As figs fall, a search for new recipes bears fruit

September 10, 2000|By Rob Kasper

I have been accused of repeating myself. I have been told that every summer when the two trees in my back yard start producing fruit, I start churning out copy touting the joys of fresh figs.

I plead guilty with an explanation. It is true that, once again, I am writing about figs, the eighth time in almost as many summers. But I like to think that each time I trumpet the pleasures of this fresh fruit, I am not simply rolling out the same old story. I like to think that instead, I am spontaneously responding to the bounty of Mother Nature, specifically to the wave of fresh figs coming from the two trees in our back yard.

If you buy that crock, I have got some figs I would like to unload on you, a couple of trees full.

Once again the figs are falling. Once again they are splattering the roofs of our cars, which are parked underneath the trees' ever-spreading branches. Once again they cover the ground where I step on them and track them into the house. Once again I have picked buckets of figs and fed them to family members, neighbors, passers-by.

Once again I have searched for yet another way to serve them. My fig wailing has produced some flavorful results. Christine Kasper, no relation, heard my lament and had both some sympathy for my plight and some recipes worth trying. Before she moved to Baltimore three years ago to teach at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, she lived in Los Angeles and had a fig tree in her back yard. She knew that when the harvest hits, every meal is seen as an opportunity to get rid of figs.

As a thank-you for sending me the recipes, I gave her a load of fresh figs. It was a win-win situation.

Chicken With Figs

Serves 4

FOR THE FIGS

3 / 4 cup sugar

3 / 4 cup water

1/2 cup vinegar

1 slice lemon

1 cinnamon stick

1 pound fresh figs or bottled figs, drained

FOR THE CHICKEN

1/2 cup medium sweet white wine

peel of 1/2 lemon

3-3 1/2 pound chicken cut into serving pieces

coarse salt

freshly ground pepper

1 / 4 cup diced slab bacon

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons beef broth

To prepare the figs, mix the sugar, water, vinegar, lemon slice and cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Bring to boil, then simmer 5 minutes. Add the figs, return to boil, then simmer 10 minutes more. Cover and let sit for two hours, if possible. When ready to use, drain the figs, discarding lemon and cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the drained figs in a bowl and add the wine and the lemon peel. Let sit while preparing the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In a large, shallow, ovenproof casserole, slowly heat the bacon pieces until they turn golden and give off oil. Reserve the bacon, leaving its oil in the pan. Add the olive oil, heat then saute the chicken until golden on all sides. Turn up the heat and very gradually add the wine (discarding the lemon peel) in which the figs have been soaking. Boil until the wine is reduced and is very syrupy.

Transfer to the 350-degree oven and cook, uncovered for 20 minutes, adding water if necessary to prevent burning.

Return the casserole to the top of the stove, add the beef broth and figs cover and cook 10 minutes more.

From "Foods and Wines of Spain" by Penelope Casas (Knopf, 1988)

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