Sacred in Asia, Egypt, Italy and Greece, figs were so highly prized that exporting them was once against the law. They were presented as laurels to the first Olympic medalists and made their commercial debut in 1892, when Fig Newtons™ were introduced.
Fat-, sodium -, and cholesterol-free, fresh or dried figs contain more dietary fiber than any other common fruit or vegetable and are richer in anti-oxidants than red wine and tea. They are part of the Mediterranean diet shown to improve health and reduce risk of chronic disease. Figs can even help you drink less coffee and stop smoking.
But when I noticed fresh figs in the specialty cheese section of the grocery store, my first thought was that the plastic clamshell packaging did not do them justice. The reason I was in that department no longer resides in my brain, but I suspect I was just window shopping. The figs were easy to spot among the cheeses that Friday afternoon and, for the cost of a fast food meal, they could be mine for a perfect summer dinner. It’s a long time since I’ve had a fast food meal, but the measurement is often useful.
The figs were as mouth-watering as I’d been sure they’d be, and my fig/brie/ almond appetizer was wonderful. Each piece was savored. Each piece was an indulgence. Each piece was perfect.
This recipe is easy to replicate at home. Brie is not normally something in my refrigerator, but I bought a wedge a few weeks later when a discount grocer offered the mild, creamy cheese as a special purchase. Then an unexpected trip to the grocery store near work resulted in the purchase of a few figs. I had sliced almonds at home. Within 24 hours, I began the experiment that would lead to enjoying brie-stuffed figs.
How to get the sliced almonds to adhere to the figs’ exterior? That was the question. But not an important question, as the nuts were a visual element and I was after the flavor combination. Getting the almonds to stick to the figs would require time for drying. A 15-minute rest period in each of two experiments did not noticeably improve the almonds’ adherence. A quick Internet search did not reveal the secret, and my access to professional chefs is temporarily restricted. There would not be too much experimenting if I wanted to add variety to my diet while adhering to a reasonable food budget.
While the figs would not win a James Beard Award, they do score points for ease of preparation. The appetizer is made from inexpensive ingredients that are easy to find. My friend Karen gave me the idea of using a whole fig. She has adopted a new, healthier eating regime that includes the occasional fig stuffed with a whole almond. I think it would be wonderful substitute for sliced almonds.
Here’s what I recommend:
Slice the fig nearly in half and remove the seed. Add almond slices or a whole almond. Stuff with brie and close the fig around the cheese. How many figs to prepare and how much brie to use is up to you. I wanted a step down in the level of decadence, so I began with bits of brie about ¼ thick and adjusted to the size of the fig.