Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wishing for a Fig Tree

There is a beautiful fig tree up the street from me on the route I walk my dog. It towers over the house on the corner and shades the whole side yard and sidewalk. The tree reigns over a garden that tumbles with colorful flowers and vines and just-about-to-bloom cacti. A lemon tree stands to the side, in front of the house. The garden looks as though it was once very well planned and now has had some time to settle in. It’s on the verge of chaotic, but still cared for. It reminds me of a person who is a little eccentric but really fun to have around.

I love this garden, and always slow down to walk past it. Not just for the welcome shade on a hot afternoon, but to see plants that are not quite as pruned as the rest of the neighbors'; to observe all of the succulents, which I have never planted, aside from an aloe plant in college that I slowly murdered with too much water.

But it is the fig tree that I am really stopping for. It’s exotic, curvy leaves, the small, seedy fruit, and even the scent of fruit that has fallen on the other side of the fence and now smells slightly fermented. I am forever hoping that the owner will be out front, that I will stop to talk to her (that she will be a her!), and that we’ll strike up a friendship, the best kind of friendship, the kind where I get baskets of fresh figs and lemons, and where I come back a few days later with jars of fig preserves and lemon curd.

As of yet I have not met the neighbor, though I’m still hopeful each time I turn the corner at the end of my street. But I won’t let that stop me from enjoying fresh figs. September is when they are at their peak, and our farmer’s market and grocery stores are brimming with Missions and Brown Turkeys.

The fig is almost sensual, with its feminine curves, bursts of seeds and a musky and floral scent. I have to confess that all on their own, the flavor is almost too much for me. But that is the perfect reason to dress them up a bit. I love the bite of an earthy blue cheese to cut the floral notes, and some salty prosciutto to counter the fruity flavors. So simple and yet so perfect.

Now, if I could only meet that neighbor so I had enough figs to make this dish every day, it would be a perfect, perfect world.

Figs with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto

This is one of those recipes where you really don’t have to measure anything at all, which is my favorite kind. The amounts below are approximately what I used, but if you have a more or less pungent blue cheese, you may want to use more or less honey to balance it. I meant to add chopped walnuts to the cheese mixture but forgot; it was great without them but add some for more crunch.

1 pint very fresh figs
6 slices of Prosciutto
2 ounces blue cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon toasted walnuts, chopped

Snip the stems off of the figs. Taking care not to cut all the way through, quarter the figs, leaving about a quarter inch at the bottom. It will look like petals of a flower and still be intact.

Mix the cream, cheese and honey and walnuts, if you’re using them, in a small bowl, stirring to combine. If the cheese is still solid, add some more cream. Taste it; if it is too strong, add more honey, but remember that you’re still adding it to the figs and prosciutto.

Divide the cheese into all of the figs, about a tablespoon per fig. Gently press the mixture into it, then push the sides back so they are upright. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around the fig, making it look like a tulip.

Arrange on a plate and Enjoy!

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