Ripe figs are plump and yield easily to gentle pressure. Very ripe and borderline overripe figs may exude a slightly sticky liquid -- not unlike tree sap -- from the stem end . Overripe figs are mushy and have an almost tart tang. Unripe figs are firm and relatively flavorless but will ripen somewhat if left at room temperature for anywhere from a few hours to several days.
Of course, ripe figs work with any of these recipes. But the recipes are organized to reflect the fact that we often find ourselves with less than perfect fruit.
FOR RIPE FIGS
Ripe Figs With Yogurt and Honey Rinse and dry several ripe, plump figs. Slice them in half lengthwise. Place the figs atop a bowl of plain, whole-milk yogurt, preferably Total brand* Greek yogurt, and drizzle with copious amounts of honey.
*NOTE: Total brand Greek yogurt is available at many stores, including Dean & DeLuca (3276 M St. NW; call 202-342-2500), Sutton Place Gourmet/Balducci's and Whole Foods Markets.
Figs With Vin Santo and Mascarpone
Utterly unforgettable. Use the ripest of figs.
From "Al Fresco," by Louise Pickford (Ryland Peters & Small, 2002):
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 to 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, or to taste
1/3 cup vin santo or tawny port, plus additional for serving
12 ripe fresh figs
In a bowl, combine the mascarpone, sugar and vin santo and beat until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cover and set aside at room temperature for a few minutes to soften.