Fresh Fig Ice Cream (Gelato di Fichi)

I just have to pass along this post from Stefan’s Gourmet Blog. I love figs, love ice cream, and this is easy. I’ll be anticipating the fig season next year, though we have brown Turkey figs here, rather than the deep purple ones.

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

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Fresh figs have to be imported and because they are quite perishable they are not often of a great quality, but sometimes some nice figs are available in the Netherlands. A nice way to use them is to make ice cream. I’ve used a recipe from SeriousEats that uses lemon zest and lemon juice to enhance the flavor, and it was very nice indeed. The recipe is quite easy as nog eggs are involved. Here’s what I did…

Ingredients

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Makes about 750 ml (3 cups)

900 grams (2 lbs) fresh figs, plus additional figs for garnish (optional)

1 untreated lemon

150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar

250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream

Preparation

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Wash and dry the figs and remove the tough stem.

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Chop the figs.

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Put the figs in a saucepan with 125 ml (1/2 cup) of water.

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Add the grated zest of a lemon.

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Bring to a boil, stirring…

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Fig season

ripening fig

Excitement. . . .

Anticipation is one of the good things about seasonal foods. I know some have already had fresh figs this season, but not here yet. I’m anticipating that day when I see that luscious, brownish-reddish fruit, the little drop of nectar at the bottom telling me its ready to eat. It’s like the anticipation of the first asparagus in the spring, or the first home-grown tomato in the heat of the summer. The very first of a seasonal food–even if it’s only a single fig found ready to eat, need to be appreciated without adornment so that the appreciate the season, not the sauce or other accompaniments. Those come later when the figs, asparagus, or tomatoes are more abundant–maybe even a little overwhelming.

The first of the brown turkey figs are starting to ripen now–they are straggling in–the figs are ranging from very tiny to several that have been mostly devoured by birds, to one that was ready for me to eat–but lots of tiny ones that I can look forward to.

Mornings may find me with my latte visiting the fig tree in hopes of a fresh-off-the-tree, warm from the sunshine, figs for breakfast.

There are so many easy things to do with figs:

The anticipation of watching them ripen, hoping that you’ll get them before the birds. . .so many easy and delightful ways to enjoy this luscious fruit during its season.

 

Fig and fennel caponata!

figs on tree

ripe and unripe figs on tree

My kitchen smells SO good right now–fennel, oranges, garlic…tartness of balsamic vinegar….

I’ve finished the most recent BIG indexing project, and I’m supposed to be deep in course preparation for my medical terminology courses that start a bit after mid-August.

I’m playing hooky from that for a bit.  I found a recipe for fig and fennel caponata that wouldn’t wait.  You’ll find the recipe at jjbegonia.com.

Caponata of any sort is one of my favorite summer things, no matter how served, and this was a combination I just had to try. Though mostly we think of caponata as a dish made with eggplant, tomatoes, etc., it is really a cooked vegetable salad–and as much as I love fennel and figs, I just had to try this one NOW.

I took a few liberties with the recipe, but I think that I kept to the spirit–the flavor was certainly good.  The only real modification I made was to substitute diced (drained) fire-roasted tomatoes for the crushed in purée since that’s what I had in the pantry, and after tasting, I added more figs. Whether my figs were less sweet, or my balsamic was more acidic, I’m not sure, but it seemed to need a bit more of the figgy-ness.  I held back most of the parsley since I’m not serving immediately.

Despite my liberties, it’s a fantastic recipe–obviously great on toasted bread just as a nibble (maybe with a glass of cava or prosecco), but I’m looking forward to it as a side for a grilled lamb (shoulder or leg) chop, though I’ll have some left to try on sandwiches as well, and maybe with pasta…and probably to share with neighbors and friends.

(Given that both the recipe from jjbegonia.com and mine were changes from the Barefoot Contessa, here is the link to that recipe for fig and fennel caponata as well. I’ll probably try this when fresh figs are not available, but I do like the freshness of this recipe.)

fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Foeniculum vulgare

Choicest summer fruit–figs!

figs on tree

ripe and unripe figs on tree

One of the high points of summer for me is when figs are ripe–eat them fresh, ripe from the tree early in the morning while they are still cool from nighttime, or in the heat of the afternoon when they are fragrant and warm from the afternoon sunshine.  Absolutely luscious!  They never even make it into the house.  Should the crop be so plentiful that they do make it into the house, then get out the prosciutto–fresh figs are even better than melon with that lovely ham! Or, some good cheese–goat cheese, or Gorgonzola, or other  blue, or a sheep’s milk cheese like Etorki or aged Manchego They are never better than when you can pick them truly tree-ripened.

Too many times, figs are sold unripe, mostly because they are very perishable and delicate when at peak ripeness.  Another reason figs are frequently picked before peak ripeness is the competition: birds, squirrels, bees, wasps, and ants–all those critters have an eye for the perfectly ripe fig!  If you want to eat them ripe from the tree you have to be willing to share because unfortunately, figs do not ripen after they are picked–pick a green fig and you’ll always have a tasteless fruit that will leave you wondering why anyone would want to eat them, much less get excited about them.

