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December 9, 2007

Dried fruit (Recipe: turkey meatloaf and fig gravy)

In my kitchen, it's Drop In & Decorate Cookies for Donation time, when friends and family stop by to decorate beautiful sugar cookies for distribution to shelters and food pantries around Rhode Island. The first cookies are sitting on the drying rack, waiting to be wrapped. While we're finishing another day of decorating, please enjoy this updated post, and a great seasonal recipe, from The Perfect Pantry archives.

Figs

In the house where I grew up, prunes were the dried fruit of choice.

Nobody liked the taste, but prunes were, quite literally, the magic bullet that kept all of us, well, regular. To this day, if I close my eyes, I can picture the bag of prunes always in the cupboard, and the Sunsweet prune juice, with its yellow label, always in the refrigerator.

To be honest, if it weren't for my love of Silver Palate chicken marbella, still one of my favorite party dishes, I'd probably never have prunes in the house. [Update: my new chicken and prune tagine is running a close second to the beloved marbella.]

Raisins, currants, figs, cranberries, cherries — now that's another story. And dried apricots, my absolute favorite.

Drying offers two advantages to cooks: first, we can access these fruits out of season; second, drying concentrates the flavor and natural sugars in the fruit. (Ocean Spray markets dried cranberries as "craisins", because the tart berries become sweet-tart, like raisins, when dried.) Since high concentrations of sugar ward off bacteria, dried fruit can last up to a year without refrigeration.   

Sulfur (or sulphur) dioxide is sometimes added to fruit to improve its shelf life and color. If you're allergic to sulfites, you can find unsulfured dried fruit at health food stores. In a pinch, try boiling treated dried fruit for a minute or so, then draining off the liquid, to mitigate the strength of the sulfur.

Dried fruit finds its way into many sweet and savory recipes. And sometimes, it finds its way straight from the bag or box into my mouth.

Turkey meatloaf with fig gravy

Adapted from a Franklin Café recipe reprinted in the Boston Globe, January 2006. Serves 6.

Ingredients

Vegetable oil or canola spray for the pan
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
2 lbs ground turkey
2 scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp hot sauce
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 egg
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly spray a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.

In a large skillet, heat the oil. When it is hot, cook the onion and salt over low heat, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until the onion softens. Let the mixture cool.

In a large bowl, combine the onion and all remaining ingredients. Mix lightly, until just combined, with your impeccably clean finger tips. Press mixture into the pan. Set it on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 55 minutes or until it reaches 165°F on a meat thermometer.

FIG GRAVY

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups apple cider
1 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 lb dried Turkish figs, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add onion and cover the pan. Cook for 8 minutes or until the onion softens. Remove the lid. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 35-45 minutes or until the figs are very soft and the mixture has reduced by half.

Slice the meatloaf thickly and serve with the fig gravy.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Spicy turkey rolls
Turkey-green chile chili
Turkey-escarole soup
Chicken with prunes and almonds

Comments

I like turkey meatloaf but sometimes find it a little flavorless or too over seasoned. I like the idea of dried fruit for a touch of sweetness. And, yes, I too vote in favor of your chicken and prunes tagine!

Very interesting. I've never heard of fig gravy before. I have a feeling it tastes really good with the turkey.

Happy Drop In and Decorate,
Paz

Fig gravy! I think I might have to try that with my vegan! I like the sound of this one.

Even the teenage cooks in the Family Group liked the fig gravy!!

I LOVE dried figs. They are soo excellent to snack and cook with.

TW, I agree that turkey meatloaf can be so dry, but this one is not -- and the fig gravy really adds a wonderfully sweet dimension. Thanks for the thumbs-up for the chicken-and-prune tagine!

Paz, thanks! We finished decorating our cookies today (750 of them!), and tomorrow we'll deliver to all of the food pantries and shelters. Then I hope someone will make this turkey meatloaf for me, as I will be tooooo tired to cook!

MyKitchen, the gravy is delicious -- thick and sweet -- and would be great on almost anything.

Mimi, I can't take credit for this idea; it's the brainchild of a wonderful cafe in Boston's South End. I hope you'll try it -- would be great with a roast turkey breast on a cold winter evening.

Pauline, I was delighted that the teens loved this dish! They are such adventurous cooks.

Anh, you are so right -- and I actually prefer dried figs to fresh ones.

I love dried fruit, raisins the best, probably, but for the name, dried peaches. They´re called orejones here, which means "big ears", and I think that´s just so sweet.

I have never had turkey meatloaf, Lydia, and this sounds really good!

I became a fan of dried fruit as an adult - didn't like them as a kid!

This sounds really tasty--just as I'd finally cleared out my turkey leftovers, you give me reason to go out and get more turkey. I really like the idea of a fig gravy

Lobstersquad, "big ears" is such a wonderful name! I don't think I've ever had dried peaches, but they sound wonderful.

Patricia, turkey meatloaf has a bad reputation for being overly dry and boring, but the dried fruit in this recipe adds a great sweetness.

Mike, somehow with all of the good flavors in this meatloaf, it doesn't really seem like turkey! Hope you enjoy it.

Wow, fig gravy...I might actually eat meatloaf with that on it!

Peabody, the gravy is so good you'll be happy to eat it without the meatloaf!

Fig gravy and turkey - i am in heaven. Sounds awesome. Dried fruit are simply too good to resist. I too have found a passion for them in my savory food.

Meeta, I've always loved dried fruits, but ever since I've fallen in love with tagine cooking, I've come to appreciate just how wonderful the sweet-savory combination can be. This gravy with meatloaf is a perfect example of that! I think you'll love it.

Oh wow that gravy sounds amazing!! I love dried figs!

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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