For some reason, fresh fig season seemed to have slipped right past me this year. Either that, or I wasn’t looking very hard because normally when I see fresh figs, I can’t help bringing home a big sack of them and snacking on them all week. Figs have two seasons; the first is usually late summer and the second begins mid-fall. The second crop is better-tasting and toward the end of the season, the prices drop as the bounty increases.
Last weekend at the market I saw some very nice looking figs and even though I thought the season had passed me by, I sneaked a squeeze when the vendor wasn’t looking and I could feel through their skin the juiciness of a ripe ‘n ready fig, so I took a gamble and bought a very big bag. And when I got home, I was happy to find that when sliced open, they were a bright ruby-red inside and indeed, just perfect. So to make them last a wee bit longer, I decided to oven-roast a portion of them to conserve my late season windfall.
The best advice about buying fresh figs is to purchase them when they’re ripe. Unlike other fruits, figs don’t really ripen after they’re picked. So look for ones that are already soft and feel like water-balloons. If you can’t touch them, another tip is if they’re splitting or look as if they’re just about to split, or if a small droplet of sap is oozing from the hole in the bottom, the fig will be sweet and syrupy.
That said, oven-roasting figs will bring out the flavor of less-than-perfect figs. Figs that are hard, chalky and totally unripe will never be good, so avoid those. I store roasted figs in the refrigerator and eat them with my mid-morning bowl of yogurt and granola to stave off those pesky hunger pangs during that long interlude between breakfast and lunch. Although you could serve these at room temperature with a baked goat cheese or goat cheese custard for dessert, or warm alongside roast pork or poultry.
Feel free to alter the flavoring and sweeteners to your liking. And even if you’re planning on mixing these into your morning bowl of yogurt, adding a splash of liquor really augments and highlights the flavor of figs. But you can leave it out if you wish or grab something interesting from your liquor shelf and give that a pour.
Six to eight servings
Use a baking dish or pan that will allow you to bake the figs in a single layer. One that is 2 quarts (2l) should do it. Depending on where you live, fresh fig season is near the end of summer and mid-autumn and the best place to find fresh figs is at a farmers market.
- 1 pound (450g) fresh figs
- 4-6 branches fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons red wine or liquor, such as Chartreuse, Pernod, Grand Marnier or Cointreau
- 1 tablespoon dark or light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- three 1-inch (3cm) strips of fresh lemon zest
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC).
2. Slice the touch stem end off the figs and slice each in half lengthwise.
3. Toss the figs in a large baking dish with the thyme, red wine or liquor, brown sugar, honey, and lemon zest. Turn the figs so that they are all cut side down in the baking dish, in a single layer.
4. For figs that are softer and juicier, cover the baking dish snugly with foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the figs are softened and cooked through.
For figs that are firmer, with less liquid, roast them in the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.
5. When done, remove the baking dish from oven, lift off the foil, and let the figs cool completely.
Variation: For more savory figs, replace the liquor with one or two tablespoons balsamic or sherry vinegar.
Storage: Roasted figs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
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