Friday, September 14

Fresh Fig and Fennel Pizza and the Best Time of the Day

Growing up, my mother prepared two dinners every night. She made an early one for her, my brothers, my grandmother, and me, and a second one for my father, who came home late from work.

I remember those early dinners well. My mother would ensure that there was something each of us loved -- one night there would be corn for Paul, or pasta for Chris, or artichokes for me. In return, we always ate what she made, even when we didn't like it, well, except for liver.

One time, she tried to pass off liver as steak. I wasn't fooled. I can still hear my grandmother's voice as I was howling about the awful smell. “What smell?" she protested, "It smells delicious! You know, when I was growing up, we couldn’t afford meat for the whole family, so we watched my father eat liver while the rest of us got full on bread.” I knew better than to tell her that I thought she was the lucky one.

Liver aside, those dinners were unforgettable. Even though it has been years since I have been in school or shared an early dinner with my mom and brothers, there is something--the back-to-school season or the way the sun is lower in the September sky--that brings me right back.

I shared this with my mom when she visited recently, and she agreed. “I wish I could go back one night and have all my kids around the table again. How I loved that time of day,” she added.

Because I now live California, it is a rare occasion for us to be together for dinner. So I look forward to my mom's visits here (where I get to cook what she loves). On her last trip, I made one of her favorites: my fig and fennel pizza.

Fresh figs have a heart-breakingly short season (typically from August-October), so now is the time to savor them. Though the vast majority of figs are produced here in California because of its Mediterranean climate, they can be found in most supermarkets across the country. Since figs do not ripen once picked, it’s best to eat them as soon as possible.

These lovely tear-drop shaped fruit are singular in appearance and flavor. From their characteristic perfumed fragrance to their fragile skin that is often split from ripeness, revealing droplets of golden honeyed nectar, figs are a treat so luscious that time seems to slow while eating one. And fresh figs are not at all like dried figs. They are soft and creamy and fruity and tangy.

Inspired by a fig and anise bread from San Diego’s famed Bread and Cie bakery, I created this fresh fig and fennel pizza. I coax the figs' inherent sweetness by slightly caramelizing them with shallots and licorice-flavored fennel. These flavors are balanced by pungent blue cheese, aromatic fresh rosemary, and rich toasted walnuts.

Fresh Fig and Fennel Pizza

Print this recipe here.

1 pound pizza dough
1 tsp olive oil

2 tsp olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
2 tsp sugar
1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
10-12 fresh Mission figs (or other variety), thickly sliced (about 1 1/4 cups)
¼ tsp lemon zest
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh rosemary, plus a little more for garnish
Salt and crushed red pepper
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 500 if using a pizza stone or 425-450 if using a baking sheet.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a sheet of parchment paper (if using a stone) or to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with 1 tsp olive oil.

Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced shallots and sugar; stir occasionally, until the shallots begin to caramelize, about 5-6 minutes. Add the sliced fennel and continue cooking over medium-low heat until fully caramelized, another 5-6 minutes. Add sliced figs cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Add lemon zest, cinnamon, rosemary, salt, and pepper; gently blend and remove from heat.

Place half of the blue cheese on the dough. Arrange the fig and fennel mixture on top. Top with remaining ½ blue cheese.

For a pizza stone, bake at 500 degree for about 10 minutes, or until both the top and bottom of the crust is brown and the cheese is melted.

For a baking sheet, bake at 450 for about 25 minutes, or until both the top and bottom of the crust is brown and the cheese is melted.

**Note: The walnuts have a tendency to become overly toasted when put on the pizza too early, so I usually add them when there is 2-3 minutes cooking time remaining.

Let cool slightly before slicing. Garnish with more fresh rosemary if desired and serve immediately.

You might also like:

Dad’s Patriot Potato Pizza
Barbecue Pizza with Fresh Corn and Onions (secret ingredient included!)
Tagliatelle with Shrimp and Fennel
Sicilian Salad of Fennel, Oranges, and Olives

I just found a delicious fresh fig, goat cheese, and prosciutto sandwich over at S'Kat and the Food.

