The ancient art of fruit drying
In the late summer months, when the hot Mediterranean sun has scorched most of southern Spain, a wonderfully sweet surprise begins to bloom. Thousands of figs, which date back many centuries to the Middle East and Western Asia, erupt from the trees and cover the farms of Southern Spain. The art of cooking and drying figs has deep roots in ancient Arabic history.
When the Arabs conquered the land now known as Spain in the 1st century, they brought with them the fig tree and many other familiar goods. Still to this day you can find many Arabic influences throughout the Spanish language, food and culture. A lasting part of the cultural exchange is the use of figs in Spanish cooking.
Fig trees are unique to the Mediterranean
This species of fig tree is unique to the Mediterranean and is famous for being able to withstand extremely dry soil and sweltering heat. Once it begins to bloom, the trees are covered in these purple ornaments as if Christmas was coming early. They produce so much fruit that it becomes necessary to find a way to preserve them.
The Arabic inhabitants taught this method of drying fruit to the Spanish people. So dried figs became a year-round part of a healthy Mediterranean diet! You can see the lasting effects of this flourishing period in history and the partnership of cultures in the famous Spanish treat, Dried Fig Cake.
Fig cake and date cake: a nutritional cheese pairing
This sweet and sticky nut-packed treat isn’t like the cake you might know or bake at home. In fact, it doesn’t have flour, sugar, eggs or any of those common ingredients that you usually see in cakes and breads. It is dense and complex in fruit and nut flavors. For this reason, it adds the perfect sweet bite on top of salads. Also it immediately enhances a basic cheese plate into an elegant presentation of intricate complimentary flavors for your guests.
The method for drying figs was taught to the Spanish people by their Arabic neighbors in the first century.
Date cake is also a healthy and nutritional cheese pairing. They are rich in fiber, energy and are a good source of various vitamins, calcium, iron and protein. They are made with Mediterranean dates and almonds. You can use them to give a sweet and healthy twist to your salads, cheese boards or simply to eat alone as a delicious snack.