When I began planning for this new book, I asked a few friends to share their favorite meatless holiday recipes. Julia Shanks, professional chef and business consultant to farms and food entrepreneurs, and co-author of The Farmer's Kitchen, inspired this recipe. I've taken liberties with her original notes, but I don't think she'll mind. Serves 6-8.
6 cups stale rustic white bread (I use a French boule)
1 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1-1/2 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
10 dried figs, roughly diced (I use calimyrna figs)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 cup vegetable broth
1 large egg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
Set the bread cubes in a large bowl, and leave out, uncovered, overnight. The bread should get quite dry. (If you don't have time to do this, toast the fresh bread cubes in a 425°F oven for 10-15 minutes to dry them out, and add to a large bowl.)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large, dry, nonstick frying pan, toast the pine nuts over medium heat until lightly browned, approximately 3-4 minutes. Shake the pan to keep the nuts from burning, and when they're browned, transfer them to a small plate.
In the same frying pan, melt the butter over low-medium heat. Add the onions and celery, and cook for 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent and the celery has softened slightly.
Add the figs and herbs, and cook until the figs are plump, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts, and cook for 1 minute. Then, transfer the mixture to the bowl with the bread cubes.
Whisk together the egg and vegetable broth in a measuring cup, and pour over the bread mixture. Stir to distribute the liquid throughout, moistening the bread cubes and vegetables. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
Transfer the stuffing to the prepared casserole dish. Cover, and bake for 30 minutes.
Then, uncover the casserole and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the top is as crisp as you'd like it.
Serve hot. Can be made 1-2 days ahead; refrigerate, covered, and reheat before serving.