Mediterranean-inspired treasures Okay, you can boast about the roast, get in the news with your stews, what's missing? Possibly the pizzazz of pizza and the pleasures of pasta, polenta, and risotto. These Italianate treasures have become part of our American diet, and they're treated in grand style by Todd English in his most recent cookbook, The Figs Table, co-authored by Sally Sampson. English, the chef/owner of two renowned Boston eateries, Olives and Figs, pays tribute to the traditional and the trendy; in fact, he often sets the trends. Figs, considered by the cognoscenti to have the very best pizza in Boston, goes beyond the savory pie to serve Mediterranean-inspired starters, salads, soups, sandwiches, swoon-inducing sweets, pasta, and more, as the 100-plus recipes included here attest. English begins with basics basic herbs like roasted garlic and flavored oils and basic sauces for the three P s (pizza, pasta, and polenta). Then, he gets to the main events, the three P s themselves, with a respectful nod to risotto, offering a fabulous selection from the simple ( Creamy Cheddar and Spinach Polenta ) to the sublime ( Spicy Shrimp Pizza with Caramelized Leeks and Tomato Sauce ). To English, cookbooks are like modern grandmas that teach us old and new ways. He's produced a glorious gourmet-grandma, expertly and lovingly explaining her ways to the home cook.
FIG JAMFig Jam is more like a dried fruit preserve than a true jam. We use it primarily on our Fig and Prosciutto Pizza, but after you've tried it, I'm sure you'll come up with your own uses.
MAKES ABOUT 1 CUP1 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil3 shallots, diced1 cup red wine1/4 cup chicken broth or canned low-sodium chicken broth1/4 cup beef broth3/4 cup balsamic vinegar1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves1/4 cup sugar1 rounded cup dried mission figs, quarteredPlace a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and, when it is hot, add the oil. Add the shallots and cook until they are softened, about 3 minutes. Deglaze with the red wine and reduce by half. Add the broths and vinegar, and reduce by half. Add the rosemary and sugar.
Lower the heat to low and cook until the sugar has melted, about 3-5 minutes. Add the figs and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are rehydrated, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cook until the mixture has the consistency of a liquidy jam, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 5 days.
From The Figs Table: More Than 100 Recipes for Pizzas, Pastas, Salads, and Desserts by Todd English and Sally Sampson (Simon ∧ Schuster).
Sybil Pratt is an avid cook.