Today, I’m writing about a hidden food gem. A little nugget of nutritional and savoury glory. A tiny treasure box of complex flavours and textures: the California Fig.
So what’s the big deal? On top of being delicious and flexible from a gastronomic perspective, these little guys are a great boost for your health. Just a 1/4 cup per day (3–5 dried or fresh figs) can help you get 7% of your daily recommended potassium, 6% of your calcium, and 20% of your dietary fibre (which helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels and supports heart, colon, and digestive health). While also being high in antioxidants (which help with inflammation), California Figs are an all-natural, fat-free ingredient we would all benefit from adding to our diets.
Here are a few great ways to get your figs in for the day, no matter what kind of person you are.
For the Health Nut on the Go: California Fig Almond Bars
I’ve been eating these all week as a mid-afternoon snack — they’ve helped me stay full until dinner. Yay!
3 cups whole, natural, roasted almonds
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 cup thick rolled oats, toasted
1/4 cups almond flour
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups California Dried Figs, sliced into ¼-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds, toasted
6 ounces honey
8 ounces agave nectar
1 cup almond butter
1/3 cup cocoa nibs
1/3 cups fig paste
water, as needed
For the fig paste: Place figs into a food processor and pulse for a few minutes or until mixture is a thick consistency — you’ll be able to see the seeds, but flesh and skins should be completely blended. You may need to add a couple tablespoons of water as you go to soften slightly.
In a stand-up mixer, combine the whole almonds, sliced almonds, oats, almond flour, flax seeds, sea salt, diced figs, and pumpkin seeds.
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the honey and agave nectar; bring to a boil over high heat. Brush sides with water to prevent crystallization of syrup. Cook syrup to 240F, and remove from heat.
Add the almond butter and fig paste to the syrup mixture. Pour the almond butter and syrup mixture into the stand-up mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix thoroughly. Alternatively, mix by hand with a wooden spoon.
Lay out the mixture on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Cool in the refrigerator for twenty minutes.
For the Hostess: Cava-Soaked Ricotta Stuffed Figs (*drools*)
I ate these on a restaurant patio in Tel Aviv last year and thought they were genius. This is my attempt at re-creating them.
10 dried California Figs
1 bottle of cava
First, pour the cava over the figs in a large bowl and let them soak for at least two hours. When you’re ready, remove the figs from the cava. Either discard the cava, or use it to make champagne cocktails like this one.
Turn the figs so they face stem-up, and then cut out the middles one by one by placing your knife tip beside the top of the stem and cutting around it. Do the same for the other end of the fig.
Then, taking the end of a spoon, fold enough ricotta into the fig to fill it.
Discard the insides or use them to spread on toast tomorrow morning (or in the fig paste for the fig energy bars recipe below).
Presto. You have appetizers!
For the Dessert Fiend: Salted Caramel Chocolate Figs
Honestly, these are just deluxe and versatile. Pop them into your mouth in the bathtub, serve them for dessert at your next party, or bring them as a hostess gift.
Makes 30 chocolates.
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extra
6 tablespoons butter, sliced
2 cups light brown sugar
30 large California Dried Golden Figs
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, divide
sea salt, as needed (Maldon brand recommended)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Combine cream, vanilla, butter, and brown sugar in heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat and store over low heat until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted. Bring to a boil; cover. Reduce heat to low and cook for three minutes, making sure the mixture does not boil over. Remove cover; increase heat to medium and continue cooking until caramel reaches 280F. Pour onto prepared baking sheet and cook at room temperature.
Meanwhile, slice off the bottom of each fig and make a well by using the back of a 1/2 teaspoon measurer into the cut end of the fig. When caramel is warm enough to handle, measure 1/2 teaspoon portions and press into fig wells, smoothing across opening.
Next, place 12 ounces of chocolate in the top of a double broiler over hot water and stir frequently until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and add remaining chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth.
Using tweezers or tongs, dip each caramel-filled fig into the melted chocolate. Lay flat side up onto parchment-lined sheet tray. Let stand about one minute, and sprinkle lightly with sea salt just before chocolate sets.