At least I've heard that figs are ripe in some parts of my neck of the woods. One of the first things I saw on Facebook this morning was this photo, posted by my friend and colleague, Señor. Bragging (oh yes, I am using that word) that his figs are ripening.
Then he posted another, just to really rub it in.
I promptly headed to the middle school and the only fig tree I can pick from to see if the figs are as far along as Señor's. They aren't. I had a little basket and was ready to pick, but it will be a few days yet.
I have a recipe that I have been anxious to use for about two months now. I tried it once, using dried figs and have even considered making it with fig jam. That's how good it is and how desperate I am.
Figs, other than Fig Newton cookies,
and I have not been acquainted all that long. I met my first one back in 2005 while cooking class in Arles with Chef Érick Vedel for the first time. We went to visit an olive oil producer, Le Mas des Barres, near Les Baux de Provence. We were treated to a tour of the facilities and a tasting of their wonderful olive oil.
I have since been back several times to visit the Quenin family and taste their oil. In the fall of 2008, I was able to actually watch the olives being pressed.
And to taste the fresh oil.
Back to my fig story.
In July of 2005, I was talking to M. Quenin outside while the others in my group were shopping when he reached up and pulled something from a tree and handed it to me. I had no idea what I was looking at. I am quite sure it was the first time he had met someone who had never eaten a fresh fig. He tore the fruit in two with his hands and told me to taste it. It was love at first bite. The warm juices ran down my chin and I was sure I had never tasted anything so delicious. I wish I had a photo of that first fig... but I ate it much too quickly. And some things are imprinted on your memory and you will never forget them. Know what I mean?
Here is a picture of M. Quenin and Chef Érick from 2008-- quite the characters.
The Goolsby Clan was visiting me in Arles and I snapped a photo of them. A beautiful place. An unforgettable day.
I need figs...
1 tsp. and 1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 small onion, thinly sliced
Pinch of sugar
12 oz. thin pizza crust
2 Tbsp. orange marmelade
4 oz. figs, sliced into thirds
2 oz. prosciutto, cut into pieces
1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese
1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. dried rosemary leaves, optional
In a small non-stick skillet, heat 1 tsp. olive oil and sauté the onion, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until it starts to turn golden. Add the sugar and continue to cook until the onion takes on a caramel color. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 450˚F. On the crust, spread 1 Tbsp. olive oil and cover with orange marmalade. Arrange cooled onions, figs, prosciutto, goat cheese, and mozzarella on top. Sprinkle with rosemary, if desired.
Bake 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is crisp.
Bon appétit, figs and fig lovers!