We were catching up on the phone the other day with Marie Simmons when she suddenly changed the subject to figs. She wanted to share a recipe for roasted figs and goat cheese because California, it turns out, is experiencing a bountiful fig harvest.
An award-winning cookbook author, Marie happens to be an authority on figs. She penned Fig Heaven (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2004), a cookbook featuring 70 recipes showcasing “the world’s most luscious fruit.” It may well be the only cookbook devoted entirely to figs.
Marie’s fig dish is simple and can be roasted on fig leaves for even more flavor. Use extra virgin olive oil to coat a small oval or round baking dish. If you happen to have fig leaves you can arrange them on the bottom of the prepared dish (though the leaves aren’t essential).
Halved figs are placed cut side up on the dish and topped with crumbled fresh goat cheese. The figs and cheese get a generous drizzle of EVOO and honey, plus a sprinkling of chopped fresh rosemary or thyme.
The dish is baked in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven until the cheese softens, about 10 minutes. The oven is then cranked up to 450 degrees F. for about five more minutes until the cheese is golden on top and the figs begin to caramelize. Each then fig gets a drop of balsamic vinegar.
To serve spread the sliced bread with the warm cheese and smash a hot fig on top. “Use extra bread to sop up the delicious juices, Marie advises.
Marie went the extra mile for us when she gave us her recipe, along with some great photos. She was on her way to New York from San Francisco to visit a friend at the time. After she landed, Marie prepared the dish and her Brooklyn friend snapped the photos. She bought the California-grown figs at a green grocer in Brooklyn. The leaves were supplied by her friend’s neighbors who have a 15-year-old Brown Turkey fig tree in their backyard.
If you don’t have fig leaves, “simply oil a baking dish lightly and arrange the figs and cheese on the dish,” Marie says. “They will still be soft, caramelized and luscious.”
And if you do have leaves by all means use them. The leaves, Marie writes in an email, “add a fabulous aroma and taste to the goat cheese” and make the dish “a little more sexy (think Adam and Eve!).”
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch