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Beth Kirby of Local Milk carries her Southern heritage -- and the ingredients, dishes, and recipes that come with it -- with her wherever she goes. Every other Monday, that place is here.
Today: Grilled figs that are waiting to be your next dessert -- plus the best crème fraîche you'll ever taste.
This is how I start fig season: I go to the market and buy a bag of green figs with rosy tips, figs the size of tennis balls from “the oldest fig tree in Chickamauga.” I take them home and stand at the kitchen island alternately dunking my fingers in sorghum and taking juicy bites of fig while singing "Figgy, Figgy, Figgy can’t you see…sometimes your ways just hypnotize me." And that’s a true story -- because I love figs. From that first bag on, I buy them every week anywhere I can find them.
Maybe I’m an enthusiast because, despite abundant fig trees in Tennessee, the only fig I knew as a child was a Newton. So fresh figs are still a bit of a revelation. As the season progresses, I get a little bit more free-wheeling with my figs; I become sated and willing to venture out in the world of cooking with them (as opposed to the world of serenading them and eating them straight out of the bag).
And that’s where hickory chips, my Weber, a mason jar of homemade lavender crème fraîche, and some haphazard drizzles of dark wildflower honey come in. I first got the hankering to make homemade crème fraîche when reading about it on Phyllis’ blog Dash and Bella. I never knew how simple it was. You just set a jar of heavy cream and buttermilk at a 2:1 ratio on your windowsill, uncovered. And you let it sit. And funk up. And stir it. And taste it. You do this for about two days, and when it’s as thick and tangy as you please, you stick it in your fridge…and voilà!
Since I’m sort of an infusion junkie and happened upon a large bouquet of dried lavender this Sunday market past, I figured why not let some lavender hang out during the thickening process. And I’m so glad I did. Once you strain it, add some good honey (I go with a local dark wildflower variety), and whip it -- you'll have the perfect topping, the perfect honor, for luscious, smoky grilled figs. Or fresh figs. Or fig pie. Pretty much fig anything. Finish with a drizzle more of honey, and try to resist skipping the fork and digging right in, finger licking and all, like I do.
Serves 2 to 4
For Lavender Crème Fraîche:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons dried lavender buds
2 tablespoons dark wildflower honey or other dark honey
For Grilled Figs:
1 pint fresh, ripe figs, halved lengthwise
Olive oil, for brushing
Dark wildflower honey or other dark honey, for drizzling
1 small bag hickory, cherry, or applewood chips
Photos by Beth Kirby