It’s Wendy Werner here. Jean is dining through Paris, going to cooking school, and probably headed for the countryside to have more food adventures there. But we have something going for us here in St. Louis, too, It’s fig season. I don’t remember when I ate my first fresh fig. But what I do know, is that it was a revelation. Yes, I grew up on Fig Newtons; but that dried fig filling was nothing at all like the sweet sensuality of a fresh fig. You may or may not be aware of this – but there is a fabulous fig tree in the courtyard of St. Roch’s Catholic Church in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood.
Monsignor Sal Polizzi is responsible for that tree and each winter it is carefully boxed and covered to protect it from hard winter freezes. It had a rough time in the winter of 2014, but managed to survive. I saw it once when I was at a community meeting in the church’s basement and said I wanted to return when the figs were ripe. I am sure lots of people in the neighborhood would like to as well.
From what I have read (there was a great article in Sauce magazine in 2014 about Missouri figs) part of the interest in figs in St. Louis has to do with our plenitude of Italian immigrants who grew figs in their homeland and wanted to continue the practice here. Evidently that winter of 2014 killed many of those local trees. I know that it killed my hardy rosemary bush, that had lived through three previous winters and had grown to a very respectable size.
Figs are great because they pair well with both sweet and savory dishes. You can grill them quickly, they are wonderful with lamb and pork, and you can have them for dessert. I recently made an almond and fig crostata from Martha Stewart that was free form and easy, not to mention delicious. It’s not a difficult recipe, particularly if you have a food processor and the results are delicious.
It used to be hard to find fresh figs locally at the grocery store. But now they seem to be in abundance. Recently I have found a two pound box at Trader Joes for $4.99. Now that is a sweet indulgence. With so many figs I have been using them in new ways. With yogurt and honey for breakfast for starters.
In light of the abundance, I also put figs on a pizza. What? I know it sounds a bit off, but as I indicated figs swing both sweet and savory. This one was made with bacon (we all need a bit of protein) fresh mozzarella, goat cheese and caramelized onions. Delicious.
So get them while they are here. We will be thinking about those fresh figs in the depths of winter, hoping that those precious local trees make it through.