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A&E >  Food

Figs stuffed with goat cheese are the low-effort, high-flavor appetizer you need

Goat cheese-stuffed figs are easy to make whether for a party or a special family time.  (Tom McCorkle/For the Washington Post)
Goat cheese-stuffed figs are easy to make whether for a party or a special family time. (Tom McCorkle/For the Washington Post)
By Ellie Krieger Special To The Washington Post

I lit up like the twinkling decorations around me when I overheard two women at a holiday potluck a few years ago rave about their favorite bite of the night: the stuffed figs I brought! This was no ordinary party – it was the annual fete of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a philanthropic organization of female leaders in the fields of food, beverage and hospitality – so their endorsement was especially meaningful.

That moment sealed the deal, making this my official, go-to holiday party contribution. It being a low-effort endeavor, which can mostly be made ahead, were deciding factors too, because, like most people, I typically feel overwhelmed this time of year and welcome ways to streamline things.

I certainly won’t be attending any parties this season, but I will still be whipping up these luscious, healthful bites for my little gang of three at home. Although I feel more numb than overwhelmed this year, I am grateful for the simplicity of this dish.

All it involves is slicing dried mission figs in half and gently pressing their soft insides to make little cups, each of which holds a dollop of soft goat cheese. (You could substitute ricotta if you’d like.) I like to pipe the cheese into each fig by putting the cheese into a plastic bag, snipping the end and squeezing it out. A toasted pistachio is set, jewel-like, into each piece, then they get a glistening drizzle of honey seasoned with orange essence and a shower of fresh mint leaves.

The presentation is festive and elegant, and each bite-size piece is a sensation of sweet, earthy, fresh, chewy and creamy. It’s a recipe that works as a starter, dessert or midday nibble, making any time of the day feel like a special occasion. Plus, I can practically guarantee rave reviews.

Figs With Goat Cheese, Pistachios and Mint

24 unsalted shelled pistachios

12 dried black Mission figs, stemmed

4 ounces soft goat cheese (chevre), at room temperature (may substitute ricotta)

2 to 4 teaspoons milk (low-fat or whole)

1 ½ teaspoons honey

½ teaspoon fresh orange juice

1 pinch finely grated orange zest

1 pinch kosher salt

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves

In a small, dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the pistachios, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a small dish to cool.

Cut each fig in half lengthwise. Press the backside of a small spoon, such as a ½-teaspoon measuring spoon, into the cut side of each fig piece to form a shallow cup. Arrange the fig pieces on a serving dish, cut side up.

In a small bowl, mash the goat cheese with a fork until creamy, adding the milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, as needed, until smooth and dollop-able. In another small bowl, stir together the honey, orange juice and zest. (If not serving right away, refrigerate until needed.)

Using a small spoon or piping bag with a tip snipped off, fill each fig half with the goat cheese mixture; if not serving right away, refrigerate until needed. Otherwise top each fig piece with a pistachio, drizzle with the honey-orange mixture and sprinkle with the salt and the mint.

Yield: 6 to 12 servings

Make ahead: The figs can be stuffed with the goat cheese mixture up to 1 day in advance, then covered and refrigerated until ready to serve. The honey drizzle can be made up to 1 day in advance, then covered and refrigerated. Let both components return to room temperature before topping and serving.

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