Portuguese Figos Recheados

figos recheados

This is the third and last of my Portuguese recipes for this great ethnic meal; I, however, serve this candy/fruit figos recheados with many other meals as well.

When I entertain, I always serve homemade candies along with the dessert.  Usually these are my Peruvian bolitos de chocolat y coco (see 2016/11/28) and the treasured national candy of India barfi; this recipe will follow in the future.  Lately, however, Portuguese figos recheados (figs stuffed with chocolate and almonds) are the final inspiration at my dinners.  Such was the recent case with my beloved missionary friends Val and Waffle Lomilo.  I take a tangent today into their world, so we can learn better to eat with reverence.

My relationship with Val goes back 22 years.  Our mutual friend Kelly, who now resides in heaven, introduced us to each other in 1995, over slides in her basement of Val’s mission work in Uganda.   My heart had just been softened, by my asking Jesus to live in it; thus, my supple emotions were mesmerized by this people and especially their food.

I learned that the meager diet of these poorest of poor, which are in my friends’ arid, mission region, consists primarily of foraged herbs and a bitter fruit with its nut, which is boiled three times to make it palatable; garden vegetables are available only as the frequent droughts allow; maize (cooked corn mush) and beans are also a luxury, which they can’t always afford.

The diet of the wealthier, in Uganda’s more lush areas, has a greater amount of organic garden vegetables, along with such fruits as mangoes and papayas, and ample beans and maize.  Also to my delight, it includes the ceremonial slaughter of a chicken for honored guests.

This nourishment of these better-off is simple and pure, making it healthier than ours with all our fast foods and altered ingredients, such as added hormones in meat/dairy products, foods with GMO’s, etc.  (Note: in this poor country genetically moderated organisms being added to their crops is just now becoming a controversy; they have already lifted the ban for GMO’s in the banana crop, due to its recent huge failure.)

In America food is so available that obesity is a major problem.  Our countrymen are often thrilled with weight loss when they visit Africa.  On the other hand, Africans are overjoyed with the compliment ‘you look so fat’, and gratitude is expressed after a meal with ‘thank you for increasing my volume’.

At present there is a famine in Uganda’s arid region, which hurts the children and elderly the most.  We in this country can’t comprehend such food shortage and its effect on the human spirit.  According to my friends, it produces a sense of deep community, in those that withstand it, as they share each other’s pain.   These humble people know the true meaning of God’s grace that keeps them alive in stark adversity.

Waffle and Val, who experience a heart for the broken, feed these hungry souls the word of God, which is also known as the bread of life.  This proven substance, in turn, can provide them with answers to their natural needs, for this is what our gracious Father does best.

We are grateful for our vast provision here in America, as we strive to honor our bodies with healthy eating.  At the same time, our faithful prayers move mountains as we intercede for those less-fortunate.

Now, may we take courage to experience moderate, joy-filled pleasure in this incredible dessert: be blessed by these simple figos recheados, the last recipe in my Portuguese series.

shaving chocolate

figs ready for baking

Figos Recheados (dried figs stuffed with almonds and chocolate)  Yields: 12 large stuffed figs.  Total prep time: 35 min.

Note: these are best served hot, but they are also great at either room temperature or cold.

 

 

1/4 cup almonds, plus 12 extra almonds (18 extra almonds will be needed for topping smaller figs, such as mission figs.)

12 large figs   (Turkish figs are best for size and quality; 18 figs will be needed, if using the smaller mission fig.)

1/2 ounce (1/2 square) semi-sweet chocolate, finely grated

  1. For hot figs at the end of a meal, do steps 2-9 ahead; then, set aside.  Twenty minutes before serving, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake as directed in step 10-11.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Place almonds on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes in middle of oven; go to next step.
  4. With a sharp knife, finely grate the chocolate, place in a small bowl, set aside (see photo above).
  5. Cut off stems of figs; make a careful, but deep, indentation in the opening of each with the tip of your finger; set aside.
  6. After nuts are toasted, remove from oven, and take off pan to cool quickly.  Set aside 12 almonds (18 for smaller figs) and pulverize the other 1/4 cup in a food processor, by repeatedly touching the pulse button.  (May use a blender or Vita Mix.)
  7. Add almond meal to grated chocolate; mix well.
  8. Using a spoon and your finger, press this mixture in the hollow of each of the figs; pinch openings together firmly (see above photo).  Place stuffed figs, stem side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  9. Bake in middle of an oven, preheated to 350 degrees, for 5 minutes; then, turn figs upside down and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  10. Gently, but firmly, press a whole toasted almond in top of each hot fig.
  11. May keep leftovers in refrigerator for future use  (cold figs are also excellent).

Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco

Bolitos de chocolat y coco

bolitos de chocolat y coco

1985 was a big year for me, for I traveled to Peru-from whence this recipe is derived-that summer to study food, while later in September I went to Paris, with the intent of moving my business there. (Read more about my time in France in Balsamic Vinaigrette, 2016/08/22.)

