While we try as much as we can to eat from our own garden and orchard, sometimes we get impatient and succumb to temptation. And that is the case with mission figs. Ours are coming in, but still a few weeks away. Meanwhile the farmers market is just brimming with ripe, beautiful, black mission figs. And we are huge fans of mission figs, so we gave in and bought some. Whatever feelings of guilt we had, if any, didn’t last long.
And if you enjoy figs, you know why we had to give in. There are few fruits so pretty, sweet, juicy and easy to enjoy- figs are easy to love (good for you, too). And it has been that way for thousands of years. Figs are one of our oldest and most established foods, and were a treat in almost all the early mediterranean cultures. Greco-Roman mythology, the Bible and the Koran are filled with references to figs, and even the Buddha achieved enlightenment under a fig tree. It’s safe to say that figs have been enjoyed for quite some time.
And our first fig dish may literally be thousands of years old. It simply combines grilled figs, honey and goat cheese (and some herbs if you like). As we ate the dish, and it was just great, we had to think about how long the ingredients have been around. Honey, goat cheese and figs were all delicacies in ancient Egypt. We don’t know if they grilled or caramelized the figs, and we hope they did, but we have no doubt they enjoyed a dish similar to this one. That struck us as kinda cool…
To make the dish, you simply heat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Then lightly brush the figs with vegetable oil and place them on the hot grill and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until the figs caramelize and soften. Then remove from the heat drizzle with honey and add some fresh goat cheese to each fig. You can also add a bit of rosemary and/or thyme to the honey, if you like. (We used our honey, a real treat). And the flavor is very, very good. This dish is openly sweet from the caramelized figs and the honey, but balanced by the slightly sour tang of the goat cheese. You could eat this dish as a starter, but it’s best as a dessert. And if you don’t like cheese in desserts, this recipe will change your mind.
Our other recipe for figs could be served as a dessert, but we think is best as a starter or light lunch. This dish simply combines sliced ripe figs, blue cheese, hazelnuts and cured ham like Serrano or prosciutto. This is so easy to make, it’s almost hard to call this a “recipe”, but the flavor combinations are truly special. Sweet figs, funky blue cheese, earthy hazelnuts and salty ham cover all the flavors- and multiple textures. A great dish offers an array of flavors and textures so each bite is exciting, and this dish delivers. And it is fun to experiment, just put out a plate and enjoy different combinations.
So while we might feel a tiny twinge of guilt that we didn’t wait for our own figs, we feel pretty good about enjoying these figs now. And, by the way, these same dishes will work with other fig varieties like Brown Turkey or Calimyrna. And when you eat figs, take a moment to ponder that you are eating the food of pharaohs and prophets, but you might be getting it just a bit better…
Grilled Figs with Honey and Goat Cheese:
What You Get: A classic, and probably ancient, dessert with fresh figs.
What You Need: No special equipment required.
How Long? 5-10 minutes. Anytime dish when figs are in season.
(Serves 4 for dessert)
- 6 fresh figs, halved
- Vegetable oil (olive oil is fine, but a neutral oil will also work)
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 2 oz. fresh goat cheese
- Fresh thyme or rosemary, for garnish
- Heat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Lightly coat the sliced figs with the oil and place, cut side down, on the hot grill. Cook the figs for 1-2 minutes, or until they caramelize and show grill marks. Then flip and cook for 1-2 more minutes and remove from the heat.
- Place the fig halves on 4 individual serving plates and drizzle a tablespoon of the honey on each of the plates. Then place a dollop of goat cheese on each fig. Garnish with a sprig of thyme or rosemary, if you like. Serve.
Figs with Blue Cheese, Hazelnuts and Serrano Ham:
Notes Before You Start:
- You can substitute any quality cured ham like prosciutto for the Serrano, but if you have access to Serrano- it’s worth it.
- Vary the amount of ingredients based on how you serve the figs. Assume 2-3 figs per person as a side and 4-5 per person for a larger plate.
What You Get: A very well-balanced starter or light lunch that makes the most of the figs in season. A great dish to serve with wine (Champagne is very good here).
What You Need: No special equipment required.
How Long? 5 minutes of assembly. Anytime dish when figs are in season.
- Fresh Figs, halved
- Blue cheese like Maytag or Point Reyes
- Roasted hazelnuts
- Serrano ham, thinly sliced
- Slice the figs and arrange on a serving plate. Add the ham, hazelnuts and blue cheese. Serve.
- Heirloom tomato, fresh fig and blue cheese salad (downtownromantic.com)
- Rosemary Roasted Figs with Goat Cheese (thestarvingartistfood.com)
- Fig, Goat’s Cheese and Caramelised Red Onion Quiche with Easy Olive Oil Pastry (foodblogandthedog.wordpress.com)
- Caramelized Figs – two ways (mw-kitchen.com)