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Fig Fest Dessert Recipes and Lecture 2018

Dallas County Master Gardeners Working Fig Fest

We had a great day at the garden on August 7th, out working early, tidying up the plants and helping them through this summer heat, and then inside to learn about the care and feeding of fig trees, a (relatively) easy and delicious plant we can grow out here in north Texas.

“Fig Fest” was the third in our series, “A New Crop of Classes.” Entertaining, informative, inspirational, flavorful and delicious were just some of the comments we heard from those who attended…77 to be exact. Jeff Raska, our Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, shared the biology, history, and how-to’s of growing figs locally, and Lisa Centala shared nutritional information about figs, which are a great source of dietary fiber and vitamins K and A.

Highlights from Jeff’s talk included:

  • Figs: You can love them to death. Figs love poor soil, but keep it well-drained and water consistently. You can even raise the bed a bit when planting with compost and mulch. Don’t add nitrogen – it will cut back fruit production.
  • The flower is inside the fig, and a tiny wasp pollinates it by climbing in and laying eggs
  • Figs are a Mediterranean plant and want no more than 800 chill hours. We are about as far north as we can be and still grow figs, which means the plant may die back in the winter. Allow your fig to have several trunks, and don’t worry if one or all die back – it will come back in the spring. In fact, don’t trim the dead wood away until the leaves come back in spring so you know which branches are really dead.
  • There are two varieties of fig trees: those that are everbearing, and those that bear once a season. Texas Everbearing (or Brown Turkey) will give an early crop in late spring/early summer, and the rest of the fruit will ripen from June through August. Celeste is also a recommended variety for our area, but it’s “one and done.” Celeste gives one crop a season but is a bit more cold-hardy than Texas Everbearing, which is why we chose this variety at Raincatcher’s.
  • Harvest your figs when they’re ripe (they have a little give when you squeeze them), because they won’t ripen off of the tree. And eat them quickly! They’ll start to ferment in just a couple of days.

For more information on cultivating figs, please visit this Aggie Horticulture site.

And, once again, following Jeff’s presentation we savored a fig-inspired lunch that would have kept Adam and Eve in the garden. We hope you enjoy the photos and recipes from a delightful summer class. Congratulations to a new crop of “fig experts!”

Trio of Fig Desserts

Fig and Strawberry Tart

Ingredients

For the Crust

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

½ teaspoon granulated sugar

Salt

1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

¼ to ½ cup ice water

Directions

Make the crust: Pulse flour, granulated sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds.

Drizzle ¼ cup ice water evenly over mixture. Pulse until mixture just begins to hold together (it should not be wet or sticky). If dough is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse. Press dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.

Roll dough to a 14-inch circle (⅛ inch thick) on a floured surface. Fit dough into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch fluted round tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim excess dough flush with edges of pan using a knife. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Prick bottom of tart shell all over with a fork, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove weights, and bake until set, about 5 minutes more. Let cool. Leave oven on.

For the Filling:

¾ cup blanched hazelnuts, toasted

½ cup packed light-brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons Armagnac, or other brandy, such as Cognac

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

8 ounces figs (about 7), trimmed and halved lengthwise

8 ounces strawberries (1 ½ cups), halved if large

Garnish: whipped cream

Make the Filling: Pulse hazelnuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add sugars, zest, and ¼ teaspoon salt; pulse to combine. Add butter, Armagnac, eggs, and vanilla; pulse until mixture is almost smooth.

Spread filling evenly into tart shell. Top with figs and strawberries. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325˚F; bake until set and dark brown on top, about 1 hour more. Garnish with whipped cream.

Lemony Rice Pudding with Figs and Saba

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked long-grain rice

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

7 cups milk

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

½ teaspoon salt

1 vanilla bean, split

1 pint fresh figs, quartered

Saba is an ancient sweetener traditionally made from freshly squeezed grape juice, known as must. It is basically a sweet grape syrup. Order online or purchase at specialty grocers. After opening, refrigerate up to one year.

