Robusto Pita-nini

Makes 4 Pita-ninis

In this summer heat, I’m drawn to the simplest meals.  (Read: the less I have to turn on the stove, the better!)  That often means lots of salads; grain, bean, green, etc.  Sometimes the salad sneaks itself into sandwiches, or this case a pita-nini.  My family spent a lot of time living in the Middle East (my grandfather worked for the United Nations) so the pita became a staple in our home.  It seems more manageable to me than chunky slices of bread which seem more suitable to the colder months.  In any case, thinking about the fig spread in the fridge brought about this experiment.

There are 3 stars in this show:  the fig, the robusto* and the arugula.  I’d like to concentrate on the dark leafy green that is also known as rocket.  It’s one of my favorite of the cruciferious veg (if you stick around long enough you may find I say this often) and in early summer it’s positively addicting.  Cruciferous vegetables are widely known anti-carcinogens.  Their potent phytonutrients help the enzymes that “ward off carcinogens and other outside invaders, inhibit cancer formation, detoxify carcinogens and protect against colorectal, stomach and respiratory cancers”.¹  Like other dark leafy greens, arugula is an excellent source of calcium, iron, copper, magnesium and anti-oxidant vitamins A and C.  They are also wonderfully endowed with the B-vitamins, especially folate.  And, let’s not forget fiber.  There’s plenty of it here!

What’s amazing about a food that is so nutritious is that it is bursting with delicious flavor!  It’s peppery and spicy even.  It’s amazing raw in salads, in sandwiches, in pesto (move over basil!) or, when cooler days arrive, cooked in stir-frys and soups.  However you choose to incorporate arugula into your diet, your body will be thankful as will your palate.  Love it when everyone is happy!

You’ll need:

4 large whole wheat pitas

1/2 C fig spread

4 large handfuls of arugula (Of course, you judge how much is good for you.  I always overdo it when it comes to fresh greens!)

sliced robusto cheese (Again, how much is up to you…I went light with the cheese because it’s packed with flavor and a little goes a long way.)

butter or olive oil for grilling

To make:

1. Cut off about 1″ off the top of the pita and open the pocket.

2. Spread 2 T (approx) onto bottom half of pita then top with arugula and cheese.

3. If using an actual grill (lucky), brush some olive oil on each side of pita bread and place on grill (medium heat) with a plate or pan on top to hold it down.  If using a sauté pan (medium heat), do the same or use butter.  Each side will take about 4 minutes or until bread is crispy and cheese is melted.  Lastly, if you have a panini maker, put it to good use with this yummy pita-nini!

4. Serve warm.

5. Enjoy!!!

*Robusto – I ran into this cheese not quite sure what I was looking for.  I should say then that the cheese found me because once I tasted it, I knew it had the right amount of sharpness with soft edges for this pita-nini.  It’s a bit sharper and harder than a gouda.  Super yummy though!

¹ Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

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Fig Spread

Makes 1 C

Figs are one of those fruits that evoke a sense of mystery.  Its very shape, the thread like center surrounded by hundreds of seeds in the cavity, is unlike anything else.  They’re chewy (flesh), crunchy (seeds), and smooth (skin) making them a culinary delight to play with.  They are also succulent, juicy and delightfully sweet.  Figs are known to be delicacies in their own right.

Figs have been found in myths throughout the world.  There are images of the fig tree in the Garden of Eden and it has associations with Dionysus (Bacchus for the Romans), and Priapus, a satyr associated with sexual desire.  But my favorite comes from India.  According to Buddhist legend, Siddhartha Gautama (or the Buddha!) achieved enlightenment while sitting under the bodhi (bo is a type of fig) tree.¹  I can just picture it.  That was back in 528 B.C.

What can figs do for us today?  Dried figs (what’s used in this recipe) have more dietary fiber than prunes.  Remember that fiber benefits our gut (improves digestion) and our colon.  It also makes us feel fuller so we are less likely to overeat.  According to Rebecca Wood, dried figs are higher in calcium, “ounce for ounce” than cow’s milk.²  They are also high in protein, iron (for red blood cell formation), copper (necessary for production of red blood cells), potassium (vital component of cell and body fluids that help control heart rate and blood pressure) and phosphorous (works closely with calcium for strong bone development).*  And apparently, they are also helpful to those on that inward journey.  Would anyone like some enlightenment with their figs?

What to do with this jar of bliss?  Spread it on a piece of millet toast with some cultured butter, put a dollop on your granola or in your yogurt and top with nuts or get creative and let me know what you come up with!

Namaste fellow gourmands.

You’ll need:

1 C dried figs, chopped (I used about 9 Turkish figs)

1 C water

1 T fresh squeezed lemon juice

Pinch of sea salt

To make:

1. Place figs and water in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until they reach a simmer (light bubbling), then reduce heat to low and cook until water is almost completely evaporated.  (You still want a tiny bit of liquid…it will be thick like a reduction.)

2. Once the figs have cooled, place them and the lemon juice and salt in a food processor and process until smooth.

3. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.  It will keep for 7-10 days.  (Though I’ve used it after 2 weeks with no problem;)

4. Enjoy!

¹ http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Fi-Go/Fruit-in-Mythology.html#b

² Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

* http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/fig-fruit.html