I wasn’t very familiar with figs before I studied abroad. I think the closest I’d come was a Fig Newton. As I traveled, I discovered people in Spain and Italy were downright giddy about them. Probably not only because they are deliciously sweet, the word is slang for something Pope Clement XIII liked to cover up with fig leaves. Quite possibly doubling figs popularity in catholic countries.
There are dozens of varieties of figs. A particularly popular one is the Smyrna from Turkey, which is pollinated by an unusual wasp that eventually gives its life to the fig. Enterprising Californian farmers have developed a cousin to this fig called the Calimyrna, pictured above. Fig season is primarily in the fall, but some appear in early summer and fig lovers throughout the Mediterranean have developed excellent ways of preserving them.
Lately, I’ve been obsessed with these absolutely divine chocolate ganache stuffed figs my friend gave me for Christmas from Fran’s Chocolates. The ganache is inside the dried fig, which I have a special affinity for because I’d buy these dried figs for a snack in my beloved Campo dei Fiori market when I was a student in Rome. Dried figs are so decadent with concentrated sweetness, adding the chocolate ganache knocks them out of the park.
The beauty of figs is that you aren’t limited to dessert with them. They pair well with creamy cheeses, chicken, bacon and more. Pictured above are black mission figs on rye crisp bread topped with whole milk ricotta and fresh mint.
I particularly love this salad with figs, feta and arugula. Sharp peppery tastes contrast well with the fruit.
This simple pasta with figs, bacon, red onion and Parmesan was quite good. Another savory favorite of mine was a bestseller when I worked at Pasta and Co called Chicken and Figs! That recipe calls for dried black figs. I just picked some up and look forward to reporting back soon! Happy cooking!