First thing, first - what are these?
If you said "figs" then you're foodier than most - or you grew up somewhere very different than me! We just moved, and my husband's reaction when I told him we have a fig tree in the yard pretty much sums up what I thought about figs most of my life. "Oh, can we make Newton's out of them?" I went into a spiel about the blasphemy of this for awhile - before remembering my roots. I decided it made more sense to show than tell. Mission: win him over from the Newton category with lots of homemade figgy goodness.
There was roasted fig salad with balsamic vinaigrette, pickled red onions and spring greens, then fresh fig ice cream with cinnamon roasted almonds and fig-maple syrup swirls, but our hands' down favorite was the whole wheat focaccia with grilled shallots, roasted walnuts and fresh rosemary. See below for pictures and step-by-step instructions for making your own! Warning - share or you WILL over-eat! This is one of the best things I've tasted in a long time.
|Whole Wheat Fig Focaccia with Grilled Shallots, Roasted Walnuts and Fresh Rosemary|
While figs are delicious roasted, baked, dried and stewed into lots of things, it's a one-of-a-kind experience to eat fresh figs right off the tree. The time for eating them fresh is very short, so you have to know what to look for if you're buying them at a grocery store or picking them. A quick, informal poll of people I spoke with over the past few days showed that no one knows when a fig is ready to eat. Here's an explanation in pictures:
|1. Is it a fig tree? This one's simple - look for these distinctive leaves (think: the first "clothes" Adam & Eve wore). Hopefully, yours won't have a photobombing dog in the background...|
|2. These are the least ripe figs, just as the fruit appears on the tree.|
|4. Lots more color, but the fruit is still sticking nearly straight out from the branch.|
|6. This one is getting a bit past ripe and will rot soon. It's just about to fall off the tree.|
|Eat RIGHT NOW - it will not last until tomorrow. (Again, photobombed...)|
Whole Wheat Fig Focaccia with Grilled Shallots, Roasted Walnuts and Fresh Rosemary
1 ball whole wheat pizza dough
Extra-virgin olive oil, roughly 1/4 cup
3 medium shallots (or 1 small red onion), sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1/3 cup walnuts, roasted and chopped roughly
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
10 ripe figs, sliced in half
Coarsely ground black pepper
Balsamic vinegar, optional
1. Roast the walnuts. This step can be done anytime up to a few days before. I generally roast extra and use them in different dishes or freeze them for use later. Preheat oven to 350F. Spread raw walnuts out on a sheet pan in a single layer. Place in oven for 10 minutes. Test for doneness by picking up a handful in your closed fist and seeing if they continue to heat up quickly, causing you to need to put them back down on the pan. If yes, they're done. If not, return them to the over at 3 minute intervals, testing until done. They're also best if the color deepens a shade but does not get dark brown or black.
|Testing walnuts to see if they're finished roasting|
2. Remove dough from refrigerator. Remove from package, place into a mixing bowl and coat with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 425F.
4. Grill or roast the shallots (or red onions).
|These are shallots.|
|Shallots - ends cut off and then peeled. Do the same if using a red onion. Then, slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds.|
|Add 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat well with the oil.|
|Lay shallots out in a single layer on a preheated grill. You can use electric, cast iron, outdoor grill - whatever you want. Alternatively, you can just lay them on a sheet pan and roast at 450F for 15-25min, turning over after 10 minutes.|
5. Chop walnuts and rosemary roughly. Slice figs in half the long way.
|Clockwise from left, bottom corner: chopped walnuts, sliced figs, chopped rosemary.|
6. Coat a 13x9" pan, 1/4 sheet pan or 1/2 sheet pan generously with olive oil. Rub a bit of olive oil on your hands and then remove dough from bowl. Make two fists and lay the dough on top of them. Use your fists to gently stretch out the dough to the size of a 13x9" pan (also known as a 1/4 sheet pan). The pictures below show the dough on a larger, 1/2 sheet, pan because that's what I have in my kitchen. Improvise when you need to! If you're scared of stretching the dough with your hands, put it on a larger sheet pan with low sides (like the one in the pictures below) and roll out with a rolling pin. If the dough keeps trying to snap back to it's original shape, it just needs to rest a bit longer. Cover in the bowl again and return for another attempt in 10 minutes.
7. Lay the shallots on the dough, then top with figs, cut-sides-up. Sprinkle with nuts, rosemary, salt and pepper.
|Focaccia topped with all ingredients, ready for the oven.|
|Gratuitous close up of focaccia ready for the oven.|
8. Bake at 425F for 20 minutes or until dough is golden and figs are starting to bubble and drip their juices.
|Check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map link for bigger image|