Chat Leftovers: Figs in a bottle

Cynthia A. Brown/For The Washington Post - Green Beans With Figs and Walnuts.

Finally, a sunny morning after days of drizzle. Really feels like spring, and spring really feels like — farmers markets! Yes, after a winter of dormancy, the area’s farmers markets are reopening for the season, and those that have been open year-round are seeing more of the tender spring produce we know and love. Where are all those markets? Glad you asked: Check out Becky Krystal’s rundown of new markets; listing of markets in the District, Maryland and Virginia; and interactive map. We’ve got it covered.

Did you know there’s a way to keep up with what’s coming to the market each week, plus get recipes for what to do with it? Emily Horton tells us that some farmers markets put out their own e-mail newsletters that you can subscribe to — a breath of fresh air in the inbox. And finally, Tim Carman tells us about the area’s new cadre of picklers, some of whom can be found at — yes — farmers markets. So we have sort of a theme going on this week. Or you could call it a harmonic convergence!

VIENNA, VA, JANUARY 9, 2013: Winter salad of shaved cucumber, radish and endive with lemon vinaigrette. Dishware courtesy of Crate & Barrel. (Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post)

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Speaking of which, let’s all converge at noon today for the Free Range chat, our weekly get-together to talk about all things food. Emily Horton will be a special guest chatter, and we’ll also have Sheila Fain and Sarah Gordon of Gordy’s Pickle Jar. To whet your appetite, here’s a leftover question from last week’s chat:

While in Asheville, N.C., I bought some fig-flavored balsamic vinegar at a lovely oil and vinegar store. Now I don’t know what to do with it, other than use it in salad dressings. Do you have any suggestions?

Do I ever. You can use the stuff in many or most of the ways you’d use regular balsamic vinegar, keeping in mind, of course, that with balsamic vinegar a little can go a very long way. Fig vinegar has that classic balsamic taste, but it’s a little sweeter and thicker than the regular kind.

(Here I am tempted to start using the abbreviation BV to avoid having to type “balsamic vinegar” again and again, but that would be a little too Rachael Ray, so I will not.)

At the end of this post I’ll list some recipes for you, but to begin, a classic balsamic use that would be excellent for the fig-flavored variety is as a reduction over fresh berries. Boil a half-cup or so for a few minutes, until it has reduced by about half. Some people add a little brown sugar, some don’t. Cool and drizzle over fruit (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, melon, peaches and of course figs). You can also drizzle it over ice cream. Or to blend the two ideas, over fruit that’s topping ice cream. Maybe sprinkle on some chopped almonds. Yes.

You could also use the fig vinegar, or a reduction, on sliced tomatoes and on grilled or roasted vegetables. Brush it (sparingly) on fish or meat that’s going to be grilled or roasted.

As promised, here are some recipes from our Recipe Finder database that call specifically for fig balsamic vinegar.

Green Beans With Figs and Walnuts: A double dose of figs here.

Grilled Asparagus Rafts: Easy, and ideal for spring.

Warm Chicken and Spinach Salad Picadillo With Raisins, Olives and Fig Balsamic Vinegar: This recipe tells you how to make your own fig-infused vinegar if you don’t have it on hand already.

Chopped Caprese Salad: A twist on the standard.

In addition, our Figgy Piggy With Sweet Spiced Port Sauce calls for plain balsamic vinegar, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if figs are involved, fig balsamic would be a perfect complement. Be guided by that thought as you peruse recipes in general, such as Salmon With Figs, Saba and Watercress, Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto.and Spanish Mackerel Carpaccio With Caramelized Figs. Now go and fig out!

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