Recipe: Figs with white Port gelée

Total time: About 1 hour, 45 minutes, plus overnight maceration time and chilling time Servings: 4 to 6 Note: From test kitchen director Donna Deane. You might have some syrup left over from poaching the figs. This would be delicious on pancakes or waffles, or over ice cream. White Port is available at many fine wine shops. 1 pound green grapes

2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste, plus 2/3 cup sugar, divided

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

2 tablespoons white Port wine, plus 1/3 cup, divided

1 teaspoon lime juice, divided

4-6 figs, cut in half lengthwise

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Lime peel, 1 1/2 -inch piece

1. Wash the grapes and remove the stems. Place the grapes in a medium saucepan and add 1 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to soften and slightly cook the grapes. Remove from the heat.

2. Lightly crush the grapes in the pan using a potato masher or pestle. Pour the grapes and the liquid into a glass or nonreactive bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

3. Pour the grapes with the juices into a sieve lined with several layers of dampened cheesecloth over a large measuring cup or a bowl. Allow the juice to drain from the mashed grapes into the bowl. Let the juice drain naturally, about 5 minutes; do not press the grapes as this will cloud the juice. You should have about three-fourths cup juice. Discard the grapes.

4. Place the juice in a small saucepan and stir in 2 teaspoons of sugar, or to taste (it should be a bit tart). Heat the juice over medium heat to just below simmering. Taste again and adjust for sweetness. Remove one-fourth cup of the juice to a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the juice. When the gelatin is moistened, add it to the rest of the juice, stirring until it is dissolved.

5. Stir 2 tablespoons of the Port and one-half teaspoon of the lime juice into the gelée mixture. Pour the mixture into an 8-inch loaf pan and refrigerate until set, about 45 minutes.

6. Poach the figs while the gelée is setting up. In a large saucepan, combine two-thirds cup sugar and 2 cups water. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the saucepan and drop in the pod, along with the lime peel. Heat the mixture over medium heat to simmering. Stir in the remaining one-third cup Port wine. Add the figs cut side up, and simmer about 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let stand until the figs cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes.

7. Once the figs have cooled, remove them from the poaching liquid with a slotted spoon and set aside. Strain the syrup through a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer. Pour the syrup back into the pan and heat to simmering over high heat. Reduce the poaching liquid to a syrupy consistency (to about two-thirds cup), 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to warm.

8. When ready to serve, arrange two fig halves on a serving plate. Cut the gelée into three-fourths-inch squares and arrange three squares of gelée on top of each fig half. Drizzle the fig syrup around the figs on the plate. Repeat with the remaining figs.

Each of 6 servings (1 fig per serving): 160 calories; 1 gram protein; 36 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 0 fat; 0 saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 4 mg. sodium.

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