We grew up eating dried fruit and nuts for dessert. The nuts were in their shells, and were left out on the dining room table with a nutcracker on top. I am sure my mother bought them that way because she thought they were fresher, but the unintentional result was that you actually needed to sit around the table to shell them. Pieces of shell would fly as I tried to crack walnuts, filberts, and almonds on my own. The walnuts were the most challenging, hard to crack because of the uneven shell, and prying out the walnut meat was a delicate and time-consuming task in itself. I was impatient and my father would take over, proud when he was able to remove a walnut half intact. The dried fruit was typically dates, or figs imported from Greece, pierced and on a string.
On my first trip to Israel I went to Kfar Meishar to visit family friends. The Unterstein’s had a pecan orchard and so once again I found myself sitting around a table and shelling nuts. Tonight is Tu Bishvat and that makes me think of Israel, and because it is also Shabbat, we planned a menu around this New Year of the Trees. We have chicken with figs, olive oil cake, dried fruit, and walnuts still in their shell, with my parents’ nutcracker on top. I can’t wait to see if anyone will even be tempted to use it, other than myself.
Roast Chicken with Figs
2 chickens cut in eighths
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 /2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 cloves of garlic
1 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper
Combine in food processor and marinade chicken for several hours or overnight.
1 1/2 cups figs, sliced in half, or dried fruit of your choice.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove chicken from marinade and place in roasting pan. Scatter figs and pour 1 cup of the marinade over the top. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, basting and adding marinade as needed. Serves 8-10