A perfectly ripened fig plucked from the tree at just the right moment is the ultimate luxury of summer’s soft sweet and succulent bounty.
The fig’s western Asian origins have been documented as far back as 4000 years. Fig cultivation eventually spread throughout the Mediterranean and later to central and north America. Turkey is the largest producer of figs in the world and California the largest in the Americas. The most common varieties available are the Black Mission, Brown Turkey, and Green Kadota. Figs are one of the healthiest foods you will ever eat. High in potassium, manganese, vitamin B6, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and dietary fiber.
The first season of figs is ready for picking in late spring/early summer and the second season late summer/early fall. Fresh figs are very fragile and do not ship well, so unless you have your own tree in the garden or have access to a local farmers offerings you are going to have to settle for figs that are picked before they ripen for shipping. The problem is once figs are picked the ripening process stops.
Thankfully there is a solution! A short bake in a hot oven essentially finishes the ripening process, bringing out all the sweet fleshiness as if the figs were ripened on the tree.
Serve them before a meal with smoked meats or cheeses, with a meal of roasted or grilled meats or poultry, or following a meal with a small dollop of Greek yoghurt or whipped cream. To me, this is one of the simplest and most elegant desserts you will ever serve!
Baked Figs serves 4
- 8 fresh figs
- light olive oil for brushing
- orange zest in syrup (optional)
- Greek yoghurt or whipped cream for finishing
Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400F/205C Set the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Rinse the figs and gently pat dry. Slice the figs in half lengthwise, including the stem if attached, exposing the gorgeous rose colored flesh and amber hued edible seeds.
Place the halved figs in the baking tray cut side facing up. Lightly brush with the oil and place in the oven for 20 minutes. The figs will puff up slightly and you will see rose color juices bubbling over onto the parchment liner in the tray.
Serve either warm from the oven or chill to serve later.
Place 4 baked fig halves on 4 individual dessert plates. Pour the fig juices in the baking tray over the figs. Top lightly with orange zest in syrup (optional) and a small dollop of Greek yoghurt or whipped cream in the center of the plate and serve.
Orange zest in syrup:
- zest of 1 orange, very finely minced
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
Rinse the orange under hot water to remove any wax that may be coating the skin. Pat dry.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel away long strips of zest from stem to stern. Be sure there isn’t any white pith on the underside of the zest. Slice the zest strips lengthwise as thin as you possibly can. Bundle the strips together and slice across the strips as thin as you possibly can, turning out a very fine minced zest.
Transfer the zest to a small sauce pan and add the sugar and water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat slightly until the mixture is bubbling evenly. Reduce the liquid, swirling the pan from time to time, until the mixture has the consistency of syrup. Remove from heat promptly and set aside to cool.
Spoon the zest in syrup lightly over each fig and serve.