05 September 2007
what's cooking wednesday: figs, figs, figs

A long time ago, when I asked all of you to ask me questions to fill out JennieBoo's eight things meme,* Amanda of the always delicious Figs Olives Wine kept it short and sweet:
The most delicious thing you've eaten in Calabria. Something that just blew you away when you tasted it.
As it turns out, my answer is also short and sweet, literally.

The fresh fig.

fresh green figs in calabria, italy
These are some green ones, not quite ripe yet, on our fig tree taken about a month and a half ago (in one of the last photos of my injured camera).

Don't you just love the shape of fig leaves? I hear Adam and Eve sure did. Hah!

And here is a much better, nay awesome photo of the "black" variety, which I found through a Flickr search and am using here under a Creative Commons license (great way to *legally* use others' pretty photos! Notice I did this on the Spaghetti Strike post as well):

black figs by xenones from flickr
Click here or on the photo to go and see more photos by Xerones--fabulous. Leave him some comments and let him know I sent you.

But back to the figs, did you know that the fig is one of the first plants cultivated by humans? And they're good for you too!

I had never eaten a fresh fig before I came here, and man oh man, I had no idea what I was missing. This little seedy (in a good way) fruit is by far my new favorite anything--and like Amanda, I prefer it fresh to any other way.

So that's my first serving suggestion for figs on this What's Cooking Wednesday.

How do I eat them? Like P taught me. Cut a cross in the top (the end that used to be connected to the tree) and then peel back the skin one part at a time with the edge of the knife. It'll come back easily if they're ripe enough--just do be sure to eat them within a day or two of picking them off the tree. They won't last much longer than that.


Next, I'm going to point you to my second favorite way to eat figs aside from plain with the juice running down my fingers, and that's with prosciutto crudo.

Jenn, also known as The Leftover Queen and founder of The Foodie Blogroll, has a great description of this dish here. I was setting up a photo of this about a month ago when I realized my camera was dead, so this is a bit of an emotional plate for me now, but I still love it.

Judy of Over a Tuscan Stove and the Divina Cucina Cooking School in Florence also recommends pairing figs with salami--something I've never tried, but sounds tasty as well.

And last but certainly not least, I'm going to go back to the inspiration for this post, Amanda, and send you to her Fresh Figs with Fleur de Sel, Aged Balsamic, and Hazelnuts, which she put up just yesterday, reading my mind on what I was going to talk about today.

I geni s'incontrano!

So, the fresh fig. Simple, delicious, and quite honestly one of the best things I've ever eaten in Calabria or anywhere. I also like them dried and in jams, but fresh? Just. Wow.

Doesn't need to be complicated to be good folks, so even if figs aren't your thing or you can't manage to get them, do try to eat lots of other fresh fruits while they're still in season.

Pair them with flavors you think would complement one another--sweet and salty is always a good bet. Pears and gorgonzola? Apples and cheddar? Grapes and Parmesan?

Be creative, have fun, and keep an open mind!

You never know when your next favorite food combination could show up.

Buon appetito!

*[For those just joining us, feel free to go back and read parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the answers to the questions that were asked.]

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Anonymous Tina said...

I grew up with fresh figs in the backyard of my grandparents house but never liked eating them until adulthood. Now I'm hooked! :-)

Anonymous grace said...

I just tasted figs when I came to Dubai. Figs are ignored in Japan. I love them dried - - but that's just because I have never tasted it fresh. :-)

Blogger MB said...

I love figs! Like you, I had never tasted a fresh one until I came to Italy. Unfortunately, this year, we only had a handful. The ones that didn't fall off the tree early due to the drought, were eaten by the birds.

Blogger sognatrice said...

Tina, lucky you! We certainly didn't have the climate for it where I grew up, but I'm making up for it now ;) Glad you've come around!

Grace, ignored in Japan? What are they thinking? You *must* come to Italy :)

MB, wasn't a good year for our figs either unfortunately. The first time around, in the spring, there were a few more, but late summer--very difficult to come by.

Like you said, for a while, they were all just cracked and dry. In the last few weeks, though, there's a tree behind my house (not ours) that has gone crazy producing wonderful black figs--all within the span of about 3 or 4 days, though. Looks like the season is pretty much over before it began :(

Oh man, growing up in the States I thought that fig was just that pasty substance they put in Fig Newtons, right? Can you believe I tried my first fresh fig in Greece this summer? The lady who rents us our apt. there each summer has a tree and her little girl would bring a few up to us fresh for breakfast. I can't say I fell in love, but fresh definitely beats Fig Newtons! ;-)

Blogger Jen said...

There is NOTHING better than a fresh fig. Nothing. And it always takes me to my first dinner with friends in Rome - going to an Italian apartment for the first time.

Great post!

Blogger qualcosa di bello said...

when i was a wee little one (in PA) there were no fresh figs in sight, but i was madly in love with the lastest snack food: fig newtons!

now that i'm a grown up girl & we have access to the fresh ones (alas too short a time), i can't get enough of these babies!

