Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Food Desert Project - Bagels with Fig Jam and Labneh


For some time, I'd been looking for a way to get dried figs into this project: figs, one of the earliest cultivated foods, are a nutrition powerhouse.  Ounce per ounce, they have more calcium than milk, more potassium than a banana, and one fig has more fiber than one slice of whole-wheat bread.

Many people have an issue with the texture of dried figs: they can be a bit leathery, and the seeds are a crunchy contrast to the outside.  Making them into a jam softens the leathery exterior and allows the crunchy nature to come through.  Traditionally, fig jams - which are often savory - are combined with tangy goat cheese to offset their natural sweetness.  We've already discussed bagels in an earlier post, but since I don't expect to find goat products in the food desert, I needed to improvise, we will be topping our bagels with fig jam and yogurt cheese, also called Labneh.

001Labneh is extremely simple.  If you have ever tasted a Greek-style yogurt, you are already halfway there: Greek yogurt is just strained plain yogurt, and Labneh is just strained until the yogurt is nearly a solid.  To make Labneh, line a cup with a coffee filter attached around the rim with a rubber band so that the filter doesn't touch the bottom.  Place plain, fat-free yogurt in the coffee filter, put it in your refrigerator at least overnight (you may want to wait 36 hours if you're using regular yogurt.)  

002 Next, coarsely chop your dried figs until you have about 1 cup.  Put these into a saucepan and add orange juice until the figs are completely submerged.  Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook on low for half an hour, adding juice as needed to keep the figs covered.  Remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium, and allow the liquid to reduce to a syrupy texture.  Remove from heat, pour into a container and put in the refrigerator overnight.

002 Remove your coffee filter and cheese from the cup (save the liquid whey that remains!  It still has good nutrition; add it to smoothies or replace water with whey in your baking,) unwrap the cheese and serve as you would cream cheese - it's nonfat but lighter in texture than cream cheese, tangy but not sour.

Your figs should have absorbed most of the orange juice at this point.  Put your soft, orange-y figs in a food chopper or blender and pulse until you can't see the cut pieces; you should have a thick, chunky paste.  Spread the fig jam on your bagel, top with the Labneh and enjoy!  Nutritional information (topping only)


Sue said...

sounds very easy and tasty. I think I may be able to do that!

Michele Hays said...

Thanks very much - it is, both! Enjoy!

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