I have the very best friends in the world - not only are Billy and Melvin loving and fun to hang with, but they keep my yard looking nice and gift me with all sorts of produce! This week alone, they have given me about 5 lbs of fresh, ripe tomatoes, sweet Vidalia onions, green basil, purple basil, fresh dill (OMG it smells SO GOOD!) and about 3/4 of a pound of perfectly ripe, small black figs. What could I do with such bounty? I live alone and I didn't want anything to go to waste.
Figs have to be eaten or preserved immediately - they last just a day or two - so I had to figure something out quickly. I thought about it overnight, and this morning, it hit me: ROAST them! Roasting makes everything more deeply flavored and sweeter. So that's what I did. It took about 15 minutes, all told. Once they were roasted, I made the most delicious quesadilla you have ever had with one portion of the figs with their winey juice, 2 oz melty cheese (meunster is what I had in the fridge), about a handful of baby arugula, a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper. Oh my goodness! So delicious! I am so happy that I have three more portions of figs left so I can make some more quesadillas over the next couple of days, long after the fresh figs would have spoiled.
ROASTED FIGS WITH THYME
10 oz fresh ripe figs, cut in half
1 Tbs merlot
1 Tbs honey
Preheat oven to 450F. Whisk honey and wine together till honey is dissolved completely. Spray a pan with olive oil spray and arrange the figs so they are not touching each other. Spoon the wine and honey mixture evenly over all, then sprinkle with thyme - fresh, minced leaves, or dried is fine. Roast for 15 minutes, checking half-way through to be sure there is no burning. The figs should show just a little bit of carmelization on the edges. Remove from oven and let stand for a few minutes before eating.
Makes 4 servings, 2 WW pts+ per serving
These would be wonderful on rich vanilla ice cream, ricotta, goat cheese or yogurt, or eat them as is. Try the quesadilla, though - your mouth will thank you for it!
One last thing about figs - in the Boston area where I grew up, there were no fig trees. My Italian grandmother adored figs, though, and I remember my grandfather trudging home from the fruit vendors in the North End of Boston with a flat of figs, just for her, as a present. He wasn't an easy man to live with (few Italian men of his generation were), but he did occasionally make little gestures that told her (and us) how much he loved us. These gestures pretty much always centered around food - we were Italian after all! I remember how Grammie loved figs, how her eyes closed in delight as she popped them into her mouth, one by one, and how excited and honored I was if she shared one or two with me from her special gift. What a woman. I miss her so much.
When we first moved to California, years later, we were invited for dinner at Marge and Taft's house, and as we ate under a giant tree in their back yard, laughing and joking around, Taft reached up and picked - you guessed it - a FIG! With so many figs next door at Taft's house, I really became a glutton for them. I ate and ate until I couldn't eat another one, and Taft used to laugh at me.
Now I live in Georgia, and one variety of figs do grow here, but figs are still such a treat for me, not only because they are so yummy, but because each time I put one to my lips, I remember my wonderful grandmother and Grampie's yearly gift of figs. Memory Eternal, Vincenzo and Josephine Cieri. Memory Eternal!