I love fresh figs and whenever I eat them, I feel decadent. The first time I tasted a fresh fig I was in my twenties, going to Graduate school in Boston, and it was a revelation. Having grown up in Hawai`i, tropical exotics such as guava, lychee, mango and papaya were a part of my palate from childhood but fresh figs! The pale pink flesh of a Brown Turkey, with just a perfumy wisp of sweetness – I could not believe what I had been missing. Fresh figs became my struggling student market splurge. Years later, I tasted a fresh fig stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in basil. Another revelation as the subtle sweet fig contrasted with the clove-citrus notes of fresh sweet basil and the creamy tang of goat cheese. Using Mark Bittman’s custard recipe as a guide, this recipe developed out of my generally non-pastry baking nature to one up the fig and sweet basil combination by adding custard, blue cheese and honey (another taste revelation I experienced in my twenties, but that's another story). The result is a contrast of flavors and textures worth trying: Creamy, sweet, fig flecked custard, contrasted with citrus notes from the basil, a burst of salt from the blue cheese and a touch of floral from the honey. Note: I used six small ramekins to make individual custards, however one large one would also work. Adjust cooking time if you make one large one – it will take a bit longer. —gingerroot
fresh figs, preferably organic
1 % milk
large egg yolk
Pinch of salt
sweet basil leaves (such as Genovese)
Mild soft Blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola Dolce Blue, for crumbling on top of custards
Local honey for drizzling over cheese and custards (I used a local lavender honey)
Heat a small sauté pan over low heat. Cut three of the figs into wedges. Add fig pieces to pan and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of cane sugar over fruit. Add water. Gently moving fig pieces around with a spatula, cook until wedges get soft but still hold their shape, about five minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.
Set a kettle of water on the stove to boil.
Combine milk and heavy cream in a saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid steams, about three to four minutes. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat eggs and egg yolk. Gradually add a pinch of salt and remaining ¼ cup of cane sugar. Beat until mixture is pale and thick.
Whisking constantly, slowly add the egg mixture to the heated liquid. To ensure an extra silky texture, strain custard through a sieve into a large glass container with a spout (like a quart size pyrex measuring cup).
Place ramekins in a baking pan. Divide reserved cooked fig wedges among ramekins, about 4-5 wedges per dish. Pour custard over fruit, filling each ramekin. Pop any air bubbles with the tip of a sharp knife.
Carefully pour boiled water from kettle into baking pan, so that water comes up about an inch around custard dishes. Carefully transfer baking pan to oven. Check custards in about 30 minutes; custards are done when almost set, center will still jiggle a bit. Remove from oven and allow custards to cool on a rack. Once cooled, cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator. Chill at least four hours and up to a day.
When ready to serve custards, cut remaining fig into wedges. Roll and cut basil into chiffonade. Assemble custards by removing plastic wrap, placing one to two wedges of fresh fig onto each, top with ribbons of sweet basil, crumbles of blue cheese and a drizzle of honey. Enjoy!
My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love.
Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.