For those of you who battle with what to serve alongside your cheese, it's about time you meet one of the best options around. In fact, we can't think of a cheese it wouldn't enhance.
It's a pressed fig and almond cake, and we couldn't be more pleased to see it around more and more frequently. Granted, the term "cake" is a bit misleading, as there's not a trace of flour, eggs, or butter. It's as simple as can be, consisting solely of figs and marcona almonds. The two ingredients are blended and pressed into a dense, sticky round, which is normally sold in thick slices by the pound.
It slices beautifully and makes even the most modest cheese board just a bit more classy. Taking care of both the fruit and nut requisite in one shot, it's also an excellent balance between chewy and crunchy. As a pairing partner for cheese, it offers the perfect foil for any style or milk type. Try fresh goat cheese, farmhouse cheddars, washed rinds, and, spectacularly, blues. Use a slice of the cake in place of a cracker or baguette slice, especially if you're serving it with cheese for dessert.
Perhaps it's the savory-sweetness of a fig that matches so well with cheese. Rather than an overtly sweet fruity flavor like a peach or a banana (two things you don't really see paired with cheese), the noble fig has rich, complex undertones of molasses, spice, and honey. And now that fresh figs are reaching the end of their season, there's all the more reason to turn to their dried incarnation.
Most versions of the fig cake that we see in the US are likely of Spanish or Portuguese origin. Look for the Mitica brand from Spain, made by hand from Pajarero figs. You can find the cake at Murray's Cheese and at Whole Foods for $10.99/lb.
• Recipe Review: Dried Fig and Nut Bars