I’m Millie from Gusty Gourmet, a blog I co-write about (mostly) eating out in my adopted hometown, Wellington, New Zealand.
I started this blog because I realised I like cooking and eating at home just as much as I like eating out. Maybe even more. And also maybe because I’m turning 25 this year and it’s probably a good idea to start being a bit more financially responsible (I’m not talking major penny-pinching here, but getting out of my overdraft might be a good start). And I’ve probably been annoying lots of my friends on Facebook by uploading photos and blurbs of recently-cooked meals. And I’d been pondering the idea for a while and then, yesterday, the lovely Kate of Lovelorn Unicorn offhandedly suggested it on Twitter. So I took it as a sign, and here I am.
Yeah, so everyone has a cooking blog these days. It’s OK. Here is mine!
On Saturday I carried a single fig home from Moore Wilson’s. And by ‘carried’ I mean gingerly, between thumb and forefinger, or cupped in the palm of my hand, while all the other groceries jostled about in a bag, but apparently not gently enough to avoid marring the delicate skin of the oozing-ripe fruit. That’s OK. Scars are stories, after all.
I’d been eyeing the figs up ever since they started popping up at Moore Wilson’s, next to the berries, a little nudge to the shoulder that, hey, late summer, it’s here. And on Saturday, I finally caved (at nearly $30/kg right now they’re not something to be taken lightly, at least on my budget) and picked the closest-to-burstingly-ripe fruit I could find.
It was an interesting day. While Wellington heaved with costumed locals and visitors in various stages of public drunkenness and revelry I trudged home in the muggy mist and, home alone, sliced up the most flawless fig (aside from a newly-inflicted scrape, but you know, that’s character).
I’m one of those people who gets way too excited about the first produce of each season. Perhaps annoyingly so: recently a (probably now rather bewildered) friend emailed me with a simple question about what fruits are coming into season now and I replied with a breathlessly rambling discourse filled with cliche phrases like “in full swing” and “at their peak” and “picking up speed” and I’m pretty sure I used the word “exciting” one too many times and not enough full stops. Kind of like that last sentence, but about three times as long and with about a third of the content.
Anyway, I never know quite what to do with the first fruit (or vegetable) I buy after months, sometimes almost a year, of not tasting whatever it is. Do I eat it plain, savour it for what it is, save the adulteration for later on when there’s plenty around and the price has come down? Or do I dig up the stockpiled recipes I’ve been waiting all year to make?
And this fig – it’s been at least a year since I’ve had one. Maybe even longer; I was overseas most of this time last year. So there was a lot of trepidation over what to do with this: the first fig of 2011.
In the end, it was dinnertime, I was hungry, I had some goat cheese in the fridge and some pine nuts waiting to be used. So I snuck a couple cheeky slices of fig while I assembled this salad.
Innovative and different? Perhaps not. But it was simple, and the perfect showcase for the first fig of the season.
FIG, GOAT CHEESE & PINE NUT SALAD (for 1):
Cut up the juiciest, ripest fig you can bring home without destroying in your shopping bag (ideally you’ll have more foresight than me, and bring one home to ripen). Tear up some goat cheese (I used bûche de chèvre), combine this with some salad greens – peppery rocket would be ideal, but I just used mesclun mix – and a scant handful of toasted pine nuts*. Drizzle with olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar** and sprinkle with flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper. Eat. If you get all the components in one forkful you may melt with delight.
*If I had time or inclination to do more dishes I’d toast these in a little skillet but this time I just popped them in the microwave until they started to smell fragrant and, well, nutty. I’d say it took me about 30 seconds in my microwave, but yours may be different.
**If, like me, you don’t have that beautifully syrupy aged stuff on hand, fret not. It’s not exactly the same, but I found that reducing the regular stuff in a little frying pan (there goes that dish I’d saved by toasting the nuts in the microwave) until it was nice and thick worked just fine for these purposes.