(Russ Parsons/Los Angeles…)
Yes, I know it's hot. Really hot. So hot that I was happy to be stuck in an hour-and-a-half traffic jam getting to a friend's house in Topanga because at least our car was air conditioned. And yes, I'm ready for the heat to break. But no matter how sweaty and irritable these temperatures may make me, I'm also thankful for them. Because with heat comes ripe fruit and, most particularly, ripe figs.
I was shopping at the Torrance Saturday farmers market when I spotted a tray of bedraggled-looking green figs at Mark Boujikian's stand. Could it be?
"Are these Adriatics?" I asked the guy behind the counter.
"How did you know that?" he asked me.
I knew that because I am a fig freak and as wonderful as Brown Turkeys and Black Missions may be, there are few figs that can rival the Adriatic for flavor. Though they're drab on the outside, cut them open and you've got a center that looks like raspberry jam. (In general, sorry looks are a hallmark of great figs: The old Spanish proverb is to buy figs with a beggar's ragged cloak and a widow's weeping eye.)
And that center tastes even better than it looks. In addition to that wonderful, slightly prickly flavor, which can only be described a "figgy," ripe Adriatics have a honeyed sweetness brightened by what tastes to me like a cross between raspberry and creamy lemon.
At $4 a pint, they were pricey, but I didn't think twice. Well, actually I did. Because after I'd paid for one pint, I turned right back around and went back and asked for another. The season for Adriatics is short and I wasn't sure when I'd see them again.
"You want another one?" the stand manager asked. "How about if I give you three for $10?"
The problem with being an impulsive fig freak is that you have to use them. So now I've got a wealth of amazingly delicious, terribly fragile fruit that I have to eat really fast. That's meant figs and yogurt sweetened with honey for the last couple of breakfasts. I might also roll out a fig tart for dessert tonight.
But I'm open for suggestions. Sure it's hot, but with a kitchen full of figs, I'm going to be cooking.