Fall is fig season, and these luscious treats don’t last long. Look for fresh figs at gourmet markets, farmer’s markets - maybe even your own backyard!
Ever since I’ve lived in my very Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, I’ve looked forward to fall because that’s when my landlord, Frank, harvests figs from the tree in the backyard of our building. His family planted it there decades ago, like so many other Italian families in the neighborhood. In fact, when you look out the window of my kitchen facing onto the backyard, you can see several of the neighboring yards, and most of them have fig trees!
This year, for some reason, the birds got to the figs first! They pecked little holes in them and then the fruit went bad. Bummer! Well, the following week I went to Italy, and you know what? It’s fig season there, too, and I had the best figs I’ve ever tasted in my life! In Italy, they have a variety of figs called fiche nero, or black figs, that are the size of a small apple and taste like fig jam. They are so sweet and intensely flavored, like honey and Mediterranean sunshine packed into a deep purple orb with a bright red center.
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I also tried some green figs, like the ones we have in our backyard, but they were nowhere near as distinct or sweet. That’s probably why Rome’s most renowned gelateria, San Crispino, makes fiche nero gelato, which I also enjoyed immensely.
It’s starting to get cold, and fig season is almost up, so take advantage! Rachael has some great ideas for what to do with figs, including this recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream with Balsamic Fig Sauce. Make this recipe with fresh or dried figs, whichever you can find. Aside from eating them plain, here are some other ideas for what to do with fresh figs:
-Freeze whole, ripe figs. Cut in quarters and eat as a dessert, like chunks of sorbet.
-Make roasted figs. Cut figs in half, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and roast on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350°F until the figs are soft and fragrant, about 10-15 minutes.
-Slice thinly and use as a pizza topping.
-Scoop out the flesh and mash with honey and a pinch of salt to make a no-cook fig jam.
-Make sandwiches with grilled figs, grilled sausage, pickled red onions, and arugula.
-Make a salad with sliced figs, crispy bacon, bitter radicchio, and balsamic dressing.