I have to confess that I have never been a loyal fig eater. In other world figs are not one of those obsession foods on my list. My first encounter with figs came about through my Colombian friends whom introduced me to their “Higos con queso fresco” dessert years ago. In most Colombian restaurants in NYC figs are usually served in preserved or as dulce de higos in a syrupy sauce. The dessert is essential to South American cuisine or as I know it a must have in the Colombian household table.
Last week while visiting my in-laws I could not resist the threes figs trees they have and although I cannot eat raw figs (without cooking them first for allergies reasons) and as my husband’s Italian family like to eat them I decided to bring a bunch homes to cook them to be able to enjoy them without any allergies. I really enjoyed picking them from the tree and my in-laws were happy to give them away since they were going to Italy for two weeks and the fig trees were filled with soon to be ripened figs; and no one was going to be there to pick them.
Do you know though that the fig tree produces two different fruit or crops out the same tree? Yes, brebas and figs are two fruits produced out the fig’s tree. The first crop belongs to the brebas; they develop in the spring on last year’s shoot and growth during early summer during the months of June and July. While the main crop is for the figs which develops on the current year’s shoot during the late summer or fall, in August and September. The figs crops are considered to be of superior quality and quantity in the fig’s farming world. According to some fig producers the trick to differentiate one from the other is that brebas grow below the leaves of previous year branch while figs grow above the leaves of the current year growth (very interesting stuff, huh). Brebas are biggest in size and less sweet than their successor figs.
It is a fruit that goes well savory or in desserts and by itself it is simply exquisite (we ended up making a mozzarella grill sandwiches and stuffing the figs in the middle with added honey- it was delicious). Although in the Latin kitchen figs are usually prepared in simple sugar syrup – served with cheese or stuffed with dulce de leche- this delicious fruit can be enjoyed in the kitchen in hundreds of ways. They are also a great ingredient to accompany with meats, salads and to be used in the preparation of sauces. A thing to keep in mind when working with fresh figs is that they should be treated with gentleness since they are delicate and for this reason they are better eaten pronto while they are fresh. So here is my Higos con queso recipe.
¡ A su salud!
Fig with gorgonzola cheese and berries balsamic vinegar gastrique
For the figs:
About 12 ripe fresh figs (ecofriendly if possible)
Demerara sugar* (brown sugar is fine)
Gorgonzola cheese (Just because I have it- you can use mozzarella, blue cheese or any other Latin America fresh cheese)
For the berries balsamic gastrique or reduction:
1 cups sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
½ – 1 cup mix berries fresh or frozen
For the Figs:
Cut the figs in half lengthwise and lay them skin-side down in a cookie sheet. Drizzle them with the demerara or brown sugar and place in an oven broiled for about 15-20 minutes or until sugar caramelize. If you oven does not have a broiled then bake them in the oven. For a semi- figs brulee effect you can use a torch to caramelized the sugar instead of the broiled (the figs are not actually cook, but through this method you will end up with nice looking fresh figs brulee).
For the berries balsamic gastrique or reduction:
In a medium saucepan add the sugar, pour the balsamic vinegar and stir the sugar until dissolved. Add the berries and simmer over low heat until it reduces by half or until it becomes syrupy. Cool down the gastrique and strain if you like it smooth (I serve it without straining it). This gastrique or reduction can last for weeks in the refrigerator. It can also be served with meats and caramelize pears.
The assembly and presentation:
Serve the figs in a flat plate with the gorgonzola cheese and a few drizzles of the berries balsamic reduction. Enjoy!
Historical notes …
Although the common figs were cultivated in ancient time by Western Asia indigenous, its origin is often perceived as Mediterranean. In the new world figs trees were first planted in Mexico. A very interesting fact to know is that this peculiar tree and its fruits was the first edible plant cultivated by humans. With its many attributes, figs are considered to have many medicinal benefits and in antiquity man ate figs to gain vigor, strength, and energy. A good reason I might have to start feeding it to my husband….not to miss out on anything (lol).
*Demerara= is a light natural brown, partially refined sugar produced from the first crystallization during the processing of cane juice into sugar crystals. Unlike brown sugar, which has the added molasses flavor, Demerara has a natural caramel-like flavor and a coarse texture.
This post is also available in: Spanish