My dad always called them Chinese Apples. I’m talking about pomegranates, the jeweled-looking fruit that makes its way to our markets from late fall through early winter. The pomegranate’s sparkly, ruby-red, gem-like seeds seemed so exotic to me way back when. They were a fascinating fruit, those little, edible jewels. Found right before Christmas, we always purchased one to just take apart and to eat.
They’re as old as the hills. That’s as long as figs have been around. They are the antique trees of the garden - the old souls. Figuratively speaking, fig leaves played a strategic role in the cover-up that went down in the Garden of Eden. Their gorgeous, big, showy leaves provided the first fashion statement – au naturel. Figs are, themselves, delicious eaten au naturel, that is, picked right off the tree. Whoever says he “doesn’t give a fig” apparently has never tasted one.
While the bounty of summer fruits has ended, dried fruits offer a healthy alternative and are a good choice when fresh fruits aren’t available. Dried fruits are devoid of the water content that is so characteristic of fruits. Fruits are dried by drawing out the water content, either by sun-drying or using specialized machines. Once in their dried phase, the fruits can be stored for a longer period of time and continue to provide basic nutrients. Some of the most common dried fruits are apricots, raisins, plums, dates, prunes, cranberries, blueberries and figs.
After years of creating recipes, shopping and cooking, even a Kitchen Diva needs to update her old favorites from time to time. It’s amazing how changing a few ingredients and adding new spices and herbs can revive an old recipe. I’ve decided to update my Chicken and Rice Salad by giving it a Mexican twist. I’m adding flavorful herbs and spices to change the flavor profile of the dish. The black beans and avocados give the salad a creamy, buttery texture and add additional protein and nutrients. Nutrients found in avocados include vitamin E, vitamin C, lutein and the B vitamins folate, B-6, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and niacin — all of which have been shown to be good for hair and skin. Be selective about the avocados you use in this salad. An avocado is ready to serve when the skin turns from dark green to nearly black and yields when pressed gently with a thumb. Firm avocados will ripen in a day or two at room temperature in a brown paper bag on your kitchen counter. Ripe avocados can be kept in the refrigerator for several days. Try this updated Avocado, Chicken and Rice Salad dish, and feel free to think outside of the recipe box the next time you prepare an old family favorite. AVOCADO, CHICKEN AND RICE SALAD 2 cups cooked long-grain white rice 2 ripe avocados 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 1 (15 ounce) can black beans 3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cut into bite-sized pieces 4 green onions, root ends removed and discarded, white and green parts, chopped 1 teaspoon chili powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 cup Italian dressing 1 cup cherry tomatoes 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, optional 1. Prepare rice according to package directions. Dice avocados and toss with lemon juice; set aside. Rinse and drain black beans. When the rice is ready, stir in chicken, beans, green onions, chili powder, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Add Italian dressing and toss well to combine. 2. Pour into a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Add the avocados and cherry tomatoes, tossing gently to combine. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired. Makes 6 servings. ***