As Marisa enthusiastically mentioned on Monday, we've declared this Fig Week! We've been gobbling them up by the pint-full at my house for the last month or so, so it seemed time to give these delicious little jewels a post of their own, before they run out of season. While dried figs are available all year long, these pretty little fresh ones come in season from summer to early fall. The ones in these photos are some of the most common variety, Black Mission Figs from California, with a dramatically dark purpley skin and a subtly pink inside. But they come in a variety of skin and flesh colors, from golden with amber flesh to green with purple flesh. To me, they look antique, like something that would appear in a classical still-life painting. And their flavor and texture is totally unique - mildly sweet, and moist with a subtle seedy crunch.
For most of my life, my only experience with figs came from Fig Newton Bars, which I always found slightly disappointing as a kid (that inside looks like it's going to taste chocolatey, doesn't it?!). Then my mother-in-law started growing some in her backyard and handed me one right off the tree, just cutting off the stem and eating them skin and all. I've been hooked ever since - and my two-year-old, Vivi, thinks they are the most luxurious treat...much more exciting than those somewhat chalky Fig Newtons. They're full of health benefits too (like potassium, fiber, antioxidants, and as much calcium as milk!).
Buying and storing: Because figs are perishable and easily bruised, it's best to buy them within a day or two of when you plan to eat them. They should be plump and tender but not mushy, with firm stems and a mildly sweet, honey-like smell. They're at their tastiest (and have the most antioxidants) when they're most ripe, so don't choose ones that are too firm...but stickiness is a sign of over-ripeness. If they're under-ripe, keep them at room temperature. Otherwise, store ripe figs covered or wrapped in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Now that I'm the fig enthusiast that I am, I'm always drawn to recipes that feature them fresh. Here are some links to recipes I'd love to try before fig season runs out!:
- Honey-Caramelized Figs with Yogurt
- Honey and Fig Cheesecake Bars (how pretty are these?!)
- Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa
- Fresh Figs with Bacon and Goat Cheese
But they're also good simply added as-is to a cheese plate or salad, drizzled with honey atop some ricotta, or popped in your mouth as the special little treat they are. Do you love fresh figs as much as I do? What's your favorite way to use them? Stay tuned, Marisa has some delicious fig cocktail ideas coming up!...
(all photos, jamie grill photography)