicurious recently noted in Back to the Future: 10 Food Trends to Watch Over the Next Decade, the proportion of people eating no meat or less meat is growing. It’s likely that the nonprofit Meatless Monday initiative, with it’s goal to encourage U.S. consumers to cut their meat consumption by 15 percent for the betterment of our health and the planet, has had an impact. School districts from Baltimore to New Haven, Santa Barbara to Syracuse, have embraced the cause, as have more than 20 public health organizations. Epicurious is forecasting that eating meat-free will be on the calendar more than once a week.

California Dried Figs are fortunate to be ideally suited for meatless entrees. With their high fiber content and substantial texture, dried figs hold up well in vegetarian dishes, and add a subtle sweetness. Meat provides a source of iron which many fruits do not offer. Figs, however, do provide 8 percent Daily Value for iron, along with providing a vegetarian source of calcium, and potassium, two more important minerals.

Our Cook’s Country TV recipe below, Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Dried Figs, is right on target for Meatless Mondays. Other popular meatless entrees from our web site include: Fig & Goat Cheese Pizza; Barley Bow-Tie Pilaf with Figs, Lemon & Thyme; and Mediterranean Fig Kebabs. Our Herbed Lentils with Figs and Sausage is an example of a dish that you can turn into a vegetarian entree by simply omitting the meat. The figs are flavorful and substantial enough to fill in nicely for the meat. Source: Read More at http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/blogs/editor/2010/12/food-trend…

On the Nutrition Front

By Cherryl Bell, RD, MS

-New Year’s resolutions abound and many people vow to lose weight. I prefer focusing on simply feeling better and eating more healthfully. It’s best to start small with activity and eating changes. My husband’s resolution is to add 10 minutes of walking to his day in the morning and the evening. See how that goes, and then add 10 minutes more. The next goal is to fill half his plate with fruits and vegetables, and eat vegetarian on Monday and Thursday. These are simple, achievable goals that can help lead to a healthy lifestyle.

-I recently read an article in USA Weekend promoting “superfoods” as being helpful in weight loss, major health improvements, and everything in between. A superfood, according to the article, is “any food containing high levels of essential nutrients and other beneficial compounds.” I noted that they mentioned dates as one of the superfoods. “Dates are high in fiber and potassium and add nutrients and rich flavor to cereals, meat and rice dishes and baked goods.” Let’s take a look at my favorite fruit, figs, and see how they compare. I did a quick nutrient comparison for 100 grams of dates versus California dried figs and found that figs have fewer calories and more protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. Dates do have slightly more potassium, carbohydrate and sugars. I’m thinking figs are a superfood too.

-February brings Valentine’s Day on Monday, February 14th. Considering my husband’s New Year’s resolution, I’ve decided to make some of his favorite fig recipes, Fig and Walnut Pasta with Gorgonzola (using whole wheat pasta), a mixed greens salad, and some grilled broccolini. Valentine’s Day is really about the chocolate and the aphrodisiac figs, so I’m splurging a little for dessert and having Chocolate Pudding with Amaretto Figs.

Valley Fig Growers has been an enthusiastic supporter of Cook’s Country TV since the series began in 2007 and we recently signed up for a fourth season. Each weekend nearly 1.5 million people view Cook’s Country on their local Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) station. “The Cook’s Country team is an exceptional group to work with and we truly value our relationship with this award-winning cooking show,” says Linda Cain, vice-president of marketing for Valley Fig Growers. Explore the Valley Fig Growers’ web site recipe section for a variety of new recipes from Cook’s Country TV, ranging from Creamy Baked Four-Cheese and Figs Pasta to Fig and Cognac Bread Pudding.

What is Cook’s Country Television all about?

Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen uncovers the best of American home cooking. Their recipes are developed through in-depth kitchen testing. The result: foolproof recipes you can trust to work the first time—and every time. Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen features the cast and crew of America’s Test Kitchen, the top-rated cooking show on public television—now in its tenth season. The show, now in its third season, is filmed in a renovated 1806 farmhouse with a full working test kitchen.

Watch Cook’s Country TV update traditional American recipes—everything from Glazed Meatloaf and Sweet Corn Spoon bread to Lemon Pudding Cake and Cider-Baked Ham. You’ll learn what makes a recipe succeed (or fail) as well as which kitchen tools, cookware, and supermarket ingredients have won their independent tests.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Dried Figs

Serves 4. 

The anchovies add tremendous flavor to this dish without imparting fishiness; do not omit them. Adjust the amount of lemon juice to suit your taste.

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 6 anchovy fillets , finely minced (about 1 tablespoon) (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Table salt
  • 1 small head cauliflower , cut into 1-inch florets
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs (about 6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts , toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1-2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon (see note)
  • 1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti (see note)
  • 1 ounce grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  1. Combine 4 tablespoons oil, garlic, anchovies, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in small bowl; set aside.
  2. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add cauliflower and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned and tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Push cauliflower to sides of skillet to create 3-inch clearing; add oil-garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir to combine garlic mixture with cauliflower, add the dried figs and cook for 1 minute longer. Remove skillet from heat and stir in walnuts, parsley, and lemon juice.
  4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water; cook until al dente. Reserve ¾ cup pasta cooking water, drain pasta, and return pasta to Dutch oven.
  5. Add sauce and reserved cooking water to pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt to taste. Transfer to serving bowl, sprinkle with cheese, and serve immediately.

Recipe Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

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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