Wednesday, October 10, 2012

One Little Tree.....Two recipes

    When I was a little girl I spent a lot of time with my Italian grandparents (my dad's parents).  They had a small house but a yard and garden area that seemed to go on least that's what it seemed like at the time.  They grew all sorts of vegetables and had several fruit trees like cherry, pear, fig, and mulberry.  My grandmother would sell flowers that she had grown.  I remember sitting outside with her, waiting for people to come and buy the plants.  They had a long, narrow hallway at one side of the house that I always thought of as a sun porch because it was lined with windows and was filled with african violets and various other plants.  My grandmother had the greenest thumb I've ever seen.  She even had a miniature orange tree in the dining room!

    I tell you all of this because, well, first of all, I love remembering my grandparents and the times I had with them and also to let you know part of why having a garden and fruit trees has always been something I've desired.  Now, I may have inherited my gramma's cooking gene, but possession of the gardening gene is yet to be proven.  As our family has dwindled down to two kids at home now, as opposed to the six we started with, I'm hoping time will allow me to work on developing my gardening skills.
    This brings me to my Italian brother-in-law, Tony, also a New Yorker like me.  He, like my grandmother, has a very green thumb.  When we go home to visit I'm always looking longingly at his wonderful garden and all the fruit trees he's managed to fit into his backyard.  A couple, in particular, have carried me back to my childhood whenever I've eaten their fruit.... the mulberry tree and the fig tree (actually, he has 2 or 3 of these).  I always liked the mulberries, but, as a little girl, I'm not sure I really enjoyed the fresh figs.  Now, I love them!
    Ok...... now I'll get to the reason for this post.  Our last visit to see my family was near the end of July.  The night before we left to come home,  my dear brother-in-law told me he was giving me a little fig tree he had that was still in a pot.  I was sooo thrilled and happy!!  Now, you may be wondering why a little potted fig tree could get me so excited.  Well, to me it represented a part of my childhood, my times with my grandparents, a little bit of my Italian heritage, and maybe the start of my own great Italian garden, complete with fruit trees.  That's if the little thing could survive the 7 hour trip home, the new environment, and my very limited gardening experience.
    I'm happy to say that my little fig tree has done well so far.  I brought it home with 6 little green figs on it.  I placed it in a sunny spot, watered it as per Tony's instructions, and don't you know the figs all grew and turned purple and ripe!  I did it!  (Well, there were some texts along the way double checking that I was proceeding properly)  I just ate the last fig a few days sweet and delicious!
    Now I realize fresh figs aren't always available, but when they aren't in season you can usually find dried, which I, for one, also love.  So I'm giving you two using fresh figs and one using dried.  They would both make nice appetizers.  But first, I can't resist showing you some pics of my little gift.

And now for recipe #1.........

Fresh Figs Stuffed With Almonds & Chocolate Chips
    (idea taken from

6 fresh figs, halved
2 tblsp. mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup blanched, slivered almonds
grated orange zest (original recipe used orange liqueur, but my daughter, Analee, suggested this instead)

    Combine the chocolate chips and almonds and spoon about 2 tsp. into each fig half.  Depending on the size of the figs, you may use a little less or a little more.  Gently press down into the fig a little bit.  Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until chocolate is starting to melt but is still holding its shape and the almonds have browned a bit.  Place on a serving dish and sprinkle the grated orange zest over the top.  Note: You can also use dried figs if fresh are unavailable. 


And recipe #2...............

Crostini with Pecorino Romano, Apples, and Fig Jam 
    (recipe from Giada's Kitchen by Giada DeLaurentiis)

6 dried figs, halved
1/2 cup Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
2 tblsp. brandy (you could substitute orange or apple juice if you don't want to use the alcohol)
1/4 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts
24 baguette slices
olive oil, for drizzling
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 large Granny Smith or Braeburn apple
1/4 # chunk Pecorino Romano cheese, for shaving

    Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Combine the figs, simple syrup, and brandy in a small pan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat.  Set it aside for 10 minutes to cool a little and let the figs plump up.  Pour the mixture into a food processor and add the hazelnuts.  Pulse until pureed. 

    Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle each slice with 1 tsp. of the grated cheese.  Bake until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted and golden, about 7 minutes. ( I placed mine under the broiler at the end)
    Core, but don't peel the apple.  Divide into quarters, then cut each quarter into 6 thin slices.  Top each toasted bread slice with 2 tsp. of the fig jam, a slice of apple, and a piece of shaved Pecorino cheese. ( I used a small vegetable peeler )  Place them all on a platter and serve.

Simple Syrup:  Place 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan and heat to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from the heat and let cool.

Toasting Nuts:  Place nuts in a dry skillet and heat over medium heat until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring every so often.  This may take 8-10 minutes.  Watch carefully.


  1. My Italian grandfather had huge mulberry and fig trees too. We'd eat those berries right off the tree until we turned purple! Mostly, we left the figs to the grown ups. I didn't appreciate them until my own Italian Dad planted his own fig trees. That's one of the things I miss most now that he's gone.

    Lovely recipes! Congrats on your new blog!

    1. Thank you Susan and I know what you mean...I was the same way when I was a kid. As we get older we come to appreciate even the little things that represent "family" to us.

  2. I absolutely love this post! It is perfect! I love the imagery! I love the wording and your pictures are perfect as well!! Nice job joann! It makes me want to make them immediately.. unfortunately that would make me late for dinner.. Dinner YOU are making! I CAN'T WAIT! As much as these sound delicious! I pray I am getting cheese cake :0} wonderful stories friend!

    1. Thanks so much my friend! I appreciate the encouragement. So glad you could have dinner and spend time with our family!