Baskets of beautiful, fat, dusky figs have arrived at the market. There are classic Black Missions with their jammy centers, silky Kadotas and Brown Turkeys oozing with droplets of ambrosial sap.
The hearty fig was one of the first plants to be cultivated by humans in the Neolithic period. Plucking its fruit laden branches pre-dated the planting of wheat and rye. Nearly everyone who was anyone in ancient history was a fan of the fig. Early Olympian athletes consumed large quantities of the fruit during their arduous training. The venerable Pliny extolled its restorative and healthful virtues. Even Cleopatra was a fan of the fruit. By the time the Romans came on the scene, there were numerous varieties of figs being enjoyed by the populous and folks were fattening geese with sweet figs to produce foie gras.
While fig fattened foie gras may no longer be on the menu (at least not here in the great state of California) figs are ripening on the branch and now is the time to indulge in your figgy favorites. Figs, wrapped in pancetta and roasted or grilled, are like an irresistible meat candy. Slices of peppery salame Toscano paired with a tangy sheep’s milk cheese and spicy fig chutney is a snack worthy of the old empire. A salad of wild arugula, fresh figs and toasted almonds makes a flavorful bed for a crispy leg of duck confit. A whole ripe fig encased in lemon and herb pork sausage, stuffed into plump brined quail is a seasonal delicacy not to be missed.
Roasting Fig and Sausage Stuffed Quails
Roasted figs have an especially rich, honeyed flavor that is a good match for both poultry and pork. This stuffed quail manages to marry all three. As the quail roasts, the sausage helps to keep the little bird moist and the hot fig exudes its sweet juices into the meat.
Pre-heat your oven to 425°(220°C). Brush the quail all over with the melted duck fat or butter then arrange them on a rack fitted into a roasting pan breast side up. Leave at least two inches (5cm) between each bird. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 22 to 24 minutes or until a thermometer inserted directly into the middle of the sausage registers 140°F (60°C). Remove from the oven and allow the birds to rest for 5 minutes before serving.