Figs, figs and more figs

A month ago, I was yearning for the hard green knobs to mature into bright green and purple sweet fruit. I could not get enough.

A month later, today, I think I have had enough. Each morning brings another bowl of newly ripened figs. I’ve dried enough to last the entire winter. I’ve cooked them into a sweet and tart jam. I’ve cooked some more for a pie or crumble filling. I took some to work. I gave some to friends. I invited friends over to pick. And yet, each morning brings another bowl of newly ripened figs. The continuous activity of the fig tree is amazing. The hard green knobs are present, and yet, the process of maturation differs for each knob. Some mature early in the season at around mid to late July, others mature later in early August, and still more mature much later into September and sometimes even October. The fig tree gives and gives in total abundance, quite symbolic in the land of blessings, milk and honey, and figs and olives.

Fruit is scarce in the winter months. A taste of late summer sweetness is always welcome in the cold dreary days of January and February. Even though figs are coming out of my ears these days…literally….I am always so grateful that I took the time to preserve some for the winter.

morning picking

morning picking

mom with her morning's bounty

mom with her morning’s bounty

Dried Figs

  • Cut each fig in half.
  • Spread figs onto large tray, such as a cookie sheet.
  • Place the figs in a sunny place.  I put mine on the roof of my home.
  • Bring the trays in every evening.  The evening dew will ruin your figs.
  • The figs will need 3-5 days to dry.
  • Once dried, store the figs in a glass jar.

dried figs

dried figs

Fig jam:

  • Slice each fig in half.  I usually cook a kilo at a time.
  • Place in large pot and cook over low heat.
  • Stir periodically and smoosh the figs to let out the juices.
  • Add the juice of one lemon.
  • Add 1 cup sugar.
  • Allow to cook for at least one hour.
  • Continue to stir periodically and smoosh the figs.
  • Just before spooning the fig jam into glass jars:
  • Pour boiling water into the glass jar and the lids.
  • Remove the boiling water, and immediately spoon in the hot fig jam.
  • Cover each glass jar with the lid, and tighten.
  • Allow to cool.
  • Store in a cool pantry.

fig jam

fig jam

 

Fig Crumble:

  • Prepare fig jam as described above.  I like to add 2 tablespoons of corn starch for this recipe.
  • Crumble mixture:  Add 1 cup of almonds, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup wheat flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 3 dashes of sea salt, 2 tablespoons flax seeds, and grind all in a food processor.
  • Add 3 heaping tablespoons of coconut oil to the crumble mixture, and mix until you form a moist crumble.
  • In your favorite baking dish, spoon in the cooled fig jam.  Cover with moist crumble mixture.
  • Bake at 175 degrees celsius until the crumble mixture is golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.

I like to add extra sea salt to my crumble mixture for the salty sweet flavor that I love so much.

The fig crumble is delicious warm or cold, alone or with vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy.

 

fig crumble...yum!

fig crumble…yum!

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Figs, figs and more figs

A month ago, I was yearning for the hard green knobs to mature into bright green and purple sweet fruit. I could not get enough.

A month later, today, I think I have had enough. Each morning brings another bowl of newly ripened figs. I’ve dried enough to last the entire winter. I’ve cooked them into a sweet and tart jam. I’ve cooked some more for a pie or crumble filling. I took some to work. I gave some to friends. I invited friends over to pick. And yet, each morning brings another bowl of newly ripened figs. The continuous activity of the fig tree is amazing. The hard green knobs are present, and yet, the process of maturation differs for each knob. Some mature early in the season at around mid to late July, others mature later in early August, and still more mature much later into September and sometimes even October. The fig tree gives and gives in total abundance, quite symbolic in the land of blessings, milk and honey, and figs and olives.

