Asexual, Plain Figs

by Matt on September 19, 2006


Warning: Crankasaurus Rex Sighting Ahead.

I’ve been in a pretty cranky mood lately. I am going to continue to be cranky for a few minutes longer when I say that I am tired of people writing about figs as a sensual, sexual experience. Rhapsody, sex, sensual, luscious, aphrodisiac, juicy, passionate, exotic, long-sweet kiss, beautiful, fragile, enough! We get it people! It’s the one lil fruit that allows us to be all flowery, creating hyperbole after hyperbole, to wax poetic ad nauseum, and I think I’ve had enough!

And believe me, I’m just as guilty as charged.

Having gotten that off my chest, I’d like turn your attention to one of my favorite little snacks. And I’m writing about it because we won’t have figs for much longer. There are two seasons for figs and we are almost on the tail end of the second phase. Figs are so finicky, so delicate and so susceptible to weather and seasonal conditions. When you find them, buy them. How else are you going to talk about sex and fruit?

Please. No banana jokes.

This recipe is from Michael Chiarello of that TV station that I try to avoid at all costs. But I hear from friends that personally he’s a good guy, even if he does call a friend of mine “mama” as a term of endearment when she’s clearly only about 7 years older than he is. Ouch.

Figs and blue cheese go together perfectly, and when they are on top of freshly baked focaccia that’s drizzled with honey, well, you’re not going to get a serving in my house. I’ve stood over the stove and eaten half of it in 30 minutes, and polished off the entire dish in one day. It’s one of the things Adam makes for me and something I miss terribly around mid-March.

I promise to return to my bubbly, gay old self tomorrow.

Focaccia with Blue Cheese and Honey (we add figs)

Recipe courtesy Michael Chiarello

2 envelopes active dry yeast
2 cups whole milk, heated to lukewarm
1 teaspoon sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 cups blue cheese, crumbled, for topping
2 tablespoons honey to drizzle, for topping

fresh figs, quartered (the amount you add is up to you)

In a large bowl or the work bowl of an electric mixer dissolve yeast in the milk. Add sugar and 1 cup of the flour. Mix well and let stand in a warm place about 15 minutes for the yeast to activate.

Mix another 2 1/2 cups flour into the yeast mixture with the dough hook attachment until smooth. With the machine running, add 1 cup flour and knead for 6 minutes. Turn out onto a board and lightly knead in remaining 1/2 cup flour. The dough should remain rather wet to ensure a soft and light bread. Shape the dough into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk about 20 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press dough with finger to gently stretch dough to fit in pan, and then use a rolling pin to lightly flatten.

Oil an 11 by 17-inch baking sheet with 1/3 cup olive oil. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet. Using your fingertips, nudge the dough into a rectangle.

Cover and let rise again until doubled, 30 to 40 minutes.

To bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Make indentations all over the dough by pressing with your fingertips being careful not to puncture all the way through the dough. Brush olive oil over the top, filling in the wells. Sprinkle the salt and rosemary over the surface and add the quartered figs. Bake until crisp on the bottom and golden brown on top, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Cut into wedges, top with crumbled blue cheese and honey.