Three and a half years of writing, thinking, and talking about food nearly every day has transformed me. I’ve always been adept at menu planning – matching flavors of the main course to sides and to the preferences of the diners, all while factoring in logistics of preparing multiple dishes at the same time. But I was a slave to the recipes that I found, assuming whoever wrote them had to know more about recipe rendering than I did, so I better not mess with it. I still believe that many recipes should be prepared, for the first time, as they are written, knowing how much effort and expertise the author put into creating it. But now I also know that a recipe can be a springboard for change to suit your own palate or maybe just to use up an overflowing fruit basket. It’s liberating to veer off the road occasionally. You may reach a dead-end, waste a bit of time, and have to turn around but sometimes you find another path that’s just as lovely as the original route.
In August, Carol Sacks from the blog InMediasRecipe posted about roasting figs, using a recipe from a tried and true source of brilliant food, David Lebovitz. It was wonderful just the way it was presented. I was intrigued by the figs, the sensuous scent of orange and thyme perfuming the fruit, and especially the idea of roasting the little gems. I grew up eating stewed fruit – cooked in a pot with a bit of juice or water added and some sugar and honey. A real comfort food that my daughter now relishes just as much I do. But the idea of elevating that concept by roasting the fruit captured my attention. Sort of a crisp without the topping.
Not to mention, my fruit basket was also overflowing. So instead of just figs, I used grapes, nectarines, peaches, and pluots. And because I knew that my Tasting Jerusalem community would be cooking with pomegranate molasses in September, I wanted to experiment with the ingredient. And, well, the port on our bar counter was shouting at me from across the room and I just couldn’t ignore that sweet, savory, syrupy scream.
When I put a picture of the roasted fruit on Facebook, paired with some yogurt and granola, the requests for the recipe came rolling in. My variation is below but be sure to head over to Carol’s blog and David’s blog to read their posts and view their photos. A little recipe research will only build your confidence so you can create your own version of this roasted fruit.
If you celebrate the Jewish holidays, this is a perfect dish to prepare for breaking fast after Yom Kippur. You can make it ahead, it uses honey which is symbolic for a sweet new year, and it would be a lovely side dish to serve with an all dairy meal like blintzes or bagels, lox, and cream cheese. Also perfect for your dessert table, sitting beside a luscious honey or apple cake.
Are you a recipe follower or do you often chart your own course, with the recipe as a starting point?
- 1 tablespoon of blood orange olive oil (or regular)
- 14 – 18 fresh figs (about 1 lb) – any type you have, stem removed and halved from stem end
- 1 or 2 pluots or plums, sliced into 8 pieces
- 1 or 2 peaches or nectarines, sliced into 8 pieces
- 1 cup of red grapes (approx.)
- 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
- 2 tablespoons of port
- 1.5 tablespoons of honey (2 if you like sweeter, 1 for less sweet)
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- zest of ½ an orange
- 4 or 5 thyme sprigs – rosemary might be nice also
- Wash and slice the fruit.
- Preheat the oven to 400 convection roast or 400 regular bake.
- Grease a 9 X 13ish baking pan with a dab of olive oil, blood orange if you have any.
- Lay the figs flat side down in the baking pan and scatter the rest of the fruit around the figs.
- In a small bowl whisk together the pomegranate molasses, honey, port, orange zest, and brown sugar.
- Pour the molasses mixture all over the fruit. Lay the thyme sprigs on top. Cover with foil and put in the oven for 10 minutes*. After 10 minutes, loosen the foil but leave it on and bake for another 10 minutes. Then take the foil off, slosh some of the pan juices on the stone fruit slices if they are a bit dry then let it cook for 5 more minutes. Check and cook for 2 more minutes if needed. Fruit should be bubbling and just starting to turn a bit dark on the edges. A minute less or more will not matter. Remove from oven and let cool before devouring or putting in a container and saving in the refrigerator.