Fruit is scarce in the winter months. A taste of late summer sweetness is always welcome in the cold dreary days of January and February. Even though figs are coming out of my ears these days…literally….I am always so grateful that I took the time to preserve some for the winter.

morning picking

morning picking

mom with her morning's bounty

mom with her morning’s bounty

Dried Figs

  • Cut each fig in half.
  • Spread figs onto large tray, such as a cookie sheet.
  • Place the figs in a sunny place.  I put mine on the roof of my home.
  • Bring the trays in every evening.  The evening dew will ruin your figs.
  • The figs will need 3-5 days to dry.
  • Once dried, store the figs in a glass jar.

dried figs

dried figs

Fig jam:

  • Slice each fig in half.  I usually cook a kilo at a time.
  • Place in large pot and cook over low heat.
  • Stir periodically and smoosh the figs to let out the juices.
  • Add the juice of one lemon.
  • Add 1 cup sugar.
  • Allow to cook for at least one hour.
  • Continue to stir periodically and smoosh the figs.
  • Just before spooning the fig jam into glass jars:
  • Pour boiling water into the glass jar and the lids.
  • Remove the boiling water, and immediately spoon in the hot fig jam.
  • Cover each glass jar with the lid, and tighten.
  • Allow to cool.
  • Store in a cool pantry.

fig jam

fig jam

 

Fig Crumble:

  • Prepare fig jam as described above.  I like to add 2 tablespoons of corn starch for this recipe.
  • Crumble mixture:  Add 1 cup of almonds, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup wheat flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 3 dashes of sea salt, 2 tablespoons flax seeds, and grind all in a food processor.
  • Add 3 heaping tablespoons of coconut oil to the crumble mixture, and mix until you form a moist crumble.
  • In your favorite baking dish, spoon in the cooled fig jam.  Cover with moist crumble mixture.
  • Bake at 175 degrees celsius until the crumble mixture is golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.

I like to add extra sea salt to my crumble mixture for the salty sweet flavor that I love so much.

The fig crumble is delicious warm or cold, alone or with vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy.

 

fig crumble...yum!

fig crumble…yum!

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More Kar’eeya, AKA baba ghannouj

My mom arrived to Palestine just in time for the long fasting days of Ramadan. It has been hot, but I dared to turn on the oven to roast a chicken and seasonal vegetables for my mom’s homecoming. I squeezed the long, slender Battiri eggplants alongside the chicken roast in preparation for another meal or snack. In the summer, I try to cook as many meals as I can in one shot when resorting to using the oven.

“I’m going to make baba ghannouj with those roasted egg plants,” I explained to my mom.

My mother replied, “You mean kar’eeya?”

In my mom’s falahee (peasant) vocabulary, all pureed vegetable dips are kar’eeya. The summer zucchini roasted and pureed with garlic, olive oil, lemon and plain yogurt is kar’eeya. And the eggplant roasted and pureed with tahini, garlic, lemon and olive oil is kar’eeya. A fellow hiker questioned the use of the term kar’eeya. Kar’eeya is derived from the root, Kara’, which is pumpkin. So in fact, the summer zucchini puree should be called kus’eeya since summer zuchhini is kusa in Arabic. While the eggplant puree should be called bait enjaniya. Nonetheless, it seems that the fellaheen from my mother’s time refer to them all as kar’eeya. And the city folk use their own terminology referring to the eggplant puree as baba ghannouj.

Kar’eeya (baba ghannouj)
2 large or 4 medium eggplant
1 garlic head
3 tablespoons tahini
juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper for taste

Roast the eggplant and garlic in olive oil and salt in oven at 200 degrees Celsius for one hour. Allow to cool. In a food processor, combine roasted eggplant, roasted garlic (squeeze the garlic out of the skin), and the remaining ingredients. Puree into a smooth dip. Refrigerate. This eggplant puree is great on toast or in a sandwich. You can eat it as a cold summer time side dish. Adjust the tahini and olive oil to your preferred taste.

Do you have a favorite summer time vegetable puree? Please share in the comment section.

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my recent trip to World Heritage Site, Battir

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kar’eeya

Kar’eeya (zucchini spread)

My mom always made kar’eeya every summer when there was an abundance of summer squash. She would sauté the zucchini in a bit of olive oil and salt and blend it with tons of raw garlic. I cringed at the sharp pungent flavor of raw garlic. I realize this must be blasphemy for some foodies out there, but I prefer the softer flavor of garlic after roasting in olive oil and salt.

