One thing about the end of summer that I love: fresh figs, so delicate and about to burst open with sticky, sweet juices. Long revered in art and history, it is thought that it was a fig that was the forbidden fruit, not the apple. Native to southwestern Asia and the Mediterranean region, figs have been a part of the diets of many cultures throughout time. It was one of the first plants cultivated by humans – going back 9500 years.

When ripe, a fresh fig is sweet like honey, yet rich tasting at the same time. I love to add them to a salad of endive, watercress, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. Simply split them into quarters and drizzled with honey and fresh mint. Or, top a crostini with some fresh ricotta, a sliced fig, a hint of lemon zest. Pop that in the oven and garnish with a drizzle of honey and a dusting of fresh black pepper.

They’re perfect wrapped in prosciutto or stuffed with point reyes blue cheese. They make a nice addition to pizza and taste great cooked down as a compote, which is a nice topper for pork or even waffles.

And for Dessert……
Caramelized Figs with Vanilla Ice Cream and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

  • 8 firm-ripe fresh California figs, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream
  • 1 tablespoon aged Balsamic Vinegar (20 years)

Preheat broiler. Arrange figs, cut sides up, in large shallow nonreactive baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with sugar and broil 2 to 3 inches from heat until sugar is melted and begins to turn deep golden color, 3 to 5 minutes.

Serve immediately, spooning 4 fig halves over 1/4 cup of ice cream for each serving. Drizzle with vinegar.

Serves: 4 (4 fig halves, 1/2 cup ice cream each)


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