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Figs, for far too long, were a kind of fruit I knew only as the filling in a certain brand of cookies. It wasn't until just a few years ago that I encountered the fresh variety and wondered where these sweet beauties had been all my life.
Where it grows
Referenced in the Bible (Remember what kind of leaves Adam and Eve covered themselves with?), the Quran and Greek mythology, this ancient Middle Eastern fruit grows on trees around Richmond, although California produces 98 percent of the figs in the United States. The world's top producers are Turkey and Egypt.
No guilty pleasure
Figs are high in fiber and calcium, as well as potassium and manganese. Research published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that fiber in fruit (including figs) can play a role in preventing breast cancer among post-menopausal women.
Grilled Chicken with Fig-Hot Pepper Chutney
Samuel Baker, daytime chef at Hermitage Grill and on-site chef for South of the James Market, contributed this recipe as an example of the cooking he does at the market on Saturday mornings. Baker creates dishes on the spot, using a butane burner and ingredients available that day. To find out more, check vegologyblog.com , where Lauren McDonald is chronicling his cooking demos. Baker also plans to release a cookbook with his recipes at the end of the farmers market season. Ingredients are listed with his suggested market vendor sources.
1 whole free-range chicken, cut into parts (Empress Farm)
1/2 jar of fig jam (Simply Savory)
3 fresh figs (Agriberry CSA Farm)
1/2 large white onion, finely chopped (Walnut Hill Farm)
1 bird's eye or Thai chile (The Village Garden)
1/2 clove of fresh garlic, minced (Victory Farms)
1/2 cup (approximately) of Muscat Canelli vinegar (Bombolini Pasta)
Small amount of fresh kale (Norma's Produce)
Water as needed
In a hot sauté pan with a silver-dollar-size amount of blended oil (Baker uses 80 percent canola and 20 percent olive oil), sauté the onions, peppers and garlic over high heat until the onion is soft and translucent.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the fig jam, vinegar and water. This should start out a little thin, but not watery. Add the sauté mixture from the previous pan. Reduce the liquid over medium heat, stirring frequently until thick.
Coat the chicken with the chutney/glaze and grill until it's cooked through, saving some of the glaze to baste the chicken during the grilling process.
Garnish with a kale chiffonade and pan-seared figs: For the kale, cut it into thin strips and sauté in hot oil until crisp. For the figs, cut them in half vertically, and sear the cut edge in a hot pan with a little oil until caramelized.
Serve the chicken with grilled sweet corn and a mixed green salad with fresh berries and melon.