Fig Balsamic Salad Dressing

My personal fig story

Black figsThe fig is an enigma to me, and I can only make dumb guesses as to why they are.  I don’t remember ever tasting a fig except in the Fig Newton cookies that I loved as a kid.  I seem to recall my cousins had a small fig tree in their back yard, but I don’t ever remember seeing any fruit on it.  Maybe, we just visited there during the off-season, I don’t know.

It turns out, however, that they are a prominently grown in my native state of Texas, and apparently, are very easy to grow.  They just never FIGured into our diets for some reason…”ugh” with the stupid puns!  That one just sorta caught my eye and was not a planned pun.

A few years ago I was working with a man who grew figs in his backyard.  He was from Jordan, and he had kept clippings of his original fig trees to take with him everywhere he had lived since leaving Jordan.  One day, while I was working on some construction estimates, he tapped me on the shoulder and presented a very large bowl to me, and asked me to try one.  I said, “what is it?”  He said, “feegs,” or, at least, that’s what it sounded like.  I asked, “Feegs?  What are they?”  “Feegs, just try one, they won’t hurt you!”  I’ll never forget how that first fig led to many others that day, and seeing the smile on his face when he shared them with everyone at the office.

The lesson I learned from that, among others, is that figs don’t grow in cookies.  They grow from a plant!  “If that don’t beat all!?”

Selecting the ingredients

cashewsSo, in my quest to create a dozen or so salad dressings that conform to the Eat To Live nutritional plan, I have made and written about a few of them that are tofu-based.  Needing some variety, I needed another medium for getting the taste variety I needed.  I’ve had this one in mind for a few days, and I’m perfectly satisfied with the results.

Needing something with oils, without adding any “cheat oils” from a bottle, I needed some kind of nut that is oil-rich in all the good ways.  So, I bought some raw cashews for this recipe am very happy with the flavor and consistency they bring.

To get the acidic flavor I wanted, I went with a rich, sweet balsamic vinegar, and it was the perfect choice for the flavor I was searching for.

Fig Balsamic Salad Dressing

Fig Balsamic Salad DressingIngredients:

6 black figs, diced
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, finely ground
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup whole chia seeds
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk

Use a food processor or a nut chopper to grind the cashews, getting them as finely ground as possible so that the oils are released.  Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend to puree.  Chill and serve

Makes about 3 cups.

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Cucumber love

I can tell when I’m deeply into a veggie crave when I am enjoying some vegetables that used to be on my “meh” list.  Such is the cucumber.

I shop at five stores locally that have excellent produce departments, and at this time of year, there is an abundance of cucumbers!  Of course, the very hot weather in Texas (100 degrees today in our area) lends itself to cool cucumbers.  They are the perfect veggie to eat with a salad or just one slice at a time, plain Jane!

At Costco recently I was enjoying looking at the fresh veggies in the walk-in cooler and I found these long English cucumber, packaged in three’s.  I have been known to eat these a slice at a time until they’re gone, way back during my first experience with eating a vegan diet.  They are a little milder than the local cucumbers that grow in all the gardens.  They have a thinner skin and a truly elegant, smooth flavor.  This brand is Artisun Farms.

Artisun Farms Cucumbers

Wanting to store these quickly without eating them all at once, I decided to cut them into bite-size pieces and store them in a mason jar in a vinegar solution.  I had just bought a new bottle of Coconut Secret raw coconut vinegar from Sprouts, so I decided to use it.  This vinegar is slightly sweet in flavor, and yet gives a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10 in “pucker power.”  It is a very nice choice for the cucumber jar.

Coconut Secret Raw Coconut Vinegar

This time, I cut the cucumber in 1/4 inch slices, and then quartered each slice so that more of the cucumber’s soft inner portion would be exposed immediately to the vinegar solution.  I knew I would go through these quickly in my lunches and salads, and I didn’t want to wait long for this extremely pleasurable flavor enhancement to do its thing.

Sliced and quartered cucumbers

Cucumbers ready-to-eat

After making all the cuts, I placed all the pieces into a quart-size jar.  An afterthought occurred to me today that I could have added a couple of fresh tomatoes in the mix, and it would be a wonderful addition.  (Make a note of this for next time!)  Then with all the cucumber pieces in the jar, I filled half the remaining space in the jar with the vinegar, and then covered the remaining pieces with water.  I added a teaspoon of dried dill weed, but you could also add any spice of your liking.  It would also taste great with fresh garlic and onion pieces.  Again, next time.

So, I have the cucumber love this summer during these dog days of stifling heat and cucumber abundance in the local markets.

Tangy Tofu Raspberry Apricot Dressing

I just finished last week’s batch of Sweet Tofu Salad Dressing and decided to jazz it up a little bit with some tangy berries and more vinegar.  This is sweet, but it has a little more “pucker” in it.

tangytofuTANGY TOFU RASPBERRY APRICOT DRESSING

Ingredients:

1 16 oz package of silken organic tofu
1 cup fresh organic raspberries
3 fresh apricots, sliced
1/2 cup fruit vinegar, (I used this dates vinegar from Durra.)
1/2 cup ground sunflower seeds

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients into a blender and puree. Keep refrigerated.  Makes about 28 oz.

An extreme tangy tomato treat

For an extreme taste of tangy tomatoes, I found a couple of items that will forever remain in my pantry or refrigerator.

tom pasteThe Sadaf tomato paste, made in Turkey, features a “no salt added” variety that is rich in flavor and has no added ingredients.  It is great for a tomato-based salad dressing, and I use it in everything that calls for tomato flavoring when I don’t have any of my homemade Fresh Tomato Sauce on hand.Durra dates vinegar

With two big tablespoons of tomato paste, I add this very special vinegar from Durra, a Syrian company.  It is made from 100% raw organic dates and is diluted to 5% acidity.  I use as much as I need to get the tanginess I’m looking for, about 1/4 cup with the two tablespoons of paste.

This morning, when I was looking for a quick snack, knowing I wasn’t going to be able to stop and eat until late in the afternoon, I combined these two ingredients with some raw ground sunflower seeds, and ate them on some raw collard greens.

FYI, the tomato paste can be purchased at the link I provided.  The vinegar is a little harder to find.  I found both these products at the Halal Import Foods market in Arlington, Texas.  I would think most Middle Eastern food markets would have them, if you can’t find them online.  The cost compares well to domestic products, if not cheaper than many.