In cookbooks and magazines, figs have been catching my eye lately.
Some have been drizzled with honey or oil and roasted. Others are stewed in a red wine and served as a dessert. I've even seen them made into compote and served as an appetizer on crusty baguette slices topped with Gorgonzola cheese.
In season from June to October, figs are a fruit that can exude a sense of elegance, especially when paired with savory ingredients.
Available fresh or dried, figs can be found in most stores. Most often you'll find the Mission fig, which has purplish-black skin, and the Calimyrna, a California version of the Mediterranean Smyrna with light green skin and white flesh. Both varieties have tiny edible seeds and a plump pear shape.
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Figs can be fussy because they are highly perishable and have a short shelf life. When you buy figs, keep them refrigerated and use them within a few days.
In today's recipe, the figs are treated simply -- roasted with a drizzling of honey and a sprinkling of salt. They pair nicely with Cornish hens flavored with another fall favorite: pomegranate.
Cornish hens are small, young chickens. You'll find them typically sold frozen, wrapped individually and two to a package. Each bird weighs about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds. They cook quickly when butterflied.
To split the hen, turn it over so it is breast-side down. Using a good pair of kitchen shears, remove the backbone of the hen, cutting along each side of it. Then cut the hen in half along the breastbone and flatten. Or, you can leave the bird whole.
During roasting, the Cornish hens are glazed with pomegranate molasses, a thick, syrupy and sweet reduction of pomegranate juice. You can buy pomegranate molasses in the ethnic aisle at some grocery stores. But it's just as easy to make your own (see the recipe at right).
The reduction is a good match for Cornish hens and figs because it adds a sweet touch. Serve this dish with a quick saute of green beans and wild rice blend.