Walking through the produce section last week, I gasped when I saw them. Figs! Last summer I made something really delectable with figs off my friend Kate’s backyard tree. Let’s do it again! And then it hit me. This time last year, I wasn’t looking at figs in a grocery store. I was in Gascony picking them off a tree. A wave of melancholy rushed over me. There would be no trip to France this summer. I’m up to my eyeballs in a new job, treading water while I figure out what I’m doing and adjusting with a little difficulty to a new schedule. But I could make those figs again, and pretend for just a little bit. Maybe I could trick myself into thinking I’m on that terrasse, scratching an enormous dog between his wiry ears with one hand, balancing a glass of cold rosé and a bit of saucisson in the other while big fat duck breasts sizzle in a pan. It could work. For a few seconds anyway.
Kate has a massive, very productive black fig tree next to her potager garden and toward the end of my stay the fruit was coming in fast and heavy. One evening, with friends on the way for aperitifs, she gestured toward the tree with some vague instruction “to do something with figs”. Without much of a plan, I dragged the ladder over, balanced precariously on the uneven earth, and carefully cut down a dozen or two of the fat, dark fruit.
I carried my apronful of treasures into the kitchen, giving them a quick rinse in the deep farm sink. Looking around, I had an idea. The gorgeous Chapolard noir de jambon was thinly sliced into a neat little pile. I quartered the figs and stuffed a little of that cured salty pork into the crevices. Then I drizzled them with my summer obsession, the stunningly delicious bramble honey from Kate’s friend Narcisse and ground a bit of pepper on top. Kate hollered, “What’s taking so long?!” and when I appeared with the platter said “Oh! You went fancy!” And I did. The figs and that beautiful pork deserved it. With an ice cold glass of rosé on that warm August evening, these little treats were perfect. So perfect I made them at least twice more that week alone.
And so easy. I’ve made them a few times on this side of the pond, with the noir de jambon I made at Grrls Meat Camp and of course, Narcisse’s beautiful honey which I made a point of buying before leaving. They were wonderful and pretty close to what I’d made in Gascony but that ham and honey would only last so long, sadly. I’ve since made them with grocery store figs, proscuitto and a really good local honey and they were damn near close. I’ve also wrapped the figs in the prosciutto and grilled them to crisp a bit. Drizzled with honey and those are pretty good too.
If you live someplace that supports a fig tree, well aren’t you lucky. I bet you need some new ideas because a mature fig tree can really crank out the fruit. For the rest of us, fresh grocery store figs work well even if they are 50 cents or more a pop. Such is life in the big city. Wait … remind me why I live here again?
So sidenote … while I was visiting Kate last summer, Michael Ruhlman swung by to experience Gascony under the pretense of “research”. Personally, I think he was enjoying himself far too much to call that work but he wrote a lovely article about his travels and discoveries. I’ve read it several times, fondly smiling at the pictures and the memories it brings forth. It’s a wonderful part of the word, and Kate’s Camont is a little slice of heaven. And if you’re paying attention, toward the end of the article there’s mention of Kate’s merry band of “culinary gypisies” and an outing to the Nerac night market. Culinary gyspy, huh? I’ll take it. I like it.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: THE EASIEST OF SUMMER APPETIZERS. Really. Can’t beat it. These things are delicious, gorgeous and so incredibly simple it’s ridiculous. To the last guest, they will all ask, “What is that?” before inhaling the damn things. With a glass of rose or bubbly, and maybe a little salad, it’s a perfect first course too so for that short time when figs are in season, do it.
On this blog four years ago: Wild Blackberry Jam, Chanterelles & Fresh Pasta, Chocolate Peanut Rice Krispie Treats
On this blog three years ago: Betty’s Pies – Exploring Minnesota
On this blog two years ago: Life in Southwest France
On this blog one years ago: Sleeping it off in Gascony
PROSCUITTO STUFFED FIGS
Serves 4; plan on at least 2 good sized figs per person
8 large fresh figs, Black Mission preferable but green or Calimyra work too
4 thin slices of prosciutto cut in half
a good flavorful honey – use the good stuff
Freshly ground pepper
- Trim the hard stem bit from each fig and discard.
- Cut each fig into quarters from the stem almost but not all the way through – keep the bottom attached.
- Gently open the fig and carefully stuff the prosciutto into the opening.
- Drizzle with honey and a grinding of fresh pepper. Serve.
- If making ahead, do the fig and prosciutto portion and keep tightly wrapped. Just before serving, drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with the pepper. These are also very nice with a bit of freshly whipped goat cheese in the bottom of the fig before you add the prosciutto.