Back to School

Baked Figs With Balsamic and Feta

September 24, 2014

When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when and where you want them.

Today: A simple, salty-sweet lunch -- or breakfast, or dinner -- you'll want to pile high on toast. 

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I wake up at 3 AM and start thinking about the Climate March and ISIS and earthquakes and early girl tomato tarts and that BBC show Call the Midwife and how sometimes I wish I had just been brave enough to go to midwifery school. 

And then I turn my undivided attention to the mother in me because yesterday I heard from one child: You are ruining my life. And I heard from the other child: You never ever let me do anything that I want to do so I'm just going to go to bed

Last week, my son lost his new Star Wars water bottle. He didn’t complete his reading log. He left his library bag at home and wasn't allowed to check out books. I forgot that it takes a few weeks to get him into the rhythm, that he needs a guide, someone running behind him catching homework and shoes and lunchboxes, listening to the I’m so tired I can’t go to school, dragging him up up up onto his enormous sleepy feet. 

baked figs

So this week I want to be on it. That's when I remember that my son needs to have apples at school first thing in the morning because they are making fresh juice. Because it's freaking fall, people. And they're going to beat us over our heads with it's no longer summer by making sweet and earthy juice with a 19th-century apple press. It’s beautiful, this changing of the seasons business, but right now I need it all to stop. 

He needs apples. No markets are open before 8 AM. We are screwed.  

At 7 AM I start texting parents and friends, begging for apples. My son runs to my neighbor’s house and comes home beaming, bearing many apples and a bag of figs. I'm not sure what he does between my neighbor's house and mine but perhaps it involves cartwheels and ninja spins and a quick climb up a tree because the figs arrive almost unrecognizable. Halfway to jam. As he hands them over, the purple juice heavy in the bottom of the bag, I think one thing: lunch. My lunch.

I drop him off at school, watching him list to the left from the weight of the apples in his backpack, resisting the urge to jump out of the car to right him back up into his center. I drive home, break apart the smushed figs, toss them with garlic oil, feta, balsamic, salt, and thyme, pop the mess into the oven, and sit down at the computer to get my mama shit together. For real this time.

Baked Figs With Balsamic and Feta

Serves 1 to 2

1/2 cup creamy feta (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (for soaking the feta)
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
12 very ripe figs (any kind you can find)
1 tablespoon garlic oil (scooped from feta oil)
2 teaspoons aged balsamic or homemade balsamic reduction
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 sprigs fresh thyme
10 or so mint or parsley leaves

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here. 

Photos by Phyllis Grant

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    Phyllis Grant
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.


Melina H. September 28, 2014
i miss your writing. soooo looking forward to the memoir. this morsel will do for now. thanks for sharing it!!
Elsbeth September 28, 2014
So funny, thank you Phyllis. You made me smile and reminiscence the years my daughter was a child. She's almost 25 now. Your son will grow up in the wink of an eye. And you too will smile at his antics then! :)
SallyM September 24, 2014
You're funny Phyllis. Thank you for being "real"!
Phyllis G. September 27, 2014
My pleasure, Sally. And thank you!
Ileana M. September 24, 2014
I so look forward to your columns. :)
Phyllis G. September 27, 2014
Thank you, Ileana!