This is probably a good time to mention that the best fresh figs are not usually the perfect, good-looking firm ones. Oh no! You want 'em soft, squishy, even oozing a bit of syrupy juice. Some of the best are the ones that have started to wrinkle a bit after sitting for a couple of days on your counter. If you are someone who just "doesn’t get" what the fuss about figs is all about, you haven’t tasted a good and properly ripe fig.
Figs can go sweet or savory. They love honey, or caramel, or cinnamon and sugar. They appreciate a little salt and/or pepper, and positively shine in the company of cultured dairy like sour cream, crème fraîche, yogurt, labneh, or quark—and all kinds of soft fresh or hard aged cheeses. They are crazy good with savory meats like prosciutto or bacon, so go ahead and stuff a sandwich or garnish a pizza. They also play nice with dark chocolate, and they’re nuts about nuts. And when it comes to cooking, figs are brilliant at the extremes: cooked either hot and fast—just to caramelize their cut sides—or long enough to stew in their own juices.
Figs, if they could talk, would insist that you make a composed plate with almost any assortment of the good things that I just mentioned. Here are 27 ways (ideas, recipes, and everything in between!) to make figs your jam:
Our 27 Best Fig Recipes
1. Fresh Figs with Greek Yogurt & Chestnut Honey
Arrange quartered of halved figs next to or atop a scoop of plain Greek yogurt. Drizzle with chestnut honey (or whatever delicious good honey you have). Need some crunch? Scatter almond, walnut, or pistachios pieces around the plate, or serve with cookies or toast.
2. Sliced Fig Halves, sprinkled with salt, & dolloped with any tangy cheese
That's it! That's the whole recipe. Thank us later. (We especially love this with black mission figs.)
3. Quartered Fresh Figs, in a Salad
Add fresh figs to any salad. Just rinse in water and pat with a soft kitchen cloth until dry. The skin of figs is totally edible and can be left on. Bonus points if it's a warm salad. (And psst: If raw figs aren't your thing, they can be baked or cooked under the broiler until caramelized.)
4. Honey Caramelized Figs with Goat Cheese (or Labneh)
Halve 3 or 4 figs per person. Heat a wide skillet over high heat and add enough honey to melt into a thin coating on the pan. Sprinkle the honey with a tiny pinch or two of salt and add the figs cut side-down, close together but in one layer. Cook until the honey bubbles and starts to caramelize, shaking the pan to slide the figs around. When the cut sides of the figs look brown and caramelized, remove the pan from the heat and flip the figs to coat them with glaze.
Divide the figs among serving plates and return the pan to the stove. Deglaze the pan with enough sherry, Madeira, or red wine to make a syrupy but not too thick sauce. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon to taste. Drizzle the sauce over the figs. Add a slice of fresh goat cheese or some labneh to each plate and grind a little pepper on top. Nothing more is needed, but you could serve with grilled sourdough or toasted walnut bread.
When figs are ripe to the point of being squishy and shriveled, mash with a fork on a piece of crunchy buttered toast. You can add a few crumbles of feta, or not—then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, or honey, or honey and tahini, or date syrup, or a few drops of aged balsamic vinegar. Pass a little flaky sea salt and the pepper grinder.
7. Cheese-Stuffed Figs Dipped in Chocolate
Stuff figs with 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ricotta, mascarpone, or cream cheese. Chill until the figs are cold to the touch. Dip each in warm melted dark chocolate, setting them immediately on a parchment-lined tray. Chill immediately in order to set the chocolate evenly, and keep them refrigerated until shortly before serving. Sharing is fully optional.
8. Baked Figs with Vanilla Ice Cream or Crème Fraîche
Cut figs in half and arrange them (either side up) in a baking dish just big enough to hold them in one layer. Drizzle with two parts honey to one part balsamic vinegar (the inexpensive stuff works fine here) or lemon juice, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Cover tightly with foil and bake in a 375°F oven, until the figs are very tender and squishy and the juices are syrupy, 30 to 45 minutes.
Check in 10 to 15 minutes before the end of the baking time: If juices are thin and copious, finish baking uncovered. If the juices are too thick and syrupy before the figs are soft, add a little water. When the figs are nearly done, taste the syrup and adjust the flavor with honey, vinegar, a pinch of salt, or squeeze of lemon juice as necessary. Serve warm, hot, or cold with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of crème fraîche. Figs keep in the fridge for at least a week.
Quarter fresh figs and toss with a little brown sugar, then caramelize in a skillet over a medium-high flame. Add a few drizzles of balsamic before removing from the heat, and toss. Serve over toast with ricotta, or on a bed of dressed arugula.
What's the point of eating any other sandwich besides this one, stuffed with balsamic grilled chicken, blue cheese, caramelized onions, and sautéed figs? And did we mention it's served on chewy ciabatta bread?
Make the most of the end of fig season with this sweet-meets-savory chicken sandwich, which gets finished off with a cheesy-herby spread and topped with caramelized onions, sautéed figs, fresh pears, and greens.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).
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