Sweet or Savory Red Wine Balsamic Figs

Sometimes, when it comes to choosing recipes for this blog, I find that I tend to get a little carried away. What happens is this: I get a specific ingredient into my head (currently: plums; orecchiette; kale) that will remain there until I have thoroughly brainstormed and then researched all possible recipes, scrawled down my thoughts, and hashed things over. While there's nothing wrong with examining all potential options, I often I get a bit lost in my own pile of ideas (for example, that long list of creative strawberry recipes I scrapped at the last minute, deciding that actually none of them were worth making and that I'd keep it classic with shortcakes instead). Most recently, I was convinced that I wanted to make something with bell peppers, only to decide (after examining recipe after recipe) that actually, I had no desire to make anything with bell peppers, and that I was going to make something with dulce de leche instead. Staying focused and concentrated while blogging is hard work, you see.

Thankfully, I have fantastic colleagues (mentioned pretty much every other blog post I write, I know -- maybe this blog should be called Pancakes & My Colleagues) who offer sage advice when I find myself in the middle of a blog-brainstorm tornado. My colleague, David, is particularly helpful. While most people will politely conclude that all the ideas I've thrown at them sound "really good,!" David will give you his honest, sincere opinion. When I enthusiastically told him that I had decided to use the season's figs in a prosciutto, mozzarella di bufala, and arugula sandwich with -- wait for it! -- homemade fig jam (!!!), David pointed out that maybe, just maybe, if figs were so good this time a year, it might be better to do as little to them as possible, rather than mash them up and cook them down into a jam. And a definite no to the second proposal, that almond honey layer cake with mascarpone fig frosting -- the figs would get lost there, too.

He had a point. 

I reigned in my wild, fig-strewn thoughts and decided to keep things simple. The result was this: figs that are halved, then brushed and roasted with a red wine, honey, and balsamic glaze that leaves them sweet, sticky, and caramelized, and intensely, well figgy, for lack of a better word, their flavor concentrated thanks to their time in the oven. But wait, there's more! I realized that with a few little changes the base glaze could become either sweet or savory. Don't have much of a sweet tooth? Add olive oil, rosemary, and a pinch of salt to the glaze to get savory figs, perfect for pairing with meat or cheese or serving over a simple salad. Want to skip dinner and go straight to dessert? Simply add brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter to the base recipe and they become sweet figs, ideal for serving over Greek yogurt, ricotta with a drizzle of honey, or vanilla ice cream. My sister and I adored both versions. See which one you like best.

A couple of notes: The savory figs would be fantastic served alongside goat cheese, feta cheese, or good Parmesan cheese in addition to the sheep's milk ricotta we ate it with (drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper) below. The sweet figs could also be served with a dollop of creme fraiche. I have never tried this glaze with any other fruit, but I don't see why it wouldn't work on something like peaches or plums as well. The quantities below for the cinnamon, brown sugar, and rosemary are all very flexible -- feel free to add more or less of any of the ingredients, based on your own taste. Remember to spoon the glaze/juices accumulated in the bottom of the baking dish over the figs, as they will have a ton of flavor. And, unrelated, but -- how photogenic are figs?! Probably the prettiest thing I've ever photographed.

I really like roasting fruit, apparently. Check out these Honey Cinnamon Glazed Peaches and this Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini. Like cooking with red wine? Check out these Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes.


Ingredients for Red Wine Rosemary Figs:
12 fresh black Mission figs (about 12)
1/4 cup (60 mL) red wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
Extra rosemary for roasting

Ingredients for Red Wine, Cinnamon, and Brown Sugar Figs:
12 fresh black Mission figs (about 12)
1/4 cup (60 mL) red wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
Cinnamon, to taste (I add a good dash)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius). Trim the stems off the figs and cut the figs in half lengthwise.

Place the figs in a lightly buttered baking dish. Whisk together all remaining ingredients (depending on whether these will be savory or sweet) and pour them over the figs. If you're making savory figs, place some sprigs of rosemary over and around the figs for extra rosemary flavor. Bake, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, or until the figs are soft and caramelized. 

If you made sweet figs: let cool and serve with yogurt, vanilla ice cream or ricotta sweetened with honey. Spoon the glaze and juices that have accumulated in the bottom of the pan over the figs. If you made savory figs: serve with goat cheese, prosciutto, or Parmesan cheese, or on a simple arugula/goat cheese salad, spooning the same glaze and juices over the figs. Serves 4-6.

Recipe adapted from Chez Panisse (via www.borrowedsalt.com).

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