Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fun with Figs: five ways to enjoy my favorite fruit

This post is so late in coming! I've been obsessing over figs over the past few months, and sadly they are no longer on offer at my local farmer's market. But I have spied a few juicy specimens hanging from some of my neighbors' trees, and there's nothing like a fresh fig sneakily plucked from over the fence. If they're still available where you live, enjoy my suggestions on ideas to jazz up these perfect gems. If not, enjoy my homage to my favorite fruit, and let it be an inspiration to you for next fig season (the only good thing about the end of fig season is that it means it's almost time for persimmon season). With no further ado, I give you my meditation on figs.

I’m a cook (or un-cook), so what I’m about to say is a little bit hard for me. I’d like to suggest that there are some foods out there that are already perfect just they way they are, and can’t be improved upon through kitchen tampering. I’ve come to this decision after many attempts to write an article about my favorite fruit, figs. They’ve just come into season in Victoria, and I can’t get enough. But each time I buy or pick some ripe, juicy specimens to bring home and experiment with, I encounter the same problem. They never make it home. I just can’t help myself – I love fresh figs so much that I always eat them all straight away! I can’t think of any preparation I can do that could possibly improve upon the pure pleasure of a fresh fig. So you know what? I give in. Mother Nature, you win. You are the ultimate chef, and with the fig you’ve created the perfectly balanced food.

That being said, I feel that I’d be letting you dear readers down if I didn’t at least try to conceive of a few ways to dress up your figs. So while I don’t expect any of my inventions to rival those of my muse and culinary hero, Nature, they are still worth a try for a little variation, particularly if you happen to be one of those lucky folks with a fig tree in your backyard (if this is you, please invite me over! I can offer zucchinis, pumpkins, rocket or lemons in trade). Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to blend, dehydrate, or otherwise adulterate your perfect figs. The recipes are only ideas, playful flavor combinations. If you feel inspired, have fun with them - if you can get your figs home without eating them all!

1. Fresh figs au natural (courtesy of Mother Nature)

Eat them right off the tree, sun-warmed. Best recipe ever, though I can’t take credit for it!

2. Fresh figs with pistachio mousse

16 fresh figs
1 large, very ripe avocado
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp light agave
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup raw pistachios, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dark agave or raw honey
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut figs into quarters from the top downward, leaving the base intact. Arrange on a platter.

Combine avocado, vanilla extract, light agave, salt and water in a food processor, and whir until smooth. Add 1/2 cup chopped pistachios and pulse until well combined.

Place a dollop of mousse in a the center of each fig. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped pistachios and drizzle with dark agave or honey.

Variations: Replace the vanilla extract with rosewater. Decorate the plate with edible rose petals.

3. Watercress, pickled onion, fig and candied walnut salad

For the pickled onions:
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp agave
large pinch himalayan salt

combine and marinate at least 8 hours at room temperature

For the candied walnuts:
1 cup walnuts
2 Tbsp agave
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon

Toss walnuts with agave, oil and cinnamon. Spread on teflex sheet and dehydrate for 2 hours.

For the vinaigrette:
2 T apple cider vinegar
¼ cup walnut oil
1 T agave
¼ t salt
grind of fresh black pepper

Whisk together all ingredients, or combine in food processor.

For assembly:
1 bunch watercress, stems removed
1 head endive, sliced thinly
12 fresh figs, cut into quarters

Mix watercress and endive together and arrange in a large bowl or platter. Top with pickled onions and fresh figs. Sprinkle nuts over top. Drizzle with vinaigrette, toss lightly, and serve.

4. Fig, Almond and Cream Parfait

A bunch of figs
A handful of raw almonds, roughly chopped
Your favorite raw whipped cream recipe

Cut figs into quarters. In parfait dishes (I use old-fashioned champagne glasses for great presentation) layer a dollop of whipped cream, chopped figs, chopped almonds. Repeat with as many layers as you like.

5. Red Fruit Salad with Spiced Floral Syrup

A bunch of figs
A handful of red grapes
A few little blood plums
Seeds from ½ a pomegranate
A few dried figs

2 Tbsp Agave
Juice of 1 lemon
Dash of rosewater
Dash of vanilla extract
1 tsp minced fresh lavender, or 1 drop lavender oil
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom

Cut figs into quarters, grapes into halves, and blood plums into quarters. Remove seeds from ½ pomegranate. Chop dried figs into slivers. Arrange all fruit in a bowl.

Combine syrup ingredients in a bowl and whisk by hand. Drizzle over fruit salad and let marinate for 1 hour before serving.

1 comment:

Annie said...

Oh, how I love figs....I'm hoping the ones I bought today will last until I can get them into a lovely fruit salad. But I'm worried. :)

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