By Elke Probkevitz
If you are lucky enough to get your hands on fresh figs, you must seize the opportunity and indulge while you can.
Figs have a long and distinguished history. They were considered sacred in many countries, possibly even the forbidden fruit. They have a luscious texture that is worlds away from their dried counterparts available all year long. The flavor lends itself well to sweet or savory applications. Here is more about the fresh fig and what you can do with it.
Varieties and prep. In season from June through early fall, fresh figs have a delicate skin and a sweet, floral flavor. The black Mission fig and the green Calimyrna are the most common figs found at the market, but there are more than 700 varieties! Fresh figs are delicate and bruise easily. They have a short shelf life, so keep them in the refrigerator and use them quickly. Simply wash them gently and twist off the stem.
Raw. Fresh figs can be eaten raw just as they are. They can be quartered and added to a fresh green salad with a balsamic vinaigrette or a kale salad with avocado. Make bruschetta with toasted bread smeared with ricotta or soft goat cheese, and top with figs, pecans, and fresh thyme.
Savory. Roast fresh figs stuffed with an almond, wrapped in facon or pastrami, and drizzled with honey for an appetizer that is a flavor explosion! Top your next pizza with fresh figs and goat cheese. Use in a savory dish like a Moroccan chicken tagine or lamb chops with figs and balsamic sauce, or roast a whole chicken over a bed of figs.
Sweet. Roast figs alone or with stone fruits like cherries and peaches, and use to top yogurt or ice cream. Make a fresh fig tart with beautiful slices of fig in a rustic free-form crust. Add to a cake batter along with fresh raspberries and lemon zest. Grill fresh raspberries, drizzle with honey, and serve with sweet cream or mascarpone. Or simply dip fresh figs in dark chocolate for a stellar flavor combination. v
Seared Lamb Chops
With Fig–Balsamic Sauce
8 lamb chops
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. butter substitute, plus 1 Tbsp. for sauce
2 large shallots, minced
4 fresh figs, stems removed, finely chopped
¾ tsp. minced fresh rosemary
⅓ cup good-quality balsamic vinegar
1¾ cup reduced sodium beef broth, simmered to reduce to ½ cup
Pat lamb chops dry with a paper towel and season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 225° and place baking dish inside.
Place large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat until just smoking, about 2 minutes. Add chops and sear without moving until golden brown, 2–2½ minutes. Turn and sear for 2–2½ minutes more. Let rest for about 3 minutes.
Discard oil from the pan, add 2 teaspoons butter substitute, and melt over medium-low heat. Add shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add figs, rosemary, and vinegar. Raise heat to medium and deglaze pan, scraping any brown bits from the bottom. Continue to cook until liquid is reduced by two-thirds, about 1½ minutes. Add in broth and a pinch of pepper. Simmer for 1 minute more. Add in 1 tablespoon of butter substitute, stir, and remove from heat. Serve lamb chops topped with sauce.
Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to elke@TakeHomeChef.net, or visiting www.TakeHomeChef.net.