Figs. I have a new found love for figs. I suppose its not that new really, but its new to you since this is the first time I am posting about them. Since I still havent found a place in Lafayette that carries fresh figs, I use dried figs. While I cant make a beautiful fig tart like so many I have seen on tastespotting, I find that the dried ones work quite well for many other things. I have made a version of fig newtons that just could not be done with fresh figs. I even added them to a lamb stew, recipe courtesy of Eat.Drink.Think, and their desiccated flesh readily absorbed the flavors of the broth.*
One thing I like to keep on hand is dried figs macerated in balsamic vinegar. It makes for a quick but impressive appetizer should unexpected company arrive but also frequently serves to quell stomach pangs until dinner is ready. On my last trip to Cost Plus World Market, I picked up an airtight container so that I could have easy access to greater quantities of the stuff given that its J's favorite snack.
Making the balsamic figs is super easy, but the key is to use an aged balsamic. Go ahead and splurge on it; you will find it makes all the difference. First, slice the dried figs as thinly as possible, discarding any stems that may still be hanging on. Put them in your airtight container and add your balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir between additions to coat the figs. Should you add too much balsamic, you can always reduce the mixture on the stove.
The figs can be eaten the same day but have a richer flavor if you set them in the fridge for a few days. I have had my most current batch in the fridge for about two weeks and add more balsamic when the figs have absorbed what I originally added. Serve the balsamic figs with crackers or drizzled over goat cheese. They also make a great addition to spinach salad.
*BTW, the lamb stew was amazing! I really loved the flavor the meyer lemons added to the dish.