It’s really hard to describe the taste of a fresh, ripe fig–it’s certainly much different  from dried ones, and a world away from Fig Newtons.  I think that a ripe, fresh fig has some peach and berry flavors–it will vary somewhat with the variety of fig, but still—it’s not likely to be what you’d expect from eating dried ones.

So how do you tell if a fig is ripe? They should be soft–but please be gentle when you press on them. Really, you can tell if they are going to be soft by looking at the color (you do need to know the color of the variety when ripe). The Brown Turkey figs first turn yellowish-green–they will likely be just starting to soften then, but still do not have much flavor yet.  As they ripen more they begin to turn a lovely rosy brown–but wait!  They’re not ready to eat yet.

Figs hang in a drooping way from the tree (you can see how the stem ends are curved in the photograph above).  When ripe they should separate easily from the tree when you lift them up against that curve. If they don’t they are not ripe!

For best flavor, they should begin to show some tiny surface fissures in the skin (not deep cracks) almost like crazing on pottery glaze, and the small round area at the blossom end should have started to  open or to show a split. On some figs you may actually see a drop of clear liquid there.

To find ripe figs if you don’t have your own tree, you need to head to the farmers’ market. The common fig here is the Brown Turkey which is in season approximately from July to September. I’ve just harvested several pounds of figs–but the tree still has lots of small green figs that should ripen in a second flush in a few weeks.

Should you have an excess of fresh figs, you should use some with duck–the recipe is complicated, but the result is unforgettable–worth the effort.  What else can you do with fresh figs?  Fig ice cream, poach some and serve with pound cake or vanilla ice cream, fresh fruit tart….but best of all, just eat them unadorned.

If you find you have some that are not quite what you’d like to eat out-of-hand, then you can make a lovely dessert by poaching them in Campari.  This is a recipe that I found in Jacques Pepin’s The Shortcut Cook (page 248) for which I’ll give you the basics here:

Poached Fresh Figs with Campari

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fruity white wine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • about 20 small, ripe figs
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons Campari

Preparation

  • Combine wine, sugar and lime juice and bring to a boil.
  • Add figs, cover, and simmer for about 4 to 5 minutes. Figs should be tender when tested with the tip of a knife, but should not burst open.
  • Transfer to a bowl with slotted spoon.
  • Reduce the liquid in the saucepan to 1 cup if there is more than this.
  • Add cornstarch slurry and bring to a boil to thicken.
  • Cool sauce to room temperature then stir in the Campari and pour over figs.

These are delightful served over pound cake with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche, or spooned over good vanilla ice cream.  (I like to add just a hint of cardamom to this poaching liquid.)

brown turkey figs picked ripe

ripe Brown Turkey figs

Roasted figs

Figs are one of my favorite fresh fruits; unfortunately, the figs here aren’t ripe yet, so when I saw some at Costco (a two-pound carton) that looked as if they were at least reasonably ripe, I had to try them.  Thing  is, figs are perishable–so after eating some fresh (these were much better than what you usually find in the supermarket (but not perfectly ripe to the point of splitting and having that lovely drop of sap oozing from the blossom end as they should for eating out of hand), I searched through some of my favorite food blogs and something to do with the rest of them.

Here’s what I found that looked really good to me!  Every recipe that I’ve tried from this source has been a resounding success, so I’m going to try this one.

Roasted Figs (From David Lebovitz living the sweet live in paris)

Six to eight servings

Use a baking dish or pan that will allow you to bake the figs in a single layer. One that is 2 quarts (2l) should do it. Depending on where you live, fresh fig season is near the end of summer and mid-autumn and the best place to find fresh figs is at a farmers market.

1 pound (450g) fresh figs
4-6 branches fresh thyme
2 tablespoons red wine or liquor, such as Chartreuse, Pernod, Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1 tablespoon dark or light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
three 1-inch (3cm) strips of fresh lemon zest

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC).

2. Slice the tough stem end off the figs and slice each in half lengthwise.

3. Toss the figs in a large baking dish with the thyme, red wine or liquor, brown sugar, honey, and lemon zest. Turn the figs so that they are all cut side down in the baking dish, in a single layer.

4. For figs that are softer and juicier, cover the baking dish snugly with foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the figs are softened and cooked through.

For figs that are firmer, with less liquid, roast them in the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.

5. When done, remove the baking dish from oven, lift off the foil, and let the figs cool completely.

Variation: For more savory figs, replace the liquor with one or two tablespoons balsamic or sherry vinegar.

Storage: Roasted figs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

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The figs are out of the oven and I’ve tasted them–wonderful!  Some of these are going to be dessert after the French chicken in a pot, with just a dollop of sour cream, and the rest will get used with breakfast Greek yogurt or, perhaps, with oatmeal.

More on duck with fresh fig sauce

This duck with fresh fig sauce is such wonderful treat that I’m experimenting with ways to do this for one, or maybe two people.  I’ve always made stock from the leftover duck carcass and put that in the freezer.

