Do you like dried fruits? I do. Lovely, naturally sweet, full of aroma, both chewy and crispy. And if eaten in their country of origin they taste much, much better.
Freshly picked and dried on the sun. No additional preservatives, no colorants and chemicals that would let them stay fresh for a longer period of time.
Lebanon has a lot of them. Dried figs, walnuts, dates,… All of them incomparable to all you can buy in any shop in your country. What is more, they are also being stuffed with different kinds of nuts.
Just strolling on streets of Beirut, you can find a lot of shops selling only sweets and dried fruits. Some of them are candied, some stuffed, some plain. Some cut, some whole. Both bigger and smaller. In sugar and in coconut, but most of them just plain and in different sizes.
And there were kilos of them heaped on tables and trays in shops. From the entrance to the shop you could smell them, and you were overwhelmed by their amount and colors.
Dried walnuts and figs are also sold by local merchants and guys with straw baskets. Actually, we were said, that these walnuts came from Syria, where the variety is bigger and where the quality is better. In Syria, the quality of the soil is higher, what improves the taste and increases the crop.
Apart from delicious walnuts and soft and fleshy figs of different sizes, they were selling also roasted almonds. Some of which were plain and some in salt. You could also find enormous dates and raisins; pistachios, apricots and a lot of dehydrated and candied sliced fruits such as guava, pomelos, mango, kiwi, papaya or pineapple.
But what impressed us the most, were stuffed dried fruits – something wonderful, both from the visual point of view and from the taste, which they were leaving in your mouth.
Stuffed dates, apricots and figs filled with different kinds of nuts, such as walnuts, pistachios and almonds are something exceptional. As these dried fruits are very, very sweet, filling them with nuts eliminates that excessive sweetness and makes a great composition of the sweet and bitter or salty taste.
When you bite these rarities, you start with a fleshy and sweetish fig, date or apricot. Then it mixes with a harder structure of nuts combined. Finally you end with some nuts' bitterness and a pinch of salt in case of pistachios or almonds.
Medjool dates (these that are usually used for stuffing) are not only bigger but also chewier than these regular ones. Their inner part is soft, full of flesh and thick. Thanks to that you can stuff it either with a one big walnut or with a lot of smaller pistachios or almonds. The same applies to bigger apricots and figs. While figs are also very sweet with small and soft seeds, apricots are a little bit sour. Well sour in comparison to dates and figs, but surely not sour in a general meaning. That is why apricots better taste with sweet, not roasted almonds and with plain pistachios.
Our favorites were these enormous figs with walnuts that made that snack incomparable to any other. And what is good about it, is that it is a really healthy snack, that quickly fulls your stomach and gives a lot of energy. That is a great option as an alternative for any other snack you might like to grab when you are hungry. Just eat a couple of them and you will regain your energy easily.
So, why not trying to do them at home? Hope I inspired you at least a little bit.