Friday, July 24, 2009

Fresh Figs with Raw Almond Butter and Coconut

Dried Figs Can't Compare
Growing up in an Italian American home, I was often presented with dried figs for dessert. I couldn't imagine why anyone would eat these things. They were difficult to chew and the hard seeds made them unpalatable. I swore that I would never make my children suffer through a dessert like this.

As a young adult, I went to visit my friend Isabella who lives in Rome. After dinner, she served a bowl of beautiful, fresh figs. It took some convincing, but I tried one and immediately fell in love. I could hardly believe that this was the same fruit that I so disliked in its dehydrated form. It instantly became by favorite fruit but unfortunately I realized that they were not that easy to find.

Since figs are extremely perishable, the ones in the store are pretty expensive and don't always look fresh. To avoid this problem, I began planting my own fig trees where possible. I encourage you, if you live in a warm climate, to plant a fig tree. I've had luck growing them in Texas and California. Figs grow easily and come in many varieties. My favorite is the Kadota fig which has a green skin and usually produces late in the summer and early fall. Since my husband and I just moved to a new home, one of the first things we did was plant a "Janice" fig, which is a seedless Kadota. I anxiously await the first harvest. Calimyrna figs are also light skinned. Dark skinned figs include black mission and brown turkey figs.

Figs and Almonds, a Wonderful Pair
Today's simple dessert combines the distinct flavors and health benefits of fresh figs and raw almonds. Figs are a good source of dietary fiber. Many people fail to meet the minimum daily requirement of 25+ grams of fiber, vital in the prevention of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, diverticular disease and other health issues. I've often thought that if a person could do one thing to improve their health, they should eat lots of fiber from fresh foods and whole grains (not just high fiber cereals). Figs are also a good source of potassium and manganese. Potassium helps regulate water and acid-base balance and is important in regulating blood pressure. Manganese is important in the metabolism of carbohydrates and amino acids. It supports bone health, blood sugar balance and energy production. Almonds are also a very good source of manganese as well as vitamin E. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant and difficult to get from a raw food vegan diet. It's also a good source of protein and magnesium. Magnesium is key for the proper functioning of muscles and nerves. It also supports energy production.

If you have a fig tree or are lucky enough to have a neighbor with one, you can make a tray of these and serve them at a party. They make wonderful "finger food".


Fresh Figs with Raw Almond Butter and Coconut [serves 4]
4 large fresh figs, split in half vertically
4 teaspoons raw almond butter
4 teaspoons raw, unsweetened, shredded coconut

Spread almond butter on top of each fig half. Sprinkle shredded coconut over the almond butter. Arrange on a plate and serve.

Per serving: 86.6 calories, 3.6 g fat, .8 g saturated fat, .4 g cholesterol, .7 g protein, 13.3 g carbohydrates and 2.5 g of fiber.

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