In my recent quest to cut down on my refined sugar intake, I am rediscovering the joys of the fruit-and-cheese plate for dessert. It’s an interesting experiment, as I’m discovering that fruit tastes sweeter and more flavorful to me now that I’m off the sugar treadmill. Pairing the fruit with a bit of decadent cheese offsets any chance of my feeling deprived.
You can’t beat a snowy round of Bucheron goat cheese accompanied by inky concord grapes, and I am partial to creamy gorgonzola dolce served alongside juicy slices of a ripe Bosc pear. I am a sucker for honeycrisp apples, utterly delightful on their own and especially so with extra-sharp cheddar or an aged Gouda such as Prima Donna or Dutch Parrano. I have been taking advantage of the end of fig season, enjoying them fresh with both blue and goat cheeses. As of this week, Fig Chutney is my happy new discovery.
This fig chutney recipe comes from the brand-new cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef, by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern. I’ve been following Shauna’s Gluten-Free Girl blog for several years, inspired by her lyrical writing and evocative photographs as well as the recipes she and her chef-husband have developed together. One bookcase in my living room is devoted solely to cookbooks, and I had to issue a temporary moratorium on cookbook purchases as the shelves were groaning under the weight of all of my cooking volumes. However, I couldn’t resist buying the Aherns’ new book last month, and I’m so glad I did. If the rest of the recipes are as satisfying as this fig chutney, I think you’ll want this book in your collection too.
Danny was a chef at Gramercy Tavern years ago, which is one of my favorite restaurants in New York, and apparently this recipe originally was one that he learned from then-head chef Tom Colicchio. Sign me up, please! Figs are glorious enough on their own, but they are transformed to a different kind of lusciousness in this chutney. What starts out as a colorful mosaic of purples and greens soon becomes something altogether different in a matter of minutes. The figs take on a burgundy hue when cooked down in port, while sliced shallots along with fragrant herbs and spices add another layer of flavor.
This chutney is a versatile player, complimenting both savory and sweet dishes, and it makes a lovely new addition to my fruit-and-cheese platters. Who needs cake anyway?
One Year Ago: Marinated Goat Cheese with Lemon and Thyme
Two Years Ago: Softly Scrambled Eggs with Goat Cheese (AKA Christopher Walken and the Goat Cheese Souffle)
Adapted, barely, from a recipe in Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef, by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern.
In addition to being an excellent accompaniment to a cheese course, I can imagine that this chutney would be delicious over pork tenderloin or grilled chicken. The original recipe calls for Saigon cassia cinnamon, which is highly fragrant with a bit of gingery heat. If you can find this Vietnamese cassia cinnamon, now is the time to use it. I found a jar of it at Fairway, and I know that Penzeys Spices carries it too. But for those who might not have access to that, I’ve modified the recipe by adding a bit of ground ginger to replicate the spicy heat of the cassia cinnamon.
3 pints fresh figs (I used a combination of black mission and green figs)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced into rings
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and pepper
1 cup ruby port
Remove the stems from the figs and cut them into quarters.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring continually, until they have softened and are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, cooking for another minute until the mixture is toasty and fragrant. Season with a healthy pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.
Add three-quarters of the fresh figs to the skillet and stir in the port. Raise the heat to medium and cook the mixture for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the chutney begins to reduce and thicken. Add the remaining figs and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.
Chill the chutney in a long shallow casserole dish so that it cools evenly. Makes approximately 2 cups.