I doubt there are many people as passionate about figs as Lake Oswego resident Trista Nelson. A native Lake Oswegan and former Lake Oswego School District home economics teacher, Trista is blessed to have a 60-year-old fig tree in her front yard which every summer supplies her with more figs that she can dream of using.
Earlier this summer I got a call from Trista's companion, Jennifer Kathrens, that Trista wanted to share her figs with me.
"They have a short season," she said. We put a date on the calendar to check back to see if they were ripe yet, and after a few calls we set a date for me to visit and see the tree in all its glory. When I visited Trista explained that the tree was on its second crop, and I could see some overly ripe fruit hanging in the tree, as well as little green figs awaiting their turn to ripen in the fall sunshine.
Trista and Jennifer love figs and are inventive in their use of them. They roast them, grill them, eat them fresh — you will find them eating them for breakfast lunch and dinner.
They said figs are low in calories and have no fat, and are high in fiber. Figs are a good source of calcium, which can ward off osteoporosis and other health issues.
But the bottom line is figs are delicious.
"Well, half the people like them and half don't" said Trista. We all agreed our first introduction to figs was as Fig Newton cookies, but that doesn't give the full spectrum of their flavor and multiple uses.
Trista shares figs from her tree with Nicoletta's Table. If you see specials featuring figs they are likely from Trista's tree. Neighbors and friends at 24-Hour Fitness also receive gifts of figs, and somehow I bet they are much more appreciated than gifts of zucchini.
The day I visited the women had prepared a tantalizing dish of Chicken and Roasted Figs, and had gathered together several recipes to showcase the fruit's sweet, mild flavor. I share their recipes with you here, and encourage you to find fresh figs and give them a try.
Try them — you'll like them. The season is short so don't delay.
Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!
Chicken and Roasted Figs
Makes about 4 servings
2 tablespoons good quality (cask aged) red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup honey
2 pounds bone-in, skin on chicken thighs (4 to 6 thighs)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large shallots, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons, chopped fresh oregano leaves plus 2 tablespoons whole leaves
8 to 10 fresh figs, stems trimmed, cut in half (quarter if large)
Preheat oven to 400F. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup water, vinegar and cornstarch. Whisk in honey and set aside. Sprinkle chicken on both sides with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Heat a heavy 12 or 14-inch ovenproof frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil and swirl to coat, then add chicken, skin side down and brown until skin is deep golden and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn over and brown second side, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.
Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from frying pan, reduce heat to medium and cook shallots until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add cornstarch mixture, chopped oregano and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; cook until mixture bubbles and thickens, 1 to 2 minutes.
Set chicken, skin side up in frying pan and add figs. Roast in oven until figs soften and caramelize slightly and meat is no longer pink at the bone, about 15 minutes. Divide chicken, figs and sauce among plates and top with whole oregano leaves.
Recipe adapted from Sunset Magazine.
Pizza with Figs, Prosciutto, Gorgonzola, Balsamic and Arugula
Makes 4 servings
cornmeal (for sprinkling)
1 pound package purchased pizza dough
2 cups crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (about 8 ounces)
6 small fresh figs, cut into 1/4- to 1/3-inch thick slices
2 tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar, divided
8 thin slices prosciutto
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 cups arugula
Preheat oven to 450 F. Sprinkle a large rimless bake sheet generously with cornmeal. Roll out dough on floured work surface to 12-inch by 10-inch rectangle; transfer to prepared bake sheet. Sprinkle Gorgonzola over dough, sprinkle with pepper.
Place figs in medium bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon vinegar to cover. Set aside.
Bake pizza until crust is golden brown on bottom, 15 to 20 minutes. Immediately drape prosciutto slices over, covering pizza completely. Arrange fig slices atop prosciutto. Bake until figs are just heated through, about 1 minute. Transfer pizza to a cutting board. Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar and oil in large bowl; add arugula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to coat. Mound salad atop pizza. Cut into pieces and serve.
Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetitt, Aug. 2009
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