Eric Akis: Fabulous figs, three ways

Eric Akis

If you’ve recently visited some Island farm markets or farm stands, or have your own tree, you’ll know figs are in-season. It’s a splendid fruit with a beguiling look, taste and texture wonderful to eat on its own or with other foods.

With regard to the latter, fresh figs, such as the richly flavoured, yellowish/green-skinned, purple/red-fleshed Desert King variety I bought, pair really well with local dairy products. Something I did in all three of today’s recipes.

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The first one could be enjoyed at breakfast or for a snack and sees tangy yogurt topped with fresh figs, toasted walnuts and a drizzle of honey. A wonderful combination of tastes that could be made with Island-made yogurt, such as Tree Island Yogurt (treeislandyogurt.com), or McClintock’s Farm water buffalo yogurt (mcclintocksfarm.ca). You can also use Island-made honey, sold at many farm markets.

My second recipe is an appetizer where halved figs, Brie cheese and basil are wrapped in proscuitto, a palate pleasing, sweet, tangy, herbaceous and salty combination. Brie-style cheese is produced on Vancouver Island by cheesemakers such as Little Qualicum Cheeseworks (morningstarfarm.ca) and Natural Pastures Cheese Company (naturalpastures.com).

My last recipe sees figs warmed in a cinnamon flavoured maple syrup mixture with butter and liqueur. The figs and its sauce are then spooned over vanilla ice cream, creating a luscious dessert. There are a few Victoria ice cream makers, such as Cold Comfort Ice Cream (coldcomfort.ca) and Parachute Ice Cream (parachuteicecream.com). I’m writing this column on Salt Spring Island and Salt Spring Ice Cream, which is sold over here at some smaller food stores, was used in the recipe.

Fresh Figs with Yogurt, Honey and Toasted Walnuts

A simple breakfast, or dish to snack on, that combines fresh Island-grown figs, tangy yogurt, sweet honey and rich walnuts.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: two servings

3 Tbsp walnut pieces, or to taste

1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups thick yogurt

4 to 6 fresh figs, each halved or quartered lengthwise, depending on size

• honey, to taste

2 mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Place walnuts in a skillet and set over medium heat. Heat, swirling the pan from time to time, until walnuts aromatic and lightly toasted, about three to four minutes. Remove from the heat.

Divide the yogurt between two servings bowls. Set some pieces of fig and walnuts on top of the yogurt. Drizzle with honey, to taste, garnish with mint sprigs, if using, and serve.

Fig, Brie and Basil wrapped in Prosciutto

Serve these yummy, savoury wrapped figs as an appetizer before a summer supper.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: Four to six servings

6 paper-thin slices prosciutto, each cut in half lengthwise

12 (about 1/4-inch thick, 2-inch long, 1-inch wide) slices Brie cheese

12 fresh basil leaves

6 fresh figs, each halved lengthwise

• freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• balsamic crema, to taste (see Note)

Place a half prosciutto slice flat on a work surface. Set a slice of the cheese at one end of the prosciutto. Top the cheese with a basil leaf and a half fig, setting the latter, cut side up. Sprinkle the fig with black pepper. Roll the fig, basil and Brie into the prosciutto and set on a serving tray or board. Wrap the remaining half figs in prosciutto as you did the first one and set them on the serving tray or board.

Cover and let the wrapped figs sit at room temperature until ready to serve. They can be made an hour or so in advance of serving. When ready to enjoy, uncover, drizzle figs with balsamic crema, and enjoy.

Note: Balsamic crema, also called balsamic cream and balsamic glaze, is syrupy, reduced balsamic vinegar. It’s sold in the vinegar aisle or deli section of most grocery stores. You can make your own by simmering and reducing balsamic vinegar in a pot until syrupy.

Warm Maple Cinnamon Figs on Vanilla Ice Cream

Vanilla ice cream sweetly topped with figs heated in a rich, cinnamon-spiced maple syrup mixture. Recipe could be double or further expanded.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: a few minutes

Makes: two servings

1 1/2 to 2 cups vanilla ice cream

2 Tbsp maple syrup

1 Tbsp orange liqueur or brandy (see Eric’s options)

1 Tbsp butter

1 tsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

3 slightly firm fresh figs, each quartered lengthwise

2 mint sprigs, for garnish

Divide the ice cream between two serving glasses or bowls and set in the freezer.

Put the syrup, liqueur (or brandy), butter, lemon juice and cinnamon in a nine-inch or similar-sized skillet set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and stir until the butter is melted. Now add the figs and heat them in the syrup mixture about one to two minutes, carefully turning them once during this process.

Take the ice cream-filled glasses (or bowls) out of the freezer. Set some figs and maple syrup mixture on top of the ice cream in each glass (or bowl). Garnish with mint sprigs and serve.

Eric’s options: If you can’t have alcohol, replace the liqueur (or brandy) with orange juice.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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