July 15, 2009
I just picked my first figs of the season. With over 100 degree temperatures
here in Texas, it's no wonder the fruits are ripening on the vine.
What is a wonder is that the birds and squirrels have not yet discovered
the green-brown jewels in the corner of the front garden.
The figs were sweet and fleshy, just like they were made to be. But
truth be told, they were not like the figs I buy in the markets of
Provence. A mon avis (in my opinion), figs and Provence were
made for each other. During the summertime in the south of France,
I could almost eat nothing but big fresh juicy figs and be happy
But then there are the ripe apricots and strawberries and cerises
(cherries) and mirabelles (plums) and almonds. Fresh almonds
fascinate me with their thick, green, furry exterior that protects
the tender white nut inside.
What's wonderful about Provence is that you don't have to wait for
market time to see and taste ripe fruit. My daily walks on narrow
country roads take me past wild fruit trees of every persuasion. I
end up filling my pockets with the fresh treasures and make a wild
fruit bowl when I return chez moi.
Coming back to figs, I am not the only one celebrating the Mediterranean
regional fruit. Restaurant chefs and artisan food makers take advantage
of nature's bounty and offer figs in all kinds of dishes and recipes.
At the outdoor market in St. Rémy-de-Provence, you can find
saucisson aux figues (fig salami).
At the restaurant Le Fournil in the terraced town of Bonnieux
in the Luberon region of Provence, I enjoyed a lovely entrée
(starter) of foie gras and fresh fig and confiture de figue
But la pièce de la résistance was the special
duck cooked with fig leaves in an iron dutch oven at the legendary
Oustau de Baumanière in Les Baux de Provence. While
my photo of the duck nestled in fig leaves turned out a bit fuzzy,
the photo of the prepared dish turned out marvelously. I have used
fresh fig leaves on cheese trays but never in a cooked dish. This
special meal has inspired me to use the fruit as well as les feuilles
While fig season of course happens only in summer, one can always
make summer in winter with la confiture de figues (fig jam).
When making toast in on a cloudy day in January, I have only to pull
out un bocal (a jar) of fig jam, and I am instantly transported
to a sunny Mediterranean locale. But given that winter is a ways off
yet, I will take advantage of the garden variety fig-before the birds
discover my bountiful cache.
~ La France à emporter
One of the ways I like to serve figs is as simple as possible.
This recipe combines two signature flavors of Provence-with magical
Goat Cheese With Figs
12 ripe figs
6 thin slices dry-cured ham such as Prosciutto
8 ounces goat cheese (no rind)
16 mint leaves, chopped
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
French olive oil
Wash and dry figs carefully. Cut off the stem and cut each fig
nearly to the base. Turn each fig and cut again so that the fig
is cut nearly in quarters. Squeeze each fig carefully to open up
the fruit. Set aside.
Crumble the goat cheese in a bowl, add the mint leaves, season with
salt and pepper and combine.
Arrange the figs on a large platter and spoon the goat cheese
mixture in the center of each fig. Drape a ribbon of ham onto each
fig and drizzle with French olive oil. Serve at room temperature
with a lovely bottle of Provençal rosé wine.
(Adapted from "The French Market: More Recipes From a French
Kitchen" by J. Harris and F. Warde).
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