I didn’t start out loving fresh figs. Like most fig fearers, I used to be put off by their texture—soft, yielding, what some would call squishy. But one taste of the sweet, honeyed deliciousness of a ripe fig turned me around.
Perfectly ripe figs are amazing eaten out of hand, but I also like to use them in very simple preparations, some raw and others cooked.
Figs with lemony mascarpone and honey: Figs topped with lemon-scented mascarpone (at right) are a delicious and easy dessert. Check out the recipe.
Prosciutto-wrapped figs: Wrap whole or halved figs in strips of paper-thin prosciutto for a simple starter.
Fig and manchego crostini: Coarsely chop fresh figs and toss with balsamic vinegar and kosher salt or fleur de sel (about 1/8 tsp. vinegar and a small pinch of salt per fig). Brush slices of baguette or ciabatta with olive oil, toast under a broiler, and top with thin slices of manchego, allowing it to melt a bit. Top each crostini with some of the chopped figs. Serve warm.
Green salad with figs and pancetta: Toss salad greens with a shallot vinaigrette made with fruity olive oil and balsamic vinegar for sweetness and sherry vinegar for zip. Arrange the salad on plates, top with a few fig quarters, cubes of sautéed pancetta, and some crumbled toasted walnuts or pecans. Finish with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Fig and cheese platter: For an easy dessert, pass a platter of perfectly ripe fig halves, whole toasted almonds or pecan or walnut halves, and cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, dry Jack, aged Gruyere, manchego, or a creamy blue.
Bacon-wrapped figs: Make a fast appetizer by wrapping halved figs in thin-sliced bacon (half a slice per fig) and securing with a toothpick. Broil until the fat is rendered, the bacon crisp, and the fig hot.
Grilled cheese-stuffed figs: Make this vegetarian starter by cutting figs about halfway up from the bottom, stuffing with a morsel of Gorgonzola or Stilton, and gently pressing closed. Brush or spray the figs lightly with olive oil and grill just until they're hot.
Fig coulis: Purée fresh figs with balsamic vinegar, a little olive oil, and salt and pepper. Add enough water to create a pourable consistency. Serve with poultry or pork.
Fig focaccia: Top raw dough with a little crumbled goat cheese and cover with sliced figs. Sprinkle with brown sugar, add a scattering of fennel seeds, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until browned.
Sautéed figs: For a simple but sophisticated dessert, melt butter and a little honey in a skillet. Sauté fig halves cut side down just until blistered and slightly browned. Finish with a squeeze of orange juice or a tablespoon of sweet wine and drizzle with the pan sauce.
Fig compote: Poach whole or halved figs in a lightly spiced syrup just until tender. Use a 1 to 2 ratio of sugar and liquid (water and wine or fruit juice), plus seasonings. Try rosemary sprigs, strips of orange zest, and a cinnamon stick; or the zest and juice of a lemon, half a vanilla bean, and either star anise or cardamom pods. Make the syrup first, then poach the figs. Remove the figs after a few minutes and then add back after the syrup is cool, so the figs don't get overly soft.
Need a little more direction? Try one of our fig recipes:
Whether used in sweet or savory dishes, figs are great with a wide range of partners. It’s hard to go wrong if you pair figs with items grown or produced in areas where figs grow, such as:
Nuts All kinds.
Citrus and vinegars, particularly lemon, orange, grapefruit; and balsamic, red-wine, and sherry vinegars.
Honey, wines, and spirits Both dry and sweet wines, brandy, rum, port, and sherry.
Cured meats Ham, pancetta, bacon.
Pungent aromatics Anchovies, capers, olives, garlic.
Spices and herbs Warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, and star anise; mint, rosemary, thyme, and lavender.
Dairy Butter, cream, mascarpone, crème fraîche, and cheeses of all kinds. Figs with blue cheese is an outrageously good combination, but also try Parmigiano-Reggiano, ricotta salata, aged goat cheeses, and firm, tangy sheep’s milk cheeses.