Today I'm sharing a simple recipe for honey-roasted figs, one of my husband's favourite fruits! To be honest with you, I had never really considered figs until I met him, event that occurred in 2006. We were both working at Osteria Bancogiro, with the old management, and one of the summer desserts on the menu was raw figs served with ricotta from Cansiglio and honey, delicious enough to get me into this highly sugary addiction.
My true love for figs, though, started during my university years. It was at a modern art lesson that I learned that in painting, it is always the elected to sit under a fig tree. My professor was Augusto Gentili (the best!) and he was telling us about "I Santi Gerolamo, Cristoforo e Ludovico" (1513) by Giovanni Bellini, located in the right chapel of the San Grisostomo church (here below, a detail).
Despite its small size, this small church treasures amazing works of art. The painting was one of the last works of Giovanni, quite old at the time, thus he seized the occasion to discuss with his usual mastery a contemporary theme, much felt in the Venice of those years.
The work had been commissioned to Giovanni 20 years earlier by Venetian merchant Giorgio Diletti, who then died 10 years later, around 1503. Bellini was required to speak about the contrast between contemplative and active life and, as it happens in most paintings, the saints were used to refer to actual, living people (there's so much gossiping in modern art... that's one of the reasons why I love it so much!).
Bellini opens the scene with a golden mosaic arch (a clear reference to our Basilica) which separates San Gerolamo, destined to a contemplative life and sitting beneath a fig tree (symbol of vocation and privilege), from the other two saints, closer to the believers frequenting that church. Of course, Gerolamo represents a condition of spiritual perfection, but like all "commons" (what a hideous word) I feel much closer to Christopher and Ludovico, both placed in the physical space of the church, marked by the altar!
What had happened in Venice was that two rich patrizi (Venetian nobles), Vincenzo Querini and Tommaso Giustinian, had given up their civil life to live like hermits in the the retreat of Camaldoli, and the to-be cardinal Gasparo Contarini was calling them back to their active/social life, because 'we must all accept what we are destined for'.
The saints represent three different models: Christopher represents the simple people, Ludovico the institutional role of prelates, and Gerolamo the ascetics contemplation of the monks. It is supposed that the commissioner identified himself in the figure of Christopher, whereas the parish of the church, Ludovico Talenti, in his eponymous saint.
I am personally very fond of this painting and I will immediately admit my passion for saint Christopher, always described as a 'common' but so strong to be able to carry the weight of Christ and with such a kind face and such a toned body that, frankly speaking, any woman would fall at his feet. For me it should be him the one sitting under the fig tree, as I have never believed in 'caste systems' and generally consider people for their actions, rather than for what they may say, think or write. But you know, that's just my bad personality...
Anyway, going back to our figs, I bought ours at the stall in San Lio. They had both green and black figs, but I opted for the green ones this time. Figs are very sweet, yet I find them incredibly versatile and like to use them also in salads, to make crostini with cheese, and for drinks. A super easy drink you may like to try is figs and prosecco. I simply remove the skin, mix the figs with some ice cubes in a blender and finally add prosecco and a mint leaf.
As for today's recipe, it's sweet, quick, easy and de-li-cious! Honey-roasted figs covered with dark chocolate sauce... I like to serve them out from the oven, hot and with a generous amount of dark chocolate sauce to create a little contrast of flavours. It's a little sinful, I know, but after all 'the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it [...]'.
Bye for now and talk soon!
HONEY ROASTED FIGS WITH A CHOCOLATE SAUCE
6 fresh figs
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp honey
the juice of half a lemon
50 gr dark chocolate
- Pre-heat oven at 180°.
- Grease a baking pan. Wash the figs and slice them either in half or in four lengthwise and place them into the pan.
- Heat a pan, and let the butter melt with the lemon juice and 1 Tbsp honey for a couple of seconds and pour the liquid over the figs.
- Top with some more honey and bake for about 30 minutes at 180°.
- In the meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a water bath.
- When the figs are ready, put in a serving plate. Recover the juice from the pan and combine with the melted chocolate.
- Amalgamate well, pour over the roasted figs and serve.