Figuring Out Figs

Fig Bars

Don’t know figs at all; wouldn’t recognize them if I saw…

Fig Bars

I was surprised to hear my organic-food-promoting friend mention that he ate Fig Newtons (Nabisco). Of all the cookies I once loved… this cookie never was a favorite of mine. Since trying to move away from processed foods of all kind — those ingredients that allow for a super long shelf life are alarming – I purchased a freshly-baked “fig bar” from Zarros Bakery in the city. They’re baked daily and are pretty good; I took a liking to them as well.

Fig Bars

Coincidently, fig season was approaching… perfect time to tackle this new fruit.

I started searching the web to find out all I could about them. They’re in the raisin family with a similar yet fruitier flavor and recipes often have fresh figs paired with various cheeses drizzled with honey which is all right with me (the simpler the better).
I am also learning that thin-skinned produce is highly recommended to be purchased organic and figs fall into this category. I watched a You Tube video of a fig tree owner who went out to his yard and picked fig after fig from his tree and popped them into his mouth! How interesting and fun to discover new foods!

Fig Bars

Some of the health benefits of figs include:

Vitamins
Folates : 6 µg
Niacin : 0.400 mg
Riboflavin : 0.050 mg
Thiamin : 0.060
Vitamin A : 142 IU
Vitamin B6 : 0.113 µg
Vitamin C : 2 mg
Vitamin E : 0.11 mg
Vitamin K : 4.7 µg

Minerals
Calcium : 35 mg
Iron : 0.37 mg
Magnesium : 17 mg
Phosphorus : 14 mg
Sodium : 1 mg
Zinc : 0.15 mg
Potassium : 232 mg

This from Nutrition-and-You.com
The phyto-chemical compounds in fig fruit help scavenge harmful oxygen derived free radicals from the body and thereby protect us from cancers, diabetes, degenerative diseases and infections.
Dried figs are excellent sources of minerals like calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, selenium and zinc.

Searching recipes I found many which include unique flavor combinations to make jams and baked goodies. They are also used in main dishes. Search around for some recipes and you’ll see.

This recipe includes thyme which I thought would be interesting.
Here’s my own rendition of this fig bar recipe from Fine Cooking.

The result was a buttery fresh, delicately crumbly, fruit pastry.

Fig Bars with Thyme

Ingredients – Pastry
1 C all-purpose flour
½ C whole wheat flour
½ C light brown sugar
¼ C organic sugar
¼ t salt
½ t baking powder
7 T butter – chilled
1 egg yolk
1 t vanilla

Process
In a large bowl combine flour, sugars, salt and baking powder. Using a cheese grater, grate the chilled butter into the flour mixture and combine to make large crumbs. Add the yolk and vanilla. When mixture holds together upon pressing, it is ready. Separate 1/3 of the mixture (to be added to nuts for the topping) and flatten and press the remaining mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet in a rectangular shape.
Tip: keep ice water nearby in case the mixture is too dry.

Ingredients – Filling
1 ½ – 2 lbs. ripe organic figs
¼ C water
¼ C sugar
7 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 t lemon zest
2 T lemon juice

Process
Infuse ¼ cup of water with the thyme, lemon zest and lemon juice by boiling for about 5 minutes. Pour through a strainer then add the liquid back to the pot; add the sugar cook and dissolve the sugar. After sugar is dissolved add the figs and cook until they are soft about 20 minutes. Let cool then process in a food processor.

Ingredients – Topping
½ C almonds (or another favorite nut)
2 T organic sugar
1/3 of pastry mixture from above

Process
Grind nuts and sugar in a food processor until fine. Add the pastry mixture to the nut mixture to make the crumb topping then add on top of the fig layer.
Bake at 350 F for about 25-30 minutes

Fig Bars

A bit of sci-fi here…

Fig Bars

The cookie-like, buttery, pastry crust.

Fig Bars

The fruity, fig filling — what makes this recipe!

Fig Bars

Spreading the main ingredient!

Fig Bars

Making sure it gets onto every inch…

Fig Bars

And it did!

Fig Bars

The nutty, crumbly mixture tops it off!

Fig Bars

Three layers of fresh, yumminess!

Fig Bars

The finished bars…

Fig Bars

Go really well with coffee, a glass of milk or all on their own.

Fig Bars

Enjoy!


Cooking in Season and Staying Within Reason

Seasonal Produce

I am finally feeling a bit more focused which always helps me to keep my nutrition a priority.  I know that vegetables and fruits — the greener the better, the darker the berry, etc., — will be my path to improved nutrition but this time a better fruit and vegetable plate is in demand.  I will look for only organically grown and locally farmed fruits and vegetables.  And to help me I found some wonderful links that beautifully and graphically chart what fruits and vegetables are available during what time of year making them the freshest, easiest to find, least expensive and oh so flavorful!

The 4 seasons:  Martha Stewart’s Seasonal Produce and Recipe Guide

Fruit & Vegetable, A-Z seasonal listing.

A-Z grid chart of what’s in season when (click here)

A-Z harvested or from storage (the produce you eat off-season is most often frozen for freshness)  (click here)

And for your smart phone, some apps which keep you abreast of what’s available when are reviewed here.

Seasonal Produce

Purchasing and cooking with seasonal produce has the following benefits:

  1. More flavorful dishes
  2. Less money spent on when they are easier to find
  3. Freshness since they are locally grown, they are on your plate soon after harvesting
  4. They keep fresh in your refrigerator longer (just in case you haven’t located a good recipe to use them in)
  5. Less time spent on traveling from farm to store

A colleague recently gave me a sampling of veggies that she and her husband grow in their backyard right here in Queens New York!  The tomatoes and basil were so flavorful and fresh, I still have basil left from the package she gave me two weeks ago!

Perhaps that’s the way to go – buy land to grow your own produce, pick it fresh right before cooking – save time, money and help to improve the environment as well as your own health!

New York City has everything anyone could ever want for…

Soon to come, my very own fig cookie bars!  Figs are blossoming and getting ready for cooking, so stay tuned.

 

Figs


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