salted roasted figs and cardamom ice cream

roasted salted fig cardamom ice cream

One of the hardest parts about moving this year, was having to leave my fig trees behind. My brown turkey fig tree had just begun fruiting last year and I was so excited (and I treated it like a child). A bunch of questions kept circling through my head, will the new people keep the tree and take care of it? Will the tree fruit plenty? Finally, last weekend, we took a quick trip to the nursery and I picked up a new black mission fig tree, a Meyer lemon tree and a Moro blood orange tree. Except for the fig tree, I haven't had much experience growing the others so I'm hoping they take off and I get some fruit. The lemon tree came with a several lemons so I'm not too worried but I hope the other two don't take too long to produce. I'm not planning on starting my own farmer's stand anytime soon but I'm a little impatient when it comes to my homegrown produce!

california black mission figs

I love fresh figs, they are fat and juicy and sweet like nectar when ripe. Every fig season, I make it a point to eat some on a weekly basis whenever possible. We had a couple of hot days this past week and I found another excuse to make some ice cream. I decided to use cardamom for the base because the spice has a wonderful cooling fragrant taste. Also, cardamom is to Indian cooking what vanilla is to Western cuisine when it comes to desserts, though I should add that Indian cuisine also uses this great spice to season meats and vegetables in dishes.

roasted salted fig and cardamom ice cream

If you never tried oven roasting slices of figs then you should give it a shot. For this recipe, I've lightly roasted the figs just enough to caramelize the sugars and drive out some of the moisture from the figs. The light dash of salt contrasts against the sweetness of the figs and cardamom ice cream which makes every bite wonderful. This ice cream is seriously amazing and if you're looking to make something fancy for a party or event, this is one ice cream that will impress.

Note: If you can't find Maldon sea salt flakes, use a good quality brand of sea salt crystals just make sure the crystals aren't huge as it will be overwhelming to taste. You can break the crystals using a mortar and pestle and then sprinkle them.

black mission figs
salted roasted figs  and cardamom ice cream

roasted salted fig ice cream

yields: 1 generous quart

ingredients 

12 black mission figs, ripe
1/4 teaspoon Maldon sea salt flakes or kosher sea salt crystals
2 cups whole milk + 4 tablespoons
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, freshly ground 
2/3 cup (5 1/2 ounces) raw sugar
2 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

1. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Wash the figs, wipe the dry with a clean paper towel or kitchen cloth. Trim the tops and bottoms of each fig and then slice them lengthwise into 4 sections. Place the individual figs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle the salt flakes over the figs (it's fine if you don't salt all the fig sections) and bake them for about 10 minutes in the oven or until the figs begin to caramelize and turn slightly golden brown at the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet. Refrigerate the figs on the baking sheet until completely chilled. If the baking sheet doesn't fit in the refrigerator transfer them to a smaller plate but keep them individually separate.
2. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the 2 cups of milk, heavy cream, cardamom, and sugar on a medium-high flame. Stir to ensure the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil. Whisk the 4 tablespoons of milk and cornstarch in a small bowl and then add it to the boiling mix. Whisk immediately and continue to stir for about 3-4 minutes until the milk begins to thicken. It will acquire a custard like consistency and should coat the back of a spoon. Remove from stove and allow the ice cream to cool for about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer the ice cream base to an airtight gallon ziploc bag and seal. Place the bag in an ice water bath and allow to chill completely for about 30 minutes. Transfer the chilled ice cream to your prepared frozen canister of your ice cream maker. Churn for about 30 minutes until the ice cream has formed. Alternatively, follow the instructions given by your ice cream maker's manufacturers. 
4. Transfer half of the ice cream into a freezer safe container (preferably airtight). Layer with half of the chilled roasted salted fig sections and then layer with the rest of the ice cream. Layer the top of the ice cream with the rest of the fig sections. Cover the surface of the ice cream with parchment paper and press gently. Freeze the ice cream for about 4 hrs or overnight before serving.

spiced fig preserves


It's getting chillier by the day and something tells me this winter is going to be a little intense. Thankfully, I have some canning recipes in the works that are helping me stock the pantry up. Yes, I might be surviving on a whole lot of jams and pickles this cold season. I thought my previous post on the poached fig sauce would be the last, but I was so wrong! The last time I came back from my grocery store, a couple of figs magically popped up in my grocery bag. I could have just eaten the entire batch directly but then I knew I would miss them for the rest of the year. So what's one to do but stretch their presence out a little longer, perhaps till the next fig fruiting season? Since canning is my new culinary addiction, I turned to making a sticky and sweet fig preserve with bold flavors that would happily remind me of autumn.


