Everyday Food Blog

Fig-eddabout It: Baking from Brooklyn's Bounteous Fig Trees

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A recent article in the New York Times about the legacy of fig trees planted by Italian immigrants in Brooklyn made me think of my friend Pete's backyard. When he bought his house eight years ago, it came with a small fig tree that has since turned into a monster -- it's about 20 feet tall and spreads out like a vine around the holly and willow. So on Labor Day I invited myself over to pick the ripe fruit, the tradeoff being that I'd furnish Pete with a six-pack of Negra Modelo and make him something figgy with the harvest. With my sweet tooth and baking skills I chose to make an easy Fresh Fig and Almond Crostata from the Everyday Food archives.

Pete's tree produces purple figs, and on the way from our house to his we passed a different variety of fig tree -- it had fat green ones. We picked fruit hanging over the sidewalk to buffer our supply.

At Pete's, my boyfriend, Jonathan, got on a ladder the dangerous way to get to the figs that hadn't been eaten by birds and raccoons. (Yes, we have raccoons in Brooklyn! And possums, too.)

The almond paste was easy to spread on the thinly rolled dough.

This type of pastry is so forgiving -- if you mess up, you can exclaim, “Whatever, it's RUSTIC.”

There was a slight breach of the almond paste over the crust, but it didn’t affect the taste. I mean, who's going to argue with sweet molten almond lava? And the almond paste was super bubbly when it came out of the oven.

On my mind all day was my friend Zora -- she lives just a few miles away, in Queens, but her tree has produced exactly one fig this year. Not to gloat about Brooklyn, but that’s some tiny crostata you got there, Queens!

Do you have a fig tree? What do you make with its bounty?

Comments (7)

  • avatar

    [Rolling up sleeves] Don't you diss the Queens bounty!

    I may have gotten only one fig this year (it's a starter tree, two years old, from our contractor, Rocco). But our next-door neighbor brought us a big plate of figs from her yard. I made a fig and nectarine tart with a little custard. The crust was also, um, RUSTIC!

    Give me a few more years--then our fig tree will be playing with the big boys!

  • avatar

    Hi Zora - How about sharing the recipe? We've got a ton of ripe figs here and I can get good nectarines.

  • avatar

    Hey Meg! I didn't have anything written down--I was guessing at a lot. If I did it again, I'd tweak a few things and do it this way:

    --blind-bake the pie crust for about 10 mins. (I didn't have the patience to do this, and it didn't cook through well because of the custard.)
    --for custard, mix 2/3 c. milk and 1 egg, plus a couple tablespoons of sugar and some vanilla. This gives a fairly thin layer on the bottom of the crust. You might want to double it.
    --Toss nectarine slices (I used 2 nectarines--could've used another one, or more figs) with a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and melted butter.
    --Pour custard into baked crust, then lay in nectarine slices. Break open the figs (eight or so?) and dot them around, then scatter some brown sugar on the open parts.
    --Scatter over a small handful of broken-up pecans. (Blanched almond chunks would be good too.)

    Bake at 325 till the custard is almost totally set, about 30 mins.

    Hope that helps! I am clearly not a born baker--too inclined to wing it. At least this whole fruit-tart situation seems pretty forgiving!

  • avatar

    We have a fig tree with a bounty of purple figs. I have made the rustic tart as well as fig jam, and am trying my hand at fig cordial. Cant wait until it's ready! They are also good sliced in half with a piece of aged cheddar and a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar.

  • avatar

    I Love Figs and Cheese!

  • avatar

    I guess the figs look OK, but those guys are really yummy. (From Pete's dad.)

  • avatar

    Green figs taste a little more honeyed than the purples. Purple figs taste like Fig Newtons. The tiny seeds in a purple fig are slightly more prominent, but in a green fig the fruit is more to the fore. (Kids would say the green ones are more slimy inside.)

    At the store you can tell when a fig is ripe by feel. Ones that give a little if you gently squeeze them are ready to eat. Sometimes the hole at the bottom of the fruit looks wet. Another sign that they're ready to eat, that's the ripe yummy figgy goodness ready to show itself.

    Serve either color with a pleasantly tart, plain, full-fat yogurt. The Greek style is great because it allows you to scoop up a bit more yogurt with each bite, using the fig as a little edible spoon.

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