When I lived in California, so many people had fig trees. This time of year was replete with this biblical fruit. Not only are figs fiber and calcium rich, they are also natural humectants making them ideal for use in energy bars. Pressed fig almond cakes are the proverbial first energy bars. These huge cakes originated in Spain. They are made by pressing dried figs and almonds together and were used by shepards as easy portable snacks. Today, they are placed on cheese plates to contrast salty cheeses. The purple Mission figs and green Calmyra figs (typically used for dried figs) have very different tastes and textures but are both attractive and impressive.
From my countertop to yours, enjoy these recipes.
Figs – Three Ways
Serves 8 – 12
1 pint package Mission Figs, sliced in half
1 pint Package Calmyra Figs, sliced in half
1/4 lb. Point Reyes Blue Cheese, cut into small pieces
1/4 lb. Ricotta Salata, sliced into small pieces
1/2 cup Toasted Pistachios
1/2 cup Carmelized Walnuts
(available at gourmet shops and quality cheese shops)
Dried Pressed Fig Cake slices
(When fresh fig season passes, the fig cake pairs really well with Manchego)
Place fig cake slices in the center of a platter, surround with fresh fig halves layered with cheeses and nuts. Serve at room temperature.
Fig Muffins, adapted from Saveur magazine, Issue 28
Buttermilk is the secret to these tender muffins. Serve them with apple butter or creamed honey for a real treat.
1 cup fresh fig puree (instructions below)
1/2 Cup Sugar
5 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 Eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 tsp. ground Cinnamon
2 Cups Flour, sifted
1 Cup Buttermilk
To make the fresh fig puree, halve 2 pints of fresh figs. Combine figs with 1/4 cup of water in a sauepan over high heat. Bring mixture to a boil and puree until smooth with a hand blender or food processor. Set aside.
To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin with either cooking spray or cupcake liners.
Mix together the sugar, melted butter and eggs. Add the salt, buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla and mix well. Add the fig puree and stir well. Add the flour one cup at a time, trying not to overmix.
Fill prepared muffin cups 3/4 full with the batter. I like to use an ice cream scoop as it measures perfectly. Bake for 15 – 17 minutes or until a tooth pick come out clean.