In the distant past it was a common belief that East of Asia Eden could be found. Countless merchant ships relentlessly searched for a place, a compass point, a tangible position on a map where Paradise lost could be rediscovered. The biblical location of Eden may have pointed to the East but the gastronomic location of the garden of earthly delights most certainly was to the West. If Eden had a taste it would be Italy.
And one of the heavenly fruits in the garden would most certainly have been the Paradiso Fig. The name Paradiso comes from a story about an old man in Italy that sat under his fig tree every morning eating figs and bread for breakfast. People passing would ask him if he was alright and his reply was, “This is my Paradise”.
The juicy fig with the green skin and full bodied reddish pulp originates in the town of Genoa, in Northern Italy. It is not the only fig variety grown in Italy. The Tarantella, Tuscan White Triana and the San Pietro grown near the island of Sardegna are also wildly popular with Italians who use them to make cookies (cucidati), jams and preserves and as a filling for tarts. Figs pair well with walnuts, honey and cheeses, particularly gorgonzola dolce, and soft varieties like goat cheese and mascarpone. Prosciutto wrapped figs, as a topping for pizza bianca, bruschetta or focaccia, dried, preserved or fresh – all are delectable. The heavenly hosts must have lobbied the Lord to include the fig tree in the Garden of Eden.
For those of you who want to bring Italy home, the Paradiso as well as other Italian varietals can be gown in an outdoor container and brought indoors or sheltered during cooler weather. The trees are beautiful and the foliage is deep-lobed. Eating a ripened fig from the tree is satisfying and sweet like a taste of paradise.
Fig & Olive Crisps with Brie, Prosciutto and Fig Balsamic Glaze
1 box fig & olive crisps (can be found at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods)
1 ½ cups Giusti Crema Fig Balsamic Glaze
8 oz round of Brie or *La Tur cheese at room temperature
5 oz sliced prosciutto
Optional: fresh basil to garnish.
Assemble by placing fig & olive crisps on a serving board or platter, layer crisps with slice of cheese, folded prosciutto and drizzle with Guisti Crema fig balsamic glaze. Top with basil to garnish, if desired.
*La Tur is a soft-ripened cheese made from a blend of sheep’s, cow’s and goat’s milk. It is produced in the Alta Lange region of Italy. The round disc cheese is a light straw yellow color with an edible soft wrinkled rind. La Tur tastes of the sweetness of cream and butter, followed by acidic notes and yeasty flavors.