When Gigi planted a fig tree on the border of her urban garden four years ago, she had no idea that it would take to the place with such ardor. But the tree settled right in to its new home, rapidly spreading upward and outward: a sprawl of great leafed branches ultimately producing hundreds of honeyed knobs of fruit. “It seems very happy here,” we both observed. “This could be the year of the fig.”
Throughout July and August, I’d get calls from Gigi, field reports you might say, about the status of the figs.
“If these all ripen, well, this is one rockin’ fig tree,” was one update.
“Thousands of figs! I picked two 5lb. baskets in less than an hour.” was another.
Over weeks, and as the summer heat became more severe, Gigi cultivated a relationship with the beloved tree; to me, it was really a reverence:
“It’s unbearably hot, and I keep telling her how wonderful she is, making all this fruit.” She set up a special watering system, “I told her I’d take care of her. I know she’s thirsty.”
To date, She has produced enough figs to make 100 pints of preserves. One hundred pints from a four-year-old tree! It seems unimaginable—
but true! Despite temperatures stuck in the nineties and rainfall spare, Gigi’s mighty fig tree became so laden with plump fruit you could easily pick a basketful in no time at all.
Which, given the intense heat and the sticky milky mess that you get allover your hands and arms from picking, was a very good thing.
Gigi set up a system of ladders and planks within the inner sanctum of the tree, cloaked under the leafy branches. It was with childlike glee that I clambered up and around the limbs, concealed from the outer world, immersed in the heady enclave of fig leaves and fruit.
And, soon, I had picked a large bowlful of figs, most dark purple, some yellow-green with a flush of rouge, all exquisite, ripe, and beautiful.
It was time to try something new with my fig bounty. Last year, I made luscious preserves with Maggie. Gigi had already been playing with different recipes: cutting back on the sugar, adding ginger to some batches, orange juice in another, and white balsamic vinegar in yet another. All methods were cooked on the stovetop. While each batch was delicious, none had the figgy caramel syrup she was seeking.
Then, one afternoon, I got a text: “Roasting is the way.”
Why, of course! But wait, another text followed–
“No olive oil. Sugar and white balsamic vinegar only. 425 degrees.”
A-ha! (Love the economy of a texted recipe.)
After carefully rinsing my figs, I placed them on a baking sheetpan, along with a few wedges of lemon–my addition. Then, I dusted with sugar, sprinkled white balsamic vinegar over the batch, and put them into that hot oven to roast. It didn’t take long—ten minutes or so—and the figs got puffed and charred, coated in a rich caramel created from melting of the sugar, vinegar, and natural fig juices. It was amazing.
After scraping into jars, I processed some in a hot water bath, as I had with Maggie’s figs, but kept one jar in the fridge–ready for this pizza I’ve been dreaming about since we first made it last year, about this time.
Covered with roasted figs, shaved gorgonzola, leeks, and ripples of prosciutto, this is one dreamy pizza. And, don’t forget–A few sprigs of rosemary, and drizzle of the figgy syrup takes the dream to wonderland.
ROASTED FIG-PROSCIUTTO-GORGONZOLA PIZZA
1 pkg. Dry Active Yeast (2 t.)
1 c. warm Water
1 3/4 c. Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1/2 c. Rye Flour
2 t. Sea Salt
1 T. Olive Oil
Sprinkle yeast into bowl of water, stir well, and let stand for 5 minutes to activate the yeast. Combine yeast water in a mixing bowl with flours, salt, olive oil. Mix until it forms into a ball. It will be moist, but not sticky. Cover and allow to rise for one hour.
Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Divide into two and form into balls. Cover and refrigerate, if you are not going to use immediately.
Otherwise, let stand out for 30 minutes, then roll out into whatever pizza shape—round, oblong, rectangle—suits you. Use additional flour, as needed, to prevent sticking.
Cover with toppings, and bake in a very hot oven–450 degrees–until browned and bubbly–10 minutes.
Roasted Figs and their syrup
Shaved (or crumbled) Gorgonzola Cheese