July 28, 2012

Despite its prehistoric, Mediterranean pedigree, the fig finds abundant American appeal. As a ubiquitous entity of the “backyard” bounty (along with consuming blackberry vines that often appear without invitation), its sweetness descends upon the South come late summer, and my backyard is no different.

Outside my window grows a Celeste Fig tree, its branches dripping with both fruit and nostalgia. Though they're a distress for the lawnmower, they're a delight for the palate. Over the years I've learned that foraging figs takes talent. A ripe fig is both fragrant and firm, a short window of opportunity that is difficult to discern. But when picked at peak sweetness, the benefits reaped are well worth the wait.

And perhaps what I love most about figs is they go flawlessly from day to evening, like that beloved black dress or that smart black suit, but without the threat of going out of style (hence its "prehistoric, Mediterranean pedigree"). Check out some of our favorite fig recipes, from breakfast to dessert, and everything in between:

Breakfast: Gingered Fig PreservesBecause of its short shelf life, savor the fig flavor with preserves. Spiced with ginger, this favorite preserve recipe spreads perfectly atop breads with nutty aromas, flawlessly mixing the flavors of summer and fall.

Lunch: Prosciutto, Fontina, and Fig PaniniSweet and salty are a classic coupling. For lunch, try sweet figs with salty prosciutto on a warm panini, with a creamy texture provided by Fontina cheese.

Drinks: Fig-and-Bourbon Fizz

Muddled fig, mint, and brown sugar cut the bite of bourbon, crafting a smooth cocktail fit for front porch sitting, or air-conditioned apartment sitting.

Appetizer: Fig and Goat Cheese BruschettaPaying homage to its Mediterranean roots, fig and goat cheese pair well for a no-fuss appetizer. Layer atop a crispy French baguette, adding rosemary and orange rind for a bite filled with flavor.

Main Course: Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa

Smokey strips of grilled flank steak beg to be dressed with a rather unconventional salsa of rosemary, gorgonzola, and figs. And no need for flowers in your tablescape, this main dish makes for a divine centerpiece.

Dessert: Fig and Cream Cheese Bars

Honeyed figs, sweet cream cheese, and a buttery crust make for a decadent dessert. The best thing about these bars? You can make them ahead.

Check out more of our favorite fig recipes.

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