It's been noted that the Buddha found enlightenment under a fig tree, and not more than three chapters into the Bible, Adam and Eve got creative with some fig branches to make Eden's first fashion statement. Cleopatra, too, named them her favorite fruit. So perhaps I'd be putting it lightly to say that figs are kind of a big deal.
That said I feel a tad irreverent also calling them the single sexiest fruit to behold. But they're so feminine -- dark and mysterious on the outside with just a thin layer of skin holding together those orbs of ruby flesh. Delicate, yes, yet powerful with a taste that's exotic, sweet and full of life.
I loaded up on some fresh figs the other day and then realized I'd have to find ways to use them all -- quickly -- because they don't stick around long.
I made some open-faced roasted fig sandwiches with arugula, walnuts and Parmesan, and I loved how the cayenne keeps these sandwiches spicy along with the sweet of the figs and caramelized onion.
But the recipe I most liked during my fig extravaganza was the version of fig jam below. It's nothing more than fruit, honey, toasted sesame seeds and black pepper. No high fructose corn syrup. No pectin. And with the sesame seeds giving it a nutty flavor, it tastes sort of like a much classier version of peanut butter and jelly...if you made the sandwich in, say, Marrakech. And more than on bread, it goes well with eggs on toast at breakfast or with cheese as an hors d'oeuvre. After this jam, you'll never want a Fig Newton again.
1 1/2 pounds ripe fresh figs, stemmed and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper, plus more as needed
1/4 cup toasted unhulled sesame seeds
Toss the chopped figs and lemon juice together in a large bowl. Stir in the honey and black pepper and set aside for 10 minutes. The figs will start to break down and get soupy. Pour the fig mixture in to a large, heavy pot over medium heat and bring to a slow, gurgling boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until the figs start to reduce and thicken, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the sesame seeds and remove from the heat. Let the spread sit for 5 minutes, taste, and add more pepper to taste if needed.
This spread may be canned as you would other jams, but it keeps well for up to a week in the refrigerator.
- From Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson.
Jam-making music: Honey by Erykah Badu