Picking Figs around the Mediterranean – our top 5 festivals and 5 recipe ideas
As September draws to a close, the late summer sun and cool evening breeze are pleasant reminders that a change of season is upon us. Autumn is arriving but September is the perfect month to enjoy the sweet figs (“settembrini” as the Italians call them), that have ripened on the trees of the Mediterranean sun.
When it comes to symbolism, few fruits have as many associations. The ancient Greeks attributed it with power and strength and would feed figs to athletes who trained for the Olympics or warriors on the eve of battle. According to the belief of ancient Romans, Romulus and Remus were born under a fig tree.
The fig tree was also present in the life of Dalmatians who praised it for its fruit, which they consumed both fresh and dried. It is a fruit tree that didn’t require much work and yet it always rewarded them with its nutritional value.
Here are our top 5 Fig Feasts celebrated across the Mediterranean Sea and 5 recipe ideas for this versatile fruit that lends itself to both savoury and sweet dishes, to inspire your journey.
1. Zadar Fig festival - Croatia
2. Mediterranean Fig Day – Vézenobres (Alès) - France
3. Bursa Black Fig Festival / Aydin Traditional Fig Festival / Izmir Fig Festival – Turkey
4. The Feast of Figs – Island of Messinia – Greece
5. Sagra del Fico di Carmignano – Italy
Pizza with figs, ricotta, thyme and honey
Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough
1/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese
Fresh thyme, chopped
3 sliced fresh figs
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon honey
- Place pizza stone or inverted baking sheet on oven rack.
- Heat oven to 230 degrees.
- Transfer stretched dough to parchment.
- Dot dough with ricotta cheese. Top with thyme and figs. Season with salt and pepper; drizzle with olive oil.
- Transfer to oven: Slide parchment onto pizza stone or baking sheet. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and bottom is crisp. Drizzle with honey.
Grilled Prosciutto wrapped figs with blue cheese and pecans
12 fresh black Mission figs, stems removed
2 ounces blue cheese, cut into 12 equal pieces
6 pecan halves, broken in half lengthwise
6 thin slices of prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise
Olive oil, for brushing
Honey, for serving
- Place 12 skewers (4 inches each) in water to soak for at least 10 minutes. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.
- Slice the figs through the centre vertically without cutting all the way through. Carefully open each fig, and place a slice of cheese and a pecan piece inside each. Gently squeeze figs to enclose the cheese. Wrap figs horizontally with a strip of prosciutto and skewer to secure. Brush the figs with oil and place on the grill. Cook, just until grill marks begin to appear, about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn and repeat with opposite side.
- Transfer to a serving plate, and lightly drizzle with honey. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Fig and Balsamic glazed quail
1 (11.5-oz.) jar of fig preserves
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons country-style Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
8 (3.5-oz.) semi-boneless quail
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dry red wine
- Preheat oven to 230°. Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low, and simmer 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Reserve half of fig mixture; cover and chill. Let remaining fig mixture stand at room temperature.
- Tie ends of quail legs together with string.
- Place quail on an aluminium foil-lined pan or in a shallow roasting pan, and sprinkle with salt.
- Bake at 230° for 10 minutes. Brush quail generously with room-temperature fig mixture. Reduce oven temperature to 200°. Bake quail 30 minutes or until leg meat is no longer pink, basting with fig mixture every 10 minutes.
- Place reserved chilled fig mixture in a small saucepan; stir in red wine, and cook over low heat, stirring often, 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve quail with sauce.
2 small red onions
50g hazelnuts, with skin
60g radicchio, about half a small head, leaves torn roughly
40g picked basil leaves
40g picked watercress
6 ripe fresh figs
2½ tbsp olive oil, plus extra for roasting the onions
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and black pepper
- Set the oven to 200 degrees. Peel the onions, cut each into two lengthways and then cut each half into three wedges. Place in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until soft and golden. Remove and leave to cool. Before using, discard any dry layers and break the onions roughly with your hands into bite-size chunks.
- Turn down the oven to 140 degrees. Once it reaches this temperature, scatter the hazelnuts in a small roasting tray and toast for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and then break roughly with the side of a big knife.
- Assemble the salad on four individual plates. Mix the three leaves together and place a few on each plate. Cut the figs lengthways into four or six pieces. Place a few fig pieces and some roasted onion on the leaves. Top with more leaves and continue with the remaining fig and onion. You want to build up the salad into a small pyramid.
- In a small cup, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, cinnamon and some salt and pepper. Drizzle this over the salad and finish with a scattering of toasted hazelnuts.
Pain perdu with pan fried figs and spiced cream
For the pain perdu -
4 1.5cm-thick slices of panettone, crusts removed
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
55 g (¼ cup) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
100 g clarified butter or ghee
8 figs, halved lengthways
For the spiced cream -
200 ml double cream
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground star anise
3 tsp icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
- For the spiced cream, using an electric mixer, whisk cream, spices and icing sugar in a bowl just until soft peaks form, then cover and refrigerate until needed.
- Trim panettone slices to make eight 6cm x 13cm rectangles. Combine eggs, milk, 2 tbsp sugar and vanilla in a shallow dish. Combine remaining sugar and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Working in batches, soak panettone slices in egg mixture for a minute on each side. Heat 1½ tbsp clarified butter in a large heavy-based frying pan and remove panettone slices from egg mixture, drain most of excess egg mixture and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden, then transfer to an oven tray and keep warm in a low oven. Wipe pan clean with absorbent paper, then repeat with remaining panettone, egg mixture and clarified butter.
- Wipe pan clean, then return to medium heat. Heat 1 tbsp clarified butter in pan and, when very hot, add figs, cut-side down, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden, then add balsamic mixture to pan and cook for 30 seconds or until evaporated. Turn figs and cook for another minute, then remove from pan.
- Divide pain perdu between warm plates, top with figs and a spoonful of spiced cream, then dust with icing sugar. Serve immediately with remaining cream separately.
Date Created: 04 September 2015 by Vittoria Soddu