My Front Porch Fig Tree
This year for the first time, my seven
year old fig tree actually bore fruit. Granted it was only six figs,
but they were delicious and they were mine. Everyone insisted only I
eat them. So I did. I’m sure it’s a sign of great things to come as
the trees mature slowly, then produce for years . I’ve long loved
figs since first picking them off a tree on the island of Mykonos in
1968. I’ll never forget that luscious warm sweetness. We simply
could not get enough.
Now that they’re in season, we’ve begun
serving them at Wickwood, generally simply wrapped with prosciutto.
Simple is better with their delicate flavor. Or, we’ll pair them
with cheese, be it Gorgonzola, feta, mozzarella, an aged Gouda, or
mascarpone, stuffed and under the broiler for just a moment until
Purple Fig and Pine Nut Pizza
The sweet taste of fresh figs, onion confit and Roquefort are an
extraordinary combination of colors and flavors . This is one of our
favorite! Serves 2.
1 ball pizza dough or one pre-made pizza crust or lavash (10-12”)
• 1 pound fresh spinach, trimmed, well
rinsed, patted dry, and coarsely chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
• Pinch of ground nutmeg
• 1 cup onion confit (recipe right)
• ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
• ¼ cup raisins
• 2 ripe purple figs, quartered
• 2 teaspoons lemon zest
• Extra virgin olive oil
• ½ cup Roquefort or Mozzerella (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 450°F
for dough (400°F
for lavash). When the oven is almost ready, lightly oil a pizza pan
and sprinkle with cornmeal.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add
the spinach, garlic, and nutmeg and cook until just wilted, 3-4
minutes. Drain well and set aside.
3. On a well-floured surface, press the dough and form a
12-inch circle. If using a pre-made crust or lavash, place directly
on the prepared pizza pan, and spread the onion confit over it
leaving a ½ inch rim. Top with the reserved spinach mixture.
4. Sprinkle the spinach with the pine nuts and raisins.
Arrange the fig quarters decoratively on top and sprinkle with the
5. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle the cheese, and bake until the crust is
golden brown, 15-20 minutes.
"When you are young
simply put fig leaves together and
make an apron. When you are old , sit under your tree."
--- Charles Dickens
Fig Salad with
This is a fabulous salad to serve on the side of grilled sausages, lamb chops, pork, chicken
or country bread. It’s even hearty enough as an entrée with slivers
of prosciutto tossed in. Serves 4.
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• ½ small red onion
• 2 cups Port wine
• ½ cup dry red wine
• 1 tablespoon molasses
• 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
• ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 12 fresh figs
• 4 cups mesclun, mache, or arugula
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 6 ounces Stilton, Gorgonzola or Roquefort
In a small saucepan, over medium heat,
cook the onion until soft. Add the Port and red wine and
cook until thickened and reduced to ½ cup. Transfer the reduced
liquid to a bowl or blender and add the molasses, balsamic vinegar, thyme
and salt and pepper and blend until well combined. Slowly, add the
olive oil until emulsified.
2. Place the vinaigrette in a large sauté pan and bring to a
simmer on the stove. Add the figs and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Place the greens in a large salad bowl with the olive oil
and season with the salt and pepper. Transfer to a large platter and
using a slotted spoon, place the figs on top. Sprinkle the salad
with the cheese and drizzle with some of the remaining vinaigrette.
"The fig tree is only
cursed when it is barren."
Damson Plum Brandy
The Silver Palate’s line of preserved
fruits, vegetables, sauces, etc. all began with Damson Plum Brandy,
made by my Mom in Kalamazoo. It’s a fond memory, us sitting on the
back of their boat, docked at The Saugatuck Yacht Club, pricking
plums in the sunshine, juice dripping down our forearms. A family
tradition to be served Christmas Eve, we had made brandy for years,
but now instead of by the hour, bushel after bushel, we spent
several days pricking plums in the September sunshine. Of course,
that first year we sold it as Damson Plums in Brandy, even though
there was much more brandy than plums, so sure were my Mom and Dad
that I’d go to jail for selling liquor in our little shop. They sold out immediately. We were on our way.
I love sharing the recipe and the memory.
5 pounds Damson Plums (Raspberries, or Blackberries)
• 5 pounds granulated sugar
• 1 Fifth of Vodka
1. Pierce the plums’ skin with
a fork until there are holes all over the plums. Place the plums in
a three quart glass jar, fitted with a lid. Add the vodka and sugar
and cover. Place in a cool dark place.
2. Once a week, for about 2 months, open the jar and stir the
brandy well. Then strain the finished brandy through a very fine
sieve into a lovely decanter for serving. Reserve the plums (in the
fridge) for dessert over ice cream or cake, or topped with a dollop
of sour or whipped cream.
"Some colleges take
plum students and turn them into prunes."
--- Logan Smith