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Ireland Hopping | Margaret M. Johnson
Fresh or dried, figs are it! While not native to Ireland, they’re no longer considered “exotic” and are widely available to use in dishes ranging from appetizers and salads to entrées and desserts. Christmas bakers have probably already started to stockpile dried ones for holidays sweets, but in between try some fresh ones in these yummy recipes. Some varieties to look for are the dark purple Black Mission, most heavily cultivated today; the green-but-ripe Kadato; the Brown Turkey, similar to Mission but lighter in color; and Calimyrna, often found as dried figs.
PHOTO BY MARGARET JOHNSON
FIG AND GOAT CHEESE TOASTS
MAKES 24 TOASTS
Fruit and cheese are a stunning combination in these appetizers made with raisin bread.
For the spread
1 package (10 ounces) dried Calimyrna figs, stemmed and chopped
1 3/4 cups water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
For the toasts
24 slices raisin bread
Two 4-ounce logs plain goat cheese
2 tablespoons milk
Fresh chive sprigs, for topping
- Make spread. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine figs, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and figs are nearly tender. Transfer to a food processor, add lemon juice, and process for 20 to 30 seconds, or until smooth; add remaining 1/4 cup of water if necessary. (Can be stored, covered, in refrigerate for up to 1 week).
- Preheat broiler. With a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out a round from each slice of bread. Arrange rounds on a baking sheet and toast under broiler for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned.
- In a small bowl or food processor, combine goat cheese and milk; whisk or blend until smooth. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and then pipe cheese onto each round. Top with a spoonful of fig spread and garnish with chives.
FIG AND GOAT CHEESE CROUTES
MAKES 12 CROUTES
This recipe calls for goat cheese, but you can easily substitute blue cheese if you prefer.
12 (1-inch-thick) baguette slices
1/2 cup crumbled goat or blue cheese
3 figs, stems trimmed
Olive oil, for drizzling
Honey, for drizzling
Ground black pepper
- Preheat broiler. Arrange rounds on a baking sheet and toast under broiler for 1 to 2 minute on each side, or until lightly browned.
- Spread cheese on each slice to edges.
- Cut each fig into four slices. Lay a slice on top of cheese, drizzle with olive oil and honey, and sprinkle with pepper. Return to broiler and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, or until cheese is soft and golden. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
FIGS, BLUE CHEESE, AND WALNUT SALAD
SERVES 4 TO 6
This recipe calls for Cashel Blue cheese and walnuts, but you can easily substitute crumbled goat cheese and almonds if you prefer; alternately, use blackberries instead of blueberries.
For the salad
1 (10 ounce) bag mixed greens
12 ripe figs, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (optional)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup crumbled Cashel Blue cheese
1/2 cup blueberries or blackberries
For the vinaigrette
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
- Make salad. Toss greens, figs, onion (if using), walnuts, and blue cheese in a large bowl or on a platter. Sprinkle blueberries or blackberries on top.
- Make vinaigrette. In a small bowl or shaker jar, combine olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper; whisk or shake to blend. Drizzle vinaigrette over salad and serve immediately.
FIGS POACHED IN PORT, VANILLA, AND SAFFRON SYRUP WITH CASHEL BLUE
Peter Ward, proprietor of the legendary Country Choice market in Nenagh, Tipperary, combines local Cashel Blue with figs in this dessert. He says, “This dish is great for when you’ve guests over — decadent enough but not too sinful — but the figs in syrup (without the cheese) are also lovely for breakfast with a dollop of yogurt.”
For the syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon Port
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out
1 pinch saffron
For the figs and cheese
8 ripe figs, halved
1 cup crumbled Cashel Blue cheese
- Make syrup. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, water, Port, vanilla bean and seeds, and saffron. Cook for about 6 minutes, or until mixture is smooth. Drop in figs and continue to poach gently for about 5 minutes longer, or until mixture is syrupy.
- With a slotted spoon, transfer figs to shallow bowls and crumble Cashel Blue on top; spoon syrup over.
Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page expands this year to “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed cookbook with FREE SHIPPING, visit her website.