Juicy, earthy figs are always a favorite of mine. The Jewish people have a long association with figs, which are mentioned often in the Torah and the Mishnah. They symbolize endurance, peace and fruitfulness. Adam and Eve clothed their nakedness with fig leaves. Maimonides and others ascribed medicinal value to the fig, which biologically is a flower rather than a true fruit. Dried and fresh figs were an important part of the early Jewish diet.
Israel harvests two crops of figs — one in early summer, the other in late summer. Here in California, fresh figs are available from May to December. Below are recipes featuring fresh figs, dried figs and fig jam.
For the Lamb with Figs, I used black mission figs, but brown turkey figs would also work. Sample before buying, since the intensity and sweetness vary.
The Hot Chocolate Fig Sauce with Sea Salt can be made in advance, refrigerated and gently reheated. Use nondairy ingredients for a parve sauce. Bananas give the parve Fig-Banana Frozen Dessert a surprisingly creamy texture.
Lamb with Figs
12 oz. fresh black mission figs (about 8)
3 Tbs. minced garlic, divided
6 Tbs. balsamic vinegar, divided
7 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1⁄2 tsp. salt, divided
1 tsp. black pepper, divided
1 Tbs. fresh OR 1 tsp. dried rosemary leaves, divided
1 lb. lamb chops
1 cup chopped onions
fresh rosemary sprigs OR chopped parsley for garnish
Stem figs and cut into eighths. Place in marinade of 1 Tbs. garlic, 3 Tbs. vinegar, 3 Tbs. oil, 1⁄4 tsp. salt, 1⁄2 tsp. pepper and half of the rosemary. Marinate 1 hour, turning occasionally.
Place lamb chops in marinade of 1 Tbs. garlic, 3 Tbs. vinegar, 3 Tbs. oil, 1⁄4 tsp. salt, 1⁄2 tsp. pepper and the other half of the rosemary. Marinate 1 hour, turning occasionally.
Heat large sauté or fry pan over medium-high heat. Add remaining oil. Drain lamb chops (discard marinade) and cook, undercooking slightly. Remove lamb from pan, cover and keep warm. Sauté onions until softened. Add rest of garlic and sauté until golden. Lower heat to medium. Add figs with marinade, and sauté until figs are soft, adding additional vinegar if needed to keep moist. Taste and correct seasonings. Serve over lamb with garnish.
Hot Chocolate Fig Sauce with Sea Salt
Makes 1 cup
1⁄4 cup fig preserves
1⁄2 cup dairy or nondairy vanilla ice cream
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1⁄4 tsp. finely ground sea salt
Put fig preserves in pot on low heat. Stir until syrupy. Add ice cream and chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth. Stir in salt.
Chocolate Fig Sundaes: For each serving, drizzle 2-3 Tbs. of warm sauce over 1⁄2 cup of dairy or nondairy vanilla ice cream. Garnish with sliced fresh figs.
Fig-Banana Frozen Dessert
11⁄2 cups water
1 cup sugar
3-inch cinnamon stick
8 oz. dried black mission figs, halved
2 large bananas
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
Put water and sugar in pot over low heat. Stir until simmering and sugar is dissolved. Add cinnamon and figs. Cook until figs are completely soft, stirring often. Discard cinnamon. Cool. Pulse mixture in processor or blender until figs are in tiny bits. Mash bananas. Mix 11⁄2 cups into figs (reserve extra for another use). Stir in lime juice. Spread in 8-by-8-inch pan or container, cover and freeze.
After 1 hour, stir with fork, breaking up any ice crystals. Repeat an hour later and again an hour after that. Serve or keep frozen for up to a week (color will darken), removing from freezer 20 minutes before serving. Once softened, stir with fork. Serve.
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Josie A.G. Shapiro. Faith blogs about her food at www.clickblogappetit.com. Contact her at email@example.com.