Who Gives a Fig

Guests are coming and you don’t have much time to prepare, so what do you do? Give a fig—literally. One tasty option: Fig, Goat Cheese and Pecan Appetizers. They’re fashionable, easy to construct, and require no cooking. For a final flourish, drizzle with a balsamic glaze, or perhaps honey, and Voila you just made and elegant and easy appy.

black-mission-fig

Edible figs come in a large variety of choices, both dried and fresh. Among the most esteemed and available is the Black Mission (shown above). This fig is smallish, with dense pink flesh heavily studded with seeds that give a pleasant crunch to the silky flesh. The texture of a perfectly ripe one is sticky and jammy. The fruits of the popular Brown Turkey (shown below) are elongated and pear-shaped, with maple-brown skin. Those with tender skin that bruises easily will be soft and velvety, and heavy, sweet and juicy within.

brown-turkey-fig

Sierra are a green-skinned fig, and their fruits are large and round, ideal for slicing open and serving by the half. Calimyrna, similar looking to the Sierra, is outstanding as a fresh fruit, have a delicate, nut-like flavor; and when dried, they turn golden tan—which is what we used. Its large fruits split with ripeness as sap and sugars erupt from the breaches in the skin. Such figs taste of honey, jam and butterscotch, with a nuttiness from the numerous seeds.

Then there’s the Kadota, the most common green type. The skin is yellowish green, and the flesh particularly smooth and silky. It is among the more commonly seen fresh figs in California.

figs-and-blue

But what did we use for our appetizer? Specifically, dried Calimyrna figs spread with a schmear of Monocacy Silver, Cherry Glenn goat cheese topped with caramelized pecans and a drizzle of Modena balsamic vinegar glaze. Monocacy Silver is a soft-ripened cylindrical shaped cheese with a white mold exterior (which we bought on our trip to Culpeper, VA.) It is more tangy and flavorful than most Brie but ripens to a similar creamy internal consistency.

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Slice the dried figs in half lengthwise.

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Once the figs are halved, spread with goat cheese.

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A caramelized pecan adorns the cheese while a drizzle of balsamic glaze tops off each appetizer.

Other soft cheese and nut combinations include: creamy Gorgonzola topped with earthy walnuts; velvety Brie and toasted almonds; or milky mascarpone with the unmistakeable taste of pistachios and a dollop of honey. Make all four varieties to really impress!

FYI: A bit of warm liquid will soften dried figs, which can be simmered in a fruit compote or chutney. Or, soak the figs in warm water for an hour or so before adding them to stuffings and pilafs, where they add subtle sweetness and texture. Reconstituted figs are very different from fresh figs, and will alter a dish if substituted for fresh.

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A close-up of the tasty morsels that can be eaten by hand.

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