March 2016 Fig Focus

Fabulous Fig Recipe Series

Lamb is a must-have for Easter dinner in many homes. To honor the tradition we suggest a grilled or broiled boneless leg of lamb, marinated with rosemary and garlic, and served with a fig, olive and fennel vinaigrette. The recipe is easy to execute. The ingredient list is shorter than it looks as the marinade and vinaigrette both use red wine vinegar, olive oil, parsley and shallots. Make sure to ask the butcher to bone, butterfly and trim the lamb for you. Minimize last-minute prep by marinating the lamb and making the fig vinaigrette a day before serving. We suggest grilling the meat for the best flavor but broiling works, too.

Tips:

  • If you’re not fond of fennel, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil to the Fig-Olive Vinaigrette just before serving.
  • An instant-read thermometer is helpful for cooking meat. Some recipes call for cooking lamb to an internal temperature of 130° or 135° for medium-rare however the United States Department of Agriculture recommends 145° for food safety.

Ingredients for lamb marinade

Toasting fennel

Ingredients for vinaigrette

Lamb on the grill

Grilled or broiled, lamb with fig-olive vinaigrette makes a stunning Easter dish.

Boneless Leg of Lamb with Fig-Olive Vinaigrette

Makes 8-10 servings

Rosemary & Garlic Marinade for Lamb:

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves

6 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 cup finely chopped shallot

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (3-pound) butterflied boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and sinew

Fig & Olive Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon fennel seed, toasted and crushed*

2 teaspoons honey

1/4 cup olive oil

7-ounces (1 pkg.) Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Figs, stemmed and sliced lengthwise

1/2 cup (16) pitted, sliced Kalamata olives

1/2 cup diced (1/4-inch) red bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1. To marinate lamb, in a small bowl, stir together all Marinade ingredients except lamb.  Place mixture in a large (2-gallon) sealable plastic bag. Add lamb to bag and seal. Place bag in a bowl or shallow pan and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally. 

2. Make Fig & Olive Vinaigrette at least 1 hour or up to one day before serving: In medium bowl, whisk together wine vinegar, water, fennel seed and honey.  Whisk in olive oil.  Stir in figs, olives, red bell pepper, parsley and shallot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill if made more than one hour ahead of serving. Bring to room temperature before serving.  

3. To cook lamb, remove from marinade (discard marinade).  If needed, run 2 or 3 long (10 to 12-inch) metal skewers through the meat to make it easier to turn meat while grilling or broiling. Grill over medium-high heat (or broil 4 inches from heat source) for about 10 to 15 minutes per side or until meat is done as desired. (The USDA recommends cooking to an internal temperature of 145° F for food safety.) Let lamb rest on cutting board for 15 minutes.  Cut across the grain into thin slices.  Serve warm, spooning Fig & Olive Vinaigrette over meat.   

*To toast fennel seed, place in a dry skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring often for a minute or two, till fragrant. Cool.  Place seeds in a double layer zipper lock plastic bag, place on a cutting board and crush with rolling pin, mallet or skillet.

Lorelle Del Matto, MS, RDN, is a nutrition and culinary professional who combines a passion for food (and California Figs) with a quest for nutrition knowledge. She believes well designed and tested recipes can be great communication tools. Lorelle has a Master’s of Science in nutrition biology and is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Lorelle developed her culinary skills in France at La Varenne, Ecole de Cuisine. You can find more recipes and healthy lifestyle tips to inspire you to “savor the art of healthy eating” on her website lorelledelmatto.com and on Twitter and Facebook.

Join in with our Fig-Loving Community Online: Get Ready for Figgy Sandwich Season with a Photo Contest

Sandwich season is upon us and we are highlighting our favorite sandwich topper this month: figs! Head on over to Instagram on March 16 – April 16. Share your original photo showing us a sandwich, grilled cheese, or burger with dried figs or fig spread on it for a chance to win a trip for two to attend the live filming of Season 17 of America’s Test Kitchen in Brookline, MA in May. For more details visit our Facebook page on March 16 when we will begin the contest and make an announcement.

Count on California Figs

Valley Fig Growers celebrates 2016 with a new column called Count on California Figs. Each month we’re sharing ways you can count on California figs to add taste and good health to your everyday living. 

The just released 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is designed to help people consume a healthy, nutritious diet. Healthy eating supports a healthy body weight and can help prevent and reduce the risk of chronic disease. All foods (and forms–fresh, canned, dried and frozen) can fit together like a puzzle to meet nutritional needs. 

About three-fourths of the population doesn’t eat enough vegetables, fruits, dairy, and oils. Small shifts in food choices—over the course of a week, a day, or even a meal—can make a big difference. Here’s a great resource, 10 Tips to Focus on Fruits, that offers some ideas for realistic, small shifts that can help you add fruits to your day. Adding fruit adds important nutrients including potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid). Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. None have cholesterol. Here’s one of the ten tips, plus one from us:

  • Tip #8–experiment with fruit at dinner add crushed pineapple to coleslaw, or include orange sections, dried cranberries, or grapes in a tossed salad. Try fruit salsa on top of fish.
  • Fig Focus Tip—add California Dried Figs to sandwiches, grilled cheese and burgers!

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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