Lots of summer afternoons were spent in the small town of Lacassine, Louisiana. My great grandmother had a small, humble home that housed many meals and memories. The house and its landscape became part of the family. One of the fondest members was an old, reliable fig tree that gave of itself late every June. As a child, sitting under the steadfast tree in a rain shower was one of the most fulfilling encounters. The earth quickly cooled as the humidity hung around me like a damp cloth with the inability to be wrung dry. I didn’t mind the humidity on these days because the air was perfumed with honey from the tree. Ripe figs had fallen with the afternoon shower and there I sat, in the midst of a haven of dusty, purple teardrop-shaped fruits.
Gently, I pressed on the flesh of a fig and as it slightly gave way to my touch, it yielded as well. This was a perfect fig. Holding th fig close to my face, I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply. The aroma of sweet syrup and damp earth filled my nostrils. Splitting the fig lengthwise with my hands, revealing the blushing interior of the fruit, I slowly and purposefully took a bite out of the fig. The supple center was greeted with the slight resistance of the thin, purple skin. Finding refuge from the rain under this familiar tree gave me a comfort in knowing whatever uncertainties I may face in the future, one thing I can be assured of is the humble, ever-giving tree in late June with its many offerings, which come in the form of purple, teardrop-shaped figs.
This recipe is different from your ubiquitous sweet fig recipe. It’s savory. The bacon brings out the earthiness of the figs and cooking them this way allows the fruit to gain a meaty quality, and the dressing tastes like the mildest balsamic dressing you will ever put in your mouth!
Recipe: Serves as 1 entrée or 4 appetizers
2 tablespoons of bacon fat
4 figs, cut lengthwise
1 tablespoon of syrup (I use Blackburn Syrup)
1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
In a sauté pan, heat bacon fat on medium heat. Add figs, cut side down onto pan. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side of the fig. Set figs aside. Combine syrup and vinegar in a small bowl and whisk in pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Place the figs on a plate and drizzle dressing onto the fruit. Garnish with basil leaves.