Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Disastrous Feast of Figs

Last night I made a disgusting dessert. It sounded good, it had good ingredients, but something went terribly wrong in the execution.

The figs at the grocery store had intrigued me for weeks. Although fresh figs are no longer in season, the dried figs resting side-by-side in a snug little wheel promised to impart the essence of a warm, spiced Middle-Eastern desert breeze to my cold Chicago apartment. So, in what might have been an ill-advised decision, I made an entirely fig-themed dinner.

The Chicken with Balsamic-Fig Sauce was fine. I tried to convince myself throughout the meal that I didn’t mind—and even appreciated—the gritty texture of the fig seeds in the sauce. But on the whole, I found this recipe a little strange and unappetizing.

And for dessert—Spiced Figs in Red Wine. I chopped three dried figs in half and dumped them in a saucepan with a cup of red wine, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, a dash of cinnamon, a sprig of rosemary, a spring of thyme, three peppercorns, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of honey, and 1/3 cup sugar and brought the mixture to a boil. I left it to simmer for 35 minutes, as directed. It smelled wonderful—much like I would imagine the inside of a desert caravan would smell as it trundled across the desert on a hot night.

I will pause here to say that Cooking Light should in no way be held responsible for the utter failure of this dessert. I assume all responsibility for the recipe’s disastrous consequences because I made two very silly mistakes: Cooking Light tells us to let the spiced fig syrup cool and then chill for an hour. I thought this dessert might be nice warm—and I didn’t want to wait for my dessert. So when the 35 minutes were up, I strained the solids and filled two ramekins with vanilla frozen yogurt. Then I poured the steaming wine mixture over the yogurt and placed three chunks of fig on top of each.

Upon further reflection, I should have let the syrup cool. And I should have followed the instructions to scoop the yogurt over the syrup, instead of pouring the syrup over the yogurt. Before I even reached the living room to present this dish to F, the frozen yogurt had melted into a lukewarm, pinkish soup garnished with half-submerged fig chunks. The figs, balancing between the hot liquid and the cold yogurt, had hardened. My glorious, Middle-Eastern desert dessert was overwhelmingly winy, spicy, and gritty—and barely edible.

F politely declared himself full after two bites. But I had made this elegant, delectable dessert and by God, I was going to finish it.

And I ate it all.

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