‘Tis the Season
If there’s one new hot shot at the market that’s causing a buzz, it’s the fresh fig from Turkey. Up front and center on several market tables, these luscious beauties are plump and have a deep purple color, just waiting to be picked up and eaten out of hand.
I have already been to the market several times over the past two weeks to buy a handful of these figs, each time coming home and going straight to “f” in my accordion folder of sweet recipes. My recipe cutouts that have been waiting for years to be pulled – beautiful fig tarts, thick fig jams, recipes calling to bake, roast and grill, or turn them into a silky ice cream – all stayed put. With figs this fresh and beautiful, they never made it past an afternoon snack, with a sweetness all on their own, almost jam-like and reminiscent of honey. The oven stayed off, and they found themselves added to a salad, alongside prosciutto or as an accompaniment to a cheese platter. Even though when cooked, they can become even juicier and more tender than when raw, I just couldn’t bear to actually cook them.
Eons away from the beloved cookie, Fig Newton, fresh figs are a true delicacy, not to shy away from. Despite the fact that they are one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world, mentioned many times in the Bible, I would not quite call them a household fruit, rather uncommon to Americans, in fact. Perhaps they come off as intimidating. Could it be a result of how undeniably delicate and perishable they are? Or could it be the sexual references often made to such a luscious fruit? Either way, they have a unique taste and texture, and when they are perfectly ripe and ready to eat, they are simply divine. A smooth layer of skin on the outside, the sweet, bright, ruby red flesh within and a soft crunch from the seeds.
My friends at the market gave me some advice on buying fresh figs: avoid those that are too hard; you want them to be plump and tender. A rich deep color is best, as well as firm stems and no bruises. A soft fragrance is a good sign too that it’s not rotten inside, because that is a disappointment to be avoided at all costs. Because they are so perishable, it’s best to keep them only a day or two after purchasing. But once you slice in to one, you shouldn’t have a problem with that.