Here is my version of ker’eeya. I use it as a dip or a side dish. It’s cool and refreshing for Palestine’s hot summer.

Kar’eeya

6 small or 3 medium sized zucchini, sliced in half/length wise

1 head of garlic

3 tablespoons of olive oil

salt for taste

½ cup plain yogurt

Mix first four ingredients in medium pan, cover with foil, and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for approximately one hour. Allow to cool. In your blender or food processor, squeeze the garlic from its skin and add the roasted zucchini and blend. Stir in the plain yogurt. Refrigerate. Eat as a dip or a spread in your sandwich, or as a side dish.

Simple and refreshing.

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caper time again

Its caper-picking season in May and early June in Palestine. Capers grow all over Palestine as a wild and persistent ‘weed’. While you can venture out to the mountainside to forage for capers, you can also find them near by along the roadside coming out of cracks in stonewalls.   Last year, I wrote a piece on wild capers for This Week in Palestine. The link is below:

http://www.thisweekinpalestine.com/details.php?id=4049&ed=220&edid=220

This year, after doing a bit of research online, I have decided to preserve my capers through the salting method instead of the brining method. Rather than tarnish my capers with a brine that will impose a vinegary smell, the salting method will maintain their floral essence.

How to preserve capers by salting:

1. Place your capers in a bowl and cover with water for two days, changing the water each day.

2. Drain the water.

3. Add sea salt to the capers and mix.

4. Allow to sit for 24 hours.

5. Drain any liquid that results from the capers and the sea salt.

6. Add more sea salt to the capers and mix.

7. Allow to sit for 24 hours.

8. Drain liquid.

9. Repeat the salting and the draining of the liquid for one week or until there is no liquid.

10. Place in glass jars and seal.

Capers should be ready to eat in one month.

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backyard chickens – are they worth it?

I’ve had my three baladi Palestinian chickens and one rooster for a few weeks. I’m enjoying getting 5-6 eggs each week. I got 9 eggs the first week. This was easy, right? I feed them twice a day and make sure they have clean water and I get an egg or two on most days. Not a bad deal. The carpenter who built my chicken coop told me to keep the chickens in their coop for a full week. They need to learn that this is their home and their food source, he explained. Otherwise, they may fly away and not come back. Thank God my carpenter is also a fallahee.

After having my chickens for one week plus one day, I decided to let them out. After a few minutes of hesitation, they hopped out and flew over the chicken wire and over my cement wall. I ran after them but they were small and much quicker. They hid under the branches. I was too big to get under those branches. And they flew way up high. I did not know chickens could fly. It took me five hours to get all four birds back into the coop. I caught two during the first two hours. The other two flew away and I thought that I would never see them again. But when I came back at sunset after giving my dog his walk, the two fugitive birds had returned. I found them waiting at their coop wanting to go in and join the other two. I was exhausted but comforted that my chicken family was back together.

Lesson learned – baladi chickens wander off during the day, but they always come home just before sunset. I’ve let my birds out several times after that day, and they have always come back to snuggle in their coop before dark.

So is all this work worth it for a few free-range eggs? Definitely. Eggs produced by free-range (semi-free range in my case) chickens that eat food scraps including vegetables and fruit are delicious. So far, I have eaten the eggs hard-boiled, soft-boiled, poached, and just tonight –fried with the yolk in place.

Poached

The first time I had a poached egg, I was in Lyon, France, the culinary capital of the world. They served a poached egg on top of the salad. As soon as you stick your fork in the egg, the warm creamy yolk pours all over the salad. Poaching an egg is extremely simple. In a small pan, gently crack an egg into boiling water and allow to cook for 2 minutes. I topped my purslane salad with two poached eggs.

Fried

In my cast iron pan, I heated olive oil over low heat and added a cup of chopped chard and kale from my garden. I allowed the greens to cook for a few minutes, stirring periodically. I then cracked two eggs over the greens, mixing the whites, but leaving the yolk in place. I sprinkled sea salt over the yolks. Once the egg whites were cooked, I gently scooped the greens and eggs onto my plate and immediately (while still standing at the kitchen counter) dunk my sour dough toast into the yolk.

Pure bliss!

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