Late summer figs are reason enough to put up with the long, hot summer in Louisiana. When it’s picking time and the juices are literally oozing from these sweet, meaty morsels, I’m there with bushel baskets in hand.
So, when a friend says that hardcore vegans won’t eat figs, I’m all ears. He says there is an insect – a wasp – inside every fig that is absorbed within the fruit. The fig wasp pollinates the fruit and dies inside which adds insect protein to the fruit thus making it off limits for the true vegan. He says he read it on the internet, and as everyone knows, anything on the web has got to be true.
What a bunch of fluff. It’s this kind of fruit fanaticism that gives eating healthy and organic farming a bad name. But, come to find out, he’s correct. Without the wasps, there are no figs. According to a reliable source, most fruits and vegetables contain insects. Even tomatoes contain trace amounts of fruit fly eggs — it’s just the natural order of things.
Hey, I’ve been eating figs all my life, and I don’t plan on stopping now. Besides, I plan to use these figs in a dish that will take the sting right out of it.
If you’ve spent any time at my Acadiana Table, you should know by now that if there is a quick and easy way to arrive at a sweet treat, I will find it. With that in mind, here is a downright simple dessert that is also one of the most spectacular. I happened upon this combination during a Saturday morning of discovery at my two favorite Acadiana farmer’s markets.
First, my friend Brian Gotreaux at the Hub City Farmer’s Market in the Oil Center had a few pints of juicy, ripe Celeste figs left at his Gotreaux Family Farm stand. I am a sucker for figs and the short season in Acadiana begins at Independence Day and ends sometime around Labor Day. According to Brian, these are the Improved Celeste variety of figs that the Louisiana State University Ag Center has created which results in a meatier and sweeter fig. And I was surprised to find out that Louisiana figs do not contain fig wasps. According to LSU Ag, the fig wasp does not exist in Louisiana; therefore, fruit is only produced by fig varieties that do not require pollination. Whew, another good reason to live in Louisiana.
To me, figs are extremely versatile – baked, broiled or stewed down — but I began imagining how best to use them raw. My next stop for the morning was the Horse Farm Farmer’s Market and Manny Augello’s Bread and Circus Provisions. Manny makes a wide variety of artisan goods ranging from pickles to smoked bacon, but it is his creamy Marshmallow Fluff that sparked my idea for the perfect fig dessert. And in the stand right next to him is my friend Pat Vincent at Santa Rita Honey Bee Farm, makers of some of the finest South Louisiana honey around. I load up.
Italian pizzelle cookies from World Market are the perfect platform for my figs to take center stage. Pizzelle makers were popular about 10 years ago, and perhaps you still have one. If so, dust it off and make these ever popular Italian vanilla cookies. If not, do like I do and beat it on over to World Market and pick up a box of the Reko brand of Pizzelle cookies. Along with a sprinkling of Louisiana pecans, this decadently creamy pastry is no longer just a figment of my imagination.
Brilliantly simple, beautifully silky and so, so sweet, and guess what, there’s nothing to cook.
- 12 fresh figs
- 1 box vanilla pizzelle cookies, such as Reko brand or any flat vanilla cookie
- 1 jar marshmallow fluff
- ½ cup crumbled pecans
- 4 tablespoons local honey
- 4 sprigs mint
- Slice the stem end off and cut 8 of the figs in half lengthwise, leaving 4 figs whole. Place on a platter.
- Place 4 of the pizzelle cookies on a cutting board. Spread the marshmallow fluff generously on top of each all the way to the edge of the cookie. Sprinkle the top of the fluff lightly with the crumbled pecans. Place the fig halves skin-side-down on the fluff in a circular pattern with one whole fig standing in the middle of each cookie. Drizzle honey lightly over the figs.
- Place the completed pastry onto an individual serving plate. For garnish, take a sprig of mint by the hard stem and poke it into the top of the center fig of each dessert.
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