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A new (fig) leaf, and the first of late summer’s fruit

In late summer, salads on 7 February, 2011 at 11:38 pm


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.


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.

  1. Hey, nice food blog, go you! Looking forward to reading more :)

    That salad looks stunning, I love all the berries and other general summer bounty but figs are such a reward for patience (and bad weather).

  2. I’m so glad you took it as a sign, haha. Looks outstandingly delicious, I now want to eat all the figs.

  3. Beautiful photography, it’s making me sad though as I have an entire fig tree in my garden and not a single fig is ripe yet. Sad panda. I’m hoping that by the end of February I’ll have at least one powdery purple, squishy morsel.

  4. Ka pai on the new blog. Eager to read your posts here, esp since I do most of my eating at home. xx

  5. Great new blog! Figs & goats cheeese…such good friends! And I think simple is often best. Just wish we had Moore Wilson in Auckland :(

  6. Hey Millie,

    I love it!!! Congrats on the journey from reviewer to chef haha. You take such utterly beautiful photographs! I adore this blog!
    Must admit I’ve never tried a fig but I’m certainly craving one now.

    – Rhonnie xx

  7. You really start big with this delicious fig salad ! Really my kind of food. And long life to your brand new blog !

  8. Lovely post and what beautiful photos:) I have fig envy, my sister had to chop her tree down so no more free fresh figs for me (just because it threatened to fall into her bedroom, selfish or what?)

  9. Great new blog! My new fig tree bore one fruit last hear and I was so proud, this year there are three so maybe I will get to make your salad.

  10. Great start to your blog, and what a beautiful salad. I’m in Christchurch and we haven’t had any figs in the market yet. I’m looking out for them constantly, but I think I might still be waiting a week or two.
    Sue :-)

  11. Laura- you’re right about figs and patience… I’m normally dreadfully impatient so having this was truly rewarding!

    Kate- I want to eat all the figs too. Have you seen the fig trees in Mt Vic? I thought about picking some last year but wasn’t really around at the right time. I don’t know if they’d be any good but I’m willing to try…

    Andrea- I’m so jealous that you have a fig tree in your garden! And that there are figs on it already… I’m sure they’ll be deliciously ripe soon enough ;)

    Juli- thanks :) I do most of my eating at home, too, so thought it was time!

    Rhonnie- thanks :) You definitely should try figs this season… they’re glorious when almost-falling-apart ripe.

    Vanille- thanks for your sweet comments :) it’s my kind of food too this time of year!

    Mairi- haha, I don’t know if I could live without Moore Wilson’s – I’m sure they must think I’m either crazy or stalking one of the employees, I’m there so often!

    Plum Kitchen- oh no, figs vs bedroom – what a terrible choice to have to make, haha! But I’m glad your sister’s safe from falling trees ;)

    Alli- I’m so jealous of all you people with fig trees! And how satisfying that your harvest is increasing year by year :)

    Sue- they only just recently started turning up in Wellington over the last week and a half or so, so hopefully you’ll get them soon! Well worth the wait :)

  12. Gorgeous Millie! I’m so pleased you’ve started this after all your tweeting about delicious things you cook! I’m going to have to get my hands on some figs now too.

  13. yum, wish I could have that for lunch right now …

  14. Yay! This blog is super, Millie, and I am sure I will be checking in often to read your updates :) Happy cooking!!

    And, I am totally hearing you on the turning-25-this-year (meh) and saving more $ thing too… I do think both of these things have their positive bits though, so it will be a fantastic year. My current ingredient of choice is buffalo mozzarella, I think I should pick something healthier next week!

  15. Delaney- thanks,I’m really excited about this, and about figs… must get some more!

    Paula- me too. I’m thinking of taking the ingredients to work next week and assembling this at lunchtime…

    Mel- yeah, nothing wrong with turning 25!! (I have to tell myself this a lot, but I’m actually getting kind of excited) And buffalo mozzarella sounds like a perfectly fine (and, um, healthy?) flavour of the week. Yum, must get my hands on some!

  16. Love the new blog Millie! I love figs too. On my way to work I walk past a garden with three fig trees full of little green figs but sadly they all shrivel and drop off without ever ripening.

  17. Libby- thanks! Hmm, that fig tree sounds a little like my lime tree – all the limes never make it to full size, they just fall off. so sad :(

  18. I just had my first fig ever in a salad very inspired by this, mesculin, blue cheese, parmesan, and fig warmed in a pan with a little olive oil and balsamic. So good! Now where are these fig trees round Mt Vic?

  19. Kate- Oh yum. Fig warmed up would be delicious and I love the addition of blue cheese. Fig trees are on Elizabeth St (among others), but I haven’t tried them yet… haven’t even gone to have a look this year, so can’t vouch for tastiness but they’re there! Happy hunting :)

  20. […] in that window. I got all excited about figs again reading milliemirepoix, who recently linked to a post she wrote year ago about them. In a very similar way to her, I selected one – just one – from Moore […]

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