Figs: is there anything more symbolic? Wealth, plenty, good fortune, hope, spirituality—figs have come to mean these and so much more for cultures and religions the world over for eons. Not only does the fruit carry rich meaning, evocative of its flavor, but the tree itself has come to mean eternal goodness. The leaves, conversely, were not only written to be used by Adam and Eve to cover themselves, and their shame after eating the forbidden fruit, but have also come to mean something of a cover-up or concealment of wrong-doing in more modern contexts.
But to taste an obscenely ripe fresh fig is anything but a wrongdoing—it’s, and forgive me, a religious experience. Deeply flavored and jammy, with notes of the light sweetness of plums, perfumed with intoxicating headiness, and their meltingly softness contrasted by their seeds-aplenty, they’re such a joy to find. When you see bits of what looks like crystalized sugar on the trimmed stem of the fruit you know you’re in for a honeyed treat. There’s nothing like them.
There’s something about cutting open those midnight-hued teardrops, revealing a blushing and flecked pink, that leaves me reeling. Usually you’ll find figs popping up in markets and grocers sometime in June, but I tell myself to resist—you don’t need it, addict—and hold out for the real bounty: now. August to September is when the real showstoppers are ushered in. Trust me, they’re worth it. Sure, ripe figs do have their drawbacks. They don’t have a long shelf life, so they require great care or immediate use to avoid them going moldy. They’re also incredibly hard to transport, and this extends to your travel, too; I treat these the same as I do eggs, giving them the royal treatment of riding shot gun solo on my way home (I need a “Figs are my co-pilot” bumper sticker for this time of year… just kidding. Bumper stickers are gross).
To me, figs mean celebration. I think back to old paintings or films depicting ancient times; figs were ever-present on lush tables at huge celebratory banquets. With such a short season, they’re a cause to celebrate in and of themselves when they appear in markets. When they’re good—much like other certain produce, like tomatoes or strawberries—they’re good, so you don’t want to smother them with other flavors, but, rather, kiss them gently with them. This recipe is perfect for this exact purpose.
You may be surprised to see that the “filling” of this galette—a rough, rustic version of something more refined, like a pie—consists of nothing more than figs, vanilla sugar, and pistachios. You’re not missing out on anything here at all, though; no need for fussiness here. If your figs are perfectly ripe, this highlights them effortlessly so that you can taste all that they have to offer; if they’ve been picked a little premature—a sad, but realistic, truth—they still taste fab, with the aid of a bit of brown sugar.
The sweet perfume of the vanilla sugar accentuates that of the figs, while the meatiness of the pistachios brings out the figgy flavor more so—there’s a reason figs are often used with meats and offal.
So, now’s the time. If you see them in the market, stems sticky with syrupy sugar, grab them. Grab them all. And if you don’t have 6 – 8 to feed for an evening don’t worry—just eat whatever is left over breakfast. You know that I am.
Follow me on BLOGLOVIN’, too!