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Slice of Life

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Tasty figs deserve higher profile

Pick a fruit that gets almost no publicity, and you’d be hard-pressed to find one less represented than the fig.

Seriously, fresh figs are delicious and deserve to be front and center in the “you need to try this now” category of things to buy in season.

Fresh fig season begins in June and runs through September.

When figs are fresh and ripe, they are succulent and sweet. But be warned, they are fragile and spoil very quickly, so buy them just before you want to use them.

The beauty (and culinary joy) of working with figs is that they translate into sweet and savory dishes and are versatile enough to work in everything from appetizers to desserts.

Look for a plump, fragrant fig that gives just a little when pushed and has a slightly irregular shape.

If they are not quite as ripe as they should be (they are typically shipped unripe), they can sit on a counter – not in the refrigerator – for about three days after you get them home.

You can freeze a fresh fig for up to six months. But seriously, when you are able, go for the fresh and eat them, skin and all.

Fig Toast Toppers

1/2 pound ripe figs, chopped

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Pinch of salt

Crusty bread loaf or baguette, sliced thin and toasted

6 to 8 ripe figs, quartered

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese

4 ounces cream cheese

1/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine the chopped figs, balsamic vinegar, salt and maple syrup. Mix to combine, then place the fig pieces on a cookie sheet, cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, remove foil and let cool to room temperature. Place them in a food processor and process until smooth.

Place mixture in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour but no more than two days.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the mascarpone and cream cheese until smooth. Spread the cheese mixture over each slice of bread, then top with a heaping teaspoon or two of the fig mixture. Sprinkle some pecans over the top and then top with fig quarters. Makes 8 to 10 pieces, depending on the size of the loaf of bread.

– Modified from Epicurious.com

Figgy Roasted Chicken

1 large sweet onion, cut into large chunks

1 large roasting chicken, butterflied or cut in half

Olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Garlic powder

Fresh thyme

8 to 10 large figs, cut in half

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the onion chunks and fig halves on the bottom of a roasting pan. Place the chicken, cut side down, on the onions and figs. Place the fresh thyme around the bottom of the pan.

Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the chicken and season with salt and pepper and a little garlic powder.

Cook the chicken for 10 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the chicken is done and the skin is crispy.

Let sit for 5 minutes before you carve the chicken and serve.

Serves 4.

Salmon with Caramelized Fig and Onions

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 cup dried figs, cut in half

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

11/2 to 2 pounds salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 4 to 6 pieces

Chopped parsley for garnish

In a saucepan, heat the oil, then add the onions, salt and sugar. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook, stirring constantly until the onions are golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the figs, wine, broth, vinegar and rosemary; simmer until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper to taste. Grease a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Place the salmon in the pan and roast for 7 to 10 minutes until the salmon is firm to the touch.

When done, place the salmon in a serving platter and then spoon the fig sauce over the top, sprinkle the parsley over the top and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

– Modified from About.com

Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at eztlog@gmail.com or write to The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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