This preserve uses whole figs that have their stems removed but I keep their skins because I like them. If you are not a big fan of the fruit's skin, then by all means peel them off with a paring knife. Use good quality dry spices for this recipe because they will make the preserve taste better. The cinnamon flavor is gentle yet warming but the dry ginger powder gives the figs a delicious and bold zing. Instead of using brown sugar in this recipe (which you most certainly can try), I find honey to be my preferred choice of sweetener for the fig preserve, somehow that marriage between honey and figs is truly blessed. Yeah, I also like to add a bit of booze to everything I cook, so here it is a cup of Riesling. It brings everything together in my opinion without taking away from any of the flavors of the figs. Serve this on top of some thick plain yogurt for breakfast or spread it over buttered bread. You can also serve this with some sharp cheeses at your parties for an appetizer. Remember with this preserve, a little of it goes a long way!


spiced fig preserves

ingredients 


3 cups chopped figs with stems removed
2 cups of a good quality honey
1/4 cup crystallized ginger 
juice of one fresh lemon
1 cup riesling wine (a good quality moscato would also be good here)
1 heaped tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon ground ginger powder

1. Put all the ingredients together in thick bottomed saucepan. 
2. Heat on a medium to high flame and bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil. Stir constantly. This should take about 10 minutes. Don't be surprised if the viscosity of the honey decreases and the hot liquid begins to thin, this is absolutely normal. 
3. Mash the figs with a potato masher to release the fruit's pulp. 
4. Reduce the flame to the low setting on the stove's dial. Cook the figs for total time of 1 hour. Stir the mixture once or twice every 5 or 8 minutes. The volume will reduce during the process.
5. Transfer the hot preserves to sterile four, 4 pint jelly jars and seal. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Cool for another 5 minutes in the water bath before removing to cool and store.



Here is the label that I designed for this set of jams, feel free to use them as needed. Click on the image to the right to download the label pdf.

Disclaimer: These labels are for personal use only. If you do use them or credit them, please post a link back to the related original recipe and not the file. © A Brown Table   

Update: The recipe has been updated to reflect the addition of the lemon juice.

panna cotta with poached fig sauce


Another fig recipe so soon, I know, I know. I've been pretty fortunate for the past few weeks to get fresh ripe figs on a weekly basis. They are perfect! Figs are ripe and ready to eat when they feel like soft swollen balloons that are almost ready to burst. Sometimes when entertaining, I like to serve up simple desserts. The ones that are no fuss and easy to make. You dump everything together and literally forget about them till you are ready to eat. You let the ingredients do all the work and talking for you. This is one such dessert to woo your guests over in a single delicious bite.


Of all the puddings that I have tried, panna cotta is probably one of the most delicate and yet so simplistically elegant desserts. In my mind it invokes all sorts of culinary praise. You scoop a little pudding and once it enters your mouth it melts. The cool buttermilk and vanilla pervade your taste buds and delight them in every possible way. This how I feel about my panna cotta consumption experience. 


The fig sauce compliments the panna cotta not only visually but also provides a surprising burst of complex fruity flavors. The fig sauce can be served with almost any other dessert as a topping. It makes a delicious accompaniment to bread pudding, ice creams, cakes, etc. You can also serve the fig sauce by itself with a little bit of whipped creme fraiche or mascarpone. I adapted these recipes from one of my favorite dessert chefs Alice Medrich from her Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts Cookbook.


panna cotta

ingredients

1/4 cup water
2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups 1% or skim buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1. Lightly spray six individual dessert dishes with a neutral and flavorless vegetable oil spray.
2.  Pour the water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on the surface. Set aside, without stirring. The gelatin will absorb water and begin to swell.
3. Heat the cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over a medium flame. Stir continuously till the sugar is dissolved. Do not bring to a boil. 
4. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the vanilla and water-gelatin mixture. Stir well at this stage with a whisk to disperse the gelatin. Cool the mixture till lukewarm. 
5. Gently whisk in the buttermilk and stir thoroughly. Let this custard sit for about 10 minutes. It will begin to thicken as it keeps cooling down. Keep mixing it every 2 minutes or so with a rubber spatula. This will ensure a tender panna cotta. 
6. Once the mixture is cool to touch and thickens, divide and pour equally into the dessert dishes. Cover each with a piece of cling film and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight to set.
7. The pudding is ready when the surface is firm to finger touch. You can serve them in the dessert dishes or remove them from the dishes onto a dessert plate using a sharp paring knife to loosen them from the sides of the dish. Top the surface of the dish with a dessert plate and invert the dish to release the panna cotta. 

poached fig sauce

ingredients

2 cups of strong coffee 
1 cup sugar (you can add a little more if you want it sweeter)
1 vanilla bean pod 
2 pounds ripe fresh brown turkey figs
1 cup red wine (I used a Shiraz)

1. Chop the figs in half. You can keep the stems if you want or trim them off.
2. Slice the vanilla bean in half across its length. Remove the seeds with the knife. Combine the vanilla bean, the seeds with the rest of the ingredients in the saucepan. Do not add the figs yet. Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium flame. Reduce the flame and continue to cook the sauce to a gentle simmer till the volume reduces to half. 
3. Add the sliced figs and cook them for further 10 minutes. Stir gently. 
4. Remove the sauce from the stove and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 2 to 4 hours before using. 