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Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Fig and fennel and blue cheese -- oh my, that sounds delicious. My mom was just the opposite of yours -- one meal for everyone, we waited until Dad got home, and we ate what she served -- which was liver more often than I would have wished for.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog from NPR. I just love your stories and recipes.

Dallas, TX

bazu said...

Figs and fennel? How utterly marvelous! I love figs and fennel, and just when I thought there were no other ways to try them, you combine them into this wonderful dish!

Anonymous said...

the first time I had fig in pizza was in Napa Valley 2 years. Let me tell you that , it's a dish we still talk about till this day! Your pizza looks awesome!

Joanna said...

MMmm fig and fennel, together, on a pizza. I'd never have thought of it. Thanks for sharing.


Elizabeth said...

Mmmmm, fig, fennel, walnuts and blue cheese on a pizza... that must be fabulous! And I couldn't possibly be more envious, Susan! We can't really get good fresh figs here in Toronto. And there's nothing better, is there? The last time I had a tree ripened fresh fig, I was walking on a road in Tuscany. There were fig trees, planted by birds, growing by the side of the road. We plucked ripe figs from low hanging branches and walked on, dribbling fig juice down on our chins, leaving a trail of juice spatters behind us on the dusty road.


P.S. (It's possible that some of the insanely expensive highend markets do carry good fresh figs but they won't even let me in the door because they don't like the look of my non-designer shoes that don't match my non-designer bag ;-))

sra said...

I've never heard of fig and fennel pizza, Susan, how unusual! Lovely first photo, there, the whitish bloom on the figs reminds me of plums as well!

Anonymous said...

What an unusual combination... Even though I don't like fresh figs, this pizza is tempting! I bet that the combo of the sweetness of the figs goes great with the blue cheese.

Asha said...

Figs are everywhere in blogs these days,got to buy some of those! Figs and Fennel, great combo of Aroma and taste,looks great Susan.Good job!:)

Amanda said...

You know I've never tried a fresh fig. Your post is inspiring me to try one... I'll be hunting the supermarkets now! I'd love to try your recipe... it sounds lovely.

Mishmash ! said...

fennel pizza!! thats new to me :)
Susan, I love reading your lil stories...especially the family stories...pls write more :)


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Gosh Susan this looks and sounds really incredible . . . blue cheese, figs and fennel Pizza! That sounds memorable yes!
Fresh figs seem like a totally different fruit from dried.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Susan - this sounds absolutely heavenly! Far, far better than liver!!!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Lydia-I feel like I should call my mom right now, and thank her again for only doing the liver trick once. ;)

Melissa-Thanks so much! I appreciate your visit.

Bazu-Yeh! I'm glad I gave you another idea for figs and fennel. They are spectacular, aren't they?

Veronica-I believe it; the flavors are dynamic.

Joanna-I hope you try it.

Elizabeth-Oh, I wish you could have you over and share some farmers' market figs with me, no matter what shoes and handbag you're wearing. They are most delicious when freshly picked and eaten with 24 hours.

Sra-Thanks, I really enjoyed photographing them too.

Linda-You might like them cooked, since their texture and flavor alters somewhat from the caramelization.

Asha-They are a beautiful pairing.

Mrs. W-Oh, please do! You won't be disappointed.

Shn-That is so kind of you to say. I believe I can oblige. :)

Tanna-The flavors really work well together.

TW-You can say that again!

Nora B. said...

Oh Susan, I miss those times when i was a kids and we used to have meals together as a family - it usually is a long meal full of stories and laughter.

This pizza looks fabulous - what a wonderful combination of flavours. Your taste buds must have been very happy :-)

Lisa Johnson said...

What a great combination of flavors! Yum!

And were you mentioned on NPR? I have to go look! Congratulations!

Katie Zeller said...

I can definitely understand why this is one of your mom's favorites!
Wonderful memories....

Anonymous said...

