Fresh From the Fig Tree – Katie Malich

Fresh figs are in season, and you’ll find heaping baskets of both black and green varieties at the Tuesday Culver City Farmers Market.
I was in my 20’s when I had my first fresh fig. I remember the simple, colorful presentation. It was cut in half, showcasing the reddish-pink center of the interior with tiny edible seeds encased in sweet flesh with notes of strawberry. The thin black skin contrasted with the milky flesh surrounding the center. I picked up one half by the short stem and took a bite. Bliss.

This ancient Mediterranean fruit was introduced to California by the Spanish missionaries. The season for fresh figs is relatively short: from June to September. The shelf life is even shorter. It’s best to eat fresh figs within two days of purchase. While under refrigeration they can last from 5 to 7 days, they are very easily bruised. To protect your figs, it is best to refrigerate them on a plate or in a shallow container covered with plastic wrap or a paper towel to help them retain moisture. Fig aficionados will extend the season another three months or so by freezing figs. The texture becomes a little mushier, but they are still good for stewing, cooking and other uses.

Figs are an excellent source of potassium and fiber. You are probably familiar with fresh figs paired with prosciutto, or stuffed with a bit of marscarpone cheese on an appetizer or desert tray. The California Fig Advisory Board website provides dozens of recipes for fresh and dried figs. The recipes below show ways to incorporate figs into main dishes, salads, and wonderful (and easy) desserts.

Turkey Sliders with California Pepper Fig Salsa

California Pepper Fig Salsa
• 2 1/2 cups diced fresh California figs
• 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
• 1/2 cup golden raisins
• 2 green onions, thinly sliced
• 1 jalapeno pepper; stemmed, seeded and minced
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 package (20 ounces) fresh lean ground turkey
• 1 cup finely minced dried California figs
• 1/4 cup sliced green onions
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and sage; to taste
• 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 1 cup baby arugula
• 12 small dinner rolls, cut in half, horizontally

Combine salsa ingredients in medium bowl and stir together. Cover and chill for several hours to blend flavors.

For Sliders, combine turkey, minced dried figs, green onions, herbs and sea salt in medium bowl and mix to combine well. Divide and shape into 12 small, flat burgers. Generously oil grill or barbecue and cook over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until done (165°F)

Arrange a few arugula leaves on bottom half of each roll; top with turkey burger and spoon on salsa. Replace tops and secure with toothpicks, if desired. Serve with additional salsa for self-service.
Yields: 12 sliders

Fig and Arugula Salad with Parmesan

• 2 tablespoons minced shallots
• 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 16 fresh figs, each cut in half lengthwise
• 6 cups trimmed arugula (about 6 ounces)
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved fresh Parmesan cheese

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add figs; cover and let stand 20 minutes. Add arugula and pepper; toss well. Top with cheese.
Serve immediately.
Serves: 4

California Fig and Citrus Salad

• 1/3 cups orange juice
• 2 tablespoons(s) balsamic vinegar
• 2 tablespoons(s) olive oil
• 1 tablespoon(s) honey
• 1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
• 1-8 teaspoon(s) red pepper flakes
• 2 naval oranges, peeled and sliced crosswise
• 8 large fresh California black or green figs sliced lengthwise 1/4-inch thick
• 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
• 1 bunch spinach
• 1/3 cups broken walnut meats, toasted*

To make dressing, combine juice, vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper flakes in blender container. Blend until thoroughly mixed. Place fruit and onion in large mixing bowl. Pour dressing over all. Set aside at least 10 minutes or up to one hour.

To serve: line individual salad plates with spinach leaves Spoon fruit and dressing mixture on top, dividing equally. Sprinkle each salad with about 1 tbs toasted walnuts.
Serves: 4

Fresh Figs in Creme de Cacao

• 1 dozen Fresh figs
• 1 cup Sour cream
• 2 tablespoons Creme de Cacao
• 1/2 teaspoons Cocoa

1. Wash and drain the figs and, using a sharp knife, peel them.

2. Combine the sour cream and creme de cacao in a mixing bowl. Mix well.

3. Dip the figs in the mixture, coating them entirely.

4. Set the figs on end in a serving bowl.

5. Dust with the cocoa and refrigerate to chill thoroughly.
Serves: 6

Chocolate Covered Figs
From Chef Lia Fallon

• 4 whole California fresh figs with stems
• Fine sea salt, as needed
• 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Wash and dry figs. Dust lightly with salt; set aside.

Measure chocolate chips into microwavable bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds; stir.
Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds more and stir again until chocolate is completely melted.

Holding fig by stem, dip in melted chocolate and set on wax paper-lined tray.

Let stand until chocolate is set.
Serves: 4

The Tuesday Culver City Farmers Market is held from 2 to 7 pm on Main Street between Venice and Culver Boulevards.

Katie Malich was surprised to learn that figs come from ficus trees, which are members of the mulberry family.

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