Note: If the sauce is warm or too hot it will melt the panna cotta. Gelatin gelled food begin to melt at higher temperatures. 

whiskey-kissed brown turkey fig cake


Strange things can happen! I was never a big fan of fresh figs while growing up and my dislike for dried figs was even more severe. However, now I find myself stuck with an intense love for the fruit, so much so that I planted a fig tree in my garden this past spring with the hope that I might have my own personal supply. Folks, as luck would have it, I have no figs yet but the tree is growing taller and taller. Thankfully, I have found other places that will satisfy my fig cravings. The farmer's markets and on occasion some of the little farm stores we run into when we drive out into the country. 


Instead of opting for a destination vacation for our Labor Day weekend, we decided to stay in and spend one day out in the country. The rest of the weekend I devoted to finishing up a couple of home projects which included making a console table and some floating shelves. We planned a picnic with our neighbors, Krysta and Travis and drove out to Little Washington in Virginia. Krysta packed up a delicious picnic for us and we made our way through a couple of vineyards, a whiskey distillery, and several antique stores. Yes, you have to squeeze in the shopping whenever you can!


The weather was just right (even at 90F) and even with the high humidity, we still had winds that kept us relatively cool. Most of the vineyard owners are friendly and will let you walk around the vines and explore. As you might have noticed, this is an image heavy post but I wanted to share some of the sights from our trip. 


My inspiration for this cake came from a few of the different things we sampled on our picnic, Krysta's figs and the whiskey tasting from the Copper Fox distillery. For some reason, the thought of figs and whiskey sounded deliciously decadent and indeed it is so! The baked figs and whiskey get a rich honey like flavor that melts in your mouth. Since figs are expensive (at least here in our area), I used fig preserves that are rich and packed with a concentrated amount of figs and flavor.


This cake is soft, moist, and buttery. I put the sliced figs about 20 minutes into baking the cake so that they don't burn and get bitter. This worked out perfect and the little amount of brown sugar on the surface helps to develop a sweet brown crust. The whiskey adds a gentle flavor to the cake and the figs become even "figgier"! Since the amount of alcohol is pretty small and as the cake is baked, I found no traces of any alcohol while eating the cake, the whiskey simply dehydrates the figs a little and helps in their caramelization during baking but it also gives a much more flavorful taste to the cake.


This cake will last for a couple of days outside but if refrigerated it should last for a little more than a week. A good quality honey bourbon will do wonders for the cake but any other whiskey should be equally good with the figs.


whiskey-kissed brown turkey fig cake

ingredients

6 fresh ripe figs (brown turkey figs or any other kind you can find)
50ml honey bourbon whiskey or any other whiskey
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups of a good quality fig butter/preserves (I used the Trader Joe's brand of fig butter-it is rich and dark and not overly spiced)
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon brown sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 350F. 
2. Cut the stems of the figs and slice them lengthwise. Add the figs to the whiskey and let them sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. 
3. Sift the flour and salt twice and keep aside. 
4. In a thick-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and the preserves on a medium flame. Stir constantly till the butter and preserves are combined and smooth. Remove from heat and keep aside. 
5. Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and with an electric mixer cream the eggs and sugar till they expand to four times its original volume. The goal here is to beat as much air as you can into the cake batter and this should take about 15 minutes if you use the high speed setting of an electric mixer. Pour half of the melted butter-fig mixture into the whisked eggs and sugar. Drain the whiskey from the sliced figs and pour it into the batter. For now, keep the sliced figs aside. Fold the batter gently with a spatula and then add the rest of the butter-fig liquid and combine gently. Do not over-fold the batter because you will lose the air that you have carefully whisked in.  Fold in the raisins.
6. Take an ungreased rectangular baking dish (12 X 10 inches) and pour the batter into the dish. Bake the cake in the preheated oven. The cake will begin to rise and brown as it bakes. After 20 minutes during the baking stage, open the door of the oven and carefully add the sliced figs across the surface of the cake (I like to space them out equally so I can later cut slices each having a fig on top). Sprinkle the brown sugar on the surface. Be quick and don't let the cake stay out for more than 2 to 3 minutes. Put the cake back into the oven and bake the cake till the crust is golden brown and the center of the cake is cooked. This will take another 20 minutes (A knife should come out clean from the center of the cake). Remove the baked cake and allow to cool to room temperature in the pan, before you serve. 

Disclaimer: I did not receive any financial compensation for the fig preserves from Trader Joes. All my opinions listed here are my own.