A perfect fig picked straight from the tree, still warm from the sun, is a heavenly experience that makes me think of happy, lazy Mediterranean days. Buying a perfect fig at the market and eating it at room temperature is pretty good too. Their season is short so they need to be used wherever possible when they’re around.
I’ll eat them any time of day. In the morning, I’ll have figs with natural yoghurt and honey, and if I scatter over some walnuts I’m reminded of breakfasts in Greece. A super easy starter or lunch is to casually tear open some figs, sit them atop fresh buffalo mozzarella and drizzle with a touch of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with fresh bread. Hard cheese works too: tear figs and serve with parmesan chunks and oil. Figs love prosciutto and jamon: wrap fresh figs in the best versions you can afford and watch people swoon. Another divine option is to totally peel them, break them open and create a little salad of bitter leaves, blue cheese, extra virgin olive oil and a splash of vinegar. The luscious softness of figs contrasts well with crunchy foods: try figs with nuts and crisp pastry. Figs make a great topping for baked cheesecake too.
To improve your chances of opening up a perfect fig, choose figs that are heavy for their size because that means they’re ripe and bursting with juice. Treat them like eggs when you’re carrying them home because the wrong spot in the shopping bag can lead to a smashed fig tragedy. Figs are best eaten at room temperature but if you want to keep them for a couple of days, you can wrap them with a damp paper towel and store them in the fridge in an uncovered dish. If you’re in despair that your figs aren’t perfect, you can improve the flavour by slicing them, adding a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. If you want to head in a sweeter direction, drizzle them with verjuice and honey.
It’s too sad to miss out on figs the rest of the year so I like to make a big batch of fig and ginger jam (Cooking at home page 238). Dried figs are great too. I use them in braises and sometimes use them in place of raisins or sultanas.