WHAT ARE FIGS? Figs are one of the top food trends for 2018. Fresh figs, tender, succulent and uniquely flavorful, have deep purple or purple and green skin with bright, blood-orange colored seeded flesh. The vast majority, 90%, are grown in California; a portion of the remaining 10% becomes ripe in late summer in Oregon. Dried Mission figs, are small, deep purple, intensely sweet, and are widely available.
WHAT CAN I USE FIGS IN? Trendy figs are a fine fit with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, in both sweet and savory applications. Roasted prosciutto-wrapped figs are stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese and make a wonderful appetizer. In season, fresh figs and peaches pair well as salad with arugula, Parmigiano Reggiano and a light cider vinaigrette. Figs even shine in bruschetta with herbed goat cheese, sage and smoked Gouda. Figs are a wonderful garnish for waffles with maple syrup, and elevate Fresh toast with fig-cinnamon jam, other seasonal fruits and whipped cream. They’re also a wonderful complement to roasted meats.
WHERE CAN I FIND FIGS? Before I moved to Portland I had never tasted a fresh fig, likely because they have almost no shelf life. From the time they’re harvested, I have about two days to press them into service as either a dessert component or in a starring role in a tart with pastry cream or custard, or in a little riper stage into glorious jam with lemon and thyme.
WHAT ARE GOOD COMPLEMENTS TO FIGS? Figs’ strongest flavor affinities are: almonds, blue, goat, ricotta and Gorgonzola cheeses, cream and ice cream, honey, oranges and raspberries, balsamic vinegar and vanilla.
WHERE CAN I FIND FOOD USING FIGS? One of my favorite ways to use dried Mission figs year-round is in a fig cookie that is reminiscent of the Fig Newtons I loved as a child. With the addition of cocoa powder, ground almonds, honey, nutmeg, coriander, cloves, orange zest, orange liqueur and brown sugar, these are exponentially better. Dried figs are wonderful in muffins, as a stuffing ingredient for roasted pork loin, and are delectable as a compote for gelato, in trifle or as part of a cheese and meat board.