Saturday, June 24, 2006

Eating. figs.

I remember clearly the first time I ate fresh figs. We were in Italy, and having spent the day on the island of Capri we took the hydrofoil back to Naples. As we were sitting on the deck, A., my father's former student (and our hostess) handed me a small paper bag of figs, ripe, purple-black, warm from the sun. There is nothing I love more than ripe fruit still warm from the sun. It was a hot day but the breeze on the water was cool and laced with sea-spray as we raced over the waves towards the city. The figs were so ripe they split open in my hands; the flesh was sweet and sticky and my hands were covered in juice by the time I finished eating. I had never had anything like it before, and I will always remember that moment, the sun on my skin, the taste of figs in my mouth.

Now it's summer again, and I found some fresh figs at the market the other night. After dinner, I bit into one, juicy and soft and sweet, the nearly black skin giving way to the soft pink interior, that beautiful, delicate scent of figs overwhelming my senses. You could drizzle the fruit with honey, serve them over ice cream, or wrap them in translucent slices of prosciutto, but there is nothing better than just the ripe, sweet fig alone. When I eat one, I am transported back to that first taste, under the summer sun, eating the meltingly ripe figs as the juice oozed all over my fingers...

Last year I had an appetizer at a fancy dinner that included a fig, filled with some kind of mascarpone cream and rolled up with jamon serrano, and it was divine. There was some (in my mind) wholly unecessary vinaigrette or something drizzled on top, and I won't even go into whatever else was happening on the plate (actually, I can't remember the rest of the dish, possibly some frisee salad), but it gave me an idea. For as long as figs were in season I would buy a carton of them, a tub of mascarpone, and some tissue-thin prosciutto that emerged from its brown wrapping paper like sheets of rumpled, darkly rosy silk. The figs were split - smaller ones were left whole, larger ones were cut in half - and the cut sides were given a smear of mascarpone. A strip of prosciutto was wrapped around the fruit, keeping the fig more or less intact and preventing the mascarpone from oozing all over everything. They were salty-sweet-creamy-rich-fruity and oh, so, incredibly addictive. More addictive, even, than the plain fresh figs themselves.

Perhaps it's time for more.

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