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.
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.