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New Year Figs and Dates

Turkish Yogurt Cake with Figs

By Tim Hazell

Figs hold a symbolic position in many world religions, including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. They can represent fertility, peace, and prosperity.

Ficus carica, the common fig tree, has thrived in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean climates for at least 9,000 years. Organic material found beneath an apartment block in Herculaneum, a Roman city destroyed along with Pompeii during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, contained large quantities of fig pits, along with dormice and sea urchins. Figs were fed to geese to fatten their livers for an early precursor of pate de foie gras.

New World Gran Canaria natives dried figs in the sun, then stored them in cylindrical woven baskets called carianas. Finally, they were pressed into loaves and threaded on strings. Pre-Hispanic cultivation and processing of figs were so important that they were traded with Spanish explorers for exotic manufactured items such as metal ax heads.

Phoenix dactylifera, commonly known as the date palm, is cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Dates are used in a wide range of sweet and savory dishes, from Moroccan tajine stews to puddings and cakes. Date nut bread is popular around the holidays. Vinegar made from dates is a traditional product of the Middle East. Muslims break their fast with traditional dates to begin the evening meal of Ramadan.

These delectable treats celebrate the New Year with figs and dates. Try adding one or both to your party buffet!


Turkish Yogurt Cake with Figs


Ingredients for a 9-inch pan:

4 large eggs, separated

1/2 cup sugar

3 tbsp. flour, sifted

1-1/2 cups Greek yogurt

Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

1-1/2 tsp. Cointreau orange liquor

4 fresh figs, halved


Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar until creamy. Add flour and mix until combined, then yogurt, lemon zest, juice, and Cointreau. Whisk egg whites until they form peaks. Gently fold into yogurt mixture. Grease a spring-form cake pan with butter. Pour mixture into the pan and arrange fig halves on top. Bake for 50 minutes or until the top has browned. The cake will rise, then decrease slightly when removed from the oven. Allow to cool before serving.

Tapas bars play a central role in the social life of Spain, serving as places for friends, family, and visitors to congregate in table fellowship. Each bar has its signature tapas. These delectable morsels showcase three fine ingredients and couldn’t be simpler to prepare; a superb addition to your New Year’s Eve botanas!

Bacon-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Manchego Cheese



1/4 lb Manchego cheese

6 slices bacon

12 dates



Cut each date down the middle, removing pit and stem. Stuff each with a small piece of Manchego cheese. Cut bacon strips in half. Wrap the stuffed date in a half strip of bacon and spear with a toothpick. Bake in the oven at 350F for 10 to 15 minutes until bacon is crisp. Enjoy!


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