The wait is over and after a wonderful weekend away I now present and spoil you with a lovely dessert that will make mouths water. Provided you are a figs fan and provided you like desserts that are easy, sweet and fantastically delicate. I think that's pretty much covering many of my lovely readers.
Growing up in the Middle East, I ate figs like many eat apples. They were readily available and my mother used figs in various dishes she experimented with. I can remember our fruit bowl was almost always filled with fruits that many would call "exotic" but for us they were the norm and figs were a regular part of that norm.
Coming to Germany I was rather surprised that there are so many people - at least in my circle of friends - who stay clear of this luscious fruit. They are simply not sure what to do with it! Eat it for crying out loud is what I say. Then comes the never ending question - with or without the skin? I almost always have to roll my eyes. See I am the type of person who eats a fig - skin and all. That is part of the experience of biting into this fruit.
The texture of figs combines a smoothness of their skin, chewiness of their flesh and the crunchiness of their seeds. I have often wondered why the "Apple" was the chosen fruit in the Garden of Eden when Eve could have used the sultry Fig. But that is another story. For me figs are reminiscent of ancient times, like the olive and symbolize lush sensuality in taste and texture.
There are several botanical types of fig but within these there are hundreds of commercial varieties. They form a wide spectrum of flavor, sweetness, size and color, ranging from purple to brown, green-gold, black or even white. In the Mediterranean regions, there are usually two crops, with the season stretching from June through to October and November. It is these second-crop figs that are usually dried.
Figs grow on the Ficus tree (Ficus carica), which is a member of the Mulberry family. They are unique in that they have an opening, called the "ostiole" or "eye," which is not connected to the tree, but which helps the fruit's development, aiding it in communication with the environment.
Figs dramatically range in color and subtly in texture depending upon the variety. There are more than one hundred and fifty different varieties of figs. Some of the most popular varieties are:
- Black Mission: blackish-purple skin and pink colored flesh
- Kadota: green skin and purplish flesh
- Calimyrna: greenish-yellow skin and amber flesh
- Brown Turkey: purple skin and red flesh
- Adriatic: the variety most often used to make fig bars, which has a light green skin and pink-tan flesh
My little secret tip: bring out their delicate scent and flavor by leaving them in the sun for an hour or so before serving.
Figs have the highest overall mineral content of all common fruits. An excellent source of potassium, figs help to control blood pressure. Figs are also high in calcium, which protects bone density. Moreover, their potassium may reduce the amount of calcium lost as a result of high-salt diets. The fruit is also a source of iron, vitamin B6 and the trace mineral manganese.
Figs boast higher quantities of fiber than any other dried or fresh fruit. Insoluble fiber protects against colon and breast cancer, while soluble fiber helps lower blood cholesterol. Figs offer both types in one compact package. Since Americans on average eat less than half the minimum amount of dietary fiber thought to be necessary for good health, figs are a sweet and easy way to increase intake. Diets rich in fiber may also help manage weight. Additionally, figs’ fiber makes them a mild laxative.
As with many fruits and vegetables, figs are a good source of flavonoids and polyphenols, plant-based antioxidants that fight free radicals in the body. Studies show that dried figs have a phenol makeup ranging from 4 to 50 times higher than other fruits. Dried figs also contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and improve immune function.
Selecting and Storing
As fresh figs are one of the most perishable fruits, they should be purchased only a day or two prior to eating. Look for figs that have a rich, deep color and are plump and tender, but not mushy. They should have firm stems and be free of bruises. Hold the fig close to your nose and smell them. Their aroma can also give you clues into their freshness and taste. They should have a mildly sweet fragrance and should not smell sour, which is an indication that they may be spoiled.
Keep ripe figs should in the refrigerator where they will stay fresh for about two days. Since they have a delicate nature and can easily bruise, they should stored either arranged on a paper towel-lined plate or shallow container. They should be covered or wrapped in order to ensure that they do not dry out, get crushed or pick up odors from other foods. If you have purchased slightly under-ripe figs, you should keep them on a plate, at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. Dried figs will stay fresh for several months and can either be kept in a cool, dark place or stored in the refrigerator. They should be well wrapped so that they are not over exposed to air that may cause them to become hard or dry.
Before eating or cooking figs, wash them under cool water and then gently remove the stem. Gently wipe dry.
Figs are best eaten fresh and pure. However, they are so versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. I love adding figs to a fresh salad, stuffing them with goats cheese or simply drizzled with honey and natural yogurt.
If you are looking for more great ideas, check out this month's Sugar High Friday over at lovely Ivonne's, who brilliantly chose The Beautiful Fig as her theme. Ivonne I'm sending you a huge hug and a large bowl of my Figs in Cherry Caramel. Something tells me you might like this one. I also recommend this dessert to all those of you who have not played around with figs before. The sweet and aromatic combination of figs with the cherry caramel is incredibly delicate. A taste I know you will love.
8 fresh figs - washed, wiped dry and cut into quarters
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 l cherry juice
100 ml red wine
100g cantuccini/biscotti - coarsely chopped
In a saucepan melt the sugar on medium heat until it caramelizes into a wonderful amber color. Pour in the cherry juice. The sugar will crystalize but stirring it on the heat will re-melt it again. Reduce the entire mixture to about a quarter - this takes about 5-8 minutes.
Add the wine and gently heat through. Add the figs to the sauce and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Once cool, spoon the figs with the cherry caramel sauce into bowls and generously sprinkle with cantuccini.
A dessert for a perfect end to a wonderful dinner for two. Sensual, sultry and seductive - how can your partner refuse you, your dessert and anything else you request ;-)
Technorati Tags: figs, fruit, sweet, dessert, cherry, caramel, food, recipe, photography, nikon d70s
All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First