I have also made the duck-fig bouillon to just short of the final reduction and put some in the freezer, with the figs (no idea how they will fare) to see if I can adapt this recipe to be done with pan-seared duck breasts, which seem to be readily available from the supermarket.  I want to be able to taste the bouillon from the freezer with some made with just the frozen duck stock and fresh figs to see how it has held up to the freezing.

I have enough friends who like duck that I can do a whole roast duck occasionally, and have the carcass to make stock so it’s always on hand from the freezer; however, if you don’t want to do the whole duck or the two-duck recipe, you can obtain duck-veal demi-glace from D’Artagnan and that would certainly be a good starting point from which to begin.  I have used this  product before in making cassoulet and was very pleased with it.

I’ll be reporting on the results of this experiment soon as the weather is cooling off and more robust food begins to appeal–and the last of the figs on the tree are ripening.

Roast duck with fresh fig sauce

No–it’s not a single serving, but it’s so good that you just have to make it when there are fresh figs available.  So invite friends and enjoy.

Adapted from In Search of the Perfect Meal, a collection of writing by Roy Andries de Groot, pp 148-150.

  • 2 Long Island ducks (one about 2-1/2 pounds, and one about 4-1/2 to 5 pounds).
  • 1 lemon cut in half
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped with leaves
  • 3 springs of fresh parsley
  • kosher salt to taste
  • freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • 12 whole fresh figs (I like black mission, but any good ripe fresh fig will work)
  • 2 ounces French Orgeat, almond syrup
  • about 2 cups chicken bouillon
  • 1 cup white wine, preferably Sancerre
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons sweet butter

Ducks: Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.  Rub the ducks inside and outside with the lemon. Prick the underside skin to allow fat to run out.  Place the ducks on a rack in an open roasting pan and roast until the breasts are pink (usually no more than about 45 to 50 minutes).

Stock: While the ducks are roasting, put chopped onion, chopped carrots, chopped celery and parsley springs into  a 2-quart sauce pan. Pour a pint of cold water over these and bring rapidly to a boil.  Stir, and reduce heat to a simmer and continue simmering until the duck carcass is ready to go in.

Figs: Put figs in a 1-quart saucepan.  Dribble the Orgeat over them and pour enough of the chicken stock over them to cover. Heat this to a gentle simmer and continue simmering, covered, until the figs are warm and puffed up (usually 5 to 10 minutes).  The stock should be vaguely sweet with the fig juice.  Remove the figs (carefully) and keep warm in a covered container.

Now boil the fig-chicken stock hard to reduce to about half and concentrate its sweetness.  Hold covered until you need it later.

Back to the roasting ducks: When the breasts are pink, put the larger one in a covered casserole and let stand tightly covered over extremely low heat on top of the stove, gently ripening in its own juices for about an hour.

Carve off the breast, legs, thighs and wings of the smaller duck and put them into the covered casserole with the larger duck.

Chop the carcass of the smaller duck into pieces, about 8 pieces, and put them into the 2-quart saucepan with the vegetables; press the pieces down into the liquid fairly tightly. If necessary add more water to cover.  Continue simmering, covered, until the stock is needed later.

Skim off the fat from the pan in which the ducks were roasted and set the pan over a burner, and deglaze with the cup of white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the fond.  Pour this deglazing mixture into the simmering duck bouillon.

Completion and assembly: Preheat grill.  Strain the duck bouillon, return to the saucepan and boiling it hard to reduce it and concentrate the flavor.  Reheat the fig bouillon to just bubbling.  While finishing the sauce here, you must taste continually the duck and the fig stocks to get them just right to combine.  If the sauce is too sweet it will overwhelm the duck–you want just a very delicate on sweetness in this sauce so that you still appreciate the “duckiness” of the meat. Defat the duck stock.  Pour the fig bouillon into the duck stock, add the 2 tablespoons of shallots, and continue boiling to further reduce the combined sauce.

Place the figs on a platter and quickly glaze them under the broiler–for just a minute or two.

Now, carve the duck (the whole bird) and the parts from the casserole. Set portions on warmed plates and garnish with the glazed figs.  When the sauce has just the right sweetness, turn the heat down to below simmer, add a fair amount of white pepper–enough to cut across the sweetness of the sauce, but not enough to “prick your throat”.  Do not let the sauce boil after adding the pepper or it will have a bitter taste.

When the sauce is just right, monter au beurre. (Melt the butter on the surface, a small piece at a time, stirring in.  This will give the sauce a luxurious, velvety mouth-feel.  Pour the sauce around (not over) the duck and figs on the plate.  Rush them to the table.

Wine: Because of the sweetness of the sauce, red wine is not  quite right with this dish.  The recommended wine (from the French restaurant where this dish is served) is a white burgundy.  I did this with a Meursault and it was luxurious.   For domestic wine, a California PinotChardonnay from the Alexander Valley was recommended.

Even though this is a fairly complicated preparation and definitely not a single serving it is an exquisite dish.  If you have duck at other times, by all means make stock from the carcasses and freeze it. If you have the stock, you can do this sauce at any time you have the fresh figs available and perhaps serve with pan-seared duck breast without roasting the whole bird.