Frosty Figs

October 24, 2008 at 8:56 pm 14 comments

Fig halves

We got our first hard frost here this week and the scent of the air changed noticeably to a sharp spice.  The mornings are dark when I get up, and I watch the sun rise with my frosty breath on my walk to work.  Autumn is in its glory. 

Figs on tree

The perfection of fall is often fleeting, which is no doubt one of the main reasons why I await it so anxiously each year and throw myself fully into its out-of-doors embrace while it’s here.  Equally fleeting and perfect is the season of figs.  It too must be emphatically embraced with lots of quick and tasty recipes like Fresh Fig Compote.

figs, honey, vanilla bean, coffee

A fig tree is relatively easy to grow, but the fruit itself is a bit finicky.  Figs often ripen and go past their prime all within a few short days.  To make it even trickier, you have to pick figs ripe as they won’t ripen off the tree (unlike a pear that is often best picked a little under-ripe and left to come into its juiciness on the kitchen counter).  Is it any wonder most people have never had a fresh fig and producers took to drying them instead? 

Figs stewing

Fortunately for me, I now have several mature fig trees in my “backyard” at Longwood, and I’ve been religiously checking them to get the figs just as they ripen.  Sometimes I cheat and take a few that aren’t quite there yet though…I can’t help myself.  If you’ve not had a fresh fig, I’d encourage you to seek them out for their succulent fruity flesh that’s a bit like cross between a berry and a peach (that’s a bit of a stretch comparison but I’m hard pressed to come up with anything better). 

Fresh fig compote

But to be real frank with you, this fig compote is not about the figs.  The figs are just a vehicle for the outrageously good pairing of coffee, honey and vanilla bean.  I would have licked the cat’s water dish clean if it’d had a few drops of this syrup in it.  I kid. Um, no, I wouldn’t do that…really…

Fresh Fig Compote with Vanilla Ice Cream

A few generous spoonfuls of the compote over vanilla ice cream will make your autumn days glow even more beautifully.  The syrup is rich and smoky sweet while the figs are just the right amount of chewy to make the whole dish a really decadent dessert.  And it only has four ingredients (+ ice cream)! 

FRESH FIG COMPOTE
Taken from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Four Ingredient Cooking

1 2/3 C. fresh brewed coffee (I used Kona)
½ C. honey
1 vanilla bean
12 fresh figs, washed and dried

Choose a skillet large enough to hold the figs in a single layer.  Set it over medium heat.  Add the coffee and honey, stirring to incorporate.  Split the vanilla bean lengthwise to scrape out the beans.  Add both the beans and scraped pod to the skillet.  Bring to a rapid boil and cook until mixture is reduced to about ¾ of a cup. 

While the syrup cooks, pierce the skins of the figs with a sharp knife and cut them in half lengthwise. Add the halved figs to the syrup in the skillet.  Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet (use tin foil if your skillet doesn’t have a lid) to simmer for 5 minutes. 

Remove the figs from the syrup with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl.  Strain the syrup over the figs and allow the compote to cool to room temperature for at least an hour.  Serve over vanilla ice cream or with plain yogurt.  Store in the fridge in a sealed container for up to a week. 

(serves 4)

Compote over ice cream

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Entry filed under: Recipes, Sweet Treats. Tags: , , , , .

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14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. justopia  |  October 26, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    OMG!! This looks so good! It’s time to go to bed, but all I want to do is find an all night grocery store and hunt for figs. I’ve been making my own compote and poached pears with figs lately and have been using dessert wines, but the idea of coffee and honey is going to make it tough to sleep tonight! I am headed right to the supermarket in the morning.

    Reply
  • 2. gintoino  |  October 27, 2008 at 7:11 am

    Now jennie, that just isn’t fair! Now that all my figs are gonne you come up with this wonderfull looking desert! I’ll have to wait for a hole year before I can try it.
    I’ll send you two other recipes for fig compote and fig jam that I do every year. The fig compote keeps for 1-2 months (maybe more..but we usually eat it before that) and is great with some double cream on it. The jam keeps for almost a year and is great in toasts.

    I’ve been reading your blog, (just haven’t commented for a long time) and have to tell you that the eggplant recipes are a winner. Specially the “meatballs”, everybody loved them.

    Reply
  • 3. Lo!  |  October 27, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Ah — a good, ripe fig is one of my favorite things.
    I wish our climate would support the growing of figs. Alas, I must rely on the miracle of modern transportation!

    Reply
  • 4. Niall  |  October 27, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    The pictures of the figs look lovely. I guess this recipe is a great way of preserving them as well especially if you have a lot of them! I find that figs can be hit and miss. I have never seen a fruit that has to be so perfectly ripe to be tasty but when it is spot on, WOW!

    Reply
  • 5. Nadia  |  October 27, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    gorgeous photographs!

    Reply
  • 6. Maggie  |  October 30, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Beautiful photographs! I like the fig and coffee combination. I didn’t think they were hardy enough for PA.

    Reply
  • 7. Jennie  |  October 30, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Gintoino – I guessed you were still reading, but knew you were busy. It’s almost the end of the garden season here so there will be more time to blog and comment soon for me (I hope). YES, please send more recipes: yours are always so very good! I’d love to make fig jam if I have enough figs left here at the end of their season. Glad you tried the meatballs and like them. :)

    Reply
  • 8. Jennie  |  October 30, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Niall – you are quite right! Figs have to be ripe to be great. Much like a peach.

    Reply
  • 9. Jennie  |  October 30, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Maggie – Oh figs are most definitely hardy enough for PA. And they are very easy to grow so if you have a large yard, you can most likely grow your own tree. How divine would that be? :)

    Reply
  • 10. fallenangel65  |  October 31, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    When I was a kid, for Christmas my mom would stuff my stocking with dried fruit instead of candy. I fell in love with dried figs then but had never had a fresh one before. I bought a container of 6 black mission figs at my local store, eagerly bit into one and immediately spit it back out. The only taste was sweet, cloyingly so, and it was very mushy – like over cooked carrot…please tell me I got ones that were overly ripe!

    Reply
  • 11. Jennie  |  October 31, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Oh no, Fallenangel! I’m sorry you didn’t like your first fresh fig. Fresh figs are very sweet, however, they should NOT be mushy, just soft like a nicely ripened peach. If they were shipped from California or somewhere equally far away, they probably got too ripe along the way. Please don’t give up! :)

    Reply
  • 12. Last One…for Now « Straight from the Farm  |  December 4, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    [...] don’t have the right to complain – is that the texture is just a bit gritty.  Next year, when the much-anticipated fig season comes around again, I’ll give this recipe another go with a somewhat higher fig to pear ratio (as is reflected [...]

    Reply
  • [...] and the Roasted Root and Ricotta Pizza and the Roasted Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Mash and the Fresh Fig Compote and the Parsnip Spiced Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting and the….   well, you get [...]

    Reply
  • 14. Karen Russell  |  September 7, 2009 at 1:00 am

    This is my first time cooking figs. Awesome recipe! Super tasty. Should of peeled the figs! Added brandy and chambord. Omitted the coffee. Delicious! Served over ice cream! Ca Girl!

    Reply

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