You have 3 of my favorite ingredients: figs, blue cheese, and fennel. But I've never put them all! Generally I use fennel seeds to add an extra burst of flavor; I'm looking forward to working with the bulb on this recipe. When I lived in CA I had a mission fig tree in the backyard. How sweet it was to go out and pick to my heart's delight! Thanks for sharing this and your memories of family dinners at the table. A very special time indeed :)


thepassionatecook said...

i feel with your mom... at the momentm i cook three dinners every night: one for son number 1, 3.5 years old, one for my 7 month-old who's just started on solids and needs his stuff pureed and devoid of any salt or other seasoning, and then one for me and hubby... hopefully at least the boys will eat the same things soon and as they get more adventurous with their food, they might even join us for our dinner - how i look forward to this!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wonderful! I love that combination of ingredients! Your pizza look great...

Abby said...

Hi Susan! (I'm doing well, re: your comment, by the way. Just busy!) That pizza looks great - such a smart pairing. Can you believe that our neighbors CUT DOWN their fig trees? I know, they should be ashamed. (I've seen one coming back this summer, however, and I'm rooting for it to grow!)

MeloMeals said...

Oh boy... this looks and sounds absolutely amazing! I am dying here... I must get hands on some more figs.. I haven't seen them in our stores for several weeks... we had a bunch a month ago or so...

This looks just perfect.

Anonymous said...

(Slapping myself on the head) Why didn't I think of that? I had some lovely figs a few days ago. You're brilliant!

Anonymous said...

I'm all for pizzas with unique ingredients but I have tried to love fennel and simply can't. I am not an anise girl by any means.

But figs.....NOW you're talkin'! I could eat those until I go blind.

Anonymous said...

Susan, this looks beautiful!! If only people were to take a few lessons from you - instead of going out and paying ridiculous prices for 'gourmet' pizzas which more often than not are a let-down, they should try making their own gourmet pizzas with toppings that appeal to them at home - healthier, freshier and tastier by miles!

Ronnie Weston said...

This recipe sounds fabulous! And speaking of fabulous, your writing is exquisite. The paragraph describing the fig is first class food writing. Congratulations on another great post.

Anonymous said...

There are no good figs near me in Indiana, Susan, and these pictures almost make me weep. That delicate color is just awesome.

Anonymous said...

Wow your pizza looks outstanding! I have yet to be able find decent figs this year here in WI. I am still looking though!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Nora-It was too long ago. And, yes, my taste buds were excited!

Anali-Thanks! I wrote a piece for NPR's Kitchen Window which was published last Wednesday.

Katiez-Apparently, I inherited a lot of her food preferences too.

Rebecca-Oh, yes, I use fennel seeds in many sauces as well; they really perk up simple dishes. The thought of having a fig tree makes me giddy!

Johanna-What a wonderful mom and wife you are. Indeed!

Rosa-I'm so glad you like it.

Abby-What?! Who would cut down a fig tree? Unbelievable! (Glad to hear you're doing well.)

Melody-Thanks! I hope you get more so you can try it.

Sher-Hey, be careful! ;) The flavors are spectacular.

Kate-Hey, if fennel doesn't work for you, it doesn't work for you. The pizza would be delicious without it too. Promise. :)

Ellie-I appreciate that, and I completely agree. I love everything about homemade pizza from experimenting with flavor combinations, to the aroma of baking dough, to eating it with a lot less guilt since I know exactly what's been cooked into it!

Ronnie-Many thanks for your kind words. It means a lot to me.

Christine-What are the rates for Southwest and Jet Blue? I'll save you some. ;)

Andy-This pizza is worth a bit more hunting. I promise!

KellytheCulinarian said...

Sounds great. I made grilled pizza last week, but this is a topping I hadn't considered. Thanks for the tip.

Susan said...

This za is a knockout, Susan. I've never been even slightly motivated to try a fruited topping, but one should never say "never." [Nothing, however, will EVER motivate me to eat liver again. ; )] Thanks for the glorious recipe.

Stella said...

Wohoo!! Figs in pizza??? I'd never have thought of it! Only people as creative & adventurous as you would have done that! I bet it tasted awesome!

SteamyKitchen said...

We made pizza last night and tried your fig pizza - it was DELICIOUS!!! I didn't have fennel, but subsituted red onions. Will definitely make this again and again....

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Kelly-You're welcome. I'm sure it would taste grilled too.

Susan-That's what's so fabulous about cooking the figs--they're sweet and savory at the same time.

