Fresh figs, not just a Newton

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Black Mission Fig & Kadota Fig
I have a vivid memory of the day I ate my first fresh fig.  This sensual little goodie was plucked from a beautiful fig tree in Connecticut while I was on a photo shoot.  Before that sunny September day I had only eaten figs in the form a Fig Newton cookie.  I had no idea what I had been missing until that perfectly plump fig so ripe and sweet hit my taste buds.  I fell in love at first bite and ever since that day I have excitedly awaited the late summer fig season.


Figs are a multi-functional fruit packed with goodness and sweet flavor.  They can stand alone or they can accompany a fruit salad, bruschetta or grilled meat dish.
Five of my favorite things to do with figs are:
1. topping my yogurt with figs, walnuts & honey
2. fresh figs with Cashew Basil Ricotta
3. nestled in a mixed greens salad with hazelnuts
4.  bruschetta with goat cheese, fresh figs and thyme (checkout the NY Times feature on figs here)
5. baked gluten-free Fig & Walnut Galette (recipe below)

fresh figs and melon with walnuts & honey
Deconstructing Cravings 
The body is an amazing source of intelligence. It is always there for you, pumping blood, never skipping a heartbeat, digesting whatever food you put in it and maintaining homeostasis. Is this reliable, intelligent bio-computer making a mistake by craving ice cream or a hamburger or chocolate? Are cravings due to lack of will-power or discipline? I’d like to suggest that cravings are not a problem. They are critical pieces of information that tell you what your body needs. 

The important thing is to understand why you crave what you crave. Perhaps your diet is too restrictive or devoid of essential nutrients. Perhaps you are living a lifestyle that is too stressful. Your body tries to correct the imbalance by sending you a message: a craving. A craving for something sweet could mean you need more protein, more exercise, more water or more love in your life. The key to stopping the sugar craving is to understand and deliver what your body really needs. 

No book or theory can tell you what to eat. Only awareness of your body and its needs can tell you. Of all the relationships in our lives, the one with our body is the most essential. It takes communication, love and time to cultivate a relationship with your body. As you learn to decipher and respond to your body’s cravings, you will create a deep and lasting level of health and balance. 

The next time you have a craving, treat it as a loving message from your body instead of a weakness. Try these tips to respond to your body: 
  • Have a glass of water and wait 10 minutes.
  • Eat a healthier version of what you crave. For example, if you crave sweets, try eating more fruit and sweet or root vegetables. 
  • What is out of balance in your life? Is there something you need to express, or is something being repressed? What happened in your life just before you had this craving? 
  • When you eat the food you are craving, enjoy it, taste it, savor it; notice its effect. Then you will become more aware and free to decide if you really want it next time. 
Focus: Natural Sweeteners 
Who among us doesn’t love sweets? The sweet flavor releases serotonin in our brains, the chemical responsible for our sense of well-being and contentment. But when it comes to sweeteners, not all are created equal. There are side effects and health risks from refined sweeteners like white table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, and from artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet, saccharin and Splenda. Since refined sweeteners have been stripped of vitamins, minerals and fiber, they can spike blood sugar, which can often lead to cravings and mood and energy fluctuations. Instead, using naturally and minimally processed sweeteners can reduce cravings for sugary things. 

Here are a few natural sweeteners to substitute in drinks, food and baking. Since they are all approximately 1.5 times sweeter than refined sugar, you can use less. You can find them in most supermarkets or natural food stores. When replacing sugar with liquid sweeteners in a recipe, reduce the amounts of other liquids. 

Raw Honey 
Everyone seems to love honey, one of the oldest natural sweeteners on the market. Honey will have a different flavor depending on the plant source. Some are very dark and intensely flavored. Wherever possible, choose raw honey, as it is unrefined and contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals and vitamins. 

