Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Short and Sweet the lifespan of fig season.  Picked ripe from the tree, once you have your hands on some there is precious little time before they begin to spoil.  When fresh figs are available, I feel that I'm under the gun to get some and make something fabulous.  I bought two pounds of California Black Figs from Trader Joe's on Sunday night, because I had Monday off from the day job (more truthfully, the day, night, and weekend job).  I was originally planning on making Melinda Lee's Candied Figs recipe, thinking I could make a big batch and use them for Christmas gifts, but then I starting thinking about fig cake and Googling away for ideas.

What did I end up making?  I posted on Facebook that I had two pounds of figs and wasn't sure what to make with them, and two friends were kind enough to send suggestions.  The first idea was to top a pizza with figs, gorgonzola and pine nuts, and the other was to make preserves.  So I ended up making a fig, Gorgonzola and pancetta galette, fig jam, AND the fig cake.

Don't ask me to choose a favourite.  They're all delicious.  The galette was a wonderful dinner with an arugula salad, the fig cake is one of those rustic, good-for-anytime cakes with a perfume of fig and lemon.  It smells so Italian to me and with an espresso, topped the night.  The fig jam has citrus notes from both orange zest and a healthy dose of triple sec.   I'm tempted to make just a small amount of ricotta and have some crusty sliced bread topped with the cheese and jam.  Just so you know, National Fig Week is November 1-7.  Obviously, I couldn't wait that long to celebrate.

Fig, Gorgonzola and Pancetta Galette
(adapted from Saveur's Leek and Zucchini Galette recipe)

for the crust:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
4-6 tablespoons ice water

for the filling:

10-12 figs, quartered
1/3 cup onion, thinly sliced
4 slices pancetta, chopped
2/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
2 tablespoons butter

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in bowl.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles rough crumbs.  Add water tablespoon by tablespoon until dough comes together but isn't too sticky (for me it's between 4 and 5 tbs).  Form into a disc and refrigerate for an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  In large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter and saute figs and onions until onions are softened.  Remove from heat.  In smaller pan, cook pancetta until it just begins to brown.  (It will finish cooking in the oven.)  Mix figs, onion and pancetta together to let flavours mingle while waiting for dough to chill.

When dough is ready, on floured board, roll dough to roughly 1/4 inch thickness and about 12-14 inches round.  Add fig mixture to dough leaving about an inch and a half edge of crust all around.  Top mixture with crumbled Gorgonzola and fold edges up.  Bake until crust is lightly browned, about 45-50 minutes.

Fig Jam
(makes about a cup)

12-14 figs, cut in quarters
6 oz water
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons triple sec or Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon orange zest
pinch of lemon zest

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly.  Lower heat and let simmer until mixture begins to thicken, about 25 minutes.  Stir frequently to keep jam from scorching.  Remove from heat and let sit.  Jam will thicken further.  You can use a potato masher to smash the fruit even more, if you like.  Store in refrigerator.  

The fig cake recipe came from the 'Lemon and Anchovies' blog and can be found here.  I followed the recipe exactly and still feel it doesn't need any tweaking.


  1. Your comment about figs spoiling quickly is reminding me of a story my friend Cheri told me. She worked for the Foreign Agricultural Service for a couple years (ag equivalent to the Foreign Commercial Service) and once got the inspiration to ask one of the long-time employees the following question: What one food product would you never eat again, after having seen how it's made? The guy's answer: Fig Newtons. I think he was speaking specifically about Fig Newtons in Turkey (this being the *foreign* ag service), where apparently the conditions in which the fig paste is dried are somewhat less than sanitary and involve lots of insects getting in on the fig-eating action.

  2. I can only imagine what he had seen considering how you can't really tell what's mashed up in a Fig Newton. I never did like those when I was young. And thanks again for your fig suggestion. I think you would have loved that galette!