Figs with White Port Gelee

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, 11/2-inch piece

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

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

Pour grapes with juices into a sieve lined with several layers of dampened cheesecloth over a large measuring cup or a bowl. Allow juice to drain from mashed grapes into bowl. Let juice drain naturally, about 5 minutes; do not press grapes as this will cloud juice. You should have about 3/4 cup juice. Discard grapes.

Place juice in a small saucepan and stir in the 2 teaspoons of sugar, or to taste (it should be a bit tart). Heat juice over medium heat to just below simmering. Taste again and adjust for sweetness. Remove 1/4 cup juice to a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over juice. When gelatin is moistened, add it to rest of juice, stirring until it is dissolved.

Stir 2 tablespoons of the Port and 1/2 teaspoon of the lime juice into gelee mixture. Pour mixture into an 8-inch loaf pan and refrigerate until set, about 45 minutes.

Poach the figs while gelee is setting up. In a large saucepan, combine the 2/3 cup sugar with 2 cups water. Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean into saucepan and drop in pod, along with the lime peel. Heat mixture over medium heat to simmering. Stir in the remaining 1/3 cup Port wine. Add the figs, cut side up, and simmer about 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove pan from heat, cover and let stand until figs cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes.

Once figs have cooled, remove them from poaching liquid with a slotted spoon and set aside. Strain syrup through a cheesecloth-lined fine-mesh strainer. Pour syrup back into pan and heat to simmering over high heat. Reduce poaching liquid to a syrupy consistency (to about 2/3 cup), 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to warm.

When ready to serve, arrange two fig halves on a serving plate. Cut gelee into 3/4-inch squares and arrange three squares of gelee on top of each fig half. Drizzle fig syrup around figs on plate. Repeat with the remaining figs.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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