FIGGY LOVE IN EVERY BITE!

Fig CrackersFIGGY WAFERS

Hunting for a stand-out holiday appetizer? I think I’ve got just the one!

Welcome your holiday guests with something warming to sip and a surprise taste adventure to invigorate the appetites –a platter of Figgy Wafers. Beautiful little flavor-infused morsels, these delicious crackers stand out because of a generous measure of aromatic cardamom to complement the sweetness of the figs.

While these irresistible little wafers make wonderful tidbits without accompaniments, pair them with a thin slice of vegan cheese and send your happy little flavor receptors into vegan nirvana. Even better, top the crackers with a slice of banana and then put the cheese on top.

Fig CrackersPlan ahead for the holidays by making one or more batches of the recipe, rolling them into logs, and freezing them. Then, when you’re planning to serve them, it takes only a few minutes to slice and bake them.

 FIGGY WAFERS

 

Yield: about 40 slices

10 dried figs, either black or golden

1/4 cup rum or brandyFig Crackers

1/2 cup whole almonds

1 cup Old Fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup dairy-free margarine

  1. Have ready a large bowl and a pair of kitchen scissors. Using the scissors, snip off and discard the tough stems from the figs and snip the figs into small dice into the bowl. Pour the rum over the figs and set aside to soak for several hours or overnight.
  2. Combine the almonds, rolled oats, flour, ground cardamom, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are finely ground.
  3. Add the margarine and pulse until the mixture becomes crumbly. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the figs and use a fork to blend the mixture into a dough.
  4. Form the dough into a long log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and freeze for at least 3 or 4 hours, or until solidly frozen. The log will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  5. When ready to bake the wafers, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
  6. Unwrap the frozen log and use a firm, thin-bladed knife to cut it into 1/8-inch slices. Put them on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Carefully, lift the wafers with a metal spatula and transfer them to a platter to cool completely.

Fig CrackersA Note About Cardamom

Because cardamom is not as familiar a spice as cinnamon, it frequently gets overlooked. But give it an opportunity to show its mojo and you’ll be hooked.

cardamom-greenYou can buy this spice already ground into a powder in the spice section of most markets. You can also find it in Asian and Indian markets where it’s available in whole pods or already ground. While the ground cardamom is certainly more convenient, it quickly loses its pungency and its flavor fades.Cardamom brown

For its flavor delightful strength I much prefer to buy the whole pods and crush the small seeds with a pestle. Really fresh pods are green, but if they’ve been around awhile, they turn beige. It’s a bit painstaking because first I pound each pod to open it. The, one-by-one by hand I open each pod and empty the seeds into the mortar. You can also put the seeds into a spice grinder for a quicker grinding process.

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POMEGRANATE SALAD WINS THE HOLIDAY RIBBON!

Pomegranate Apple Salad5 copyPOMEGRANATE-APPLE SALAD WITH GINGER AND MINT

Taking full advantage of the fruits of the season, this sweet and tangy tart salad makes an eye-appealing side dish, adding diversity in flavor and texture. And, it’s so easy to assemble. You’ll quickly notice that with each bite of this zesty and flavorful fruit mélange, the plump, juice-filled pomegranate seeds release their rich, ambrosial juices, and deliver bracing sweetness with a pleasing crunch.

I’ve made this salad many times over the years and discovered it’s easy to vary its good looks by sometimes cutting the fruits into small dice, while on other days I make the salad much chunkier.whole-and-sliced-pomegranates

Unfortunately, this is not a salad you can make a day or two ahead because it rather dramatically loses its bright looks as well as fresh flavors. You CAN remove the seeds from the pomegranate a day or two ahead and refrigerate them.  If you make sure to have everything at hand, it’s a fairly quick assembly.

 POMEGRANATE-APPLE SALAD WITH GINGER AND MINT

 Yield: 6 servings

1 large pomegranate

2 sweet, crisp apples, unpeeled, choppedPomegranate Apple Salad5 copy

8 ounces edamame, cooked and shelled

1 navel orange, peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 to 3 heaping teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves

  1. Carefully following the handy directions below, remove the pomegranate seeds, drain them well and put them in a large bowl.
  1. Add the apples, edamame, orange, maple syrup, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, balsamic vinegar, ginger, and salt and toss well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
  1. Add half the mint leaves and mix well. Garnish the top of the salad with the remaining mint leaves. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Serve the salad within 2 hours to preserve the bright colors.

Two Techniques for Retrieving Pomegranate Seeds

Pomegranate-seeds1Removing the pomegranate seeds from a fresh pomegranate is easy. Here’s one handy technique:

  1. Put on an apron. Pomegranate juice will most likely splatter a bit, so protect your clothing. Have a deep bowl handy. Wash the pomegranate and cut it in half crosswise. Put the cut sides up and make a couple of cris-cross cuts into each half.
  2. Take one half, turn it upside-down over the bowl, and use your fingers and thumbs to break up the sections. Some of the seeds will begin to fall out. Tap on the top to release more seeds.
  3. Continue to use your fingers and thumbs to loosen the seeds from the pith by pushing on them until all the seeds are in the bowl. Use them immediately or put them into a covered container and refrigerate them. They’ll keep well for up to a week.

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Here’s another method that involves releasing the pomegranate seeds in water:

Ripe pomegranate on the branch. The foliage on the background.

Ripe pomegranate on the branch. The foliage on the background.

  1. Place a colander into a very large, deep bowl and fill the bowl with enough water to submerge a large pomegranate. A salad spinner is the perfect bowl and colander set-up.
  2. Put the pomegranate on a cutting board and cut the top off. Carefully, cut the pomegranate vertically into six sections.
  3. Working with one section at a time, lower it into the water with the seeds facing downward. Use your fingers to release the seeds into the water.
  4. Most of the seeds will sink to the bottom, while the pith floats to the top for easy removal with a skimmer. Repeat the process with the other pomegranate sections. Then, simply lift the colander and shake off the excess water.

For convenience, remove the pomegranate seeds a day ahead, put them in a container, and refrigerate them until ready to use. To prevent the naturally bright colors of the pomegranate seeds and edamame from becoming muddy looking, assemble the salad an hour or two before serving, and the salad will look bright and cheery and very inviting.