Until he gave them up for good a few years ago, my husband loved Fig Newtons with an intensity people usually reserve for their favorite sports teams. I would buy five or six packages at a time and store them on a certain shelf in the pantry, so he’d always have a ready supply. He had his own pressed tin Fig Newton canister, printed to look like an oversized cookie package, which held four of the cellophane-wrapped sleeves at once. At Lent, he’d give up every kind of sweet or dessert on Earth, except Fig Newtons. “They have fruit in them,” he’d say. “They’re good for you. They’re not sweets.” Life with a lawyer is like that.
I’m not sure why he eventually asked me to stop buying them, although it probably had something to do with the cookies’ sugar content. He got serious about eating more healthfully, and six grams of sugar in each Newton became hard to justify in the amounts he liked to consume, even for an avowed fan. The lack of Newtons in my grocery cart was no big deal to me; I didn’t like them and only ate them if I lost a bet or had a strong sweets craving when there was nothing tastier in the house.
Since I didn’t like Fig Newtons, I thought I didn’t like figs.
I was so wrong.
I had a bowlful of tiny figs to do something with yesterday, procured from a farmers’ market vendor on Saturday who said her husband picks the fruit in their backyard and restocks her stand in real time, as supplies run low. He had just refreshed her wares. I bought a dry pint on impulse, figuring that the figs would look good on a cheese plate for Sunday’s simple dinner, if nothing else. When I rummaged in the fridge yesterday for cheese to serve, one thing led to another, which led to this.
And it was good! (Figs make me think in Biblical phrases.)
Set out 4 ounces of plain cream cheese (half of a block) and 2 ounces of plain goat cheese (cut from a log) on a kitchen counter for about an hour to soften at room temperature.
In a small bowl, whisk together the softened cheeses with a fork to combine thoroughly. Set aside.
Cut a loaf of ciabbata into 1-inch slices. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the bread slices. Cook, turning, until golden brown on both sides, adding more oil if necessary. Remove to a plate. Vigorously rub the cut surface of a peeled clove of garlic over the rough, toasted tops of the bread to add good garlic flavor. Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste.
Spread a thick layer of the cream cheese/goat cheese mixture on each slice of toasted bread. Top with slices of fresh figs, then drizzle with honey. (I used a chili-infused honey from Brooklyn, NY, called Mike’s Hot Honey.) Sprinkle chopped, fresh thyme over all.
One bite will make a fig lover out of you.
For folks who want to forgo the bread, adapt this recipe into Fig Bites. Cut an X into the stem end of each fig, not quite cutting through to the bottom. Put the cheese mixture into a quart-sized plastic bag (I prefer freezer bags for extra strength), cut a small piece off of one of the bag’s corners, and squeeze to pipe the cheese into the opened centers of the figs. Drizzle with honey, then sprinkle with chopped, fresh thyme.