Figs with Mascarpone are beautiful, delicious, unusual, and simply among the most sensual things you’ll probably ever pop in your mouth. The chewiness and depth of the fig, the cool creaminess of the cheese, the crunchiness of the nuts and fig seeds, the sweet stickiness of the honey … your mouth won’t know what to do with itself.
Two figs per person would be reasonable, 4 would be a lot. My ingredient list, below, uses up an entire container of mascarpone, creating a tray large enough that you’ll feel comfortable bringing it to a pot luck or a party.
Figs with Mascarpone makes a luscious hors d’oeuvre or dessert.
1. Slice the stem off each fig. Starting at the point where the stem used to be, slice each fig half-way to the bottom. Use your fingers to gently pry the fig completely open. When you release it, the fig will retract part or most of the way; that’s OK.
2. Find a serving plate. I use a flat, round plate, 10-11″ in diameter, with a small lip.
3. Do the following steps with one fig:
a. Using a ½-tsp measure, scoop out a moderately-heaping spoonful of mascarpone, and scrape it into a fig. Use the back of the measuring spoon to push the cheese down into the fig if you have to, which should force the halves apart somewhere between 12.5 and 45 degrees. Do this gently. You want the cheese to stay mostly in the opening of the fig; if it comes squishing out the sides, scrape it back in. (Particularly large figs might need a bit more cheese to appear “filled.”) Read the next step before filling any more figs.
b. This is meant to be a bite-sized item. Figs vary in size. Give this first fig some thought for a moment. It’s intended to be a pretty decent mouthful, but not cumbersome. If you think your figs are going to be too big, see footnote. If you’re not sure, pop that thing in your mouth. If you’ve think you’ve got a good thing going on, go to the next step.
4. Continue filling the figs. As you do each one, place it on the serving platter, starting in the center and working your way out in a spiral. Orient each fig so that the cheese is facing up; the cheese is just sticky enough that as you press them gently up against one another, they’ll hold one another upright. Don’t worry about precision; a bit messy actually looks great.
5. Shell the pistachios. Reserve ½-cup. Chop the rest. Chopping is going to create some chopped nuts, obviously, but also some pistachio “dust.” Use just the chopped nuts; discard the dust. Shake them around in a fine-mesh sieve if you have to, in order to leave that dust behind. Sprinkle the nuts over the figs. Scatter the reserved whole nuts around the perimeter. The figs can be prepared to this point, and refrigerated until serving time.
6. Just before serving, drizzle with honey, just enough so that every fig has a drizzle. To eat, spear one with a toothpick and pop the whole thing in your mouth.
I want to assure you that the figs will be absolutely delightful without this variation, but in case you do want a twist, try this.
⅓ cup mild honey
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
Place everything in a small pot and heat over lowest flame, whisking to blend, until the honey is warms and thins, 1 to 2 minutes. Allow to cool. Use this as your drizzling honey.
These figs taste great leftover, but they’re most attractive when fresh.