Saturday, August 01, 2015

Give a Fig - With Recipes for Lamb with Figs, Hot Chocolate Fig Sauce (with Sea Salt) and a Frozen Fig-Banana Dessert

I like figs - dried, fresh and cooked. Fresh they are juicy and earthy. Dried they are little nuggets of complex sweetness. Cooked they bring color and flavor to a dish.

I enjoy creating recipes with them for both this blog and my Jewish food column in the J weekly.  Seeing fresh figs in the farmers' market or produce store sets my imagination racing about new recipes I can develop and ways I can find to eat these.

It doesn't have to be a fresh fig either to get me going.  The first time I had fig jam slathered over cheese (try a creamy blue or a soft goat cheese) on a whole wheat biscuit-style cracker was a revelation.  Dried figs are like candy in my house to eat out of hand or create confections.

Figs are in season right now in California, which means my fig radar is going full blast.  For more about the types of fresh figs, tips and recipes using figs in recipes and more, check out the California Fig Advisory Board's website.

In honor of the board's upcoming California Fig Fest in Fresno, CA later this month (August 15), I thought I would share some of my recent fig recipes using fresh figs, dried figs and a wowser of a hot chocolate sauce with fig jam and sea salt. To see my recipe for pistachio fig tart with a honey glaze click here. For my fig almond tart in a cornmeal olive oil crust click here.

In the Jewish-Christian tradition, figs symbolize endurance, peace and fruitfulness. Adam and Eve clothed their nakedness with fig leaves. Early scholars ascribed medicinal value to the fig, which is biologically a flower rather than a true fruit. Today, California grows almost 98 percent of the U.S. crop of figs. Worldwide, Turkey is the number one grower of figs. Egypt, Iran, Morocco, Syria and Greece are also major growers. 

For the Lamb with Figs below, I used black mission figs, but brown turkey figs would also work. Sample before buying since figs’ intensity and sweetness vary.

The Hot Chocolate Fig Sauce with Sea Salt can be made in advance, refrigerated and gently reheated. Use non-dairy ingredients for a vegan sauce. Bananas give the vegan Fig-Banana Frozen Dessert a surprisingly creamy texture.

Lamb with Figs

Serves 2-3

12 oz. fresh black mission figs (about 8)
3 Tbs. minced garlic, divided
6 Tbs. balsamic vinegar, divided
7 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1 tsp. ground black pepper, divided
1 Tbs. fresh OR 1 tsp. dried rosemary leaves, divided
1 lb. lamb chops
1 cup chopped onions
Fresh rosemary sprigs OR chopped parsley for garnish

Stem figs and cut into eighths. Place in marinade of 1Tbs. garlic, 3 Tbs. vinegar, 3 Tbs. oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper and half of the rosemary. Marinate 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Place lamb chops in marinade of 1Tbs. garlic, 3 Tbs. vinegar, 3 Tbs. oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper and half of the rosemary. Marinate 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Heat large sauté or fry pan over medium high heat. Add remaining oil. Drain lamb chops (discard marinade) and cook, undercooking slightly. Remove lamb from pan, cover and keep warm. Sauté onions until softened. Add rest of garlic and sauté until golden. Lower heat to medium. Add figs with marinade, sauté until figs are soft, adding additional vinegar if needed to keep moist. Taste and correct seasonings. Serve over lamb with garnish.

Hot Chocolate Fig Sauce with Sea Salt
Makes 1 cup

1/4 cup fig preserves
1/2 cup dairy or non-dairy vanilla ice cream
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 tsp. finely ground sea salt

Put fig preserves in pot on low heat. Stir until syrupy. Add ice cream and chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth. Stir in salt.

Chocolate Fig Sundaes: For each serving, drizzle 2-3 Tbs. of warm sauce over 1/2 cup of dairy or non-dairy vanilla ice cream. Garnish with sliced fresh figs.

Fig-Banana Frozen Dessert
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1-3” cinnamon stick
8 oz. dried black mission figs, halved
2 large bananas
2 tsp. fresh lime juice

Put water and sugar in pot over low heat. Stir until simmering and sugar is dissolved. Add cinnamon and figs. Cook until figs are completely soft, stirring often. Discard cinnamon. Cool. Pulse mixture in processor or blender until figs are in tiny bits. Mash bananas. Mix 1 1/2 cups into figs (reserve extra for another use). Stir in lime juice. Spread in 8” x 8” pan or container, cover and freeze. After 1 hour, stir with fork, breaking up any ice crystals. Repeat an hour later and again an hour after that. Serve or keep frozen for up to a week (color will darken), removing from freezer 20 minutes before serving. Once softened, stir with fork. Serve.
Some of the above originally appeared in my j weekly column.

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