Ancient Symbols of Love for Israel's Valentine's Day: 3 Recipes

Before there was chocolate, there were figs, pomegranates and dates. Recipes for professing love on Tu B'Av.

Fig and Chilean sea bass carpaccio
Fig and Chilean sea bass carpaccio. Vered Guttman

Tu B'Av, which started as a national matchmaking day in the times of the second temple, has turned into a Valentine’s Day-style holiday in modern-day Israel, red satin hearts, chocolate and all.

Back in ancient Israel, before chocolate became synonymous with passion, there were figs, pomegranates and dates. Some claim that these help increase one’s sex drive, which may or may not be true; however, all three are among the seven species of the Land of Israel. What better way to celebrate this year’s Day of Love, Tu B’Av - the 15th of the month of Av, which comes out this Friday - than with the same sweet fruit our ancestors enjoyed?

Figs, alongside watermelons, dominate Israel’s summer markets. They’re plump and juicy and so sweet it’s hard to stop even after the tenth one. Unfortunately, figs sold in American stores and markets are much more expensive, not always sweet, and sometimes hard to find. Even so, I just had four of them, at about $1 each, with no regrets.

And if you want to treat yourself and your lover, there’s no better way than with these sweet and savory fig recipes.

Fig and Chilean sea bass carpaccio

Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Chilean sea bass or tilapia fillet, skin removed
  • 4 figs
  • 1 serrano pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup micro greens

Directions

  1. Slice sea bass with a sharp knife as thinly as possible and divide between 4 plates, arranging it in one layer.
  2. Slice figs thinly and arrange on and around sea bass. Sprinkle serrano and salt on top, and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix red onion, cilantro and micro greens. Arrange over the fish, drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve.

Photo by Vered Guttman

Stuffed figs in goat cheese and olive oil

Serves 4 as a first course.

Ingredients

  • 8 figs
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 oz. aged goat cheese, such as Bucheron
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons chopped roasted pistachio

To serve:

  • 1 cup micro greens or 2 cup arugula leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 oz. shaved parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil a baking sheet.
  2. Cut an x-shaped slit at the top of each fig, about an inch deep. Sprinkle the flesh with a little salt.
  3. Stuff figs with goat cheese and tighten figs around the cheese, drizzle olive oil over the cheese and the figs’ flesh. Sprinkle with orange zest and pistachio. You can stuff the figs up to 4 hours in advance and keep covered in the fridge. Take out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving.
  4. Transfer figs to the baking sheet. Bake for about 8 minutes, until cheese has melted.
  5. In the meantime, mix micro greens with olive oil and parmesan and divide between 4 plates. Arrange two stuffed figs on top of each plate, drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on top of the figs, and serve immediately.

Photo by Vered Guttman

Figs in white chocolate and arak cream

Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (2 oz.) white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • Pinch ground cardamom
  • 1-2 tablespoons Arak or Ouzo (anise-flavored liquor)
  • 8 figs
  • 2 tablespoons roasted hazelnuts or pistachios, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest

Directions

  1. Put white chocolate in a small bowl. Bring 1/4 cup whipping cream to boil and pour over chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute, then mix until chocolate has melted.
  2. Transfer chocolate mixture to a mixer bowl along with the rest of the whipping cream and sour cream, cardamom and arak. Whip until soft peaks form.
  3. Slice figs in half, sprinkle with hazelnuts and orange zest and serve alongside a bowl of whipped cream.