 

 

Directions

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in first 2 ingredients, and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes; drain.

Return rice to saucepan; stir in milk and next 4 ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes or until thick. Remove vanilla bean. Remove from heat, and transfer to a glass bowl. Let stand 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Cover and chill 8 hours.

Spoon into serving dishes; top each with figs and a drizzle of Saba.

Yield: Makes 10 servings

Fresh Fig Ice Cream

Ingredients

1 (15-ounce) can condensed milk

2 (13-ounce) cans evaporated milk

Juice of ½ lemon

3 pints peeled, fresh figs, mashed

2 cups sugar

Whole milk

Directions

Put all ingredients in freezer container. If the figs are very ripe, you may not need as much sugar as called for. Add whole milk to level freezer calls for to ensure proper freezing. Freeze in a 6-quart freezer according to directions.

Yield: Serves 20

Note: In the dessert picture there is a grilled fig spread with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and a drizzle of honey. No recipe just buy and prepare!

Linda Alexander and Lisa Centala


*Our fourth and final class of 2018 is scheduled for Tuesday, October16th.

Apples, Pears, Persimmons and Pomegranates promises to be a another educationally inspiring class. And following Jeff Raska’s presentation; don’t miss a bountiful lunch buffet filled with seasonal flavors.  Information about the class will be posted on this blog in early September.

Hope you can join us!

Fig Fest Recipes 2018

Figgy Focaccia

Ingredients

1 medium-size red onion

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Coarse sea or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Plain cornmeal

1 pound bakery pizza dough

8 fresh figs, halved

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

Directions

Preheat grill to 350˚F to 400˚F (medium-high) heat. Cut onion into ¾ to 1-inch slices. Brush onion slices with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Grill onion slices, without grill lid, 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until tender and lightly charred.

Preheat oven to 425˚F. Lightly dust work surface with cornmeal. Stretch dough into a 10- to 12-inch oval on work surface. Place dough, cornmeal side down, on a greased baking sheet; drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Rub oil into dough. Arrange fig halves and grilled onion over dough, pressing lightly. Sprinkle with rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.

Bake at 425˚F on lowest oven rack 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.

Spiced Fig Preserves

Spiced Fig Preserves

Ingredients

½ lemon (unpeeled), thickly sliced, seeded

1 ½ pounds fresh ripe figs, halved (about 4 cups)

2 ¼ cups sugar

1 3-inch cinnamon stick

2 ¼ teaspoons mined peeled fresh ginger

⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

Finely chop lemon in processor. Add figs. Using on/off turns, process until figs are coarsely pureed. Transfer mixture to heavy large saucepan. Add sugar, cinnamon stick, minced ginger and cloves. Simmer until mixture thickens to jam consistency and candy thermometer registers 200˚F, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick.

Divide hot preserves among hot clean jars. Cover tightly and refrigerate up to 2 months.

Yield: Makes about 3 ⅓ cups

Orange, Walnut, Gorgonzola and Mixed Greens Salad with Fresh Citrus Vinaigrette

Orange, Walnut, Gorgonzola and Mixed Greens Salad with Fresh Citrus Vinaigrette

Ingredients

¾ cup walnut halves

10 ounces mixed salad greens with arugula

2 large navel oranges, peeled and sectioned

4-5 fresh figs, quartered

½ cup sliced red onion

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup vegetable oil

⅔ cup orange juice

¼ cup white sugar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Directions

Place the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until lightly browned.

In a large bowl, toss the toasted walnuts, salad greens, oranges, and red onion.

In a large jar with a lid, mix the olive oil, vegetable oil, orange juice, sugar, vinegar, mustard, oregano, and pepper. Seal jar, and shake to mix.

Divide the salad greens mixture into individual servings. To serve, sprinkle with Gorgonzola cheese, and drizzle with the dressing mixture.

Fig Fest note: We omitted the gorgonzola when serving the salad at Fig Fest since it was already a topping for the flank steak. Otherwise, it is nice to include in the salad.

Abbe Bolich’s husband, Neil, and grandson grilling flank steak.

Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa

Ingredients

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 garlic cloves, minced

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 (1 ¼ pound) flank steak

3 cups chopped fresh figs

1 green onion, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar

3 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Directions

Stir together first 4 ingredients and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Rub into steak; cover and chill 30 minutes to 4 hours.

Preheat grill to 400˚F to 450˚F (high) heat. Toss together figs, next 3 ingredients, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Grill steak, covered with grill lid, 5 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness. Let stand 5 minutes.

Cut steak diagonally across the grain into thin strips and arrange on a serving platter. Spoon fig salsa over steak and sprinkle with Gorgonzola.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Linda Alexander

Fig Fest Class and Luncheon

Celeste Fig Tree at Raincathcer’s

Fig Fest, Celebrating a Seasonal Delicacy

With their sweet taste and luscious texture, figs can be used in a variety of culinary dishes. From growing to harvest, we’ll give you the information needed to become a fig expert. Join us; class will be indoors and luncheon reservations are still being taken.

Instructor: Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Tuesday, August 7th – 10:00am*

Hosted by Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills located at 11001 Midway Road

Master Gardeners earn one-hour education credit; class is free.

Immediately following Jeff’s presentation, you are invited to join us for lunch. Lunch is by reservation only.

$15 per person

Seating is limited to 48 guests and is by paid reservation only: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/fig-fest-tickets-48093118813

Menu

Figgy Focaccia and Grilled Figs with Thyme Honey

Fig, Arugula and Walnut Salad with Fresh Citrus Vinaigrette

Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa

Lemony Rice Pudding with Figs and Saba

Fig and Strawberry Tart topped with Fresh Fig Ice Cream

Fig Flavored Tea and Water

 

*All Members of the Public Invited

Class and Lunch are indoors at Midway Hills Christian Church and lunch reservation deadline has been extended to Friday, August 3rd.

We ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’

Champanel grapes growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden

He may not have been Marvin Gaye, but our own Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, had us humming along during his presentation on growing grapes.  A bit of Texas history got us started.

Grape cuttings were first brought to Texas by Franciscan Monks to establish a vineyard in the 1660’s, predating California by almost a century.  The first vineyard in Texas was established near present day El Paso and stayed a viable producer until the early 20th century.

And it was a Texan, viticulturist Thomas Volney Munson, who literally saved the European wine industry when he grafted native American grape rootstocks (resistant to the phylloxera-aphid) to standard European grape scions that brought the industry back from the brink of collapse.

Grapes fall into two categories:

Citis vinifera – a European type grape typically used for wine, table and jams that has a high Brix unit ratio and a thin skin.  Recommended varieties for Texas include Champanel, Lomanto, Herbemont and Lake Emerald.

Muscadinia (Vitis) rotundifolia – a grape that is native to the Americas and thrives in more acidic soils. They are naturally resistant to many diseases and their genetic material saved the vinifera species. Recommended varieties include Carlos, Nesbitt, Tara and Triumph.

To grow grapes, take note:

  • Grape vines need well drained soil and a full day of sun.
  • Vineyards should be planted on high ground to help survive late spring frosts.
  • Good fruit production requires consistent pruning.

For more information Jeff recommends, “Growing Grapes in Texas” by Jim Kamas.

We also learned that grape leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals and low in calories. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services lists grape leaves as a healthy choice for your shopping list. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/healthieryou/html/shopping_list.html

Immediately following Jeff’s talk we had the privilege of hearing another special presenter; Toney Davrados. With her rich Greek heritage, culinary skills as a trained chef, and love of gardening and growing her own ingredients, we were mesmerized by her demonstration the art of making dolmas.

Toney’s dolma demonstration

Some helpful tips shared by Toney;

Good dolmas need good leaves. Here’s what to look for; leaves with a smooth underside (hairy or fuzzy leaves are tough and not well-suited for dolmas). You can also purchase grape leaves bottled in brine at a gourmet or international grocery store.

Larger leaves are better – about 4 to 5 inches across. This size makes for easier folding.