Maple Syrup 
Maple syrup is the concentrated extract of the sap of maple trees. It adds a rich, deep flavor to foods and drinks. Make sure to look for 100% pure maple syrup, not maple-flavored corn syrup. As with all sweeteners, organic varieties are best.   ©Integrative Nutrition      

Coconut Nectar 
Coconut nectar is a naturally sweet nutrient-rich sap that exudes from the coconut blossoms once when a coconut tree is tapped.  It is a raw, enzymatically alive product and has a low glycemic.  Coconut nectar is great in smoothies and your favorite desserts.                                                                                               
Fig & Walnut Galette
 FIG & WALNUT GALETTE     serves 8
Gluten-free Crust:
1 cup oats blended to a fine meal
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup brown rice flour (or gluten free flour of your choice)
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup cold coconut oil (or 6 Tbsp cold butter)
2 - 4 Tbsp ice cold water

Filling:
2 cups sliced or quartered fresh figs
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 Tbsp maple syrup
3 Tbsp almond flour
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 vanilla bean pod scraped or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
sliced Black Mission figs
Directions:
1. First, make the dough for your crust as you will want to let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill.
2. Add the oats and walnuts to a food processor and blend to a fine, flour-like consistency. 
3. Add the brown rice flour, salt, then add the maple syrup & cold coconut oil, pulse until it forms pea sized granules then add the ice cold water one tablespoon at a time.  You want to add just enough water so the dough starts to bind.  You do NOT want your dough to get gooey.
4. Remove dough from food processor and form into a ball.
5. Wrap in cellophane and put into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
6.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
7. Slice or quarter 2 cups of fresh figs.  I used a mix of half black mission and half kadota figs.  You can use any variety you can get your hands on.
8. Add the remaining ingredients and mix to coat the figs then set aside.
9.  Grab your dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out onto a piece of wax or parchment paper.
10.  Roll the dough into a round shape, an 1/8 inch thick, carefully place your dough onto a baking sheet.
11.  Place your fig and walnut filling into the center of your dough leaving an inch of dough clear at the edges, this is where you will be folding the dough edges back over onto the fruit. 
12.  Fold the dough back up and over the fig filling so as to create a "container" of sorts.  You may need to form it in the places where it has tears or holes.  Remember this doesn't have to be perfect; this an unfussy galette! 
13. Place in the oven to bake your galette for about 30 - 45 minutes until the crust gets cooked through and slightly browned on the edges.
14.  Let it cool for about 10 - 15 minutes and serve.
Have a slice with a dollop of yogurt or vanilla ice cream!
 NOTES:
  • Be sure your dough is really cold before rolling it out.  You may find that it may stick a bit to your rolling pin.  You can use your hands to press the dough out if you find stickiness a factor.
  • This dough will be slightly crumbly once it is cooked because of the nature of these ingredients.
  • You can substitute the figs for any seasonal fruit of your choice like apples or strawberries.
Source: Integrative Nutrition

4 comments:

  1. Hi Susan, So in terms of a sweetener for coffee, what do you suggest? I was using Splenda, then after more reading when to a raw sugar, and sometimes Stevia. I drink tea black but not my coffee. As for creamer...I've added a coconut & almond milk mixture instead of regular skim milk or flavored creamers but since it isn't "sweet" it doesn't taste quite right without something else. Do you like Agave? I noticed you didn't highlight it here.

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    Replies
    1. I personally don't use agave which is why I did not add it to my list of natural sweeteners. What I have read about agave is that it is given a low glycemic index but it is highly refined, has high levels of fructose and no enzymes, vitamins or minerals unlike the few I mentioned in my post. I think it's just a matter of experimenting to see what suits your taste buds best. I like raw honey in my tea and a drop of maple syrup in my coffee.

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  2. Hey Susan! I was drooling over your figs with melon, walnuts and honey. Then I scrolled down and saw that tart! Oh my God, it looks so good! All of your recipes are phenomenal, as is your fantastic nutritional information. I love the way you explain it.

    Let's get together again soon :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Fresh figs and melon with walnuts and honey" Looking at the image makes me crave for this. I want to eat that now. This is good especially that it doesn't contain sweetener or high fructose corn syrup. I'll try to drop by in a grocery store to buy those.

    ReplyDelete

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