Valentine’s Day inspires us to nurture love of many sorts: romantic, familial, platonic, and, of course, gastronomic. What began as a harmless flirtation with a lonely jar of fig jam I spotted cowering on a grocery shelf behind its more popular friends Strawberry, Raspberry, and Grape has, as of yesterday, exploded into a passionate romance. Its voluptuous, sticky sweetness holds its own against intense flavors of all sorts, from pungeant to bitter to umami, and its slightly nutty undertones add a depth of character that berry preserves just can’t match.
It started simply, when I bought my first jar of fig jam last fall on a whim. I spread it over peanut butter on thick slices of toast at the office on days when I had no leftovers to bring for lunch. Then I began mixing it into bowls of unsweetened Greek yogurt and adding walnuts for a midafternoon pick-me-up. Soon I noticed it beckoning to me from menus across the city: lounging seductively next to a wedge of chevre on my cheese plate; nestled between slices of prosciutto and brie on my crusty European-style baguette sandwiches; peeking out from inside my stuffed pork tenderloin with flecks of bacon still stuck sheepishly in its teeth.
After all this build-up, the jam was a natural addition to our Valentine’s Day menu. My fig-loving co-chef and I spread it on moist halves of homemade banana-bran muffins for breakfast, then brought it out again at dinner to serve alongside our thick-cut pork chops, which we had pan-seared and braised in a sauce of minced ginger, apple wedges, dry white wine, a dash of soy sauce, and a hint of cinnamon. The effect surpassed even our highest hopes: the figs’ rich, nutty sweetness set off a wild rumpus of flavors between the tart apples, slightly acidic wine, and spicy ginger kick, each complementing the savory meatiness of the pork. At the end of the evening, I couldn’t help but steal one last spoonful of this heavenly nectar to drizzle over my ice cream.
Lucky for me (and you!), this is one Valentine’s Day indulgence that can be enjoyed guilt-free any day of the year. Now isn’t that sweet?