Toney folding grapes leaves for dolmas.

Prepare leaves one of two ways:

Immediate use; boil 2 cups water with a heaping tablespoon salt. Toss in leaves for about 2 minutes. (Do no more than 3 or 4 at a time). Leaves are ready as soon as the color changes from bright green to olive green. Remove promptly. Leaves are now ready to use.

Future use: wash leaves, dry thoroughly, cut stems off and stack. Put stacks in zip-lock baggies, press out air and freeze. Wait one month for leaves to ‘cure’ before using.

Hope you enjoy the recipes as much as we enjoyed a delightful lunch experience. A heartfelt thanks to our presenters for sharing your wisdom and expertise. Recipes below.

The grand finale:
Frosted Grapes,
Toney’s Dolmas
(filled with ground sirloin, rice, parsley and special seasonings),
Watermelon and Radish Salad
Yogurt and Berries Dessert Parfait

Click here for Toney’s Dolmas Recipe

Watermelon Radish Salad

Ingredients

6 cups watermelon, cut into bite-sized chunks

2 cups thinly sliced and halved radishes

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

¼ cup chopped basil

¼ cup chopped mint

¼ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (approximately 2 limes)

Directions

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well, serve chilled.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Frosted Grapes

If you’re a grape grower, try this quick and easy summertime refresher as an appetizer or as a light finish to the evening meal.

Ingredients

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup sugar

4 ounces sour cream

2 pounds seedless grapes, red, green or a mixture

Brown sugar (start with about 2 heaping tablespoons)

Chopped nuts (start with about 1 ½ cups)

Directions

Mix cream cheese, sugar and sour cream together until smooth. Toss grapes in mixture until “frosted”. Combine brown sugar and nuts. Roll grapes in mixture until coated. Chill until ready to serve.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Peach and Berry Parfaits

For breakfast or dessert.

Ingredients

12 ounces Greek yogurt

2 cups granola*

1 pint fresh blueberries

4 peaches, peeled and chopped into small pieces

Texas Clover Honey, to taste

Directions

Layer in parfait cups in the following order;

Yogurt, drizzle of honey, granola, peaches, berries. Repeat, as desired.

*For a dessert option, use Fresh Peach Pound Cake (crumbled).

Toney Davrados sells her products:  dolmas, Greek yogurt, spanakopitas and more on Saturday mornings, April through October at the St. Michael’s Farmers Market, 8100 Douglas Avenue. Arrive early as the products sell out quickly.
Lisa Centala and Linda Alexander
Pictures by Starla Willis

 

 

 

 

 

What’s happening at Raincatcher’s?

Lazy days of summer? Not this group! Having just finished our Grazing in the Garden event, next up are two more marvelous learn and eat opportunities. Careful now, the food tickets sell quickly. Lecture is free and no reservations required.  Details below.

Goodness, Gracious, Grape Balls of Fire!

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

Tuesday, July 24th-10am 

10:00am – 11:30am, Under the Shade Pavilion, North Garden

11001 Midway Road, Dallas

Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Growing grapes in Texas is easy to do. Learn the basic steps, and you’ll be ready to start your own grape orchard.

(Master Gardeners earn one-hour education credit)

Following Jeff’s short presentation join us for a special treat.

Toney Davrados, of Yiayia’s will demonstrate the art of making dolmas. Dolmas are thought of as a culinary legacy from the Ottoman Empire. You’ll be transported back to the 1700’s with the savory, flavorful taste of these delightful delicacies.

$10 per person, Limited seating

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/goodness-gracious-grape-balls-of-fire-tickets-48106230029

(Paid reservations required by Friday, July20th)

Menu

Dolmas

(Filled with sirloin, onion, rice, parsley and Toney’s special seasonings)

Watermelon and Radish Salad

Peach and Blueberry Parfaits featuring Yiayia’s Homemade Greek Yogurt

Mint-Infused Iced Tea

 

Fig Fest, Celebrating a Seasonal Delicacy

Instructor: Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

With their sweet taste and luscious texture, figs can be used in a variety of culinary dishes. From growing to harvest, we’ll give you the information needed to become a fig expert. Join us!

