We have a lovely relationship with figs, and so many warm fig memories. One of our father’s sisters (who has passed away) lived in a beautiful spot in Greece called Chrani. This was our favourite place to visit and spend our summers. Our aunt was joyful, exuberant, generous and full of life. Her home was simple but perfect, and connected to a small convenience store where she sold cold drinks and snacks to travellers getting off the bus which stopped at the corner of her property. For those who think that all of Greece’s glory is found on the islands, we can tell you that the mainland is equally stunning. In fact, over the years we saw our aunt’s town change from a relatively secluded oasis to a tourist hub, with hotels popping up all around her.
Despite the fact that there was a European invasion which grew exponentially from year to year, our aunt’s corner of the world remained untouched. Right outside of her front door was a main road; crossing it brought us to her field of fig trees and a dirt path led us to stone steps. At the bottom of this naturally formed staircase, was the beach. Flanked on both sides by rock formations jutting deep into the water, what resulted was about 1/2 a mile of private beach, whose access was known only to the locals. Our days and evenings were spent here, meeting up with friends, enjoying the glorious water, sand and sun. Such hard work certainly built up our appetites. When we got hungry, we would open up the bag of figs we had picked from our aunt’s trees as we headed to the beach. Warm from the sun and as fresh as can be, these figs were perfect.
Fresh figs, when you can get your hands on them, are delicious! They tend to grow well in warm climates, although our father has successfully maintained fig trees in his garden for several years now…and Canada is not always warm! He takes great care to bring his trees in for the winter and is rewarded with plenty of fruit come summer. He is really our gardening hero! However, don’t despair if fresh figs are not available to you. This recipe uses dried figs, and good quality dried figs are deliciously different from their fresh counterparts. Add to that the fact that dried figs have the highest concentration of antioxidant polyphenols among all other dried fruits, and you are left with something delicious and nutritious.
This recipe calls for a bit of Metaxa, a delicious Greek brandy. If you don’t have Metaxa, or are choosing not to use alcohol, you can replace it with an equal amount of freshly squeezed orange juice.
As always, when we use feta we always use Greek feta. This cheese is made with either sheep or goat milk and is far superior to feta made with cow’s milk. It may be more costly, and more difficult to find, but trust us…it is worth it!
These crostini are great for a party, especially since each individual component can be made ahead and then assembled right before you plan on serving your appetizers. If you toast your bread ahead of time, keep it in a sealed plastic bag. The crumbled feta and oil as well as the fig topping can both be kept in the refrigerator.
Chopping dried fruit can sometimes be challenging. We find that the easiest way to do so is with a pair of kitchen scissors. Snipping dried fruit is easier than chopping it or cutting it.
Mia Kouppa: Feta and fig crostini
- 2/3 cup and 1 tablespoon cut up pieces of dried fig
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 2 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons Metaxa brandy or freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2/3 cup crumbled feta
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- Place the figs, thyme, brown sugar, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar and water in a bowl. Mix well and set aside for approximately one hour.
- Place the contents of the bowl into a saucepan and bring to a boil. When it has begun to boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until there is no more liquid in the saucepan and the figs have broken down somewhat. At this point, add the Metaxa and simmer for a few more minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside.
- While the fig portion of the recipe is cooling, prepare the feta by mixing the crumbled feta with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil. Set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prepare your crostini. Slice your baguette into 1/2 inch slices, cut on the diagonal (so that each slice of bread is an oval shape). Place your sliced baguette on a cookie sheet and bake them in the middle rack of your oven for approximately 5 minutes per side. Watch so that they don’t burn.
- To assemble the crostini, spread some feta over a toasted bread slice. Use the back of a spoon to press down on the feta. Add some of the fig compote on top of the feta. Adorn with a small piece of fresh thyme. Enjoy!