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Recipe: Spiced Fig and Walnut Roll

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Fig and Walnut Roll
Fig and Walnut Roll

Laced with cinnamon, anise seed, and orange, this fig and walnut roll brings sweetness and warmth to winter festivities. Serve it alongside cheese; Manchego is a favorite pairing as well as Idyllwild aged goat cheese from Ontario's Drake Family Farms. Or enjoy a nibble with mulled wine or coffee after dinner. You might even say it's good for you — cinnamon, anise, and orange have all traditionally been used as digestive aids. A fig and walnut roll also makes a delicious holiday gift.

I used dried black mission figs, which have a rich color and luscious flavor. However, feel free to try other fig varieties. You might also use this recipe as a springboard for your own combinations of dried fruits, nuts, and spices.

Spiced Fig and Walnut Roll
Serves about 10

3/4 cup walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds
1 1/2 cups dried figs
Finely grated zest from 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey
Up to 1 tablespoon brandy

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring frequently, until the walnuts are fragrant and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet. Cool completely, then chop into quarters.

Add the anise seeds to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet and let cool.

Trim any hard stems off the figs. Coarsely chop the figs and place them in a food processor with the anise seeds, orange zest, cinnamon, honey, and 1/2 tablespoon of brandy. Process to form a sticky paste. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and use your hands or a spoon to work in the walnuts. If the mixture doesn't quite hold together, add up to another 1/2 tablespoon of brandy.

Transfer the mixture onto a piece of parchment paper and shape it into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap the parchment paper around the log and twist the ends shut. Refrigerate overnight. (Can store in an airtight bag or container in the refrigerator for up to a month.)

To serve, unwrap the log and cut it into slices.

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