Fresh Figs: New Ways with an Ancient Fruit, from Sandwich to Dessert. (Food)

By Ferreira, Charity | Sunset, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Fresh Figs: New Ways with an Ancient Fruit, from Sandwich to Dessert. (Food)


Ferreira, Charity, Sunset


There is no better emblem of the double-edged pleasure of seasonality than a backyard fig tree. On one hand, you have uncommon access to an extraordinary fruit that has been revered for centuries, the subject of legends and lore from the Bible to Homer--a fruit whose grassy sweetness evokes sunny and exotic climates.

On the other hand, you're likely to tread on ripe figs when they drop onto the ground and melt into a puddle of sticky syrup. The more prolific the tree, the greater the sweet urgency to appreciate as many of them as you can--now Fig season (actually seasons--see "At the market" at right) is short; once they're gone, they're gone. Make the most of this season's crop, whether from that backyard tree or the market, in tempting dishes such as flatbread, grilled salmon, or fruit-topped cakes.

Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Fig Relish

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 30 minutes

NOTES: Use soft-ripe figs for the relish, which is also good with crackers or toasted baguette slices as an appetizer or alongside roast chicken.

MAKES: 3 sandwiches

  3 boned, skinned chicken breast
    halves (about 6 oz. each)
    About 1/4 cup olive oil
    Salt and pepper
  6 slices (about 5 by 3 in. and
    1/2 in. thick) sourdough bread
3/4 cup arugula leaves or salad
    mix, rinsed and crisped
    Fig relish (recipe follows)

1. Place each chicken breast half between two sheets of plastic wrap; with a flat mallet or rolling pin, gently pound to 1/2 inch thick. Brush both sides of chicken lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Lay chicken on an oiled grill over a solid bed of hot coals or high heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 2 to 3 seconds); close lid on gas grill. Cook, turning once, until chicken is no longer pink in the center (cut to test), 6 to 8 minutes total. Meanwhile, brush both sides of bread lightly with oil. When you turn chicken, lay bread slices on grill and cook, turning once, until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes total.

3. To assemble each sandwich, top one slice of bread with about 1/4 cup arugula leaves. Place chicken on arugula and top with about 1/3 cup fig relish. Top with second slice of grilled bread. Serve warm.

Per sandwich: 546 cal., 36% (198 cal.) from fat; 45 g protein; 22 g fat (3.4 g sat.); 42 g carbo (4.1 g fiber); 517 mg sodium; 99 mg chol.

Fig relish. In a bowl, combine 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon minced shallot, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Let stand 10 minutes. Rinse 8 ounces ripe Mission figs; pat dry and trim off and discard stem ends, Cut figs into 1/2-inch chunks; add to vinegar mixture. Stir in 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint leaves and 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves, breaking figs up slightly with spoon. Makes about 1 cup.

Per 1/4 cup: 45 cal., 4% (1.8 cal.) from fat; 0.5 g protein; 0.2 g fat (0 g sat.); 12 g carbo (2 g fiber); 75 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Fig and Ricotta Cheese Flatbread

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 1 1/2 hours, plus 35 to 45 minutes to rise

NOTES: You can make the dough through step 2 up to 1 day ahead; punch it down, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and chill. Let stand at room temperature about 1 hour before proceeding with shaping (step 4).

MAKES: 4 flatbreads; about 12 appetizer or 6 main-course servings

  1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active
    dry yeast
    About 1 teaspoon salt
  2 tablespoons olive oil
    About 3 1/2 cups
    all-purpose flour
  3 red onions (about 1 3/4
    lb. total),
    peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
  2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    About 1/4 teaspoon pepper
    About 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
    About 2 cups (1 carton, 15 oz.)
    ricotta cheese
  1 pound firm-ripe figs, rinsed,
    stem ends trimmed, and halved
    lengthwise
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
    (about 3 oz. … 

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