With summer ending and autumn still resembling its predecessor, figs are one of the most delicious ways to enjoy the change of the seasons. They may be a bit fragile as a fruit as I have found myself many times carrying them like a baby so that they don’t get smushed up. Also, their lifespan is notoriously short so the clock is ticking. So, how can we enjoy this delicious piece of fruit and savor it in all its glory?
1. On its own
This might be a no-brainer but just biting them and enjoying them in their freshest, juiciest form is one of my favorite things. I let them rest in the fridge a bit so that the sweetness is toned down a bit. Depending on the type of figs you choose, you might want to peel the thin outer layer – especially if you have allergies or are prone to react to fruits. I personally like to play it safe and do not eat the figs with their peels on when I enjoy them in the fresh.
2. With cheese
Reminiscent of the classic Turkish watermelon and feta cheese pairing, figs go surprisingly well with goat cheese or other types of stronger cheeses. Either slice them up and serve them on a cheese platter or go fancy and melt the cheese on top of the figs in the oven. A fondue to dip figs in might be an interesting idea to try as well.
3. Go nuts
While cheese is fun and all, figs and most cheese types are pretty soft, so you might be looking for more textural variety. How about combining some nuts into the mix? Walnuts are a favorite because of its earthy flavor that complements the sweet softness of the figs. Making a fig salad by combining the three would also be a mouthwatering option. But do not limit yourself to just walnuts. Almonds and hazelnuts are great choices to combine the fruit with. Raw, roasted, or even caramelized can give your salad or sides a flavorful edge.
As figs are pretty sweet and sticky you can run them through a food processor or blender and combine them with shredded nuts to make gluten-free snacks. Just make sure your nuts are almost like a flour-like consistency, and add more sweetener (like honey) if you so desire with some extra crushed nuts for more crunch. First, form balls of this mix and let them dry out in the oven until you get a consistency you like. If the weather is hot enough you can dry them out in the open as well, just make sure that you cover them with a dishtowel or the like – you wouldn’t want them to get dusty, attract bugs, or be stolen by birds (or cats in my case, they love to play with balls).
4. On pizza, bread and toast
The internet has decided that pineapples on a pizza is a crime but I am here to tell you that figs baked on bread or pizza dough is, at the very least, worth a try. You can combine the cheese and the figs on the dough or a piece of toast, and don’t be afraid to add some meat to the mix as well. This also makes it a bit more filling.
5. As dessert
Here in Turkey, the first thing many do with fall figs is to preserve them in a sugary syrup, and most of the time kept intact as a whole, instead of being cut down into smaller pieces. They are best served at breakfast but consume with caution: they contain a lot of sugar.
Figs are also an interesting ingredient to add to cakes, rolls, puddings and all the other desserts that you can think of. Due to their sweetness and inherent softness, they can be used as a sort of sweetener to replace sugar to some extent or even completely. One such example that comes to mind, as it has been mere weeks, is ashura – a traditional pudding made to celebrate the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic Lunar, or Hijri calendar. Aside from all the dry fruits, dried figs are a component to reduce the amount of sugar needed in recipes overall.
Figs have also made their way into other traditional desserts – nowadays, there are even baklavas made with figs.
6. With yogurt
For a Turk, yogurt goes with pretty much everything – sweet or savory. So it should come as no surprise that combining sweet figs with fresh smooth yogurt makes a great snack. To sweeten the deal further, you can always add some honey. To add more texture and fiber, you can add some crushed nuts, and with oats, it could make a great breakfast. Don't be afraid to add other fruits to it as well.
7. With meat
Like we shortly mentioned in the pizza category, figs go surprising well with meat. There is even a dish originating from the Ottoman-era called "Mutancana" made from lamb meat, almonds, dried apricots and figs. All cooked together it makes for quite a culinary experience.
Some like to stuff their meat with a fig stuffing as well, making for a flavorful roast.
But let’s not be limited to only red meat here. There’s another Ottoman recipe called "Mahmudiye" that combines chicken breast with figs, honey and other dried fruit. After cooking the chicken with a lick of olive oil and it turns a nice golden color, add some chopped onions and cook until they soften. Then add some honey with chopped (dried) figs and raisins. To top it all off, add some lemon juice and seasoning, let it simmer on low heat until all ingredients are soft and juicy.
8. Drink it
Who says you need to eat your figs? Why not drink them? Combine soda, ice, a bit of honey, some fresh figs and a squeeze of lemon juice and blend them all together. And there you have a fancy drink to phase out into fall. Just make sure you strain the drink while serving if you like smoother textures.
If you are a fan of milkshakes, figs also make a great base for them. Combine the fruit with the milk and a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream and run it through a blender. If it is still not sweet enough for you, adding some honey will do the trick for sure.
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