See also: AndyTalk: Attack of the Hot Tomatoes
I love figs, and not just the ones that are dried, sweetened and squeezed between layers of cake-like cookie dough and sold as Newtons. Figs are way up on the list of things that taste insanely good when they're both ripe and fresh. Dried figs and homemade pickles are pretty good too. The question being begged is what happens when you cross a fig and a pickle. It turns out that you get jars of balsamic-sweet still intact fig halves that make pork, poultry, and cheese platters taste better than the sum of the sum of their parts.
Fresh figs (I just bought some at Fresh and Easy) are great to eat plain and unadorned. They make great smoothies with a little plain Greek yogurt and some honey. Sliced fresh figs on cereal are pretty good too. My favorite fresh fig recipe, Brûléed Figs, has 2 ingredients. Preheat your broiler, halve some figs, sprinkle them with a little granulated sugar, and broil until the tops are bubbling and beginning to brown. In the process the figs warm and soften and the whole confection melts in your mouth.
What to do with dried figs? I serve them with cheese, and when I'm not pressed for time I stuff them with mascarpone and then wrap them in dough for what I like to call Figs in a Blanket.
But, I wanted something new, or at least new to me. Then it hit me, people are pickling up a storm. Non-standard pickles are garnishing plates at great restaurants across the country. I decided to try and pickle some figs. I opted for dried figs, because I think that fresh figs will fall apart.
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My pickled fig recipe starts by cooking the figs for a short time in a blend of balsamic vinegar, water, brown sugar and spices The figs plump up, but hold their shape. I ladled the figs and cooking liquid into sterile canning jars, covered them and brought them to a boil for 15 minutes. The jars are still on my counter because I like the way they look and don't want to put them away. The sweet-to-tart-ratio is similar to that of homemade cranberry sauce.
I made a little more than my jars could hold. This small convenience forced me to eat those extra pickled figs. It was part of cleaning up, and a small price to pay ...
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.