Sunday, January 3, 2010

Exotic New Year's Gifts

Although I'm still shopping primarily at the IGA, this is the time of year when I start to look beyond Main Street for cooking inspiration. Yesterday we finally unwrapped the highly anticipated mail-order Smithfield ham, and served it to friends, who graciously brought exotic food gifts they knew I'd enjoy, including heirloom dried beans from Napa, Vermont maple syrup, vanilla from Mexico, Madagascar, and Tahiti, and dried figs smuggled in a suitcase from the Middle East.

Coincidentally, I had prepared some stuffed dried figs (the idea is from Faith Willinger, although I can no longer find the recipe) as a snack. I can't wait to see how this simple preparation tastes with my New Year's figs:

Anise- and Walnut-Stuffed Figs
Makes 12 Figs

12 dried (but still very moist) Calmyrna figs, tough stems removed
12 walnut pieces
1 teaspoon anise seeds
6 bay leaves

Half each fig from blossom to stem. Press a walnut piece and a few anise seeds into the cut half of each fig and then press the two halves together. When you have stuffed all of the figs, put them in an airtight container, with the bay leaves, for a day or two so they can absorb some Bay flavor and aroma.

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