Cooking with fresh figs

Aug 21, 2008 at 11:04 a.m. ET

Sinking your teeth into the tender skin and flesh of a sweet fresh fig and nibbling the crunchy seeds is one of summer's greatest pleasures. All types of fresh figs are in season during the hot sunny months and all can be deliciously used for both sweet and savory dishes. Try grilling, stuffing, sauteing or simply eating them raw for that fresh summer culinary vibe.


Choosing the perfect fig

Availability: Figs are in season July through September. Summer is the ideal time to pick fresh figs. Dried figs, however, can be found throughout the whole year in your local market.

Selection: Chose figs that are soft – but not too soft – and smell sweet. Be sure to handle figs gently because they easily bruise.

Storage: Fully ripe figs (ones that are tender to the touch) can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. If they are not fully ripe, keep them at room temperature until they are ready to be eaten, then transfer them to the refrigerator. Let figs come to room temperature before eating.

Fig varieties

There are literally hundreds of types of figs. There are, however, only about four commonly found on the market today.

Calimyrna fig: this fig has a golden tender skin with a creamy nutty flavored center. Calimyrnas are best eaten whole and fresh.

Mission fig: This fig has a deep purple skin and light purple flesh. When dried, mission figs turn a dark black. These figs are good for cooking.

Kadota fig: This is an American-style fig with a thick amber skin. The flesh is creamy and almost seedless and should be peeled before eaten. Kadotas are often canned or dried.

Brown turkey fig: This fig has a copper-colored skin with a purplish tint. The white flesh becomes almost pink in the center. These figs should only be eaten fresh.

Cooking with fresh figs

Dried figs are often used in baked goods and imbue a natural sweetness and delectable chewiness. Fresh figs can be used in sweet or savory dishes and offer a delectable tender texture and fresh fig taste. Here are some easy dishes featuring fresh figs.
  • Stuff figs with goat cheese and wrap them in prosciutto.
  • Skewer figs and grill them.
  • Slice a pork tenderloin in half and lay flat. Place grilled figs on pork and drizzle with honey. Roll tenderloin up and tie with string. Season outside with salt and pepper and grill until pork is fully cooked.
  • Add chopped fresh figs to vegetable, grain or fruit salads.
  • Scatter chopped figs, red onion slices, arugula and shredded provolone on a prepared pizza crust and bake until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • Spoon grilled figs over ice cream and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
  • Snip fresh figs into oatmeal or other breakfast cereal.
  • Puree figs with yogurt or cream cheese for a naturally sweet dip.

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