Summer is fresh fig season. If you enjoy dried figs the rest of the year, go out of your way to enjoy them fresh.
Last month we wrote about how to use fresh figs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But we’ve been reveling in them in the weeks since then, and want to send this reminder to everyone who has not yet jumped onto the fresh fig bandwagon*.
This week, a trove of Black Mission and Green Kadota figs arrived from California to our produce market. The Green Kadota figs we purchased are even sweeter than the Black Mission figs. Do your own taste test.
After enjoying them out of hand, focus on these easy, no-cook uses:
For breakfast with cereal, cottage cheese, yogurt and pancakes
Instead of fig jam, sliced or diced and mixed with honey or agave
For lunch in a green salad with bacon, lardons, prosciutto or other ham; or sliced onto a cheese sandwich with Brie, cream cheese or goat cheese on multigrain or raisin bread
With a cheese course, with any cheese from mild to strong (our favorite pairing is blue cheese)
For an hors d’oeuvre, spread blue cheese on fig halves
For dinner make compound butter (use it on bread, for cooking or toss with pasta or rice)
Fresh Green Kadota and Black Mission figs, shown with their dried versions. Photo courtesy California Figs. The website has recipes for everything from fig muffins to fig pizza.
For dessert in a fruit salad; or sliced and marinated in liqueur by themselves or as a topping for ice cream, cheesecake and other desserts
*To get, jump or leap on the bandwagon is an idiom from the 19th century. It means to become involved in a successful activity so you don’t lose out on the advantages. There are other expressions of the phrase as well. A bandwagon was a festively-decorated wagon that carried a circus band; the band was part of the showy parade through town to generate excitement for the circus. The term first appears in print in P.T. Barnum’s autobiography, published in 1855. Politicians began to “jump on the bandwagon” to be part of the parade, actually renting seats on the wagon to get exposure to the public during the merry occasion.
Fresh figs are a delicious summer dessert with cheese and a drizzle of honey. Photo courtesy The French Farm.
RECIPE: FRESH FIG COMPOTE
Compote, the French word for mixture, is a dessert that dates to medieval Europe. It is made of a mixture of whole or sliced fruits, cooked in water with sugar and spices (cinnamon, clove, lemon or orange peel, vanilla). It can be further blended with grated coconut, ground almonds, or dried or candied fruits.
Our Nana grew up on compote, and we loved it too. There was always a compote when we visited, served warm (with ice cream or whipped cream) in cooler months and cold in the summer.
In medieval England compote was served as part of the last course of a feast; during the Renaissance it was served chilled at the end of dinner. Any fresh fruit could be used. Nana’s family recipe included rhubarb, sour cherry, apricot, nectarine and plum in the summer; apples, pears, quince, dried apricots, figs, raisins and walnuts in the fruit-challenged winter months.
Use the compote as a bread spread and a condiment with sweet or savory foods, in yogurt, with cheese, cheesecake, etc.
Ingredients For 2/3 Cup
If the figs are very sweet, you may need only a small amount of sweetener.
1 pound fresh figs†, cleaned and trimmed as needed
1 to 6 tablespoons sugar or honey (or half as much agave)
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Optional: dried fruits or other fruits, Grand Marnier or other alcohol
†Figs do not ripen off the tree, so buy fruit that is soft to the touch. The skin around stem should have begun to twist and wrinkle.
1. CUT the figs into quarters or smaller pieces as desired. Place the figs, sweetener, water and cinnamon in a small saucepan over low heat.
2. COOK for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding the alcohol near the end (or if using dried fruits in the recipe, you can pre-soak them in the alcohol). To turn into a smooth sauce instead of a chunky dessert or topping…
3. PULSE, using an immersion blender or food processor, until the desired consistency is reached. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
TO DEGLAZE A PAN
Here’s how to deglaze a pan to make a sauce. Include a tablespoon of fig compote (you can also use fig jam).
To make a sauce without pan juices (terrific with roast duck or pork):
1. HEAT 1 cup of red wine in a saucepan, and simmer to reduce it by half. Add 1/2 cup of fig compote and a half teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.
2. BRING to a simmer again, stirring for a few minutes to blend the ingredients. Remove from the heat and finish with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Add a scant tablespoon of butter to smooth out the sauce.