A lot of times around here, the recipes that are posted relate to a story. They come out of a memory. Some food trigger that takes me back somewhere – good or bad. These two recipes aren’t like that at all. I never had fresh figs growing up. The only knowledge I had of them were from Fig Newtons. They were my dad’s favorite cookie and, as a child, I just couldn’t get my head around the fact that a cookie wasn’t crunchy and sweet. I couldn’t stand the things so I didn’t think much about the fruit they came from. Only until I reached my twenties and started eating in restaurants that paired them with a bit of cheese or a sliver of prosciutto didn’t I really come to appreciate them.
After snagging a few pounds of figs left over from a photoshoot – I hate for stuff to go to waste or simply get thrown away – I started thinking of ways to use them at home. Since I don’t eat pork anymore, the cheese stuffed and prosciutto wrapped versions are off the table. I love figs in savory applications but wanted to go beyond putting them in a salad. I pulled out some flatbread crusts I had in the freezer, slathered a bit of fig or onion jam on them once they were defrosted, added some figs and Stilton and baked. This is heaven on bread. I’m including a recipe here but use it as a guideline. I’ve since made versions on skinny pieces of lavash, turned this into tartines on fruit-laced bread, and substituted cheeses with Gorgonzola and goat cheese. They’re all fabulous. Make a few of these, break them up into pieces and serve them as a starter nosh when entertaining (or sit down and eat a whole section of it like I did – no one will judge)
Fresh Fig and Stilton Flatbreads – makes 2
– Preheat oven to 350. Place the two pieces of lavash on a baking sheet and bake until it begins to barely crisp – 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool to the touch. Spread 2 tbsp. of your preferred jam on each piece of lavash. Even distribute the sliced figs over the lavash bread. Top each with 2 ounces of crumbled cheese and evenly sprinkle on the thyme leaves. Bake until crispy and the cheese has melted – this took 5 to 6 minutes in my oven. Cut into rough pieces and serve while still warm.
We’ve also been on an ice cream making bender here at the house. While sometimes it’s been just straight up vanilla, we’ve been experimenting a bit using that as a base flavor. I was standing in the kitchen over the ice cream maker and – in some random autopilot type way – walked to the pantry and grabbed the balsamic vinegar. I drizzled a bit into my ice cream base…then chopped up the last of the figs and threw them in right before the churning was done. What emerged was the best ice cream I’ve ever made. This is a flavor profile that takes a second or two to get used to. You can taste the balsamic. The tang of the vinegar hits you and is then tempered by the sweetness of the vanilla. In every other bite or so, you run into a frozen fig, which is a little burst of icy sweetness. It’s been consumed several times right out of the container (and passed around in a circle amongst friends) but this would be killer with some chopped pistachios and a drizzle of honey on top.
Fig Balsamic Ice Cream – makes 1 quart – based off Alton Brown’s Serious Vanilla Ice Cream recipe
– Combine the last 5 ingredients (including the bean and its pulp) in a large saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Bring mixture to just barely a simmer – as soon as you see a bubble reach the top, remove the pan from heat – do not let this boil. Allow to cool slightly. Remove the hull of the vanilla bean, pour mixture into lidded container and refrigerate mixture at least 4 hours to allow flavors to mingle.
– Place cooled ice cream mixture in the frozen container of your ice cream maker. Begin churning process according to the directions that come with your machine. 10 minutes into the churn, drizzle the balsamic vinegar through the top of the machine – don’t turn the churning process off to do this. In the last 5 minutes of churning time, add the chopped figs. The mixture will not freeze hard in the machine. Once the volume has increased by 1/2 – 3/4 times, and reached a soft serve consistency, spoon the mixture back into a lidded container and harden in the freezer at least 1 hour before serving. This will keep for several days in the freezer…but it will not last that long.