February's featured vegetable is a fruit. The fig. Specfically, dried figs.
Looking for something to do this weekend? Find what you need in our Weekend Entertainment Guide newsletter.
Growing up, I was not a fan of figs. But then I met my wife, whose parents had a fig tree in their backyard. I ate my first fresh fig, and ... well, I still was not a fan, but I appreciated the difference between moist, fresh figs and denser, darker-flavored dried figs.
And then, on vacation in the Pacific Northwest, I tasted some Canadian-made crackers called Lesley Stowe's Raincoast Crisps. The crackers were twice-baked, like melba toast or biscotti — that is, baked once into a loaf shape, then sliced thinly and baked a second time. They had great flavor, with fresh rosemary and nuts and olives embedded in a crispy-bready matrix.
And they had figs in them.
The odd flavor combination of nuts, olives and figs worked for me. The crisps were perfect snack crackers and picnic food.
I realized, when I began working on this story about preparing figs in a way that would entice kids to try them, I could try to recreate Raincoast Crisps. Kids like crackers and cookies, and these crisps are a hybrid. They taste good on their own, and they go well with other foods — good with cheese and apples or jam and butter.
I looked online for recipe ideas and discovered that I'm not the only one who likes Raincoast Crisps. I read a lot of posts of people who LOVE them. Many people offered recipes.
I settled on a recipe from Julie Van Rosendaal, a food blogger from Calgary, Canada, who publishes recipes under the handle Dinner With Julie. I adapted Van Rosendaal's recipe to my family's gluten-free diet and our flavor preferences.
The recipe produces enough batter for two bread-loaf pans, but I had only one. So I put the batter in greased muffin-tin cups, which produced perfect, round, easily cut-able slices. I recommend the muffin tins.
I used four or five bowls to make this recipe. I lost track after a while. Part of the reason was I divided my batch and made two flavor profiles — apricot-cranberry-cashew crisps in one bowl; and olive-fig-pecan crisps in another. The accompanying recipe details this process.
The first baking makes a dense bread, and, in fact, you can eat it just like that. My wife ate one of my warm "muffins" with butter and pronounced it delicious.
But to make the crisps, slice the muffins or bread loaf very thinly — six to eight slices per inch — and bake the slices a second time. To cut without tearing the bread, freeze it and use a very sharp knife.
These crisps make a classy snack; serve with soft cheeses and fresh fruit.
You'll hardly notice the figs.
Fruit and nut crisps
2 cups flour (see cook's note)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt