This recipe is a vehicle for smushed or overripe figs. It's great on grilled bread, on pasta, or tossed with some crispy greens for a salad. Make sure you talk to your cheesemonger or do some Googling to track down the creamiest feta possible, otherwise it will dry out too much in the oven. If all else fails, soaking the feta overnight in garlic oil moistens it up quite a bit. Alternatively, you can use creamy fresh goat cheese. I make balsamic reduction by boiling down inexpensive balsamic vinegar (usually, a 17-ounce bottle yields about 3/4 cup). Or go crazy and just bust out your fancy aged balsamic. You won't be sorry. —Phyllis Grant
1 to 2
creamy feta (about 2 ounces)
extra-virgin olive oil (for soaking the feta)
clove garlic, peeled and sliced
very ripe figs (any kind you can find)
garlic oil (scooped from feta oil)
aged balsamic or homemade balsamic reduction
Crumble feta into a jar or bowl. Top with olive oil and garlic. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours, preferably overnight.
Heat oven to 400° F. Stem and halve figs. Scoop a tablespoon of olive oil out of the feta mixture and sprinkle it over the figs. Coat each fig with a bit of balsamic. Sprinkle with salt. Tuck in the chunks of feta. Toss on the thyme sprigs, and put them in the oven.
Check them after 15 minutes. The figs cook fast. Don't let them completely fall apart. When they're quite jammy and releasing their juices, remove from the oven and turn on your broiler. Broil for a minute or two until the figs and feta are just starting to brown. Remove from the oven. Cool for a few minutes. Pick out thyme sprigs and use your fingers to sprinkle the crispy leaves down over the figs. Discard sprigs. Garnish with mint or parsley leaves. Serve.
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.