Last Chance For Figs!
My first encounter with figs was when I was five or six. My grandparents had a huge fig tree in their yard. I remember visiting one summer and my dad going crazy over all the figs on the tree. He plucked one, showed me and explained how tasty and good they are for you. I recall that first bite being… well, kind of gushy. But I also recall not disliking it. And that was that. My mom never bought fresh figs.
Fast forward lots of years and figs reappeared in my life. I don’t know why it took so long. Nor do I remember seeing figs in places I’ve lived, until I moved back to California.
The season is rapidly coming to an end this year. But it’s on my calendar and as it approaches every year, I think about them with anticipation…all the things I’ll make and all the figs I’ll eat! And the same two questions pop up each year; who do I know that has a fig tree and will they let me harvest figs again this year? (I go through the same thing with Meyer Lemons, just wait!)
Jam is a good place to start. Have to get it made so I can enjoy figs after they leave us for the season. My next favorite way to indulge is in salads. In fact, a particular ‘appetizing’ salad has gotten top marks in my book two years in a row now. Then there are sauces, sweet and savory tarts, on thin crust pizza (oh, yeah! Add a little prosciutto…yum!) And the list goes on. But they are also just amazing fresh on their own. Whether Mission (a.k.a Black Mission), Brown Turkey or Kadota (the three most common varieties in California), they are all wonderful.
For fig new-bees, I hope you’ll partake before the season ends this year. For those who think they’re too scary, I hope this changed your mind. Perhaps one try will have you adding fig season to your calendar too. Here is a great late summer salad with which to indulge!
Fig and Polenta Salad with Warm Vinaigrette (Servings: 4)
Combining sweet, sour, savory and creamy, this salad has something for everyone. You can substitute the pomegranate molasses for any flavored balsamic vinegar, such as blueberry or fig. Serve with warm, crusty bread and a dry rose for a light main dish meal.
1 pound of Polenta, prepared package (comes in a log)
8 ounces of goat cheese (chevré or any goat cheese)
4 cups mixed baby greens (4 big handfuls)
6 – 8 fresh figs (any variety), washed and quartered
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup shallots, minced
Zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses or reduction
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
8 slices bacon or turkey bacon, cooked, roughly chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat broiler; Slice polenta log into 3/4 to 1-inch disks (You will want two discs per place); Place on parchment lined cookie sheet and broil until top is browned (about 5 minutes); Remove and set aside. (You can also sear each side, with a little oil in a frying pan, if preferred.)
2. In a fry pan over medium heat, warm oil and sweat shallots until soft; Add orange juice and zest, honey, pomegranate molasses or flavored vinegar, garlic, thyme and half the chopped bacon; Stir to combine; Season with salt and pepper, and adjust any ingredient(s) to taste; Set dressing aside.
3. Slice goat cheese into 1/4 to 1/2″ disks; Place one goat cheese disk on top of each polenta disk.
4. Place greens in a bowl and drizzle with a little dressing to coat (don’t use it all!).
Put 2 polenta disks in the middle of each plate.
Divide the greens among the plates, placing on top of the polenta.
Divide the cut figs, placing them on top of the greens.
Sprinkle with the rest of the bacon.
Dollops of goat cheese all over if you’d like
Spoon the remaining dressing on top, dividing evenly among the plates.
Sprinkle with chili flakes if desired.