My jocund days in Peru were filled with the warm blazing sun, but nights were very cold, as July brings winter to this nation in the southern hemisphere.

Machu Picchu met my love for mountains in a grand way.  The ancient trail leading to these ruins made for an arduous climb; we got off the train and labored, with copious sweat, for hours to complete its last leg.  What a memorable day!

My far-reaching, historical catering business was three years old during my time in South America, in the 1980’s, and my mind was a sponge for details about food. While there, every morsel that went into my mouth came out as a comment in my journal.  Most of this keen eating took place in inexpensive cafes, where chickens were always roasting on open hearths.  The better of these humble restaurants had guinea pig and Cebiche, raw white fish “cooked” in lemon juice.  Street vendors’ food also provided me with rich information, but my greatest joy was the private dinner invitations I received, to both rich and poor homes.  Note: there are only these two classes there.

Karen, my then neighbor in Billings, Montana, and her Peruvian boyfriend inspired me to make this colorful sojourn.  Indeed Chino’s family blessed my trip: I may not be alive today, but for them, as great trauma occurred for me in this country. Fortunately for me, his family was extremely influential; for instance, his second cousin was president during my visit.  (This man was ousted a number of days after I left; Chino’s brother-in-law was murdered by terrorists several months later.)

My trouble came when I and my traveling companion, a longtime friend from Paris, let down our guards.  We always covered each other’s backs in the marketplace, as robbery is ever-present in this poor nation; we, however, went our separate ways one day in Cusco.  On my own, I was mesmerized by the wide array of vendor’s goods: blankets on the ground displayed raw meats, brightly dressed women loudly announced their vibrant vegetables, modest pots and pans were set up elsewhere.  Stopping I indulged in a delicious, doughnut-like pastry; next, I reached for my funds to buy freshly squeezed orange juice.  My wallet was gone!

Absolutely everything of importance was in it: my passport, money, travelers’ checks, credit cards, and return ticket home.  This unseasoned traveler was without identity and provision in a volatile place.

God’s grace got me to my homeland safely through a multitude of miracles. The last of these happened just hours before my plane’s departure, for the president of Aero Peru, a friend of Chino’s family, reinstated my plane ticket at this critical moment.

Even before I experienced this culture, my repertoire of catered meals included a Peruvian dinner. The background for this authentic repast came from a cook book, from that country, shared by Chino’s girlfriend; nevertheless, this account was strictly for the upper class.  For hors d’ouvres at these events, I used the youth’s favored dish Ocopa-chunks of boiled, bland purple potatoes, topped with cheese, walnuts, mild chiles, and eggs. The main course boasted of Aji de Gallina, an incredible walnut chicken. Dessert was Suspiro Limeno, a light, airy custard; the feast ended with Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco.  To this day, these chocolate/coconut balls are the finishing touch at ever meal I host.

Chocolate has an interesting history.  Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez introduced cocao beans to Europe in 1528, when he returned from “New Spain”.  There the Aztecs mixed cocao paste with spices to make a thick drink.  In their convent at Oaxaca, creative Spanish nuns added sugar, which made this chocolate beverage even more palatable.  1

Chocolate was highly prized then and still is today; these superb, truffle-like candies-a rich man’s food in Peru-will please any chocolate lover.  This recipe is simple and foolproof; don’t miss this delectable treat.

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p. 89.
Making bolitos de chocolat y coco

chocolate after stirring in coconut

Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco (Peruvian chocolate/coconut balls)  Yields: about 6 dozen balls. Total prep time: 45 min.

12 oz unsweetened chocolate  (Baker’s works well.)

1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk  (It’s important to use Borden’s Eagle Brand.)

2 tsp butter

2 c unsweetened fine-flake coconut  (Available in bulk at our local Winco and other supermarkets.)

  1. Break chocolate into pieces in a medium-size, heavy-bottom saucepan.
  2. Add butter, melt slowly over low heat.  Watch carefully, so as not to burn.
  3. Meanwhile open the can of milk and place 1/2 c of coconut in a measuring cup.  Set aside.
  4. When chocolate is completely melted, quickly add condensed milk.
  5. Stir over low heat for about 30 seconds; it will start forming a soft ball. Toward the end of the 30 seconds, stir in the coconut.  Do not overcook, or chocolate will be dry.  Immediately remove from heat after these 30 seconds; continue to stir vigorously until soft ball is formed all the way.  See photo.
  6. Cool just enough for handling.
  7. Place 1/2 c of coconut in a small bowl.  (You will add more coconut to the dish as needed.)  Form small balls of chocolate and roll in coconut, placing them in an 8×8 inch pan.
  8. Chill chocolate for several hours; then, transfer balls to a freezer-storage bag.  These will keep for a very long time, if you double the bag for long-term freezing.
  9. Excellent chocolate, so easy, absolutely foolproof.

