So how do you feel about figs? A little different, right?
I’m not really sure if figs are a popular fruit, or one of those fruits that totally get ignored. I am thinking ignored??
Up until a few months ago I was completely scared of them. I pretty much just thought they were creepy, and to be honest, I only thought about them around Christmas. Yes, I used to only associates figs with figgy pudding.
Oh, and I have to admit, I did just listen to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” just to make sure that’s the “figgy pudding” song. Ok, and I kind of wanted a little Christmas cheer mid summer. Don’t hate me.
A while back (like early spring) I accidentally bought dried figs. Well, it was not actually me, it was my dad who was helping me out and doing a late night grocery run for me. I asked for dates and he brought me back figs. UGH. I was like, “what am I supposed to do with dried figs? Eew”. I really had no idea, but I figured since I had them I might as well try them.
At first I was turned off by their texture, but then for some reason I tried another one and the figs began to grow on me. I can’t say I would ever choose figs as snack all on their own, but I realized I did like them.
Fast forward to the present. The other day I was trying to get my creative juices flowing, and suddenly the thought of a fig dish really excited me.
It’s weird how I can be completely uninterested in a certain food one day and the next be all “Oh I really want to make a fig dish today”. Figs are a late summer through fall fruit, so they should be in stores now or coming to your stores soon. I however, had to drive around to three stores, finally ending up at Whole Foods where they fortunately, had the most gorgeous turkish figs. I spent all morning trying to find them, but it was worth it. Plus, I do feel lucky that I actually found them and that my small town recently put in a Whole Foods. I love the whole “small town” thing, but I gotta say, sometimes Whole Foods saves the day.
I really wanted to create an easy meal that people who may not even like figs could enjoy. See, figs to my family are like kale to a five-year old. They want nothing to do with them. But me being me, I really wanted to prove them wrong. I went with my little fig idea and paired it with two of their favorites, polenta and tomatoes. It’s honestly the perfect little Italian meal. You can make it now – in the summer, but it’s also a great transition meal into fall. Perfect way to use up the last of your home-grown cherry tomatoes. YUM.
I went with pork for this dish because I really just wanted to step away from the chicken for a second and be a little bold. And balsamic fig glazed pork just had a nice ring to it, so I went with it. I am all about recipe names having a nice ring to them. Feel free to use chicken, steak or even beans (chickpeas or cannellini) for a vegetarian version.
The tomatoes came into play because I had so many of them, and blistered tomatoes sounded like a pretty good idea with sweet balsamic.
The polenta is kind of predictable for me, but I really just love polenta. Sorry, I can’t help it.
Oh and the gorgonzola. It just has so much flavor and I love pairing it with sweet and savory things. It’s the perfect balance.
If you are not a fan of gorgonzola swap parmesan, goat cheese or fontina. If figs are just not your cup of tea you can either leave them out completely or swap peaches, nectarines or cherries. You just want something sweet that can stand up to some heat.
If you are not sure how you feel about figs, just give them a try in this dish. I think you will be surprised. My picky family loved them, well… at least my parents loved them. The boys weren’t home, but even if they were home, I doubt I would have been able to coax them into trying them. Although… the figs really blend in well with the pork. The balsamic glaze makes it really difficult to differentiate the pork from the figs. My parents didn’t even realize there were figs in there until I told them mid-way through the meal. Hmmm, maybe I could have gotten away with it!
- To make the polenta. Pour the water and milk into a medium size saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and slowly whisk in the polenta. Cook, stirring frequently, until the polenta is soft and thick, about 15 to 20 minutes. Keep warm and then just before serving, stir in the gorgonzola cheese and butter, season with salt and pepper. If the polenta seems a little thick you can add a tablespoon more of butter or milk.
- While the polenta is cooking make the pork. In a glass measuring cup mix together the balsamic vinegar, honey and water. Finely chop 2-3 whole figs, they should form a paste once finely chopped. Add the chopped figs and 1 clove minced garlic to the balsamic mixture. Slice the remaining figs in half.
- Heat a very large skillet over high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. When the skillet is hot, but not smoking (if it starts to smoke, turn heat down a bit and wait 5 minutes before adding the pork) add the pork in a single layer (you may need to do this in 2 batches if your skillet is smaller) and allow it to cook for 2-3 minutes, so it can get a nice caramelization on it. Then toss it around and cook another 2-3 minutes, or until the pork is browned and just getting crispy on the edges. Once the pork is cooked, pour in all but 1/4 cup of the the balsamic fig mixture. Allow the sauce to simmer until it coats the pork, about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the basil and oregano. Remove the pork from the skillet to a plate.
- Place the skillet back on the burner over high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Once the skillet is hot again, add the figs cut side down and sear 1 minute. Pour the remaining balsamic fig sauce over the figs and simmer 2 minutes (don't flip the figs, just leave them cut side down). Slide the figs to one side and add the pork back to the skillet. Keep warm.
- Grab a heavy cast iron skillet and place it over high heat. Coat the bottom of the skillet with olive oil. Add 2 cloves minced garlic and cook 15 seconds. Add the cherry tomatoes and toss them with garlic, season with salt and pepper. Cook the tomatoes without stirring for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes toss the tomatoes and cook another minute more or until the tomatoes are blistered. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons basil and 1 tablespoon parsley.
- To serve, divide the polenta among plate or bowls. Toss with balsamic pork and a few figs. Add the blistered cherry tomatoes. Garnish with fresh herbs, gorgonzola cheese and toasted pine nuts. Eat!
Balsamic glazed pork and figs, aside blistered cherry tomatoes and creamy gorgonzola polenta, all topped with pine nuts. See, different can be good!