October/November/December 2008 Fig Focus

Figs Give the Holidays Style and Flavor

Christmas, Hanukkah, and Thanksgiving offer wonderful opportunities to add style and flavor to your holidays with dried California Figs

Dark Chocolate Bark with Figs, Nuts and White Chocolate Drizzle

  • 8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate baking bar, broken into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup stemmed and chopped (1/3-inch) Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid Mission or Calimyrna figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped (1/3-inch) salted or lightly-salted mixed nuts*    
  • 2 ounces white chocolate, broken into small pieces

Melt bittersweet chocolate as package directs. Stir figs and nuts into melted chocolate.  Spread on foil-lined baking sheet to thickness of about 1/4-inch. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes. For white chocolate drizzle, melt white chocolate as package directs. Scrape into small plastic bag; seal bag. Snip tiny hole in corner of bag. Squeeze bag to drizzle chocolate over bark. (Or dip teaspoon in chocolate and drizzle over bark.) Chill 30 minutes or until firm. Peel bark off foil and break into irregular 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces. Store in airtight container at room temperature. Makes 24 to 28 pieces.

*Or chopped, toasted almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, walnuts or a combination.

Happy Hanukkah!

Host a dessert party for a new spin on Hanukkah celebrations. Sweetly greet guests with brightly decorated Hanukkah Sandwich Cookies cut in seasonal shapes and filled with a fig orange filling.

Hanukkah Sandwich Cookies

Cookies:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Filling:

  • 1-1/2 cups packed Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid figs (stems removed)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest

In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon; mix well.  In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and almond extract.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition.  Place cookie dough on plastic wrap; shape into a 12-inch disk.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375°F.  On well-floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/8-inch thick.  Cut out cookies with Hanukkah-shaped cutters, making sure to dip cutters in flour before each use. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 9-11 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.  Remove to wire rack; cool completely.  Decorate 1/2 the cookies as desired; leave remaining cookies without decoration. In food processor, puree figs, honey, cinnamon, orange juice and zest until almost smooth.  Spread about 1 tablespoon filling on undecorated cookies.  Top with decorated cookies. Makes about 2 dozen 3-inch sandwich cookies.

Thanksgiving, November 27

This Thanksgiving why not offer to bring the cranberry sauce and make our doubly fruity Fig Cranberry Sauce with Oranges and Port . Order figs ahead from the Grower’s Store.

Something to add to the Thanksgiving dinner conversation

Benjamin Franklin, who proposed the turkey as the official United States’ bird, was dismayed when the bald eagle was chosen over the turkey. Franklin wrote to his daughter, referring to the eagle’s “bad moral character,” saying, “I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country! The turkey is a much more respectable bird, and a true original native of America.”

For recipes, information and everything you want to know about turkey, visit the National Turkey Federation web site www.eatturkey.com There are tips on purchasing, storing and preparing your turkey as well as great recipes such as Savory Fig & Sausage Dressing  and many others to enjoy at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.

A Family Get Together During the Holidays

Gather family and friends in the kitchen, it’s time to make pizza with a Mediterranean flair. Instead of the same old sausage and pepperoni, this easy homemade pizza calls for a colorful array of aromatic fresh veggies, two kinds of cheese, and something special—Mission and Calimyrna California figs. With lots of helping hands for slicing, chopping, sprinkling and shaping the refrigerated dough, Mediterranean Pizza with Figs and Feta is in the oven and clean up is underway before you know it. Cut the pizza into small squares and serve with drinks for an appetizer or add a salad and cut larger pieces for a main dish.

Consumers are Looking for Fiber and Dried Figs Deliver in Tasty Abundance

By Cherryl Bell, RD, MS

Fiber is where it’s at when it comes to reading the nutrition label. According to a report recently published by the US Department of Agriculture, consumers are checking the fiber content of their foods more than any other item on the Nutrition Facts panel. In fact, the report notes that fiber is the only label component to show an increase; whereas, sugar remained steady and calories, fats, cholesterol and sodium declined.

The Food and Drug Administration is currently considering changes to the format and content of food nutrition labels to encourage increased use. According to USDA Economic Research Service report on the study titled, The Decline in Consumer Use of Food Nutrition Labels, 1995-2006, the increase in use (of fiber) may be the result of the increasing popularity of low-carb diets, interest in identifying whole grain foods, or an aging population that is more aware of dietary fiber’s health benefits.

This is great news for figs. As fig lovers know, three to five dried figs provide 5 grams of dietary fiber. Considering that’s 20 percent of the daily value, that’s a lot of sweet tasting good health. So, all you fig lovers need to spread the word, “find fiber in figs.”

Holiday eating doesn’t mean you have to throw your interest in fiber out the window. Here are some great, and might I say from personal experience, absolutely delicious tips from Marie Simmons. Her book, fig heaven, makes a great holiday gift.

  • Plump dried figs in boiling red wine for 15 minutes. Marinate in the wine overnight. Drain and serve with cheese.
  • Add diced moist dried figs to cooked brown rice, couscous, or pilaf.
  • Add sliced dried figs, golden Calimyrna and dark Mission, along with toasted walnuts hazelnuts, or almonds to a mixed green salad. Toss with a light vinaigrette. Or add chopped figs to Waldorf salad for a sensational winter fruit salad.
  • Plump 8 ounces of 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 and grated orange zest, a pinch of kosher salt and a grinding of black pepper. Marinate for 24 hours.
  • Halve a moist dried fig and push a 1/2 chunk of cheese such as Stilton, dry jack, cheddar, or Parmigiano-Reggiano into the center. Wrap with a thin ribbon of Black Forest ham and serve.

Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas!

Dazzling Drizzle

Make Marie Simmons’ Classic Fig Drizzle and put in a decorative bottle. Add her book, fig heaven, a wedge of cheese, one or two Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice trays of figs, and a small decorative ceramic platter and wrap for a gift this holiday season.

Blissfully Balsamic Fig Vinaigrette

Wrap up in a colorful salad bowl, a bottle of our new Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice Fig Balsamic Vinegar, a bottle of extra virgin olive oil, a lemon, some fresh garlic, a bag of homemade croutons and a pair of decorative serving tongs. No need to include the recipe, it’s on the bottle of Fig Balsamic Vinegar.

Figs Spotted on Food Pages Across the Country

  • Keep an eye on your food pages for our Holidays to Remember feature. It’s chock full of Christmas and Hanukkah recipe ideas.
  • Bakers love figs and we’re excited to be a part of a new recipe booklet, Simply Homemade. Visit the web site and enjoy some great recipes, or go to our recipe dessert section for the Fig & Goat Cheese Squares.
  • Valley Fig Growers goes on YouTube. Learn all about Valley Fig Growers and our fine fig tradition by watching our video on YouTube.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Valley Fig Growers!

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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