 

Cocoa Bread from 1920’s Portland, Oregon

Roaring twenties' cocoa bread

‘roaring twenties’ cocoa bread and fresh rosemary loaf

The spell-binding Cupid’s Book was a cookbook published twice in this city of roses in the 1920’s.  The downtown retailers enticed the brides-to-be into their shops with colorful advertisements, bountiful recipes, and good instructions on how to be a wife in these two editions.

The recipe for cocoa bread is the best of this collection.  It is a slice of heaven!  Unsweetened cocoa powder lends a flavor to this yeast loaf that makes one think of pumpernickel, with the first bite.  Hints of chocolate surface as one experiences it further.

I discovered this blessing, while I was researching at the Oregon History Center’s excellent library, during my graduate work.  1991 marked the completion of  my Master’s Degree, at which point I had exhausted every inkling to food in this archive.  My 114 page thesis, which they have on file,  closely documents the library’s details on nutrition.  It was here that I found the two romantic cook books appropriately named Cupid’s Book.

Bread is the staff of life!  It sustains one’s soul when made with love from scratch.  I grind the flour for all my bread from organic hard red spring wheat berries.  My understanding is these-of all the wheat berries-have the highest content of protein.  One serving has 7 grams of this compound, the same as an egg.

The superb quality of the freshly ground flour allows the bread to last for up to six weeks in the refrigerator.  It is, however, necessary to wrap it in paper towel to absorb the moisture, which keeps it from molding; always store the bread in an air tight storage bag.  Toasting it brings out optimum freshness.

Making bread with a food processor is quick and mess-free.  I encourage you to venture out using my technique; learning this will bless you with easy, homemade bread forever.

Be nourished by the baking and eating of this luscious loaf!

bread dough in food processor

bread dough after kneading twice in processor

Cocoa Bread  This is adapted from a recipe in Cupid’s Book (Portland, Oregon: Oregon History Center, 1921, 1925). Yields: 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 3 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/ inactive prep time: 2 hr/  baking time: 30 min.

1/4 c tepid water (Temperature should be 105-115 degrees.)

1  individual package active dry yeast  (May use 3 level tsp of Red Star Active Dry Yeast, available in a 2 lb package at Costco, which keeps well sealed in the freezer.  Yeast is best at room temperature for proofing.)

1/3 c, plus 1/4 tsp sugar  (Organic cane sugar is ideal; available at Trader Joe’s in 2 lb package, or less expensive at Costco in 10 lb package.)

2 1/2 c whole wheat flour  (Bob’s Red Mill flour is high quality.)

1 1/2 c unbleached white flour  (You may grind 2 2/3 c organic hard red spring wheat berries to make the total 4 c of flour.)

1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

1 1/4-1 1/2 c tepid milk, 110-115 degrees  (May use alternative milks, such as hazelnut or almond.)

3 tbsp oil  (Any kind of oil will do, for oiling the inside of a 13-gallon plastic bag.)

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best.)

  1. Dissolve yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar in 1/4 cup water.  Let sit until it foams, looks creamy, and is nearly doubled in size, about 10 minutes.
  2. In an 11-c-or-larger food processor, blend well the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.
  3. dough after first kneading of 35 seconds

    Add yeast mixture and 1 1/2 c milk to flour mixture (only 1 1/4 c milk will be needed, however, if grinding your own flour, as the grind is coarser and doesn’t absorb as much liquid.)  Knead for 35 seconds, see photo.

  4. Let rest for 4 minutes; then, knead one more time for 35 seconds (see photo at top of recipe). Note: processing dough will heat it and kill the yeast if cooling isn’t allowed.
  5. dough after kneading by hand

    Take out and knead by hand for about 8 minutes, or until satiny smooth (see photo).  This process is relatively foolproof, but if dough is too wet and sticky, add flour to board to facilitate kneading; it helps to wash hands, if dough is sticking to them.  Dough should be firm, elastic, and smooth to the touch after kneading.  If, however, it is too stiff to knead easily, place in machine, and knead in 1 tbsp water.  Repeat this last step, if needed, until severe stiffness is gone, it is flexible, and kneading by hand is facile, carefully resting dough as not to overheat.  It should be firm and satiny smooth when finished kneading by hand.

  6. Place in a 13-gallon plastic bag, in which several  tbsp of oil are evenly distributed. Let rise in a warm place for 60 minutes, or until double.  (Only if you’re grinding your own flour, punch dough down and allow to rise an additional 30 minutes. for lighter bread with coarser freshly ground flour.)
  7. Punch down and form into a loaf.  Place in a bread pan sprayed with oil; loosely drape a piece of plastic wrap also sprayed with oil over loaf.
  8. Let rise 50-60 minutes, or until double.
  9. Important: 30 minutes into the last rising process preheat oven to 400 degrees; this insures oven is ready when bread has fully risen.
  10. Remove plastic wrap when loaf is double.  Bake for 27-30 minutes, or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  11. Cool on rack.  Enjoy!