Ripe fresh figs, directly from the tree, are one of my favorite fruits. They are so sweet, fragrant, and delicate. Unfortunately the local climate is too cold for that, and so we can only get imported figs that do not have as much flavor because they are not ripe enough and have been stored and chilled for too long since they were picked. To turn them into a nice dessert anyway, we need to poach them in red wine or port with spices. You can poach them on the stovetop or sous-vide. The advantage of sous-vide is that you will need less red wine or port to ‘submerge’ the figs. The varieties for spices and aromatics are endless; I provide two suggestions. Of course you can use the aromatics I used in the sous-vide recipe also for the stovetop, and vice versa.
Ingredients for version with red wine, lemon, vanilla, and pistachios
8 fresh figs
1/2 litre (2 cups) red wine
50 grams (4 Tbsp) agave syrup or sugar
rind of 1 untreated lemon
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp shelled pistachios
Instructions for stovetop preparation
Wash the figs and cut off the stem.
Cut them into quarters, but not all the way through so the quarters stay together.
Use a vegetable peeler to obtain the rind of the lemon.
Use a very sharp pairing knife to remove as much as the white pith from the lemon rind as possible, as it gives off a bitter flavor. You only want the yellow part.
Arrange them in a saucepan in which they fit snugly.
Add the sugar or agave syrup…
…and red wine.
The figs should be barely covered with the red wine. They may float a little.
Add the vanilla.
Bring to a boil.
Turn off the heat as soon as it boils, then allow the figs to cool off in the hot wine. This will poach the figs.
Meanwhile, toast the pistachios for 8-10 minutes in the oven at 180C/350F. Allow them to cool and roughly chop them.
Take the figs out of the wine as soon as they have cooled off.
Sieve the wine.
Bring the wine to a boil to burn off the remaining alcohol and concentrate the flavor.
Keep going until you have about 125 ml (1/2 cup) left.
Serve the figs with the sauce and the pistachios.
In this version the sauce has a stronger wine flavor because the wine is reduced, but otherwise a very elegant flavor because of the lemon rind.
Ingredients for version with port, coriander seed, cardemom, clove, cinnamon, and vanilla
8 fresh figs
125 ml (1/2 cup) port
25 grams (2 Tbsp) agave syrup or sugar
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon
1 vanilla bean
Instructions for sous-vide preparation
Split the vanilla bean lengthwise.
Put the port in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and carefully light the fumes to burn off the alcohol.
Turn off the heat and add the spices to the port.
Allow the port to cool completely before using a chamber vacuum sealer. Or use a ziploc bag and the water displacement method, in which case cooling is not required.
Prepare the figs as in the other version (wash, cut off stem, cut into quarters but not all the way through) and vacuum seal them together with the sauce and spices.
Cook sous-vide for 1 hour at 63C/145F, then allow to cool to room temperature.
Sieve the sauce.
This sauce does not need to be reduced, because the alcohol has already been removed before the sous-vide step.
Serve the figs with the sauce.
In this version less sugar is used, because port is already quite sweet. Still the sauce is stronger because of the spices.
A port is too strong for both versions. Instead we enjoyed this with a sweet Monastrell from Spain. Another unfortified sweet red wine like a Sagrantino Passito would also work.
A scarpaccia salata is a delicious savory zucchini cake from Tuscany.