Friday, October 8, 2010

This Little Figgy Had Ice Cream

True confessions... I have never eaten a fresh fig. No particular aversion to them or anything like that, they just escaped me. Off my radar. I was a picky-eater as a kid, so maybe it's a stale mental-leftover from my childhood? Maybe it was just because they "looked funny". Who's to say? I was (am) also a very imaginative child, and figs, when quartered, have always reminded me of the ravenous houseplant in The Little Shop Of Horrors and/or the sand-worms of the desert planet Dune. When they're quartered and then cooked, they look like the undersides of starfish. None of those are images of things I'd really like to see on my dinner plate, then or now.

Once upon a time, I even lived in a house that had a fig tree smack-dab in the middle of the back yard. And yet I never ate of that tree. You see, it was my job to mow around it. It was exceptionally messy and it supported a healthy population of ants. This same yard also had a loquat tree sitting off to one side. Fig... loquat... lawn. At the time, I felt it was about the most useless yard in the world. Now I'm thinking that I might very well have been mowing around a goldmine. But what did I know?

Recently, a friend of mine shared her unexpected bounty of fresh figs with me and I couldn't wait to try making something with them. I literally couldn't wait since we were going out of town again and these figs were fading fast. Time was of the essence. My choice was obvious: we had vanilla ice cream in the freezer (a rarity) and if we* were going to like figs at all, our best bet would be to have them with ice cream.

Honey Roasted Figs over Vanilla Ice Cream
Adapted from: Oven-Roasted Figs with Honey and Orange page 384, In The Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley (2001)

13-14 really ripe Black Mission Figs
3 cinnamon sticks, broken into large pieces
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup orange juice
1 Tblsp orange zest
3 Tblsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces 
Good quality vanilla ice cream 
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Cut off the stem-ends of the figs, then cut them in quarters from the top down, keeping them attached at the very bottom. Stand them up in a glass pie dish and scatter the pieces of cinnamon stick around the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle the cardamom around the same.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the honey, orange juice and zest (a few seconds in the microwave helps a lot here). Drizzle the honey mixture over the figs and place one piece of butter inside each. 
  4. Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully take the pan out of the oven and raise the temp to 425°. While the oven is heating up, baste the figs with the liquid in the bottom of the pan.
  5. Bake figs at 425° for 15 minutes. Let them sit for 10 minutes or so before spooning over vanilla ice cream. The compote will still be quite warm so add it to the ice cream just before serving.
My Notes: I used 13 figs because that's what I had, and they fit almost perfectly in the bottom of a glass pie pan. All I had was ground cardamom. The recipe called for pods which would work better I'm sure. And lastly, I didn't have an orange to zest and juice, so I used orange zest I had in the freezer and OJ from concentrate. I almost substituted lemon zest and juice, and I still think that that would be a good choice. Fresh is always best, but I use what I got. It turned out lovely: warm, fragrant, and syrupy. Perfect over the ice cream with its nice textural contrast of soft fruit and snappy little seeds. It was easy, delicious and sumptuous looking. Something I would happily serve to guests.

Should I chance to encounter any more wild or domesticated figs in the future, I will be equal to the challenge, armed with the following recipes that feature this fabled fruit...
  • A little introduction to and history of the fig at (there are a bunch of great ideas in the comments here) 
  • Fig & Quinoa Cupcakes at Cupcake Bakeshop
  • Fig Spread with Black Pepper and Toasted Sesame Seeds on page 170 of the book Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson (2007).**
  • Fig and Lavender Goat Cheese Galettes from
  • Baby Fig and Honey Tart at What Katie Ate
  • Two more from the book In The Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley (2001): Fresh Fig and Pistachio Frangipane Tart with Honeyed Mascarpone (pg. 445) and Port Wine Jellies with Melon and Fresh Figs (pg. 597)
  • From a recent thrift-store find, Potager by Georgeanne Brennan (1992), a gorgeous looking Fresh Fig Clafouti on page 74.
*Oh, did I mention that Hubs said he didn't really like figs? Of course, he followed it with "But I haven't had any that you've made. Bring 'em on.". Later after we'd finished our dessert he said, "Huh... I guess I like figs!". 
**If you're waiting for this baby from the library, I just renewed it so you'll have to wait a little longer... but trust me, it'll be worth the wait.
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    1. I'll have to try this, sounds tasty.

    2. Heide: It certainly was tasty and it's something I would totally make again. The flavors were subtle and slightly floral... and it was pretty too!


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