There was a skinny fig tree in front of my childhood home — the original home, the only one that appears in my dreams, that I have hopelessly yearned for since the day I left for America.
Throughout my childhood, I remember tasting a sweet ripe fig only once. I grew up in the years of extreme food scarcity and no child could wait until the figs were ripe to harvest them. My brother and I began picking them earlier each year because we wanted to get them before the other children in the neighborhood could steal them. We tried to leave the raw figs in the rice sack or in the sun for them to ripen, but the figs stayed hard no matter how long we waited.
One day, I was idling by the 2nd floor window daydreaming, which was something children often did in that era. A gentle breeze ruffled the leaves of the fig tree and a pinkish purplish bulb caught my eye. A ripe fig! I had never before seen a fig like this, rufescent and drooped from the slightly wilted stem. I nearly killed myself trying to pluck it with the help of a clothe hanger. I quickly stuffed it in my mouth before anyone could see me. There are no words that can describe the intense and shocking burst of pleasure as my teeth sunk into the flesh of that fig.
As I prepared these roasted figs today, I felt a nostalgic tug in my heart — a nameless longing. Was I twelve or thirteen? What was I daydreaming about? The neighbor boy with a “bad reputation” to play badminton with? The faraway lands I secretly read about in forbidden hand copied books? Or was it food? I was always a little hungry in those days and food was never far from my thoughts.
Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined roasting dozens of ripe figs in an oven — a wonderful contraption I didn’t know existed until I came to the US.
As I used to daydream by the window, I now do by the oven. These roasted figs are sumptuous. They are great as appetizer, dessert or a snack. I used Buche de Chevre which was absolutely exquisite, but goat cheese will also taste great with it. The balsamic glaze is an important ingredient that is not optional in my mind. It is a perfect finishing touch to complete the dish.
Roasted Figs with Buche de Chevre & Balsamic Glaze
Buche de Chevre
Pinch of salt
Olive oil spray
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Rinse the figs and pat them dry, then cut off the stems and, without cutting through the base, halve them from top to bottom.
Spray a baking pan with good olive oil. Dip the cut side of the fig in a dish of brown sugar. Line the figs cut side up in the baking pan.
Bake until the sugar is bubbling and the figs is heated through, about 15 minutes.
Sprinkle broken cheese on top. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Top with pine nuts and mint leaves. Serve warm.