Tuesday, August 7th – 10:00am*

Hosted by Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills * 11001 Midway Road

(Master Gardeners earn one-hour education credit)

Immediately following Jeff’s presentation, you are invited to join us for lunch.

$15 per person

Seating is limited to 48 guests and is by paid reservation only: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/fig-fest-tickets-48093118813

Reservation deadline-August 3rd

Menu

Figgy Focaccia and Grilled Figs with Thyme Honey

Fig, Arugula and Walnut Salad with Fresh Citrus Vinaigrette

Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa

Lemony Rice Pudding with Figs and Saba

Fig and Strawberry Tart topped with Fresh Fig Ice Cream

Fig Flavored Tea and Water

*Public Invited to both events!

Questions? Call the help desk- 214 904 3053 or drop us a line in the comment section.

 

 

Summertime!

Color wheel at The Raincatcher’s Garden

Bog sage

Annette, Gail, Kathy and others have turned the color wheel into a spectacular sight. If you haven’t taken time to enjoy the wonder of the north garden, take a walk through it and check out the color wheel (love the bog sage in the blues!), the tomatoes in our tomato trial, and the beautiful flowers in the pollinator garden.

Did you know we harvested 17 pounds of red potatoes and  35 pounds of potatoes June 5th?

Our orchard looks wonderful this year with Champanel grapes in abundance and thriving fruit trees, and those daylilies in the mixed border are blooming like crazy.

Champanel grapes,one of our peaches and harvested potatoes!

Lisa Centala

Pictures by Starla Willis

Wonders of the Garden

Is it true that sometimes good things come in small packages? In this case, yes, except for me it was a box. Waiting on my doorstep was the package clearly marked ‘Please protect from freeze and extreme heat’. With the thermometer quickly climbing to the 100+ mark, heat was the main concern of this precious piece of cargo. Why all the fuss?

In March of this year our Raincatcher’s edible landscape team had just started to install the first green material for our newly redesigned garden. Converting the church’s abandoned children’s playground into a place of tranquility and sensual delight was a challenging task.

It had already been determined that one specific area, a 12’ square to be exact, would be anchored by a stately bay laurel. Surrounding it in grand Victorian style, would be those aromatic jewels of the garden, the fragrantly pleasurable scented geraniums.

Numerous trips to our local garden centers yielded a disappointingly small number, 4 chocolate scented and 8 nutmeg. Call, after call resulted in the same answer; “No”, we don’t have any old-fashioned rose scented geraniums this year. Finally, after one month of searching, the answer we had hoped for came from an internet supplier. “Yes”, we only have 8 left and this is the last of the crop. “I’ll take them”, was my immediate answer!

Carefully opening the box and sifting through layers of slightly dampened newspapers, my eye caught the tip of a jagged little leaf peaking through. And then, there they were in all their Victorian glory, 8 beautiful…happy and ready to be planted in our garden…’Old-Fashioned Rose’ Scented Geraniums. After a moment of delicately crushing and bruising the leaves, my head was filled with their heavenly scent. Yes, of course, it was worth the wait. And, we promise next month to share photos of their progress along with a few recipes using the leaves in some of our favorite baked goodies.  

Scented geraniums to be planted in the edible landscape at The Raincatcher’s Garden.

Note: If you happen to notice more than 8 plants, SURPRISE, I couldn’t resist the temptation when the lady from Georgia taking my order said that she also had 4 peach scented geraniums available. Rubbing their fuzzy little leaves in between my fingers, I caught the gentle scent of a fresh Texas peach. For me, it was a moment of pure summer bliss.

After a night at my house, our precious cargo will go to its new home; the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. Please visit us at 11001 Midway Road. We’re in the garden every Tuesday from 9:00 – 12:00noon tending to our babies.

Linda Alexander

Two events coming up at Raincatcher’s:

Peach Fever-June 26

Edible Landscaping Lecture and nibbles from the edible  garden-June 28

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