Malibu Beach Recovery Diet – Fig Follies
Three special recipes using one of the world’s healthiest foods
Anyone who has tasted my cooking in early June or August-September knows that I go crazy for figs. There really is not one fruit that I like better than this one.
This reminds me of an unfortunate discovery that I made a few years ago when I rented a house that boasted a beautiful fig tree, only to discover that, yes, there are varieties that just grow the majestic leaves but not the fruit. That was such an insult to me and quite the irony…
So every time I start seeing figs at the Farmer’s Market, I bring back my favorite tried recipes and scout for different ways to use them in new creations.
And just for you, fig-lovers, I have attached three of my favorite recipes for this beautiful fruit. Those of you who have not yet experienced the full spectrum of fig bounty, please hurry and grab some before the fleeting season is over and discover why this is truly a gift of nature.
There is actually a restaurant in Los Angeles, Maude, owned by Curtis Stone, which dedicates its menu each month to one product that they explore and dissect thoroughly and feature in each and every dish that month. And you will have guessed that the featured item in August was… figs!
But this led me to think: what is it that excites me in this bi-yearly happening? Upon reflection, I discovered a few aspects of my cooking personality and wanted to share with you.
I know figs, I know what they taste like, I know their texture, how to pick them, where to store them, how to cook them and what to pair them with. In short, I know the fig.
What excites me is that I have an already proven and tried base of recipes and ideas to start with, of dishes that have been a success in the past and where I only need to accommodate for the ripeness of the fruit or its slight variations in sugar content depending on the provenance or the sun exposure that year.
So I know this dish will be good. This enables me to be creative in a way that I probably wouldn’t allow myself to be with an entirely new produce. It ensures a level of satisfaction at the results that already comforts me in the fact that it will be a pleasurable experience, so I can push the boundaries of my creativity as much or as little as I feel willing to go. I am in control of the final result.
What if we did this with a larger range of products until we felt the same level of comfort in the kitchen? Let’s start with a perfectly cooked chicken breast, and then venture into more complex sauces and preparations. Let’s take basic steaks and play with the different accommodations and dressings. When this is to our liking, we can venture a little more out of the box with marinades, other cuts, other cooking methods. With vegetables, roasting is a great way to bring out the flavors and textures. Let’s investigate what different combinations of leafy greens work well together.
In this way, cooking will not be a happenchance result based on someone else’s recipe, but truly something that comes from the heart, starting with a solid and simple foundation and growing in complexity and creativity at a rhythm that we are personally comfortable with.
I wish you much joy in the kitchen!
Fig and Arugula Salad with Gorgonzola
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios
- 5 ounces baby arugula (8 packed cups)
- Kosher salt
- 9 fresh Black Mission figs, quartered
- 1/4 cup whipping cream
- One 3-ounces wedge of Gorgonzola, frozen overnight
Make the vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, mix the lemon juice with the shallot, salt and crushed red pepper. Let stand for 30 minutes. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the oil until incorporated.
Make the salad: Preheat the oven to 425°. Spread the pistachios in a pie plate and toast for about 5 minutes, until golden. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
In a large bowl, toss the arugula with half of the pistachios and the vinaigrette; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to plates and arrange the figs around the salad. In a small bowl, stir the whipping cream with 1 tablespoon of water until smooth; drizzle over the salad. Grate the frozen Gorgonzola over the salad, top with the remaining pistachios and serve.
For the Galette Crust
- 1-1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1-1/2 sticks (6 ounces) very, very cold butter cut into small cubes
- 1/3 cup ice water, plus 2-4 more Tbsps, if needed
For the filling
- 1 egg and 1 yolk
- 1/4 cup Palm sugar
- 1 cup almond meal (or any other nut flour, such as hazelnut)
- 1/2 stick butter (2 ounces), melted
- 4 or 5 ripe figs, depending on size
- Whipping cream (optional)
Place the first four ingredients in a large bowl:
Work butter by flaking it into the flour until the pieces are roughly the size of your thumbnail.
Add the cold water all at once and shovel it in- try not to knead it- adding a little water if necessary- until it forms a ball of dough that just starts to stick together when you squeeze it lightly in your palms.
Press the dough with a light touch into a rectangle. Fold it like a piece of paper you would place in an envelope- taking the right and folding it to cover 2/3 of it, and then folding the other flap over that. Roll just to flatten and wrap in paper or plastic. Chill for 15 minutes or up to overnight in the fridge or freezer.
When ready to assemble, roll out the dough into a thin rectangle on a well-floured surface. Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
Prepare the filling. Whisk all your ingredients together, adding extracts if you like.
Spread the filling over most of the crust, leaving 1″ to fold over.
Slice 4-5 figs thinly, arranging them over the filling. Fold the sides over just to create a wall. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp palm sugar, if desired.
Egg wash the exposed crust (1 egg and 1 tsp milk, whisked) and sprinkle palm sugar over the egg wash.
Bake in a 375 degree oven until nice and dark golden brown. Serve slightly warm with a side of whipping cream, if desired.
Caramelized Figs and White Peaches
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons butter, divided
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
- 4 firm ripe white peaches (about 1 3/4 pounds), halved and pitted
- 8 firm ripe Black Mission figs, halved lengthwise (about 1 pound)
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup whipping cream
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Cook peppercorns in a small skillet over medium heat 6 minutes or until fragrant and toasted. Cool. Place peppercorns in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; seal. Crush peppercorns with a meat mallet or rolling pin; set aside.
Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; stir in 1 teaspoon thyme. Add peaches, cut sides down, to pan. Cook 2 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan. Place 1 peach half, cut sides up, on each of 8 plates. Melt remaining 1 teaspoon butter in pan; stir in remaining 1 teaspoon thyme. Add figs, cut sides down, to pan; cook 2 minutes or until browned. Place two fig halves on each plate.
In a small bowl, place the whipping cream and beat with a whisk until slightly thickened.
Add balsamic vinegar to pan; cook over medium-low heat until reduced to 3 tablespoons (about 3 minutes). Cool slightly. Spoon about 2 teaspoons whipped cream into the center of each peach half; drizzle about 1 teaspoon vinegar mixture over each serving. Sprinkle each serving with about 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle evenly with salt.