In a fix when it comes to coping with falling figs

August 25, 1999|By Rob Kasper

IT IS RAINING figs in my back yard. It happens every August. The two fig trees planted in a strip of sorry soil next to our backyard parking pad start producing purple figs at a furious pace.

Because some of the branches hang over our parked cars, part of my morning ritual becomes removing fallen figs from car windshields, hoods and rooftops. This summer, with the drought and state prohibition on washing cars at home, speedy removal of the figs has become especially important.

Lifting a freshly fallen fig from a hood is a simple matter. But trying to scrape off a fig that has had time to attach its sticky, seedy innards to the car is a Herculean task, one that few commercial carwashes are up to.

I have considered joining the growing list of enterprises asking Gov. Parris N. Glendening for exemptions from the statewide water strictures. Commercial carwashes got to turn on their taps after they promised to recycle water and cut back hours. Recently, sod farmers and the swimming-pool-industry people asked the governor for relief, saying that the restrictions on water use were drying up their livelihoods.

To get permission to wash the figs off my cars, I probably would have to present myself as a member of a group. I would have to form an association, perhaps named "Friends of the Fig" or "Defenders of the Hood."

I would have to get letterhead stationery printed. Then, I would have to craft an argument, on the new stationery, which would explain why I deserve special consideration. By the time I got all that accomplished, the fig harvest would be over. Usually, it lasts about two or three weeks.

When figs ripen, they drop faster than Republican presidential candidates after the Iowa straw poll. During the big fig drop, I not only scramble to keep the fruit off my cars, I look for appealing recipes that call for plenty of figs. I also eat a lot of them fresh from the tree.

In previous years, I have wrapped figs in basil leaves and slices of prosciutto or ham, brushed them with olive oil, then cooked them on the barbecue grill for about one minute until the prosciutto edges are brown.

I also have stuffed them with almonds, drizzled them with red wine and baked them in a 400-degree oven for about five minutes until the heat caramelized the wine. And one year, I gave them the mascarpone and honey treatment, putting a dollop of the sweet cheese in each fig, then drizzling the fruit with honey.

This year, I tried two recipes to cope with the flood of figs. One called for cooking the figs in butter, then incorporating them in a sauce made with cream, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and red-pepper flakes. The sauce was poured over pasta.

The dish was a disappointment. The sauce was too rich -- a rare complaint for me -- and the pepper flakes were too potent. The fruit got lost in all the commotion.

The second dish was simpler and more successful. Basically, it was a salad made with cherry tomatoes, figs, a chopped basil leaf or two, some crumbled feta cheese and tossed with olive oil. I suppose you could add lettuce and lemon juice if so inclined.

But, for me, the mixture of sweet tomatoes and figs with salty goat cheese was perfect. It tasted terrific, and it used a lot of figs.

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