Last month, I had the good fortune to sit on a panel of food bloggers and photographers with a couple of top-shelf ladies: Phi of Princess Tofu and Kimberly of The Year in Food. Kimberly had just received a copy of her new book, Vibrant Food, and we got a sneak preview. Once I started leafing through it, I couldn’t stop.
I’ve written a full review of the book for Blikki, a fabulous online health and well-being magazine, which will come out in August. I had fun writing my first official cookbook review, and particularly getting to spend so much time with Kimberly’s inspiring recipes and images. I’ll post the link when the issue comes out, but for now I wanted to share a favorite recipe from the book: Broiled Figs with Za’atar and Pecans which I paired with a goat cheese honey ice cream.
Figs have a first small harvest in the late spring, and now they’re just starting to tumble into season in earnest. Brown Turkeys tend to be juicy and sweet, Black Missions are a bit firmer, with deep purple flesh, and the green-skinned varieties are so pretty with their shocking pink insides. Any variety would be excellent here.
The figs are simply sliced in half, drizzled with honey, broiled for a bit, then sprinkled with za’atar and pecans, and broiled again. The honey and cooking make this a fine treatment for figs that are slightly under-ripe, as all will become softened and sweet. Figs that are ripe yet still firm enough to hold their shape are ideal.
Za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend usually made from sesame seeds, thyme, and sumac, adds an unexpected savory hit. I had some organic sumac sent to me by Spicely which I mixed with white sesame seeds and some lemon thyme that I’ve managed to keep alive in my window box. (I’m looking for more ways to use sumac, so if you have any recipes you like, chime in in the comments below.)
The savory-sweet figs could swing either way: on a salad, as part of a cheese course, or over ice cream for dessert. I especially love the honeyed fig juices that collect in the bottom of the pan.
I can’t think of figs without thinking also of goat cheese, so I whipped up an ice cream sweetened with honey. I love the way the dessert turned out; like a cheese plate in an uncommon form.
I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of Vibrant Foods. Other recipes I have my eye on are:
-Yogurt Paprika Chicken with Lemon – Kimberly’s take on Chicken Tikka topped with juice from roasted lemons
-Rhubarb Compote with Cacao Nibs, sweetened with honey and topped with crème fraîche
-Tomato Fennel Soup with Polenta Croutons
-Millet-Stuffed Peppers with Tomatillo Salsa
-Apple Sage Walnut Bread – a not-too-sweet snacking cake that happens to be gluten-free and whole grain
And I can’t stop dreaming of the Pimm’s Cup that I made last week, gussied up with sliced strawberries, cucumber, and mint. Mmm…
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Broiled Figs with Za’atar and Pecans
From Vibrant Food by Kimberly Hasselbrink, reprinted with permission
Kimberly says that you can use a store-bought za’atar if you can’t find sumac, a dried berry native to the Middle East. The recipe calls for dried thyme; I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh thyme since I had it on hand, and I thought it worked well.
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon dried (or fresh) thyme
1 teaspoon sumac
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup raw, chopped pecans
12 large fresh figs, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup honey
vanilla ice cream, fromage blanc, or goat cheese honey ice cream, for serving
Preheat the broiler.
To make the za’atar, combine the sesame seeds, thyme, sumac, and salt in a bowl. Toss with the pecans and set aside.
Place the figs cut side up in a small roasting pan. Using a small spoon, carefully drizzle the honey over the figs. Broil 6 inches from the heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the broiler and sprinkle the za’atar mix over the figs. Return to the broiler for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the pecans are toasted.
Allow the figs to cool for a couple of minutes. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream or fromage blanc (or goat cheese honey ice cream) and a little of the remaining honey drizzled on top.