March 2015 Fig Focus

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Saint Patrick’s Day is widely recognized as a celebration of Irish and Irish American culture. Celebrations include displays of green, eating and drinking, religious observances, and parades.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, give our braised short ribs a try—and toast the luck of the Irish with a glass of Guiness.

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Guinness and Figs

Serves 6.

3 1/2 pounds boneless short ribs, trimmed of excess fat

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 large onions, peeled and sliced thin from pole to pole (about 4 cups)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

6 medium garlic cloves, peeled

1 cup Guinness Draught (see note)

1 cup beef broth

1 cup Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid Figs (about 6 ounces), stemmed and quartered

4 large carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup cold water

1/2 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until smoking. Add half of beef and cook, without moving, until well browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn beef and continue to cook on second side until well browned, 4 to 6 minutes longer, reducing heat if fat begins to smoke. Transfer beef to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and meat.

Reduce heat to medium, add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. (If onions begin to darken too quickly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water to pan.) Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it browns on sides and bottom of pan, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium-high and add Guinness. Add broth, ½ of figs, carrots, thyme, and bay leaf. Add beef and any accumulated juices to pot; cover and bring to simmer. Transfer pot to oven and cook, using tongs to turn meat twice during cooking, until fork slips easily in and out of meat, 2 to 2½ hours.

Place water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top; let stand at least 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer meat and carrots to serving platter and tent with foil. Strain cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator or bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Allow liquid to settle about 5 minutes and strain off fat. Return cooking liquid to Dutch oven, add remaining figs and cook over medium heat until reduced to 1 1/2 cup, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin mixture; season with salt and pepper. Add 1 teaspoon vinegar to the finished sauce. Pour sauce over meat and serve.

NOTE: Make sure that the ribs are at least 4 inches long and 1 inch thick. If boneless ribs are unavailable, substitute 7 pounds of bone-in beef short ribs at least 4 inches long with 1 inch of meat above the bone. We recommend Guinness here, but any other full-flavored porter or stout will do. Serve with egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or roasted potatoes.

Recipe courtesy of Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen

Orchard Choice Organic Mission California Fig Spread

Each month we’re featuring one of our new fig spreads. This month our focus is on Orchard Choice Organic Mission California Fig Spread. Sweet, earthy and bursting with fig flavor, our simple blend of summer’s best organic Mission figs pairs well with cheese, perks up yogurt, and tops toast in style.

Over the last four months, we’ve offered a variety of ways to enjoy our California Fig Spreads—Port Wine, Balsamic Pepper, and California Orange. This month we’re featuring Organic Mission Fig Spread. With its simple, pure fig taste, it works great in all our suggested serving ideas. Here are some of our favorites from the past:

  • Partner with goat cheese, blue cheese or Brie as part of a cheese board
  • Top crostini with Gorgonzola, fig spread, prosciutto and fresh herbs for quick and elegant appetizer
  • Combine with vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper for a tasty salad dressing
  • Add to grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Spread on pizza, top with cheese and prosciutto. Finish off with a little arugula
  • Spread on bagels with cream cheese
  • Swirl into cheesecake batter or spoon on top after baked
  • Use as a glaze for grilled fish and chicken

“Try ‘Em, You’ll Like ‘Em” Healthy Lifestyle Tips

Take steps every day to live a safe and healthy life. We started 2015 off with how to be a healthy role model and tips on choosing healthy fats. This month is National Nutrition Month® and time to “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle” and make sensible snacks part of your healthy eating plan.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to adopt eating and physical activity plans that are focused on consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices and getting daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote overall health. Academy spokesperson and registered dietitian nutritionist, Isabel Maples, offers tips for healthy snacking. One tip is to plan your snacks. “Keep a variety of tasty, nutrient-rich, ready-to-eat foods nearby, for when you need a bite to take the edge off hunger. Then, you won’t be so tempted by less-healthy options from vending machines, convenience stores or the contents of your own kitchen.” Snack ideas include fresh fruit, air-popped popcorn, whole-wheat crackers, dried fruit and nut mixes, almonds and fat-free yogurt.

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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