Four years ago, I was living in a little house in south Palm Desert. It was summer, and... have you experienced a desert summer? It's horrible. The unbearable, relentless heat that doesn't ease up for months on end. The heat that radiates down from the sun and up from the pavement, that gets in your eyes and in your bones and in your blood, and makes you daydream about things like Alaska in December and plunges in the Mariana Trench.
There are, however, a few things that make it worthwhile:
1. The light traffic load-- as everyone who can afford it has gone somewhere cool and green.
2. The silence at 4am that penetrates your soul. It nourishes your being right down to your toes. At 4am, it's still hot, but at least cool enough that you can sit outside and drink a cup of coffee and listen to the world wake up, before the light stretches up over the mountains, before the sun peeks out, and before you're sweating at 630. This desert silence doesn't leave you, you know. Even in a busy city it still hums in your heart and, I believe, provides a small piece of sanity amid the madness.
3. Jackie's figs. I don't even know her last name. One summer she walked into Harvest Health Foods when I was buying my groceries, carrying a box of figs. They were the most divine figs I'd ever had. We got to chatting, and it turned out that she lived a block away from me. So inundated with figs was she, that I was welcome to stop by and pick as many as I wanted.
Every morning, on my way back home from yoga, I'd pull over at Jackie's house, climb her enormous fig tree, and sit back on one of its big fat branches, under its cool foliage, and eat to my heart's content. I'd eat until there was fig juice running down my arms and my chin. Until my clothes were stained and I looked like a mess. A happy mess. Figs that good make you want to be a happy mess.
When I moved to LA, I was ecstatic to find that there was a fig tree in our back garden. Come summer, I picked a whole bunch, and then sunk my teeth into the first one, expecting to be transported back to my happy desert days. Alas these figs were bitter and tasteless, and I was gutted.
This led me to ask a number of questions, namely:
1. Does Jackie feed her trees crack? (I am not sure but I intend to find out.)
2. What does my tree eat that makes it taste so bad? (Smog and opossum poo.)
3. Is there any way to feed my tree crack instead of smog and opossum poo? (No.)
When I finally dragged myself out of bed, I decided that even if I couldn't eat these figs straight off the tree, I was going to find a way to make them edible. Because let's face it, not everybody has mountains of crack to feed their trees.
I've been munching on these guys all day, as they've been sitting out on the counter while I experiment with different ways to dress them up. My favourites so far are with vanilla ice cream; on toast with goat cheese; and with slices of cheddar as a between snack-snack.
Balsamic Roasted Figs
1/4 cup sucanat (if your figs are super sweet, reduce the quantity, or cut it out entirely)
olive oil (to drizzle)
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 200. In a roasting pan, quarter the figs, and lay out, skin side down.
Sprinkle a little sugar in the centre of each fig piece.
Drizzle with olive oil, then balsamic vinegar.
Roast in the oven for 2 hours, until the figs have shrunk and shriveled, and smell like something you most definitely want on top of vanilla ice cream.