National Fig Week – Gettin’ Figgy With It

National Fig Week – Gettin’ Figgy With It

National Fig Week is November 1st-7th, which falls between the summer and fall harvest seasons. Unfortunately for us in Phoenix, that means no fresh figs in the grocery store. Fresh or not, figs are a fascinating fruit! Or are they…? Turns out figs are actually inverted flowers! Each fig is basically a sack filled with tiny flowers. Figs have been considered an aphrodisiac food since ancient times, due in part to their, umm, resemblance to a certain anatomical part that I will leave to your imagination (this is a family-friendly blog!), plus the fact that they are filled with seeds. Let’s not forget the world’s original lingerie: fig leaves. We’ll discuss this more later.

If all this fig talk is revving your engine, grab your closest hungry friend and get figgy with it!

Figs are packed with potassium and iron to keep you pumped up during your favorite fig frolicking. We’ve got the most delicious Fig, Blue Cheese, and Honey Crostini to kick off the festivities.

Fig

Tips before starting:

  • Taste all of your ingredients.  Grab a chunk of baguette, a blob of blue cheese, a piece of fig, and a couple drips of honey and try them all together. This will give you a great starting point for how to assemble your toasts.
  • If your cheese is super pungent, go easy. If it is more mild, though, slather it on.
  • Dried figs are going to have more concentrated sweetness than fresh.
  • I prefer a good quality, local honey.  The stronger your blue cheese, the more honey you can use.
  • A lovely alternative to honey is a balsamic reduction. Reduce balsamic down slowly over medium-low heat until it becomes syrupy. This should cook out some of the acidity, leaving a punch of flavor with a bit of sweetness.
  • If you’re not into blue cheese, go away. Just kidding! If blue cheese isn’t your thing, try goat cheese as a lighter alternative. Add a little fresh rosemary for extra earthiness. There is plenty of room for creativity!

Fig

Fig, Blue Cheese, and Honey Crostini

  • Baguette
  • Olive Oil
  • Blue Cheese
  • Figs (dried or fresh), sliced
  • Honey

Slice baguette on the bias into 1/2” thick pieces. Brush both sides with your favorite olive oil and toast on both sides until light golden brown. This can be done stovetop or in the oven; or for even more flavor, toast them lightly on the grill.

Meanwhile, prepare figs. If using dried figs, simply slice into 2-3 pieces. For fresh figs, if you’ve already got the grill going for your bread or a main course, cut figs in half, brush with olive oil, and lightly grill, cut-side down. Slice into thin pieces.

Heat blue cheese for about 10 seconds in the microwave until spreadable.

Spread blue cheese on each piece of toast. Top each toast with sliced figs and return to oven for a few minutes to warm the figs through. I popped mine in the toaster oven at 400°F for 4-5 minutes.

While your toasts are warming up, get your honey ready to drizzle. High quality honey is more likely to solidify a bit in cooler temps, so you may need to heat it up slightly. Scoop out a tablespoon or so into a microwave safe bowl and heat in five second bursts (mine literally only took five seconds) until runny.

Transfer warm toasts to your serving dish and drizzle liberally with honey.

Slap on your fig leaves and have some fun!

Fun Fig Facts

Having researched more into figs, I think part of the aphrodisiac quality comes from the terribly sexy way figs are fertilized. Those internal flowers are pollinated from the inside by a very special fig wasp, who dies after depositing her eggs and pollen into the fig’s ovaries (seriously, that’s what they’re called). When the male wasps hatch, they fertilize the unhatched females, and then tunnel through the fig flesh and die. Newly hatched female wasps pick up some pollen from inside the flowers, stretch their freshly-grown wings, and make their way out through those sacrificial brotherly tunnels, off to find a new fig to turn into a nursery. I read half a dozen articles about this and was still a little confused, until I found this fun and informative video with illustrations. It was a bit off-putting at the end when our host tells us we’re eating dead wasp bodies, but it turns out that’s a bit of a stretch. Figs produce enzymes that break the wasp exoskeleton down during ripening, so you don’t need to worry about getting wings stuck in your teeth. Besides that, most of what we find in the grocery store are “common figs,” which are artificially polinated without the need for wasps.

Do you believe in the aphrodisiac power of foods? I ate an entire tray of these fig crostinis, and I can’t say I got anything but full… So it’s probably safe to serve these at Thanksgiving.

 

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