Give a fig—please. The long-treasured fruit has been gaining in popularity, thanks to the continued appeal of the Mediterranean diet. A natural in baked goods like breads, pastries or tarts, figs are also great when featured as a sweet touch to a salad with spicy greens (another Mediterranean menu staple). They’ve even been making appearances in cocktails, pairing well with bourbon, rum, port and other dark spirits.
There are plenty of options when choosing figs, since they have more naturally occurring varieties than any other tree crop. Common varieties include Black Mission, Calimyrna and Brown Turkey, but newer varieties on the scene include the “Panaché” Tiger Fig. Its exterior has dark green strips, and its interior flesh, which carries a hint of strawberry, is crimson.
No wonder Chef Dominique Crenn has said she loves cooking with figs because they’re “like a summer dance when nature is awake and singing.” Other chefs agree, and some recent examples of fig-forward dishes in fine dining include: Morimoto Napa serves the unlikely combination of fig tempura with peanut butter and foie gras sauce; Mission Street Food has sautéed lamb tongue with fig and Fernet jam, beluga lentils, mint yogurt and fried ginger; Luce serves black olive cake with roasted figs, yogurt sorbet and fig granola; and Tyler Florence’s Wayfare Tavern serves a salad of fresh figs with sunflower seeds, roasted onion, burrata and a honey-black pepper dressing.
Figs on a plate
While the fruits are lovely served on their own and eaten out of hand, a bit of creativity can really make them shine. (And can help you avoid Momofuku restaurant’s David Chang’s infamous comment of a few years back that “every restaurant in San Francisco is just serving figs on a plate.”)
At breakfast service, fresh or dried figs are a fiber-rich stir-in for oatmeal or other grain porridges. For appetizers, consider an easy fig roast, served with a drizzle of simple syrup or honey. If you’re blessed with an overabundance, try making jams or chutneys with the bounty. Figs love cheese, so consider pairing them with a tangy goat cheese or housemade labneh (strained yogurt). For a warm appetizer, fill figs with a soft cheese like mascarpone and bake until warm. And they’re great on a charcuterie plate, especially when paired with prosciutto.
Marc Bauer, master chef at New York’s International Culinary Center, offers easy recipe ideas
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