01 September 2008

The Beauty of Figs

Figs have been showing up at the market for a while now. My local market carries a variety of figs whenever they can get them. I buy a box from time to time. Simply sliced or drizzled with honey they are delicious. When perfectly ripe the flesh is soft and voluptuously sweet while the skin retains a slight acidic tartness. The seeds add a mildly sandy sugar texture to the sensual sweetness. Overall, the taste and feel is richly exotic and indulgent.

I love the adventure of the taste, texture and appearance all wrapped up in that plain homely skin, shaped much like an enormous teardrop. I think of the thousands of achingly bittersweet stories its tender history might tell. Still such dramatic tension is best savored in small doses and since my family does not find figs as intriguing as I do, I buy them rather infrequently. I just can’t bear to watch the dark tear shaped fruits growing shabby with neglect and I can’t eat a whole carton by myself.

This week, as I was shopping in a small shop in Lausanne, Switzerland I saw a basket of fat brown figs. In the markets of Switzerland I see them mostly sold individually, which would end my problem of having them go to waste. The thing is, in Lausanne they were selling for 2 Swiss Francs a piece, a price which is close to $2 for a single fig. When I think that the pint sized box I buy at home causes me to pause at a price of $4.99 I have to think how lucky I am to have such a rich variety of fruits and vegetables available in my local market and how reasonable the price of groceries is at home when compared to much of the rest of the world.


Despite the cost I saw figs often in Switzerland. I found figs readily available in markets in Bern and Lausanne,


used to great advantage in desserts we were offered,


even temptingly added to a new line of dark chocolate made by Lindt.

With this heightened awareness of figs I remembered a recipe for figs stuffed with blue cheese and cacao nibs I had found quite interesting when I got a new cookbook in the spring, "Spain and the World Table." It featured a way to prepare figs that combined both ease and the exotic complexity of diverse flavors in an interesting and photogenic way. Unfortunately, figs were not available then.

They are now, so I decided to give this idea a try. It was fun to prepare. I had cacao nibs from another project, bought local Oregon made blue cheese instead of the Spanish Cabrales or Valdeon the recipe suggested, and bought a carton of figs at the local market. After a few minutes of slicing, scooping and sprinkling they were ready to serve. And just look at how lovely they turned out to be!


Figs with Blue Cheese and Cacao Nibs
(from "Spain and the World Table")

6 Figs
3-4 Tablespoons blue cheese
1-2 Tablespoons cacao nibs

Cut the figs in half lengthwise. Scoop out a bit of the center flesh to make a small indentation in each half.

Scoop approximately 1 teaspoon of slightly crumbled blue cheese into each indentation.

Sprinkle with cacao nibs. Gently press the nibs into the cheese.

Serve.

~

How did they taste? I think they engaged every taste bud. Each mouthful was a bold combination of taste and texture - soft and sandy sweet, tangy sharp and creamy as well as crunchy and bitter. They were - well - interesting!

Would I make them again? I’m not sure. They were easy, and they were different. What’s more they were pretty and required no cooking. And still, I didn’t love them. My husband, my son and a friend all tried one. They all smiled and agreed that it was interesting. But none reached for a second piece.

Still I loved the adventure and am inspired to continue looking for ways to use this luscious beautiful fruit. Here are a few more links to ideas for using figs I have run across lately:

How about trying figs brushed with seasoned olive oil and grilled on rosemary skewers?

Or try this arrangement of figs with foie to add some international flair to your menu.

Perhaps a salad of figs with a Warm Bacon Vinaigrette would appeal to your taste buds.

An enticing combination of seasonal flavors in this Poached Fig, Pomegranate and Blackberry Parfait would make an elegant end to a romantic dinner.

Or, if you prefer a simpler dessert try this beautiful recipe for honey drizzled figs with goat cheese and pecans that makes my mouth water.

Whatever sounds good to you, try some figs, and enjoy!

6 comments:

Kristen said...

Look at that gorgeous photo! Lovely job!

Grace said...

i'm pathetic--my only experience with figs comes by way of fig newtons... :)
meanwhile, a trip to switzerland? color me extremely jealous!

nicisme said...

I love this recipe, especially with the cocoa nibs!
Lucky you to go to Lausanne, it's beautiful, set right on the lake.

Pam said...

It's fun experimenting, isn't it? And they sure are beautiful!

Lisa said...

Kristen - Thanks!

Grace - Really, you should try them while they are in season. I never much cared for Fig Newtons but fresh figs are interesting at the very least. And speaking of interesting, that Lindt Fig and Caramel bar is amazing! Of course what's not to love about a dark chocolate bar with a sweet filling?

Nicisme - The cocoa nibs were an interesting addition. I enjoy using them in all sorts of things! And yes, Lausanne is beautiful!

Pam - It is fun to experiment. I don't always love what I come up with but I love learning in the process.

Christie @ fig&cherry said...

Cacao nibs - that is genius! I am very jealous I didn't think of that!