Is there anything in nature more beautiful than a fig? Well, beauty is a matter of taste, right? Is there anything in nature that tastes as good as a fig? Trick question! I grew up in the Midwestern United States in Missouri and fresh figs were impossible to find. In fact, the Fig Newton cookie was the closest I’d ever gotten to a real fig before I moved to New York City! Once this exotic fruit entered my life, it quickly became my favourite. The most beautiful, the most delicious.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world and eaten in some of the finest restaurants. The best meal I ever ate, and I think about this often, was in Positano, Italy at Da Adolfo’s. You have to take a boat to get there, which adds to the experience, and as the boat drops you off it may seem like it’s just a little fishing shack with a private beach and some tables under a canopy. Once the boat pulls away and you lock eyes with the other guests, you realise you’re someplace exclusive and that you’ve stumbled upon a special secret.
My friends ordered all sorts of fresh fish and grilled vegetable items. I saw figs on the menu and I stopped reading. I knew my choice. A plate full of prosciutto was brought out. It was draped in waves. Nestled in the waves were fresh green-skinned, almost fuchsia-fleshed figs that I swear were as big as my fist! A fresh ball of mozzarella accompanied the meat and fruit and nothing else. No balsamic drizzle, no olive oil, no pinch of sea salt. Just those three naked ingredients all made to be enjoyed together. I was in heaven. I imagine myself sitting down to the table beyond the pearly gates and this exact plate will be set in front of me at every meal.
When we find gifts of nature at their peak ripeness, in their true season, freshly picked – there is no cookery needed. So my first recipe isn’t a recipe at all, but is one of my favourite items to pass at my catered cocktail parties. I halve some fresh figs and give them a little blanket of prosciutto, secured with a toothpick. Sometimes I’ll stick a little mozzarella pearl on the end to recreate my ‘meal’ at Da Adolfo’s. Heaven.
Figs are tricky because we can’t always tell if there will be juicy ripe flesh inside. You can apply some gentle pressure and hope that it will be soft, but I’ve cut into many a soft fig to find that he’s not quite as ripe as I would like him to be. Those are the figs asking to be cooked! When we grill or apply heat to fruit, it caramelises the natural sugars and concentrates the sweetness. My not-quite-ripe figs end up being grilled and tossed onto salads.
Since the fig/prosciutto combination wasn’t a recipe, here’s something a little more involved where you can actually chop and stir and cook! I love figs with meat, so I came up with a ‘steak sauce’ that I slather onto pork chops, lamb chops, chicken breasts, grilled steak, etc. Of course it is just as delicious spooned onto roasted cauliflower or tossed into sautéed Brussels sprouts, or eaten out of a jar with a spoon! (I’ve even drizzled some of this sauce onto vanilla ice cream!)
Fig steak sauce
15 figs, stemmed and quartered
2 T brown sugar
1 T worcestershire sauce
1 T soy sauce
½ t hickory smoked sea salt (or regular sea salt)
½ t hickory smoked black pepper (or regular ground black pepper)
½ t lemon juice
Bring everything to a boil, reduce heat, simmer 3 minutes. Spoon over perfectly cooked steak, chicken, pork, tofu, etc.
About the Author – Lisa Adams
Lisa is originally from Joplin, Missouri, in the Midwestern United States, but New York has been her home for the past 19 years. She works as a personal chef and a voice over actress and is inspired by the balance of creativity and service.
For more culinary inspiration from New York, follow Lisa on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and visit her website AllGoodThings.nyc.