Celebrating the Joy of Figs

Figs, sweet and exploding with juice, are excellent as is, you can serve them chilled with a side of Arak, or turn them into a fabulous dessert.

As part of my ongoing search for seasonal summer produce I was delighted to discover fresh and moist figs this afternoon at my local supermarket.  Coming from a country where figs are bountiful in the summer (yes, that would be Israel) and are almost always sweet and exploding with juice, I learned the hard way to be suspicious about American figs.

They can be purple or green and can look prefect, but still be dry inside like the deserts of my homeland. I suggest you sniff the figs a little and squeeze them a bit to make sure they’re fragrant and juicy before making the investment (did I complain yet about the high price of figs here compared to Israel?).

But when you do find good ones you’ll be only a few steps away from a fabulous dessert. First, fresh figs are excellent as is, or you can serve them chilled with a side of Arak (Middle Eastern anise liquor) or vodka and just dip each one before you bite.

You can add quartered figs into a herb or greens salad. You can preserve the summer by making a fig jam; Cook 1 lb. of figs cut in halves with 3/4 lb. sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Bring to boil over high heat, spoon the foam that forms on the jam, lower the heat to medium-low and cook until ready. Quickly stir in a pinch of cinnamon and ground star anise and store in a jar in the fridge for months to come. (How do you know when the jam is ready? Drop a spoonful of jam over a plate you put in the freezer. After a couple of minutes run your finger through the jam on the plate. If it’s ready the line you formed with your finger should remain.

And here’s an easy yet fancy fig clafouti for Shabbat, in line with our theme of no more than 10 minutes in the kitchen.