Oven Braised Figs in Amaro

The finished figs in Amaro - definitely have some good bread around to sop up the syrup from the baking dish. Oh, your fingers will do...
The finished figs in Amaro - definitely have some good bread around to sop up the syrup from the baking dish. Oh, your fingers will do...

All images by Amanda Schuster

One of the sexiest things I have ever seen was Gregory Peck eating a fresh fig.

The scene occurred during a PBS biography about the actor, which featured a then recent interview on his property. In mid sentence, he paused to gaze at the ripened figs dangling in the sunshine from a tree. He pulled one off a branch and this once dashing man, now at an advanced age but still quite elegant, suddenly cupped the fig in his hand and ravenously bit into it. The pink flesh opened and juices ran down his hand and bits stuck to his chin. Now completely devoid of modesty and perhaps forgetting the camera entirely, he licked and slurped, fully tasting and enjoying that fig with a passion I’d never witnessed between man and fruit. This was someone who clearly loved food, his life and surroundings. When he finished the fig, he wiped his chin, and simply kept speaking exactly where he left off.

Nonino Figs
Nonino Figs

Until I saw this documentary, I realized I’d never really tasted a fresh fig properly. Like most Americans, I pretty much only knew them in Newton form. But after seeing my man Greg in action, I had to give them a try.

They have since become one of my favorite things and I look forward to fig season each year. The only problem is that since I live in Brooklyn without access to a fig tree, I must resort to buying them at a produce stand, and they usually come pre-packaged in a carton. Much as I love them, it’s hard to go through that many at once before they rot. And they do rot quickly once picked.

Still, I can’t resist. Maybe there is a way to preserve them over a few days? I scanned my liquor shelves. Sure, I could bake them in some wine or Port. That wouldn’t suck. But then I might not finish said bottle in time and now instead of rotting fruit I’ll have oxidized wine! Then I saw the Amaro in all its deep purple glory and knew that was the solution.

I am not one of those people who has a problem admitting when I’m wrong. But oh yes, this time, I was so very, very right.

Use a good quality honey - this ain't a job for the plastic honey bear
Use a good quality honey - this ain't a job for the plastic honey bear

Oven Figs Braised in Amaro and Honey

1 carton of fresh, black figs (about a dozen)

*1 ½ oz deep, dark and slightly sweet Amaro (I used Nonino Quintessentia - Nardini,Ramazzotti, Cardamaro, Mirto, any of those would also work)

pat of butter, melted

2 tsp good quality honey (I used Caledonia Spirits raw honey from Vermont)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Very gently wash the figs, careful not to scrape off any skin. Pat dry even more gently. Cut each lengthwise into quarters and add them to a medium mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and give it a delicate stir to coat, as though they’d scream with anything more forceful than a light touch with your spoon. Place the coated figs skin-side down in a single layer in a baking dish, careful not to overcrowd. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Ready to go!
Ready to go!

Serving suggestions (That is if you don’t consume them immediately with a big spoon upon hitting room temperature air):

  • Piled into the middle of a cake (cornmeal, sponge, angel food, lemon, chocolate, it’s up to you.)
  • As a spread with soft cheese on toast, crackers or as a component of a crostini.
  • Over ice cream.
  • With peanut butter
  • In what would likely be one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches of your lifetime.

*Port will still work if you prefer. Use only half the amount of honey.