The first thing that comes to my mind when summer rolls around is fig season! Even now that fall has arrived, I am relishing the last batches of figs that I find; putting them on pizzas, tossing them into salads and roasting them with honey.
The farm stand up the street from my mother's house has specific instructions to call her whenever a batch of figs arrives. She has purchased entire cases of figs from them. Each time we effortlessly polish them off within a week. In Greece I am like a blood hound stalking its prey. I can spot a fig tree a mile away. If there's even one ripe fig on an island, I will find it! On more than one occasion I have stopped the car by the side of the road and climbed perilously down the side of a cliff, all in effort to get my hands on a precariously positioned fig tree.
Next to my new house there's a gated empty lot with a mature fig tree that is heavy with figs in the summer. Its boughs stretch beyond the fence, giving me perfect access. At the start of fig season I was polite. I merely took the plump figs that hung above the sidewalk. But as the season wore on, and I worked my way through the easily accessible figs, I became more brazen. The fig tree (clearly abandoned), was dropping its ripe figs. They were rotting on the ground. I saw no point in driving to the market to purchase figs, when these had been left, forsaken, right next door to me. So naturally I did what any good Greek girl would do. I put on my sneakers, grabbed a bag, an umbrella (the handle works perfectly for grabbing the high branches and pulling them towards the ground), and jumped the fence. For the record I do justify my breach of the property line. I'm certain that somewhere above Julia Child was smiling down; pleased that someone was determined to put those figs to good use! I loaded up my bag with pounds of round and rosy figs. I ate as many as I could. The rest I poached with spices and sweet white wine. I intend to open those jars, and enjoy the remnants of my loot, in the winter.
Recipe for poached Figs
1 pound figs, washed and halved
1 cup sugar
¾ cup water
½ cup white wine
1 vanilla bean
4 green cardamom pods
2 star anise
In a pot, combine the sugar, water, and wine. Split the vanilla bean length-wise and remove all the seeds. Toss the seeds and the pod into the pot. Add in the cardamom and star anise. Cook the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and it has thickened into a syrup. Pour the syrup over the figs and allow the mixture to sit for at least 2 hours before serving. Alternatively, you can also stuff the figs into jars and pour the syrup over them.
Follow Marisa Churchill on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marisachurchill