B and I were introduced by our friends other B and J, while J and I were in medical school at Stanford and the Bs were working in San Diego. It's sort of a complicated story (made even more complicated by all the initials I'm using, for which I apologize). Our introduction involves the Fourth of July, fireworks, my parents' back patio, two dogs, a long bike ride, bad directions, apricot pie, and figs.
Here's the connect-the-dots version. Other B and J wanted to set the two of us up. J and I flew down to San Diego for the Fourth of July weekend, and had dinner at my parents' house. We ate al fresco on the back patio, and had an extravagant dinner involving, among countless earthly delights, figs baked with gorgonzola. Then we went to the local fireworks, where my B was supposed to meet us. Due to a longer-than-expected bike ride (he was training for an Ironman), my B missed the fireworks, so we all rendezvoused back at my parents' house for dessert (apricot pie). B almost didn't make it because I gave him the worst directions of all time, but he showed up and was almost bowled over by the two dogs and six people he hadn't ever met who all greeted him excitedly at the front door. I learned later that B didn't even like dessert very much (dessert in general, that is; the apricot pie was delicious). He was a good sport about it all, which is of course why he is now sitting on the couch next to me as I write this.
Obviously, J remembers the fateful meeting that she played a large part in coordinating, but perhaps the part she remembers most clearly involves the figs we ate with dinner. She didn't dwell on the love-at-first-sight part in her toast at our rehearsal dinner; no, she instead rhapsodized about the figs, which were a revelation that she still talks about.
Recently, J asked me how to cook with figs, which are in the midst of their brief but memorable fall season right now. As she asked me, I realized that at home I only eat figs prepared one way, and it's not a way that really even counts as cooking. I eat them sliced, sprinkled with a small amount of sugar, and doused with cream. It's a perfect (and perfectly simple) dessert.
Don't get me wrong; I've tried other fig-based recipes in the past. I made a fig-and-frangipane tart once that was delicious. The figs with blue cheese on the Fourth of July were, as you've been told, memorable. SS served beautiful figs with proscuitto on thick slices of Italian country bread at a party last month. I think it's telling, however, that the one time we got figs in our CSA box this summer, we ate them sliced with cream.
It's a short step (in my ice cream-centric imagination, at least) from figs and cream to frozen figs and cream. That's right: fig ice cream!
I've made this ice cream twice, and it's everything I hoped it would be. Seasonal, fresh, and ever-so-figgy. I would buy two pints of figs when you want to make the ice cream, so that you can have extra to slice on top for serving. I love David Lebovitz's description of allowing the cooked figs to become "jammy," but I've modified his recipe significantly to incorporate a traditional ice cream custard. I think a custard adds depth and richness to an ice cream, and works particularly well with the figs.
When my parents were visiting recently, my dad had fig ice cream for dessert three nights in a row. (Part of this may have been related to the ice cream moratorium my mom has instituted at home as part of a diet.) J hasn't tasted this ice cream yet, though I'm sure she'll be clamoring for it once she and other B move back to the Bay Area next year.
And my B? Let's just say that I've worked my dessert magic on him over the years. He's not a complete dessert convert, but he does love ice cream. And figs. And therefore this ice cream. Enjoy!
Figs and Cream Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop
Time: 15 minutes active, 4 hours total
Makes approximately 1 quart
20 small figs, approximately 1 pint
1/4 c. water
3/4 c. sugar, divided
zest of one lemon
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
4 large egg yolks
First, prepare figs. Cut off stem ends, and then cut each fig into four pieces. Place fig pieces and water in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for ten minutes, until figs are very soft. Uncover, add 1/4 cup of sugar and lemon zest (you can zest directly into the saucepan, and cook for another ten minutes or so, until jammy. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Then puree fig mixture in blender.
Meanwhile, add the cream, milk, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar to another medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and turn off heat once mixture has boiled and cream is scalded. Whisk cream mixture into egg yolks in a medium-sized bowl. Add cream and yolk mixture back to saucepan, and bring to 170 to 175 degrees on a candy thermometer, stirring constantly. Mix cooled fig mixture into yolk mixture.
Chill ice cream custard for at least 1 hour in refrigerator. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Place ice cream in freezer to harden for at least 2 hours before serving, preferably overnight.