I grew up spoilt by a bounty of free, home-grown food, from vegetables of all sorts depending on the season, to eggs and poultry, to fruits in the summer and fall months – strawberries in late May, then cherries in June, and plums, grapes and tiny green, soft, jammy figs later on in the summer. The bounty decreasing a bit afterwards, giving us some pomegranates and nespole in the fall, with persimmons closing the dances in December.
Figs. Those figs are so stuck in my memory. There were two fig trees in grandma’s garden, one by the barn hosting the farming tools, and one in the middle of the hens’ patch. I would climb those trees with a latter, a little plastic bowl in one hand. I knew what to do, not quite sure if someone taught me or if it was somehow ingrained in my genes. I would test the fruits carefully, pressing them to feel the ripeness, and gently detach only the soft ones. I would descend the latter only when the bowl was full, and most of the time, there were more left on the branches.
In sharp contrast, those I bought felt so precious I wanted to make something unique with them – something savoury that would enhance the natural sweetness of the fruit without tasting weird. I am always looking for contrasts and harmony, so I thought of matching them with some sharp pecorino. A good dose of black pepper, too, and some hazelnuts for a whim. Here’s the recipe.
Fig Pecorino Risotto
Place a large pot with the oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and start to stir using a wooden spoon. Cook the onion until translucent, stirring it frequently to avoid burning or sticking to the bottom. Once the onion is soft, add the rice and stir to coat the kernels with onion and fat. Toast the rice for 2-3 minutes, making sure you stir it often to prevent it from getting too brown.
Pour the wine over the rice and increase the heat a little. Let the liquid evaporate while stirring well so that all the rice kernels absorb some of the wine. At this point, start cooking the rice by adding a ladle of the boiling water. During the whole cooking process, you’ll have to keep stirring your rice to avoid sticking and burning. Avoid falling into the temptation of adding more than one ladle at a time. Less liquid will give you more control over the cooking process and save you from having too much liquid toward the end of the cooking time. Once the water is almost all absorbed, add one more ladle, stir, let the rice absorb the water, add more and so on.
Half way trough, at about 8 minutes from when you added the wine, add the figs, keeping a few aside for serving. Stir well to combine, add more water and keep going. Taste your rice: if it is close to being done, add even less water at a time. When your rice is almost done, turn the heat off. Add the cold butter and stir energetically to distribute the fat evenly. Now, add the cheese, and keep stirring. At this point, taste and see if it needs more salt. Season accordingly with salt and pepper. Finally, check the texture: if your risotto had got too thick, add the last little bit of hot water to bring it back to a creamy, loose state – that’s the texture you should aim at.
Serve immediately, with the toasted hazelnuts and the extra fig slices.Print recipe