Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would find figs in Japan. When I think of figs, I believe I am supposed to think of California. Greece. Israel. A week ago when I went to my local Japanese grocery store, I did a double take. I blinked three times. I very tentatively picked them up. Was it a booby trap? Fresh, ripe figs just waiting for me to take them home.
Figs do not ripen off the vine but must instead be picked ripe. Which means my figs are most likely local figs, I had no idea farmers grew figs here. After a little research, I learned today that figs are actually quite popular in Japan. As I have not seen them before and there were only a few at the local store, I would guess that mainland Japan is where you can find them more commonly. Here, the figs are a little more water heavy than figs found in the states and Europe. They are a variety called Masui-Dauphine as opposed to the more common mission fig found in the US.
Figs pair well with thyme, prosciutto, balsamic and goat cheese if you want to go a savory route. On the other hand if you want to make a dessert fig, marscapone is killer. I had the best marscapone stuffed figs at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. This recipe, obviously, is for savory figs. To make a meal of figs, polenta pairs perfectly, especially when I blended in some goat cheese and thyme.
I know this recipe seems more involved between the three pans you have to use but truly, the polenta and balsamic reduction are very simple. The fig mixture just requires some chopping. Gourmet in no time!
- 8-10 figs, quartered
- 5-6 shallots, halved or quartered if large
- 3 Tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachio, plus extra for topping
- 2 ounces prosciutto
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
- 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 3 Tablespoons honey
- 1 cup Polenta
- 2 cups reduced fat milk (I used 2 %)
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- ⅓ cup goat cheese
- 1 ½ Tablespoons fresh thyme
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 450F. In a 10-12 inch cast iron skillet or similar pan, add shallots and drizzle with ½ Tablespoon olive oil. Place in oven and roast for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
- While the shallots cook, add balsamic vinegar, orange zest and honey to small saucepan and place over medium high heat. Bring to a light boil then reduce heat to medium low, stirring occasionally. This will take 15-20 minutes of simmering and it is complete when about ⅓ of initial volume remains. As this cools, it will get thicker so don’t allow it to reduce more than to ⅓ the original.
- When 20 minutes has past, remove skillet from stove. Decrease oven temperature to 400F. Add figs, prosciutto, pistachios, salt, pepper and 1 Tablespoon thyme. Stir, drizzle with ½ Tablespoon olive oil and 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar and return to oven for another 10-15 minutes until figs are cooked. Remove from oven and taste, adjusting salt and pepper.
- While the balsamic simmers and figs cook, in a medium saucepan over medium heat bring milk and water for polenta to a boil (high will cause burning milk). Add polenta and cook for 3-5 minutes, whisking continuously. Remove from heat and stir in butter, goat cheese, 1 ½ Tablespoons thyme, salt and pepper. Taste, and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve polenta and place fig mixture on top using a slotted spoon to avoid excess moisture from figs. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Add thyme and chopped pistachio for garnish.