Monday, August 30, 2010
SUMMER IN FULL FIG
Figs, plump, luscious and sweet, are one of the pleasures of summertime. My fig trees are pretty
insignificant—one is out of reach beyond a bramble patch and the fruit of the other is consumed by field rats before it even ripens.
Luckily, my friend Charlotte has a garden where figs thrive. One enormous, sprawling tree is laden with fruit. Several smaller trees bear different varieties of figs. Charlotte used to dry her figs, spreading them on tarps in the late summer sun. They were then packed in a woven basket, cinched tightly and taken to a fig press. Pressing preserves the figs and keeps out bugs. With a reduced household, she can no longer make use of quantities of dried figs, so she doesn’t bother with drying anymore. She gives away fresh figs to all comers—including the washing machine repair man who took away 10 pounds of them. As a favored friend, I have all the figs I can possibly eat.
I have several favorite ways with fresh figs. Figgy ice cream (see the previous blog posting for the recipe) is one. I adore fig and chicken salad with tarragon dressing, a recipe I culled from Gourmet magazine many years ago. Figs pair beautifully with thinly sliced serrano or ibérico ham, making a simple but elegant starter. I’ve made fig jam and fig chutney, but, in fact, I prefer not to cook ripe figs.
The salsa is juicy and piquant, just right for summer meals. It keeps, covered and refrigerated, up to 2 days.
Makes 1 ½ cups salsa, serving 6 as an accompaniment.
½ lemon, chopped
12 ounces firm, ripe figs (about 12), peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons minced shallot (about 1 shallot)
2 tablespoons chopped jalapeños (2-3 peppers)
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
Blanch the chopped lemon in boiling water for 1 minute and drain. When it is cool, combine the lemon with the figs, shallot, jalapeños, ginger, salt and lemon juice.
Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Stir in mint leaves before serving.