Valentina-You're so good for my ego. :)

Jaden-Really? That's awesome! I'm so happy to hear it was a success!

s'kat said...

Mmm, if I had any leftover, they'd definitely be going into this week's pie!

Scribbit said...

I'd never had fresh figs before until I saw them at Costco (of all places!) and bought some but they must have been a poor quality because I didn't care for them or the texture and have never tried them since. I'd love to try a REAL fig and see the difference.

Amy said...

What an awesome pizza! I just bought a fig tree this weekend. Hopefully I'll have some fresh figs to look forward to next year. :) Your mom sounds wonderful!

Anonymous said...

That sounds too delicious for words! I have only tried a fresh fig once in my life as they don't grow here...they were incredible! I can just imagine how fabulous this pizza is!

Your mom sounds like a real sweetie :) I have to agree though, I would have preferred stuffing my face with bread than with liver!

Gattina Cheung said...

Susan, for some reasons I see fig in savory (and elaborated) dish is very California :D Have seen someone from your state combined it with a fancy burger, and now your elegant pizza!!! Truely love the creation.

Ari (Baking and Books) said...

I love your stories Susan, they always make me smile and evoke memories of my own. What I wouldn't give to be transported back to one of my childhood dinners! Those were the days.

Fig & fennel pizza - what an succulent combination. This one is SO going on my menu for next week!

Ari (Baking and Books)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

S'Kat-It's hard to have leftover figs, isn't it?

Michelle-Costco is fine for some produce, but I think something as delicate as a fig is best from a local farmer. If you have a freshly picked ripe fig, I promise you, you'll be smitten.

Amy-Ooh, let me know when they're ready! ;) She is a sweetie.

Joey-You don't get figs? Oh,no. You'll have to come over for some pizza then. ;)

Gattina-Is it rather California, isn't it?

Ari-Wouldn't it be lovely to go back, even briefly?

Toni said...

As I read this post, I was reminded of Bread & Cie's fig and anise bread, which I adore! Oh yes! This looks too good to be true!

In our house, we waited for my dad and we all ate together. You are lucky that your mom is still around to cook for.

Anonymous said...

This sounds wonderfully delicious Susan! And your picture makes it look mouthwatering, I will just have to try it, maybe one night while we're watching the world cup?

Sig said...

oh... isn't it nice to cook for your mom? :) I love everything you have added to this pizza Susan... it is a brilliant combination.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Toni-I could eat their bread every day!

Ronnell-Perfect World Cup fare, I think!

Sig-Thanks. I really do love to cook for her, as I'm sure you do with your mom.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Speaking as someone whose pizzas are usually of a more ordinary variety, this looks so unusual. And sooooo good.

Anonymous said...

Hoooey does this look good! I'm glad I found it before figs go out of season! Thanks for the recipe.

Anonymous said...

Yum! I love figs, hence my blog name I will SO have to try out figs on pizza. I can imagine it would be wonderful with Brie cheese or Parmesan too. Sweet story of your family as well. Thanks you!

Jeanne said...

I remember kiddie meals! My mom used to make dinner for me and my brother in the kitchen early (which we'd have at the kitchen table reading our Mickey Mouse comics and having milk) and then she and my dad would eat later in the dining room. And I remember some of the hotels we stayed in used to have kiddies' dinners in the dining room before the adults arrived - does that even happen these days?

Mmmmm, figs. I love them - and I made a fig, brie and Prosciutto pizza the other day that I really must post. Yours looks absolutely fabulous.

Katy said...

YUM, YES! I love fresh figs so much -- i was at a party over christmas with a fruit and cheese platter that contained fresh figs, and i literally stood next to the platter all night! i probably ate 75% of them. this looks wonderful!!!

Carrie said...

Thank you! I made this pizza long ago and have been raving about it ever since. I even adapt for special occasions. I'll share the link at my blog:

Anonymous said...

this pizza sounds amazing...only problem is I can only find dried figs. Any recommendations for substituting dry figs for fresh? know a successful reconstituting process? can't wait to make this!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I would soak them in warm water until softened. Good luck!

Cory said...

Thank you for this recipe. It was such a delightful pick-me-up for a weeknight meal. We can't wait to have it again!