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Fruit lessons

One thing about fruit: you never know exactly what you're going to get.

Back in high school, I ate no fewer than one orange a day. I liked oranges, as you might imagine, but under the guise of eating a snack, I was studiously applying my own less-than-rigid, pseudoscientific theories as to how to select a good orange.

How disappointing is it to poke and prod the produce at the supermarket, carefully selecting what appears to be the plumpest, juiciest orange, only to find it dry and insipid once you get it home?

For a while, I thought the peel of the orange was a clue as to the flesh within. A bright, taut peel would surely equal a delicious orange. But of course, this is not true. Neither is size a guarantee of flavor. Those cute little tangerines and clementines and mandarins? They are just as capable of deception.

In the end, I never figured it out. Short of being able to stick a straw into an orange, I'm not sure there is a way to tell. Remember those Tropicana commercials with a big straw protruding out the top of the orange? Lies!

Imagine my disappointment when, as a child, I realized you can't actually drink an orange through a straw. It was just one of the first of many small disappointments I would face in my lifetime, as we all do.

Indeed, one of the many things we do as adults is navigate the smallest of tragedies--spilling a glass of good wine on the carpet (why do people even have carpet these days?!), not having the right papers at the DMV, and buying beautiful but mealy, flavorless fruit.

Of course, another thing we do as adults is turning small tragedies (and it behooves me to mention that I am using the word "tragedy" quite freely here) into manageable situations. Or, in a word, coping.

I can't really help you with the carpet situation, and the DMV? Well, I'm not sure it's even possible to have a good experience at the DMV--maybe use the three hours you have to wait to meditate. But I've got you covered on the fruit.

One of the many helpful tricks I've learned in my cooking career is that roasting fruit can ameliorate the nearly inedible. I did it with sickeningly sweet and bland grapes last fall, with watery cantaloupe a couple years ago, and with rhubarb (which is, by nature, something you have to work at a bit to render palatable).

This time, I roasted cottony, bland figs for an easy appetizer. Now, roasting isn't just a method to be used for unfortunate fruit--even perfect fruit can be elevated by a quick spin in your oven. However, if you have delicious, ripe, sweet figs in your possession, by all means feel free to skip the roasting step.

Other articles you might enjoy: Oven-Poached Figs With Ricotta, Homemade Ricotta, Asparagus and Ricotta Tartines

Roasted Fig, Ricotta, and Honey Crostini
Serves as many as you like

This is, by nature, a loosey-goosey recipe that you can use to feed as many or as few people as you like. However, some things you can count on:

1.) These are hefty little crostini, so if serving as an appetizer before a meal, one per person is probably enough (always have a few extra for the gourmands)
2.) You'll need two halved figs per crostini
3.) Plan to use about one ounce of ricotta per crostini

To roast the figs, halve them, toss with a little sugar if they're very dry and bland, and roast at 375°F in a single layer on a lined baking sheet (use a Silpat if you've got one) until beginning to caramelize and shrivel a bit, about 30 to 35 minutes.

For the crostini, keep the oven at 375°F. Cut thin slices on the bias from a baguette. Toss the slices with olive oil, salt, and pepper. There should be just enough olive oil to lightly coat the crostini. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until crisp and lightly toasted, about 5 minutes (ideally, they should be crisp and dry all the way through).

While the bread is toasting, prepare the ricotta. Combine whole milk ricotta in a small bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Make it a little on the salty side to balance out the sweetness of the figs and honey. If you like, add herbs such as fresh thyme or parsley.

To assemble, spread ricotta on the cooled crostini, top with four fig halves, then drizzle lightly with honey.


Ange DeSouza's picture

Sounds delicious. I'm on vacation on the east coast in a cottage on the ocean. This would make a fabulous lunch.
meg's picture

That sounds so lovely. This would be a perfect lunch, maybe with a little arugula salad and a glass of rosé (wine at lunch is fine when you're on vacation, right?).

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