My recipe this week features figs, a classic seasonal delight as we head into the Water Element of the new year. This fruit originates in Asia Minor and is believed to be one of the first domesticated fruit trees. As it spread around the world, many societies have appreciated this fruit for both its succulent sweetness and medicinal benefits.
From a Chinese dietary perspective, figs probably came to China via the Silk Road around 700 A.D. According to Chinese medicine, figs are “sweet” and “cool.” They can “clear heat, generate fluids, open the stomach, and detoxify.” They are great for the throat, soothing a sore throat, easing a dry cough, or relieving a hoarse voice. Moreover, they aid the digestive tract, whetting the appetite, relieving constipation, and reducing diarrhea or dysentery-like symptoms. Lastly, they are used to treat boils and other skin infections.
In the recipe below, I've included ricotta cheese which those who have followed our Middle Burner Diet closely, will recognize the potential dampness that this could create. But those with a discerning eye (and a knack for exception flavor combinations) will note my inclusion of black pepper and basil to warm the stomach and support digestion. Chinese dietary therapy with a desire for an exceptional dining experience at its finest...
A Classic Culinary Technique for Digestive Strength
Amazing flavors abound as we pair the sweet richness of fresh figs with the salty flavors of pancetta. The grill adds a welcomed smokiness and the ricotta is balanced nicely with the honey, basil and black pepper, while a splash of balsamic lends a tangy accent to it all.
Slightly grilling or roasting the figs helps to begin to breakdown the fruit thereby making it easier to digest per our "middle burner". The digestive “fire” of the spleen-pancreas is extinguished by an excess of raw food, including too many raw fruits, vegetables, sprouts and juices, which cause a thin, watery mucus or dampness.
The appropriate amount of raw food depends on the strength and condition of the individual, the climate and the person’s level of overall activity in life. Robust and overheated people usually benefit from an increased intake of raw foods, warm climate and greater physical activity also increase one’s ability to tolerate raw food in the diet.
As always, if you are a person with a sensitive digestive system and you eat lots of raw foods, perhaps you may want to try slightly cooking your vegetables and fruits and see if you notice a difference.
Grilled Fig, Pancetta & Ricotta Crostini with Accents of Honey, Basil and Black Pepper
Serving size: About 6
Prep Time / Cook Time: 10 minutes / 20 minutes
- 3 Fresh Figs
- ½ Cup Ricotta Cheese
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Honey
- 3 Slices Pancetta
- 3-4 Leaves Basil (Fresh)
- 1 Teaspoon Aged Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 ½ Teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sea Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Slice baguette on the bias a bit more than ¼ inch, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and lightly grill both sides.
Slice figs in half and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and grill both sides.
Have your butcher slice pancetta around the 9-10 mark on the slicer, place individual slices on parchment paper and bake until it just starts to get crunchy (like bacon) and allow to cool.
Add honey, olive oil, black pepper and basil to fresh ricotta and mix together.
Begin assembling by placing a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture on a grilled baguette slice. Top with a grilled fig and a piece of crispy pancetta. Move a few of these to a plate and finish with a drizzle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chiffonade of basil and fresh cracked black pepper.
Chinese medicine theory recognizes many herbs which also strengthen digestion: read about one of them here.