August 18th, 2013

Roasted Fig-Goat Cheese-Butter Lettuce Cups


The unpredictability of harvests causes me to marvel at the steadfast dedication of farmers. One season to the next, they never know how well or poorly a crop will do, despite all care and meticulous planning. And, under the same weather conditions, one planting will thrive, while another fizzles.

In 2010, Gigi had a bumper crop of figs. In the two years that followed, her trees bore meager fruit. It had us worried—was 2010 a fluke? Last week, that notion was dispelled when Gigi called me with this report:

“We need to pick figs. Now!”


Her trees were–and still are—covered. Plump ripe knobs, some royal purple, others streaked greenish-brown, are ready to be plucked and relished. The next morning, I met Gigi at the garden. We picked a fast 100, and two days later, I returned to gather another basketful.

Joy. The figs are back, with the promise of so many more to come. Time to enjoy them now, and preserve them for the future.


My plan was two-fold. I could envision delectable figs roasted to sweetness, tucked in lettuce leaves with goat cheese, chives, and bacon for a summer meal. (almonds for my vegetarians!) What I didn’t use in the salad, I’d put up in mason jars. Roasted Figs in Syrup!

I began by halving the figs and arranging them on a baking sheet scattered with thin lemon wedges. After I dusted them with sugar and a spritz of white balsamic vinegar, I placed them into the hot oven.


I had forgotten how effective and deeply delicious this method is. Very quickly the sugar melts as the figs release their juices. The lemon and vinegar meld into the mix, enhancing the figgy taste, while balancing the sweetness. A gorgeous caramel-ruby syrup results, glazing the fruit in the pan. And that tangy syrup becomes the perfect medium to drizzle into the lettuce cups, the salad’s dressing really.

As for the rest, well, I have a few ideas. I love them baked on flatbread with prosciutto, leeks, and soft gorgonzola. The figs in syrup are sublime with mascarpone on a slice of crusty toasted baguette. Check out Cooking Light’s Guide to Figs for other tips and recipes. I am always open to new recipes with this ancient, treasured fruit, and would love to have your recommendations, too.

Of course, we fig lovers know that there is nothing quite like that one, sun-warmed and ripe right off the tree, sticky to the touch and honeyed to the bite.


25 leaves butter (or Boston) lettuce, washed and spun dry
1 11 ounce log plain goat cheese
8-10 strips thick slab cut bacon cooked crisp and crumbled -OR-
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
1 1/2 cups roasted figs in syrup (recipe follows)
coarse ground black pepper

Arrange butter lettuce leaves on a platter. Cut the goat cheese log into small slices or pieces, placing a piece into each lettuce cup.
Sprinkle the goat cheese with chives.
Sprinkle cooked bacon or toasted almonds into the cups.
Place a fig half over the goat cheese.
Drizzle with figgy syrup and season with coarse ground black pepper.

Makes 25 appetizers or 10-12 mains.


15 ripe figs, washed, dried and cut in half lengthwise
1 lemon, sliced into 10 wedges
1/4 cup sugar
2-3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place the fig halves on a baking sheet. Scatter the lemon wedges around the figs.
Sprinkle the sugar over the figs. Sprinkle the vinegar over the sugared figs.
Place into the oven and roast for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan after the halfway (5-6 minutes) mark.
Cook until the figs become puffed and release their juices.
The juices will meld with the melted sugar and vinegar to make a luscious syrup.
Remove from the oven and cool. Place the fig and lemon pieces into a medium bowl or 12 ounce jar. Scrape the accumulated juices-syrup from the pan over the figs.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Note: You may double the batch and preserve the figs and syrup in 3-8 ounce jars and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.



Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Fruit, Gluten Free, Recipes, Salads

17 Responses to “Roasted Fig-Goat Cheese-Butter Lettuce Cups”
  1. Fluffy Says:

    Always wonderful when the figs arrive

    beautiful in a butter lettuce cup

  2. Katarina Says:

    Yum! Doing it!

  3. Beth Says:

    Fresh figs roasted and served with goat cheese … this dish looks absolutely blissful!

  4. Teresa Blackburn Says:

    Nance, these look fabulous. I am so sorry I missed these little fig gems! After I posted my fig tart and thought I was done with figs for a bit, my neighbor, Berdelle Campbell, called me on Saturday morning early and invited me over to pick the figs from her “trees”. Mercy….we picked for about an hour and I came home with about 7 or 8 lbs of fresh figs. So for the rest of the weekend I made one kind of sauce, another kind of sauce for cheeses & today I finished up the “canning of the figs”. I love them, but am a little over figs right now..I will recover.
    I also had to pick the dozen or so pears on my pear tree this morning before the birds ate them all and this afternoon I made pear jam/preserves? I was inspired by your roasted figs so I roasted the pears in much the same way and they are very fine.
    So thanks for the inspiration, the beautiful recipe and I hope to see you soon. Have fun with Zachery!

  5. heather Says:

    Beautiful! Can’t wait to try these recipes myself!

  6. Tammy Says:

    What a terrific idea Nancy. I can practically taste them as I’m reading and I love that you gave us a vegetarian twist. I lost my fig tree a couple of years ago and haven’t yet replanted but I do miss them.

  7. Adri Says:

    What glorious figs!

  8. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    oh its like i can taste those figs right now. Nothing is better than a roasted fig with that sweetness, rich flavor and hint of smokiness by roasting them but just in the right amount as to keep them sweet and desserty! I know that isn’t a word but still- this looks amazing

  9. cquek Says:

    wow, this is such a gorgeous post

  10. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    Oh to have a glut of figs. Your roasted figs sound wonderful.

  11. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    Nancy,you know how I love figs, but roasting them never occurred to me. Can’t wait to try them, but our figs are not cooperating this year. The tree is covered with them but they remain hard little bullets. I’d like to think it’s because they know that we are finally moving next week, but in reality it is probably the crazy weather we had this summer. Enjoy!

  12. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Tammy–hope that you’ll get the chance to replant a fig tree. It doesn’t take too many years before it will start bearing fruit.

    Hi Jess, “desserty” as a word, works for me!

    Hi Michele–no doubt that tree knows you are leaving—best of luck with your move.

  13. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Just look at all of those figs. You are a lucky woman. Love your lettuce cup idea. Enjoy!

  14. Magda Says:

    Nancy, this dish looks so delicious I can’t bear it.I love figs, I miss grabbing them from the trees and eating them on the spot. These small figs look so cute. I don’t think I can find them in the Netherlands but I’ll try.

  15. Juliana Says:

    What a delicious combination Nancy, I love the idea of goat cheese with the sweet figs and crunchy almond…all wrapped in lettuce…
    Thanks for the inspiration and have a lovely week :D

  16. 2 Sisters Recipes Says:

    Nancy what a wonderful recipe for figs! We love figs and we can eat them like candy. I love how you roast the figs and then wrap them in lettuce cups. Genius!

  17. Figs Roasted with Orange Peel, Thyme, Maple Syrup and White Balsamic Vinegar | "food on fifth" Says:

    [...] recipe that is best eaten on aged Cheddar or Gouda, that was inspired by my friend Nancy over at “Good Food Matters”, which is the recipe I am sharing [...]

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