Grazie for the mention, Sognatrice! From one fig lover to the next! You know how much I love them!

Anonymous My Melange said...

I too love fresh figs. I like to drizzle them with honey, walnuts and gorganzola cheese....hmmmm

Blogger Figs Olives Wine said...

I am so jealous that you have a fig tree. What a fabulous ode to figs, and thanks for the shout out. I do SO like them with crudo. Dayum, I wish I had some for breakfast.

Blogger african vanielje said...

Figs are truly one of the most amazing fruits. We have always had a fig tree wherever we have lived (in Africa) and amzingly there is one here (in Somerset) too. Did you know that this months SHF #35 (sorry, don't know how to put a link in) is entitled 'The Beautiful Fig'. Great minds or collective consciousness, or serendipity - I love that word.

Blogger african vanielje said...

By the way, sognatrice, I am hosting my very first event (feeling a bit nervous) but it is all about great / unusual combos, and I have chosen apple and lavender. Hope you'll come and join. xxx

Blogger Karen Cole said...

Just don't make them into FIG NEWTONS.

I love them cut up on a fresh green salad, with some goat chees and a little oilve oil and balsamic vinegar.

Anonymous Maria said...

My father always had a fig tree in the backyard in our suburban Philadelphia home. They were the best anyone tasted (everyone would come to our house and "steal" them). Now I have one in my backyard (Philadelphia) and it is literally taking over my backyard. Every day my husband has been picking fresh figs and they are DELICIOUS! Another way to eat them, open them up and spread them on a fresh piece of Italian bread! YUMMY!

Blogger sognatrice said...

Shelley, that was pretty much my experience with figs before I came here as well--except for when my grandmother would talk about when her brother would bring some up from Philly. Glad you've had the real thing (and welcome back!) :)

Jen, ah figgy memories--yeah, I have to admit that good memories certainly make a food taste even better :)

Qualcosa, lucky you have a good supply--ours were hit hard this year :(

Jenn, my pleasure! Thanks for stopping by :)

Robin, yum!!!

Amanda, if only the tree were right near me, it'd be even better; as it is, it's in our "giardino" which is a few minutes walk away. Not far, but I can't just go out in my PJs and hop back in for breakfast. But I'm working on it....

AV, no I didn't know that! I did just see the apples and lavender challenge on your site, but I'm afraid I've never even seen lavender around here (other than in incense form). I'll have a look about though--looks like fun!

Karen, come on, the Newtons aren't *horrible* even though they bear little resemblance to actual fig flavor. Love your serving suggestion!

Maria, one of my friends in South Philly has a fig tree in her yard too--there was no way they would survive our temps in the mountains, but that didn't stop many an Italian from trying ;) I like your suggestion--I'd probably do it on toast. Yum!!!

Blogger jennifer said...

Gorgeous figs... we had trees bursting with figs on Lake Iseo. My favorite way to eat them is right off the tree, one after another...

Blogger stefanie said...

All of those dishes sound delicious. I have never had a fresh fig. (Are they even readily available in the U.S.??)

Blogger modelbehavior said...

I was eating these off trees in Puglia. Yummy!

Blogger kissa said...

We had a fig tree in our last gardem here in Cornwall didn't produce many fit to eat but they are good. Been eating cloudberries on holiday really good eating and with cheese so go with the idea of interesting combinations.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish you all would stop punishing me with pics of fresh figs..I am dying for one and haven't found them yet! haha
Hope you are well, Sognatrice :)

Blogger sognatrice said...

Jennifer, I've eaten more than few that way myself :)

Stefanie, I think it depends on the part of the US; I'm guessing that where you are, they'd be tough to find unless you find yourself a nice Italian or Greek or other Mediterranean who could help you out. I used to find them in the Italian Market in Philly sometimes, but they don't last very long, which is a big reason fresh ones are so hard to find far from where they're grown.

Model, yummy indeed! Good to see you back :)

Kissa, I've never heard of cloudberries--I'll have to Google!

Maryann, sorry! I hope you find some soon though :)

Blogger Karina said...

OOH Sognatrice, Figs are without fail the number one food I miss from Portugal. I grew up eating them regularly, and they're just not easy to find here in New England, and when you do find them they are RIDICULOUSLY expensive. Still, I always buy them when I come across them. Just yesterday I was in the grocery store and wondered when fig season was...they are without a doubt the best fruit ever.

Blogger Sparky Duck said...

amazingly I have a great recipe with figs, chicken and gnocchi

Blogger Calabrisella said...

MMMMmMmmMMM! fichi!
i love figs!
and Calabrian fichi are the best!..hehehe

Blogger Dave said...

As to your combinations, add a bit of sour cream or creme fraiche, sweet, salty and creamy.

Anonymous J.Doe said...

