Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gettin' Figgy With It

The other day, while at Central Market, I suddenly noticed that the parade of peaches and corn had slowly transformed into fall displays of gourds, grapes, and greens, solidifying the most tragic of realizations- Summer. Is. Over. (sigh). While trying to make peace with this fact, I decided to take a few extra moments to inspect the incoming cornucopia that would be shaping my menus (and outdoor decorations) over the next few months. I spotted a table stocked with what appeared to be egg carton type containers, only smaller, and found that positioned within each well was a perfectly plump, unblemished fig. Seeing how beautiful and fresh they were, and yet how generally unfamiliar with fig preparations I am, I knew when I gently placed several in my basket that this would be a delicious game of trial and error.

Having long since sworn off packaged foods containing additives, preservatives, and otherwise undesirable ingredients, I set out to see if I could recreate one of my (and surely countless others) favorite childhood snacks, which undoubtedly put figs on the proverbial map- Fig Newtons. I must shamefully admit that growing up I was not even aware that a fig was something to be found outside of the Nabisco 'fruit and cake', so ubiquitous was the brand; I remember being in the supermarket, asking "Hey Mom, can we try the new strawberry FigNewtons?". It was a proud moment when the homemade version emerged from the oven just as good, nay- better, than it's fortified counterpart, and made a pretty enough presentation to be served as a full on dessert. The cinnamon applesauce I happened to have on hand lent the filling a little extra zip, and the pastry unevenly spread on top (because I did not make enough) turned out o be a beautiful accident, as it gave a little window into the dark purple figginess inside. It was gone in a single day, consumed by my brood at a rate otherwise unprecedented, to be followed by an equally unprecedented line at the bathroom. Aside from the mild, ahem, laxative effect (similar to raisins), figs are actually a nutritional powerhouse, rich in antioxidants, calcium, fiber, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamin K (yay!).

Armed with the knowledge that anything can be transformed into a pizza topping, I took the rest of my figs for turn to the savory side and got to work on some pizza dough. The sliced figs took a dive in some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey, while I drizzle my rolled out dough with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and tossed on a some baby spinach and arugula (the bagged variety work beautifully on pizzas). Topped with the figs, sliced shallot, and some honeyed goat cheese I stumbled upon at CentralMarket, I had a beautifully untraditional pizza ready for the oven. For balance, I topped the second pizza (my dough recipe yields enough for two) with marina, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and torn basil (about as traditional as they come). A quick survey at the table revealed the figgy pizza to be the clear winner (though there were no leftovers from either one). The time spent in the oven gave the figs a slight chewiness that made them texturally satisfying and remarkably concentrated in flavor. The fall find also found its way onto some morning oatmeal, sauteed with apples and brown sugar.

Any way you slice it, this versatile fruit is ripe with possibility, and since they should be in abundance through December, I invite you to come out from behind your respective "fig leaves" and sample some of what they have to offer. Happy cooking everyone! ;)

Figgy Pastry

13 oz figs, I used an equal combination of dried and fresh
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 cup water
1/3 cup cinnamon apple sauce

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats

-preheat oven to 350, butter a rimmed baking and then line with parchment and butter again
-place the figs and sugar in a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped, then transfer to a small saucepan
-whisk cornstarch into the water and then whisk into the saucepan with the figs, then add applesauce
-simmer over medium low heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens 5 -10 minutes
*If you are using only fresh figs you may need to add slightly more cornstarch to thicken the filling
-combine flour baking soda and salt in a medium bowl
-cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2 minutes or so
-beat in egg and vanilla
-add flour all at once and beat on low speed until combined, mix in oats
-using an offset spatula, spread half of the dough in the prepared pan, spread filling over top, and crumble remaining dough on top, pressing down gently
-bake for 30 minutes, or until golden, cool, and cut into bars, squares, triangles, or any other shape you'd like!

Use any leftover filling on toast, as a dipping sauce, or glaze for chicken

Chervré and Fig Pizza

2 TBS olive oil, plus more for figs
2 handfuls of baby spinach, arugula, or a combination of the two
2 oz honeyed goat cheese*
medium shallot thinly sliced
4 figs sliced into quarters or sixths, depending on how thick you would like them on the pizza
splash of balsamic vinegar
drizzle of honey
*(if you can not find honeyed goat cheese, you can use plain, or simply mix a little bit of honey in yourself, as the cheese is very soft)
salt and pepper
prepared pizza dough
(note- this recipe makes enough dough for two pizzas, so either double the topping amounts, or create an entirely different pizza with other half of dough)

-preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with cornmeal
-place sliced figs in a small bowl and drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and honey and set aside
-roll out dough on a floured work surface and place on prepared sheet (if using the posted dough recipe, roll out half for a single pizza)
-drizzle about 2 TBS of olive oil onto the crust, place the greens on top and toss to evenly coat
-distribute the figs, shallot, and goat cheese evenly on top and sprinkle with salt and a few grindings of fresh black pepper
-bake for 12 -15 minutes


  1. Ummmmm...this sounds delicious!! And I was just realizing the other day that I've literally (and sadly) never eaten a fresh fig. So figs have been on my mind as well. Now I have some ideas for what to do with them!

  2. My good friend Denise has a fig tree in her front yard and brought a huge bowl full to another friends house and I got to try one for the first time ever.....I was very pleasantly surprised and proceeded to stuff my face. Delicious!