Recipe Thursday: Figs

24 09 2009


Black Mission Fig

Black Mission Fig


You know what’s a shame about figs? Everyone associates them with the Fig Newton, that sad excuse for a cookie that British people eat because they haven’t discovered DoubleStuff’d Oreos yet.  

I thought I didn’t care for figs, until I went to a little hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant in Berlin this summer where I was urged to order the restaurant’s signature dish: Summer Fig Tagliatelle.

Oh my God.  The pure deliciousness… I can’t even begin to put it into words.  The noodles were wide and almost black in color, cooked al dente for just the right amount of firmness.  The subtle sweetness of the figs, which were perfectly seared in this brown butter herb concoction, was complemented by the savoriness of the shaved fresh parmesan and crispy proscuitto.  There was a German toddler sitting across from me at the table eating olives and repeatedly hurling the pits at my face, and I can still say that this was the best dining experience of my whole life.  

Upon returning to the States, I was determined to recreate this meal.  I half considered writing the chef a letter demanding that he send me the list of ingredients, but I don’t speak German, and free internet translators have a knack for turning “Hello, my name is Sally” into “My, is that a fish in your pants?” So I decided to venture out on my own. 

I went on a scavenger hunt to Dean & Deluca, usually a goldmine of fresh produce, and the chef laughed at me when I asked for figs.  “It’s June,” he said, condescendingly. “You’re two months too early.” 

So I waited until August and bought every fig in that place.  Then I scoured the internet for a comparable recipe and came up with this, from  

Spaghetti with Figs, Basil, Brown Butter and Hazelnuts


Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 pound fresh ripe black mission figs, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 pound blanched, toasted hazelnuts, coarsely ground in a mortar and pestle
  • 6 large, fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound good quality spaghetti
  • Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)


  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Continue cooking butter until light brown and fragrant. Add figs, hazelnuts, and basil; season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until figs begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.
  3. Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain pasta reserving 2 tablespoons pasta water. Add pasta and reserved pasta water to skillet; toss to combine.
  4. Serve immediately with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

    Close enough, right? So I modified it by using fettuccine instead of spaghetti (couldn’t find tagliatelle, sadly) and by adding some pan-fried prosciutto.  Here’s how it looked in the pan:


    Before adding pasta

    Before adding pasta


    Let’s be honest- it didn’t touch the Fig Tagliatelle I had in Berlin- but it was damn good! And my 3 tasters were impressed, calling it a “restaurant-quality dish.”

    I highly recommend experimenting with figs (cooking, that is, not shoving them up your nose).  If you think you don’t like them, just trust me– there’s more to the fig than the newton.


    PS. In case anyone finds themselves in Berlin in the near future, here is the info. for the restaurant: 

    Alte Schönhauser Straße 12
    10119 Mitte, Berlin, Germany
    +49 40 041787



6 responses

24 09 2009

ARE YOU SERIOUS 2 STICKS OF BUTTER? I MIGHT AS WELL MAINLINE CLOTTED CREAM FROM AN IV DRIP BAG. love figs though. i like finding the seeds in my teeth.

24 09 2009

I was one of the three. That dish was the t*ts.

24 09 2009

Might have to try it sometime before I leave this continent for a while.

25 09 2009
Ian Prichard

Not only are the figs themselves the tits, as Paci noted with a bit more class than I’m willing to muster, but the leaves are money cash, too. Because they’re so thick, and usually relatively large (if you pick towards the base of branches and lower on the tree), they make for the ideal paquet wrapper (yes, I’m being fancy – that’s French for “packet”). Chicken, pork, beef (definitely marinated first) all gain a really interesting – and not just simply smokey – flavor from being wrapped in fig leaves and either barbecued or broiled or even long/slow-cooked in the oven. Unless you’re cooking shark or swordfish, stay away from the fishes – most just don’t stand up to the strength of the fig leaf flavor.
And don’t tell your guests what they’re getting – after all, the fig leaf has been used to hide meat since, well, pretty much the beginning…

25 09 2009
Ian Prichard

ps – if you’re in the south (DC counts, but just this one time, just for this reckoning), fig trees are surprisingly prevalent, so don’t go to the grocery looking for leaves. You’ll probably get laughed at anyway.
If you’re at UVA or around Cville, each of the gardens on grounds have at least one fig tree, and several have, well, several.
And don’t be shy; who’s really gonna care if you’re picking fig leaves?

28 09 2009
M Lisa

Eveyrhting tastes better with 2 sticks of butter.

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