Updated: May 16
The fig tree is most noted for its fruit. The only other thing most people know about the fig tree is that it was used as a privacy screen for Adam and Eve. However, it has another flavorful secret...delicious leaves. Yes, the leaves. Pick one and notice the thick, milky sap that seeps out. Give it a whiff. It imparts a fruity smell similar to a coconut. Pair that aroma with sweet and savory dishes, and you have a new way to add great flavor to food. Fig leaves are commercially sold for tea. Fig leaf tea has been said to contain special health benefits. Some have claimed that it can help control blood sugar, thus making it a favorite holistic alternative for diabetics. The fig is a member of the mulberry family. The fruit of the fig is eaten fresh or dried. There are numerous cakes, cookies, breads and stuffing type dishes featuring figs. What about the leaves? In some parts of the world, fig leaves are steamed or boiled and used as a wrap for rice.
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1. Fig Leaf Rice Pilaf
Photo via: HGTV
If you are not keen on eating a fig leaf, try using it as an aromatic. When steamed on top of vegetables, rice or fish, the dish will take on a delicate nutty and fruity flavor. It’s a great way to flavor up a recipe without much effort. Fig Leaf Rice Pilaf
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups long-grain white rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 fresh fig leaf
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Melt butter and olive oil in a large oven proof saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir until onion is lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the 2 cups of rice to the pan. Mix in the rice with the oil and onion mixture. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the burner and add the fig leaf to the top of the rice. Put a lid onto the pot and place in it in the preheated oven. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove lid, discard the fig leaf and fluff with a fork to separate the grains of rice. Via: HGTV
2. Salmon in Fig Leaves
Photo via: Via: EatDrinkGarden.com
Adapted from Chez Panisse Café Cookbook by Alice Waters
4 4-5 ounce fillets salmon or halibut
4 fig leaves, washed and stems removed
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven 400.
Combine the butter with olive oil. Season fish both sides with salt and pepper. With a pastry brush or spoon, slather the butter mixture on each side of the fish. If you have flowering arugula or any type of herbs from the garden you can press them to the top of each fillet.
Lay each fig leaf shiny side down and each fillet skin side up on top of the leaf. Next, wrap the leaf around the fish like you would a present. Turn the fish over on a baking sheet so the weight of the fish secures the leaf in place.
Alternatively, you can fasten the leaves together with butchers twine — this is a good option when your leaves aren’t super pliable. Also note, the leaves don’t need to entirely cover the entire filet. As the fish cooks the leaf will form a secure wrapping around the fish.
Bake for 10 -12 minutes. You can serve all of these little fish packages on a platter still wrapped or plate them individually removing both the leaf wrapper and the skin.
3. Panang Curry With Fig Leaves
photo via: theprudentgarden.com
1-4 oz jar red curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2-15 oz cans of full fat coconut milk
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cubed
2 tablespoons brown sugar sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
2 large fresh fig leaves, torn (keep the leaves a good size, they will be removed before serving)
2 fresh red chili peppers, sliced (optional)
1 cup of sliced green peppers (optional)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
Add the canola oil to a large skillet or wok. Add the cubed chicken breast. Cook until lightly browned.
Add the red curry paste and fry over medium heat until fragrant.
Stir the coconut milk into the curry paste and add the torn fig leaves and sliced green peppers. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
Remove the fig leaves
Stir the brown sugar sugar and fish sauce.
Taste and adjust the saltiness by adding more fish sauce if necessary. Let it simmer for 5 minutes
Garnish with sliced red chili peppers and basil leaves before serving.
I am still a little bit sad I didn’t have enough figs to make my fig jam and chutney this year. However, I am glad I learned how to cook with fig leaves. I am going to experiment with using them in a sweet dish. I’m thinking perhaps a bread pudding or cheesecake? What the heck, I’ll do both! So, if you have a fig tree or know someone who does, get out there a pluck a few leaves. Throw them in a pot of rice or steam them with some fresh veggies. You’ll be happy you did.