I’ve said it before, and here I am saying it again, because it’s true: figs are the sexiest fruit on the planet. Granted, I haven’t tried every fruit (I’m still working on that). And yes, of course, the mango is way, way up the chart, well within reach and grasping for the fig’s number one position. There are even many more varieties of mango than fig, some so succulent and rich in flavor one might be convinced that they are clearly the sexiest (but, sorry, no, the fig is unquestionably it). The mamey is another splendiferous tropical fruit, vaguely resembling an avocado in texture, but with a singular fruit-musky, semi-sweet flavor and rich rust-red color, and it would probably rank number three, after the mango. That’s not counting any I’ve yet to experience, which may displace any or all three (one must remain open to mind-blowing improvement). And let’s face it, fruit is sexy food, generally speaking, so we’re in a heady realm here. Peaches, cherries, lychees, cherimoyas, sapotes, pomegranates and many others are lusciously seductive in their own right, and each present their discrete alluring charms. But there just is no comparison when you consider all the factors.
Fresh figs are divine, period. Skin that ruptures easily to slight pressure from the lips; flesh that bursts apart, laying bare to the tongue its many nectared nubs of dancing pleasure; unforgettable messages of flavor, at once subtle and riotous. There is no other food on Earth quite like the fig. If you agree, try this ice cream. If you don’t, try this ice cream.
I had originally intended to include this fig ice cream in The Almond Milk Cookbook, but since I already had “Caramelized Figs with Almond Cream” in the manuscript (and it’s much easier to make), my editor thought enough was enough with the figs. I guess, too, their season is brief and they aren’t so easily found in most areas of the United States, so why taunt the readers with delicacies beyond their reach? Besides, not everyone is as enthralled as I by this fig fixation. Try it and see what you think…
Fig Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart
3 cups ripe black mission or Turkey figs, peeled and quartered
2 cups Rich Almond Milk*, or sweetened almond milk
¾ cup cashews, soaked in water 8 hours, and drained
6 tablespoons organic unbleached cane sugar, plus more, to taste
½ vanilla bean, or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup ripe black mission or Turkey figs, stems removed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
Put the peeled, quartered figs, almond milk, cashews, cane sugar, vanilla bean and lemon juice in a blender and process until smooth. Taste and add more cane sugar, if desired. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.
Pour the fig mixture into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is nearly firm, stir in the diced figs. Serve at once, or scrape into a container and freeze until firm. For best results, remove from the freezer and allow it to soften slightly 20 minutes before serving.
The picture below shows the ice cream, served with that “Caramelized Figs with Almond Cream” I mentioned above. If you want to try it, the recipe is in The Almond Milk Cookbook. This presentation is gratuitous, I admit, but if you can manage it, you’ll understand. You won’t be sorry, I’ll say that. However, if you’d rather keep it simple, you don’t need to do the whole fig fandango to get your sweet fig fix. The ice cream is a fabulous treat all by itself, trust me.
* “Rich Almond Milk,” as the name implies, is an unusually rich homemade almond milk, achieved by a large proportion of almonds to water. I use this for making ice creams, sauces and soups when I want a very creamy result. It’s quite easy to make—no harder than regular almond milk, as you’ll see. Here’s how:
Put 2 cups natural almonds in a bowl and cover with water by at least 2 inches. Soak for 8 to 12 hours. Rinse and drain them thoroughly.
Put the almonds and 4 cups of fresh water in a blender and process on high speed until smooth. A high speed blender (like a Vitamix or BlendTec) is highly recommended for this.
Strain the mixture through a nut milk bag and into a large bowl. Secure the top of the bag and squeeze as much liquid as possible from the mixture, working your way down. When all the milk has been expressed, pour it into a clean glass jar (or jars), cover tightly, and refrigerate until ready to use. Stored in the refrigerator, the milk will keep for 4 days (maybe longer). If some separation occurs, simply shake well to homogenize it before using.
That’s really all there is to it. You’ll get somewhere between 4 and 6 cups of rich milk, depending on how finely you were able to grind the almonds and how firmly you squeezed the bag to express every last drop.