Food

Slice of Life: Gettin’ Figgy With It

July 14, 2014

figgy_featPick a fruit that gets almost no respect when it comes to the holiday table and you’d be hard pressed to find one less represented than the fig. Seriously, fresh figs are delicious and deserve to be front and center in the “you need to serve something different for the holidays” category. (Ten weeks till Rosh HaShanah!) Fresh fig season begins in June and runs through the end of September, and the rest of the time you have to make do with the dried variety (which is also delicious if you can’t get the fresh ones).

When figs are fresh and ripe they are succulent and sweet but be warned, they are fragile and spoil very quickly so buy them just before you want to use them. We as a country used to import a vast majority of figs but in the past few decades California has ramped up production and it now grows over 95% of the fresh figs you see in the marketplace.

The beauty (and culinary joy) of working with figs is that they translate into sweet and savory dishes and are versatile enough to work in everything from appetizers to desserts. As I said the fresh fig is not a hearty fruit so handle it carefully. Look for a plump, fragrant fig that gives just a little when pushed and it should have a slightly irregular shape. If they are not quite as ripe as they should be (they are typically shipped unripe) they can sit, on a counter, not in the refrigerator, for about 3 days after you get them home. You can, if you must, freeze a fresh fig for up to 6 months, just place them on a cookie sheet and freeze them and then store in a re-sealable plastic bag. But seriously, when you are able, go for the fresh and eat them skin and all.

The following recipes call for fresh figs but you can substitute the dried ones if you didn’t freeze any when they were available. All the following recipes work well to make ahead for any holiday meal.

FIGS BLACK BEANS AND PEPPERS (pareve)

1 1/2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
12 fresh figs, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 cups cooked black beans

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, bell peppers, garlic, cumin and parsley. Cook, stirring constantly for 7 to 8 minutes. Add the lemon juice and brown sugar to the onion mixture and mix to combine. Cook one minute then add the beans, cover and cook over low heat until the peppers are soft, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the figs and cook for 4 to 5 minutes just until the figs are warm throughout. This is now ready to serve. You can serve it hot or refrigerate it and serve it cold. Serves 4 to 6.

My files, modified from yummly.com

FIG TOAST TOPPERS (dairy)

1/2 pound ripe figs, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Pinch of salt
Crusty bread loaf or baguette, sliced thin and toasted
6 to 8 ripe figs, quartered
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
4 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl combine the chopped figs, balsamic vinegar, salt and maple syrup. Mix to combine then place the fig pieces on a cookie sheet, cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil and let cool to room temperature place them in a food processor and process until smooth. Remove mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour but up to 2 days. In the bowl of a food processor combine the mascarpone cheese and cream cheese until smooth.

Spread the cheese mixture over each slice of bread, then top with a heaping teaspoon or two of the fig mixture. Sprinkle some pecans over the top and then top with fig quarters. Makes 8 to 10 pieces depending on the size of the loaf of bread.

My files, modified from Epicurious.com.

SWEET POTATOES AND FIGS (pareve)

4 sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and sliced into strips
olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
12 green onions sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped
8 figs, quartered
salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the sweet potato slices on a cookie sheet and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until soft but not overdone. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Arrange the sweet potatoes and fresh fig slices on a serving platter and set it aside.

In a small sauce pan combine the vinegar brown and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a small skillet heat 1 tablespoon of oil and sauté the green onions and red peppers for 2 to 3 minutes, just until they start to soften. Add the balsamic vinegar mixture, stir for about 30 seconds then spoon the mixture over the potatoes and figs. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Modified from a recipe from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

FIGGY ROASTED CHICKEN (meat)

1 large sweet onion cut into large chunks
1 large roasting chicken, butterflied or cut in half
8 to 10 large figs cut in half
Olive Oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder
Fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the onion chunks and fig halves on the bottom of a roasting pan. Place the chicken, cut side down, on the onions and figs. Place the fresh thyme around the bottom of the pan. Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the chicken and season with salt and pepper and a little garlic powder. Cook the chicken for 10 minutes at 450 then reduce the oven temperature to 400. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the chicken is done and the skin is crispy. Let sit for 5 minutes before you carve the chicken and serve. Serves 4.

My files, source unknown.

CHICKEN AND FIG SALAD

Dressing
1 cup pareve sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon honey Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and white pepper; to taste

Salad
2 to 3 cups cooked chicken or turkey, diced (you can use deli meat)
4 to 6 stalks celery, ribs removed and sliced
3 tart apples, diced ½-inch
3 radishes, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper diced small
1 cup fresh figs, stemmed and diced
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 head romaine lettuce, torn

To make the dressing: In a large bowl combine the pareve sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, parsley, honey, orange juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the chicken, celery, apples, peppers, radishes, raisins and figs to mixing bowl and toss to coat. Add the lettuce before you’re ready to serve. Toss to combine and then top with the chopped pecans. You can serve this as an individual salad instead of in a bowl.
Serves 6.

My files, source unknown.

SALMON WITH CARAMELIZED FIG AND ONIONS (fish)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup dried figs, cut in halved
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 to 2 lbs salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 4 to 6
Chopped parsley for garnish

In a sauce pan heat the oil then add the onions, salt and sugar. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook, stirring constantly until the onions are golden, 15-20 minutes. Add the figs, wine, broth, vinegar and rosemary; simmer until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper to taste. Grease a 9X13 glass baking dish. Place the salmon in the pan and roast for 7 to 10 minutes until the salmon is firm to the touch. When done remove the salmon to a serving platter and then spoon the fig sauce over the top, sprinkle the parsley over the top and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

Modified from savoir.com

© Eileen Goltz fig 14a