05 August 2007

I Should Have Warned You.

I really should have warned you. About the figs. Actually, I meant to, I was going to give you all a little heads up, that fig season was on it’s way, and what with my obsession, this blog may turn into an all-out fig-a-palooza. But I didn’t get around to it, and the other day I spied to first figs in the market and when I literally rushed over to their small baskets, the grocer actually laughed at my excitement.

My love of figs has not always been as such. It was not until I went off to Beirut that I even remember contemplating fresh figs. There, my friend Lina, who was raised in Brooklyn but whose family are conservative Shiites from south Lebanon, told me about the figs. “They’ll be coming in soon,” she said, “any day now. My family will bring some up from the south, and I’ll eat so many I’ll make myself sick, but they are sooo good.” The next weekend, I came home to find two huge flats of figs left on the table that separated our two desks. Each flat piled high, one with light green figs and another with dark brown ones, they were a kings ransom of figs.

That night, Lina showed me how to peel the thin skins off the figs and we sat eating one after another after another (the peeling is traditional for hygenic reasons). In a matter of a few days, we’d finished off most of the two flats, and thankfully no one was ill. Since then I don't think I've turned down any fresh fig that's crossed my path, and I look forward to the rumors and anticipation of fig season each year.

I’ve also made my fair share of fig recipes: fig salads, fig tarts, prosciutto-wrapped, goat-cheese-stuffed, bruléed with port, over yogurt, with ice cream, baked into a clafoutis. And while they have all been delicious, my absolute favorite way to enjoy a fig is to cut it into quarters and then to eat it. Simply. I like them best for breakfast, drizzled with a little apricot honey and sprinkled with some chopped nuts. It’s the ideal summer breakfast, one which should be followed by a lunch of summer tomatoes with a bit of basil, and then a dinner which might involve corn on the cob and maybe some sautéed zucchini, or some little cherry tomatoes tossed warm with pasta, or some stewy ratatouille. You know what I’m talking about, summer food.

Oh wait, I said something about apricot honey, didn’t I? You didn’t think I was going to leave you without an explanation of this ambrosia that elevates my figs to heavenly heights? Apricot honey is not honey at all, but simply a name I invented for a jar of some wonderful syrupy stuff that Umm Hana shoved into my hand as I was leaving her house one day. I never quite knew what it was, except that I devoured it repeatedly, until I saw a little one phrase side-note in Claudia Roden’s “Book of Middle Eastern Food” about an apricot syrup recipe from Damascus. I immediately set to fiddling around with a recipe, and finally found one that was just right. What I love about this technique is that you can apply it to just about any dried fruit, I once made a version using dried cranberries that produced a wonderful kind of cranberry jam, and you can even do it with lemon juice.

As for the figs, quite frankly they are just as good when drizzled with regular honey and sprinkled with nuts. And though I love them for breakfast, they’re good just about any time of day. I’m afraid it’s not much of a recipe, but when figs are in season, you don’t need much else.

Figs with Apricot Honey and Pistachios
This simple preparation is one of my favorite ways of enjoying fresh figs. You can have it with yogurt for breakfast, or place on top of a bed of greens with a squirt of lemon juice as a salad. Tip: when figs are ripe there is a tiny drop of dew on the bottom of the fruit. However, eat them soon because they can quickly go from ripe to moldy.

8 ripe figs, quartered
4 tbl apricot honey (recipe follows) or regular honey
3-4 tbl finely chopped pistachios

1. Drizzle the figs with the honey and sprinkle with the nuts. Serve as desired.

Apricot Honey
Not a honey at all but a wonderful syrup made from dried apricots. This preparation can also be made using different dried fruits.

1 lb dried apricots
3 cups boiling water
1 tbl orange blossom water (optional)
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbl sugar
2 tbl cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup water

1. Place the apricots in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let soak overnight.
2. Drain the apricots and purée them in a food processor, add the orange blossom water, lemon juice, and sugar and purée until completely smooth.
3. Put the mixture in a saucepan and add the cornstarch mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick and syruppy. Pour into a jar and store in the refrigerator.


Anonymous said...

I too have a fig fettish, in fact, my fig tree (at my new house) just finished giving me 100's of figs. Not knowing what to do with so many, i dehyrated some and the rest I just popped them in my freezer. They are perfect to add to my smoothies. I've always wanted to have a fig tree, and now my wish has come true. You should plant one, they are easy to maintain.
sharon in sugar land

Sandi said...

Oh my gracious, where will I ever find figs in Arizona. I have GOT to try this.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Oh my that looks luxurious! I too have a secret liking for figs!! So I am looking forward to your fig break-out here!!

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

Your photos are just gorgeous! Yet another wonderful blog entry. Thank you!

Mercedes said...

Sharon- Oh I am so jealous. Hundreds of figs!! Then again you have the perfect climate. I actually have a little fig tree in a pot, which I think might produce 4 figs this year. Sad I know. One day, if I have a house and the right climate, I'll make sure and plant a fig tree.

Sandi- hmm, Arizona's not too far from Texas, where there are lots of figs, so I figure someone must be importing them...

Meeta- don't keep your love in secret, share the fig love!

Thanks rosehaven!

Anonymous said...

I love figs!!! I just never know what to do with them. Once I made figs with duck (an old Persian dish) and that turned out well but I'm definitely gonna try your recipe.

Krizia said...

you always have such pleasing posts. i'd almost forgotten how i grew up with a fig tree in our backyard. reading this makes me realize how much i took them for granted! thanks to you, i'll definitely be taking advantage on my short trip home this week :)

Dolores said...

an all-out fig-a-palooza!?! Bring it on! I also have a fig fetish... and can't wait to try my hand at your breakfast.

Jerry said...

I'm not one for figs, but with honey and pistachios you might make me a convert.

Invite the Party said...

I Love Figs. It must be my Greek heritage. I have be tempted to plant a fig tree. My Mother-in-Law has one. It took her a while but she now gets lots of fresh figs. Yum. Oh and we live in New Jersey.

Manpreet said...

hmmm..and i thot that figs were just to be eaten like a fruit...I just have to try out the salad.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Well, yes Mercedes, you should have warned me. This is all incredible!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I just had the chance to try fresh figs for the first time and think they are so gooood! Makes me think about planting a fig tree in our yard, especially after seeing the price of figs at the supermarket. Thanks for your great recipies.

MastihaShopNY said...

The apricot honey looks great. I will have to try it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the ripening tip. I just picked my first Lebanese fig. My tree is only as high as my forearm and produced 2 figs this year. It is a cutting from a tree that was sourced from Lebanon 50 years ago. So here goes...

Sydney, Australia