We “awoke with a start” realizing it is full-tilt fig season when a reader wrote to say she applied our tomato drying technique to figs, which she has in abundance on her tree.
Oh my. It’s fig season! What is so grand about figs is that they are perfect unadorned or paired with the simplest of foods, prosciutto and raspberries being one of our favorites (recipe-ette, below). But figs also love salami or just about any cured pig product (even bacon), and cheeses from fresh ricotta to creamy robiola to Manchego. Look/listen to a fig and it will TELL you what to try pairing it with.
The key is to buy figs ripe, or allow them to ripen if still firm: their flesh should give softly when pressed, but not be withered. Sometimes we smear a tad of creme fraiche or whipped cream onto half of one to eat as a sublime dessert. We like to remember that we are not actually eating a fruit but a flower (or a sort of flower). Unlike other tree fruits, fig trees have no blossoms on their branches; their flowers are inverted and develop inside the fruit, producing the small crunchy seeds that give them their unique texture. Dig this description from Wikipedia:
…the fig is actually the infructescence or scion of the tree, known as a false fruit or multiple fruit, in which the flowers and seeds are borne. It is a hollow-ended stem containing many flowers. The small orifice (ostiole) visible on the middle of the fruit is a narrow passage, which allows the specialized fig wasp Blastophaga psenes to enter the fruit and pollinate the flower, whereafter the fruit grows seeds….
THAT changes the view, doesn’t it?
We’ve also been known to throw halved fresh figs cut side down into a pan of bubbling butter and sugar, tossing them until warm and serving toute suite with whipped cream or ice cream, a few raspberries and maybe a butter cookie. Fig leaves make fragrant wrappers for goat cheese, rubbed with olive oil and warmed in the oven until the cheese is molton.
Recipe: Prosciutto with Figs and Raspberries
You can replace the figs and raspberries with ripe, fragrant melon—from honeydew and Cassaba to Charantais, peaches, apricots or plumcots. In winter, I often serve it with roasted pears. A grind of fresh pepper or a few slivers of fresh basil or thyme leaves can add a nice hit of flavor, like a teeny surprise in the midst of fruit and ham, although the greater the ham, the less embellishment you need.
• 12 paper-thin slices of prosciutto di Parma, or other fine dry-cured ham
• freshly ground black pepper (optional)
• 4 ripe medium figs
• 1 cup raspberries
• 6 lime wedges (optional)
• 8 to 12 small basil leaves (optional)
On each of four large dinner plates, loosely drape three slices of prosciutto in a single layer.
Slice each fig into four sections, either wedges or slices. Arrange the figs on each plate and scatter 1/4 cup raspberries across figs. If desired, garnish with one lime wedge and torn basil leaves. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Squeeze a few drops of lime juice from remaining lime wedges over figs just before serving. Pass a pepper mill.