Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fresh Figs

There is something about a fresh fig that sets it apart from all other fruits. There's that elegant teardrop shape, for starters. And its alluring color patterns, the glorious gradient darkening that sweeps up from the bottom as the fruit ripens. And the plump feel in your hand, reminiscent, excuse the reference, of a woman's breast.  And oh, the meaty-succulent-tender-grainy surprise that awaits that first plunge, the exquisite breaking of skin that seems to happen with lips, teeth and tongue all at once, as fruit and mouth envelop one another like enraptured lovers!

What a welcome arrival is the season that brings with it fresh figs. I have made a meal of them on occasion, needing nothing more to stop, stun, and thoroughly satisfy both hunger and imagination. I've also enjoyed them with muesli, in salads, paired with numerous savory ingredients, and in desserts.

Last night I made two light desserts using two main ingredients--figs and mint--with dramatically differing effects.

The first one was only slightly more complicated, although it made a prettier picture. I began by quartering the figs and laying them out in a starburst pattern on the plate. Then I stirred a splash of kirsch and a dab of agave nectar into some very thick cashew cream, and piped this back and forth across their upturned inner flesh. A few slices of fresh mint strewn over the top completed the dish. The combination was light, bright, and very fragrant.

The second was much quicker. I simply tossed some quartered figs with a tablespoon or so of black cherry balsamic vinegar and sliced mint, until thoroughly coated. To serve, I mounded them in small bowls and scattered more mint on top. The complex, almost unctuous semi-sweet fruit was a perfect match for the vinegar's dark, mellow tartness.

I think I'll go back to the market tomorrow and see if there are any left. I have a fig tart taking shape in my mind, and possibly the beginnings of a Napoleon...


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