Chew on this: A bounty of fig recipes

08/26/2014 8:00 PM

08/27/2014 4:34 AM

Last week, I asked readers to send me their favorite fig recipes and I was inundated with responses. I’m sharing many of those recipes below.

I also got several questions about how I freeze figs to make fig preserves later. It could not be simpler: I trim off the stems and place the whole figs in gallon-size zip-close freezer bags. I freeze them in 2-3 pound batches. When I have time within the next six months, I will thaw them and make fig preserves. When the figs thaw, they are pretty soft, so I haven’t tried to do anything else with them. But I’ll bet you could make smoothies with them too.

Speaking of smoothies, Mahadev Nisha Amar shared his favorite breakfast: Puree 1 cup milk, 1/2 of a ripe banana and 4 figs in a blender. Pour over ice and enjoy.

Many readers sent some version of a fig appetizer with prosciutto and cheese. Last weekend, I tried this one from Candy Cross of Charlotte: Slice figs in half, stuff with small amount of blue cheese, wrap with prosciutto and grill until cheese melts and ham browns a little.

In a similar vein, Amy Jackson of Chocowinity, N.C., takes fresh fig halves, brushes them with balsamic vinegar and sprinkles them with brown sugar. She browns them in a grill pan over medium heat and then serves them with crackers and goat cheese, Brie or a sharp cheddar. Jackson also will cool the grilled figs and freeze them in small plastic bags. Once thawed, she serves them as a spreadable condiment with cheese and crackers.

Jackson and several other readers suggested dipping whole figs in chocolate to serve as dessert.

Gene Brown of Raleigh shared instructions for cold fig and prosciutto appetizer: Cut several large ripe figs in half lengthwise, place on small plates. Cut some prosciutto in thin strips and sprinkle over figs. Drizzle with fresh lime juice and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

Another variation came from Pat Merriman of Chapel Hill, who clipped this recipe from a magazine years ago: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup walnut halves and cook, stirring continuously, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer walnuts to a small bowl. Add 3/4 cup port to the saucepan. Increase heat to high and boil until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add 12 halved figs and walnuts to the port syrup. Cut a 6-ounce piece of Stilton or other blue cheese into 4 pieces, place a piece on 4 plates and divide figs, walnuts and syrup between cheese slices.

Becca Masters of Charlotte shared a recipe for fresh fig salad: Tear 1 to 2 heads bibb lettuce into bite-size pieces and top with 2 cups halved fresh figs, 1 1/2 cups halved seedless grapes, 1 cup crumbled blue cheese and 1 cup sliced almonds. Serve with a balsamic dressing using fig balsamic vinegar, available at most specialty oil and vinegar stores, adding 1 teaspoon honey.

Dawn Schaeffer of Apex sent her recipe for fig pizza. She uses Toufayan brand flat bread available at Food Lion, but any prepared flatbread or pizza crust will work. Cut 10 to 12 figs into slices and spread as a layer on the flatbread. Top with fresh goat cheese, thyme leaves and a sprinkle of sea salt. Bake at 375 degrees until the cheese is warm and the bread gets crispy on the bottom. Remove from oven and drizzle with honey. Serve as an appetizer or with a salad as a meal.

Lianda Taylor of Raleigh has 10 fig trees in her front yard. She makes an easy fig butter using a slow cooker. Combine 2 pounds figs, 3/4 cup sweet white wine, 3/4 cup honey, 2 teaspoons each lemon juice and vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a 2-quart slow cooker. Cook on high for 2 hours. Mash until whole figs are broken down. Crack lid to let steam escape, turn heat to low and continue to cook for 6 to 8 hours. Use an immersion blender to make the butter smooth. Fill hot, sterilized half-pint jars and process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes or store jars in the refrigerator without processing.

Many readers sent recipes for strawberry fig jam, a concoction that always puzzled me because the two fruits aren’t in season at the same time. The secret: The recipe calls for a packet of strawberry Jell-O. Combine 6 cups chopped figs, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 3 cups sugar and 1 (6-ounce) package of strawberry Jell-O in a large Dutch oven or a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring often. Ladle into half-pint jars and refrigerate immediately or process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.

In that same vein, Roseanne Davis of Greenville, N.C., shared a fresh fig compote recipe. Combine 2 cups quartered figs, 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup orange juice and a handful each of diced prunes, diced cranberries, raisins and chopped crystallized ginger in a large saucepan. Cook fruit for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cool for 10 minutes and refrigerate. Davis served this compote with grilled chicken thighs for dinner and with Greek yogurt for breakfast. Other suggestions: Serve it over softened cream cheese as an appetizer with crackers or add a shot or two of orange liqueur and serve over vanilla ice cream.

Speaking of dessert, Mary Howard of Newport, N.C., encouraged me to try to make Ocracoke fig cake. I had written previously about that cake named after one of North Carolina’s barrier islands. To see that recipe, go to nando.com/figcake.

Finally, Mary Lou Knox of Charlotte shared this recipe for fig ice cream: Whisk together 3 cups cold fat-free evaporated milk, 3/4 cup Splenda, 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon or vanilla extract and 1 cup peeled, mashed fresh figs in a large bowl and refrigerator for 1 hour. Process in an ice cream maker until correct consistency. Freeze. Let sit on counter for 10 minutes before scooping to serve.

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