Many years ago, when we first moved to Milwaukee, we were invited to a very special concert. It was hosted by one of Andy’s colleagues and the featured performer was none other than Ravi Shankar. The setting, in a small, downtown theater, and the music, made for an evening I’ve long since remembered. And, as with many other memorable occasions, I recall what we had for dinner prior to the concert.
It was a family-owned Indian restaurant, on the East side of town. The food was wonderful! Indian cuisine is one of my favorites and this was some of the best I’ve eaten. When dessert was presented I was surprised by the simplicity and utter deliciousness of the dish: sweetened yogurt, seasoned with saffron, cardamom, and rosewater, served with fresh seasonal fruit. I’ve since learned that the dish is known as shrikhand, and I’ve made my own version of it many times since I took that first taste. Fresh figs are coming into the supermarkets now and I thought they would be a good partner for this lovely sweetened yogurt. Roasted figs become soft and jammy, with a more intense fig flavor. And the cool, creamy yogurt is the perfect foil for the warm fruit. Give it a try. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as we do.
Roasted Figs with Sweetened Yogurt
- 8 ounces fresh Black Mission figs
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon liqueur , such as Cointreau or whisky (or fruit juice, if preferred)
- A strip or two of lemon or orange zest
- A pinch of fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup heavy cream , well chilled
- A large pinch of saffron threads (about 1/8 teaspoon)
- 1 cup full fat Greek yogurt , such as Fage
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon rose water
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- A handful of roasted , salted pistachios, coarsely chopped (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Choose a baking dish that will allow the figs to bake in one layer. Rinse and stem the figs and slice each one in half. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, honey, liqueur (or juice), and salt. Arrange the figs, cut side down, in the baking dish and pour the honey mixture over the top. Add the citrus zest strips. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Set aside to cool a bit.
In the meantime, add the saffron threads to the heavy cream and infuse (in the refrigerator) for 30 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt to loosen the texture. Whip the saffron-infused cream to very soft peaks. Fold the cream into the yogurt. Add the cardamom and rosewater, starting with the smaller amounts, then adjust to your taste. Add the sugar, again, adjusting to taste.
Divide the yogurt mixture amongst four serving bowls. Top with 4 or 5 fig halves and a portion of the sweet, rose-colored cooking syrup. Top with chopped pistachios, if using.