I love figs and was very surprised to find them here (New Mexico). they are the cheapest in Trader Joes, but are available in other stores. They are grown in California. I would love to have a fig tree. here in the desert it would surely die.

Blogger Bonggamom said...

I have to admit that the only figs I've eaten are in Fig Newtons :) They sell figs at our local farmers' market but I don't have the courage to buy them because I don't know how to eat them. Thanks for the suggestions!

Blogger sognatrice said...

Karina, I'm so sorry it's not easier for you to find figs; I can't imagine going back to life without them (even if, as it is, we can only eat them a few weeks out of the year anyway) ;)

Sparky, hmmm, sounds tempting. Care to share? I *love* gnocchi too :)

Calabrisella, I could be partial, but yeah, I kinda agree ;)

Dave, well I'd have to make the sour cream first, but I just might make the effort--sounds great!

JDoe, glad you can at least find some even if you can't have a tree. I've never been to a Trader Joe's, but I've heard lots about it...seem to have all kinds of good Italian treats :)

Bonggamom, do it! Just be sure to pick the ones that are soft but not mushy--unless you like things *really* sweet, in which case even the mushy ones aren't so bad if you get past the texture :)

Blogger Gil said...

Where I live, in the hicks, it hard to get decent tree fresh fruit like figs and have to go to a major city with a good Italian neighborhood to find such delicacies.

On another note there used to be a fig tree living right where I'm sitting at my desk. My grandfather started a few fig trees and one really took off and my parents had it in the breezeway of their home for years. After a bit we did get a fig or two every now and then. One extremely cold winter finally got to the poor tree in its unheated room.

My wife and I bought the house from my Mom's estate and I turned the breezeway into a laundry room (ground level) and a small office.

Sorry for such a long post I guess I got carried away by the delicious subject!

Blogger sognatrice said...

Gil, don't apologize! The comments that talk about someone's memories, feelings, etc., are always so wonderful to read! Do you have a photo of the fig tree, perhaps, to commemorate its time with you? If your family was anything like mine, photos weren't really taken often and certainly not of things like trees, but it's worth a shot, right?

Hope you get/got some great ones this year from the big city ;)

Blogger emeliehealy said...

Lovely post! here is what i just did last week with my figs... oh so delicious! also with prosciutto crudo in a sandwich or as a lovely glaze, or with cheese... or... or....


Blogger Sparky Duck said...

you know, I just might, as a post of course ;)

Blogger sognatrice said...

Emelie, looks delicious! And so cute too! Thanks for sharing :)

Sparky, I wouldn't have it any other way ;) I'll be waiting....

Blogger KC said...

I ate figs for the first time in Italy, too. I fell in love with them immediately. Those are great ideas for ways to eat figs, but unfortunately, I never get past eating them on their own because I'm much too impatient to spend any time doing anything more than peeling them!

Blogger sognatrice said...

KC, I understand your problem completely; honestly, I can't usually even get prosciutto wrapped around one, I just eat it on the side. I think I'm going to miss them this winter more than ever :(

Anonymous Jessica said...

I loooooove fresh figs, though they're very hard to come by where I live. The husband recently found a local market that was importing several varieties from an organic farm in California, and he went over there every few days to restock our kitchen. They were heavenly - and to think that not only do I love figs, I actually have a favorite kind now! (Adriatic, if you're wondering.) I first had that variety in Croatia last year (photo here: http://www.italylogue.com/planning-a-trip/summer-fruits-in-italy.html).

They're no longer at the market here, so I'm glad the husband took the initiative to make some fig jam last month. (He also made fig gelato, but that's long gone.) But still, I'll just be waiting (drooling?) for next summer's crop!

Blogger sognatrice said...

Jessica, you've become a fig connoisseur! I can't think of any better goal to have ;) And yes, I agree, fig jam is definitely better than nothing...I myself can't wait until the dried figs start being passed around (I have very generous neighbors) :)

Thanks for stopping by!

My grandmother had a house in California when I was a kid. She had more fruit trees... pear, orange, lemon, pomegranate, peach, plum, and... fig.


I loved it... summers were never ending fresh fruit.

Thanks for the memory stroll.

Scarlett & V.

Blogger IslandGirl4Ever2 said...

BEAUTIFUL FIG!! I love fig jam and stil have one or two pots left that I made last summer... The weather was so cloudy, cold and rainy this summer in France that I never saw "ripe" figs anywhere to collect for a seond round of jam... Hopefully, it was warmer for you in Italia... Ciao, Leesa

PS.. How funny... I see that we read a few of the same French blogs...

Blogger sognatrice said...

Scarlett, yum is right! Lucky you! The pomegranates here have dried up in the heat--not sure they'll recover :(

Island Girl, ooh, it was actually *too* warm for us most of the summer--so many of the figs were dry and cracked. But there were still some tasty ones mixed in, thank goodness.

I read more France blogs than are even listed here, so I'm sure we'll be running into each other again :)

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