For hardy, slightly under-ripe figs, pickling is the best option. The figs are cold-pickled in vinegar with crushed fennel seeds and Marash chile flakes for a mild heat. Urfa, Aleppo or even half the amount in crushed red chile flakes works as a substitute. These fig pickles are wonderful on a cheeseboard or in a sandwich paired with prosciutto or cured ham and a salty cheese such as feta or plain Parmigiano-Reggiano. Use within three days of making them; the figs can start to break down afterward.
Place fig on its side and hold each end with your fingers. Cut fig in half along its equator, then halve each half again so you have four crosswise rounds per fig. Arrange the slices evenly in a shallow, 9-inch dish (like a pie pan or rimmed platter), letting them overlap a bit but more or less staying in a single layer. Season the figs with salt, then scatter over the shallot slices and season them with salt too.
Lightly crush the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle or using a small heavy skillet on a cutting board. Transfer the seeds to a small skillet along with the chile and cook over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the spices into a bowl. Add the vinegar, water and honey and stir to dissolve the honey.
Gently pour the brine mixture over the figs and shallots (some parts of the figs may be visible over the top of the brine, but that’s OK as long as most of the figs are submerged). Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 5 days. The longer the figs sit in the brine, the more of it they will absorb.
When ready to serve, use a slotted spoon to lift the figs from the brine, letting any bits of spices that cling to them stay, and transfer to a platter. Season with more salt, then, preferably, let stand until the dish comes to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before serving.
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