This wonderful fig recipe and photo are courtesy of Amanda Darrach Filippone and her website
Figs, Bay & Wine: Diary of a Mediterranean Kitchen in New York.
Text and photography may not be reproduced without prior explicit written consent.
Amanda Darrach Filippone is a professionally trained chef who writes about food,
travel, and culture in New York City. She is currently working on her first cookbook.
"Although Spanish and Portuguese
missionaries brought figs to the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries, the
fruit wasn’t really grown in Northeastern U.S. until the 1800s when
Mediterranean families moving to the States nursed cuttings all the way across
the Atlantic to plant in their new gardens. These days locally grown fruit is
available for a small window each year, though it’s still rare to see figs at a
farmer’s market here. The harvest tends to come a little later than in the
northern Mediterranean – it usually starts towards the end of August or in early
I like my fresh figs with as little done to them as possible. In fact, I far
prefer them raw to cooked. Though I’m often tempted to try new fig recipes, I
have yet to be convinced that there is any way to improve on the light sweetness
of a perfectly ripe fruit – perhaps slightly split by its own fecundity and
often weeping a little honeyed nectar from its blossom end. Ferociously pink and
very nearly liquid within, and with a floral fragrance reminiscent of both
blossoms and earth, tree-ripened figs are something I dream of all year. And I
can’t see why I’d want to mask their perfection with cooking.
Of course, when celebrating such a short and longed-for harvest, it’s only human
nature to feel an urge to adorn. So I’ve come up with a number of preparations
that make a platter of fresh figs seem more of an event – why isn’t this country
more comfortable with serving a bowl of perfectly ripe seasonal fruit at the end
of a meal? Why doesn’t it seem like enough to most of us?
I’m not sure, but this is my compromise. The syrupy twang of good aged balsamic
vinegar and the gently floral flavor of fleur de sel meld with the juicy
interior of the opened figs. And the toasted hazelnuts layer a faint autumnal
smokiness over the whole thing. It’s one of my favorite late-summer/early-autumn
desserts and a lovely way to end a meal."
Fresh Figs with Fleur de Sel, Aged Balsamic, &
Yields: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 20 min
1/4 cup whole hazelnuts
1 pound fresh ripe figs (I like to use green figs (such as Calimyrna), rinsed and patted dry
Traditional Aceto Balsamico (aged
Fleur de sel or sea
* This is a great recipe to use
Fleur de sel.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Spread the hazelnuts in a small baking tray or dish and roast for approximately
15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant (be very careful not to burn
them). Remove from oven. Once slightly cooled, chop the hazelnuts or pulse them
a few times in the food processor.
Trim any stems from the figs. With a sharp knife, gently score an “X” on the top
of each fig, being careful not to cut more than 3/4 of the way down the fruit.
Press your fingers into the base of the fruit until the 4 “petals” you have
created open to expose the pink center.
Arrange the figs on a platter. Drizzle with a little aged balsamic, sprinkle
with a little fleur de sel salt, and finish by showering with some of the
toasted hazelnuts (you may not need to use all the nuts). Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.