I always thought cooking figs in any way was sacrilegous. Eating a really ripe fresh fig, skin and all, is one of the most sensuous and pleasurable things you can do. I could never understand how people could bring themselves to cook a beautifully ripe fig. But finally yesterday, I baked figs for the first time.
I now live in a fig-deprived region, which brings tears to my eyes during fig season. Every now and then, California figs hit the market here. Full of hope, like a child who refuses to learn unpleasantness exists, I buy some. There's usually about two or three in the basket that I would consider ripe, the rest is trash. Figs don't really ripen after they are picked, and if picked ripe they would not travel well at all. So I understand. Still, it makes me sad.
When I saw them at Whole Foods this week, it suddenly occurred to me go with the flow, to acknowledge that the figs wouldn't be all ripe, and to deal with it. I bought two large containers. When I got home, I dumped them on the kitchen counter and divided the figs into two piles - the edible and the inedible. I could get enough edible figs out of the two baskets to make me happy. The others, I decided to bake, just to see why everybody thought this was a good idea.
I kept it simple. Split the figs down the middle, sprinkled them with a little bit (very little bit) of sugar, and put them in my trusted toaster oven for 15 minutes. I took them out when the sugar was caramelized. Then I drizzled them with a balsamic reduction.
Verdict? Meh. Definitely good enough to eat, but there's no way I can get excited about this when I know how fresh figs taste. I may make it again, because this gets rid of the guilt of throwing unripe figs in the trash. And that would allow me to buy figs more frequently for those few ripe ones.