By contributing writer Willi Galloway
I was almost 25 years old the first time I tried a fresh fig. It was one of those seminal eating experiences that I'll never forget. Since then, I've been making up for lost time by eating figs whenever I can. I love fig gelato, figs wrapped in bacon, figs in oatmeal, and fig jam with Manchego cheese.
I wanted to make something cheesy and savory with figs, but without bacon so my husband, Jon (who is a vegetarian), could share. I settled on making up a big batch of caramelized onions, cooked long and slow, until they were deep brown, soft and sweet. Then I stirred in chopped up figs and cooked them until they began to melt into the onions. I decided that this fig confit would be the perfect filling for gooey, grilled cheese sandwiches. They're so, so good. I'd eat these sandwiches seven nights a week if they were just a teensy bit healthier. Enjoy!
Heat the oil over medium high until it shimmers. Add the sliced onions, toss to coat them with oil, and sprinkle a big pinch of salt over them. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook the onions slowly until they soften and turn an even, deep brown (about 30 minutes).
In the meantime, mix together the grated Gouda and Fontina cheeses in a small bowl. Wash the figs, slice off their stem ends, and cut them into 1/4-inch pieces.
When the onions are completely caramelized, turn the heat back up to medium and stir in the figs and the rosemary. When the figs just begin to break apart, after about 2 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and scrape the mixture into a bowl.
To make the sandwiches, divide the Gouda and Fontina cheese mixture between two slices of the bread, spreading evenly. Then, spread a quarter cup of the onion-fig confit onto each of the remaining slices of bread and top them off with a tablespoon of Parmesan each. Create the sandwiches by topping each cheesy slice of bread with a fig-onion confit slice.
Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat. When the foam subsides, place the sandwiches, cheese side down, into the skillet. Press the sandwiches into the pan with the back of a spatula and cook, without flipping over, until the bread is evenly browned (about 3 minutes). Place the sandwiches onto a plate.
Melt another 1/2 tablespoon of butter in the pan. When the foam subsides, place the sandwiches back in the pan, browned side up, and cook about 3 more minutes, or until the bread is evenly browned and the cheese is completely melted.
Remove the sandwiches from the pan, slice them in half, and serve immediately.
Recipe by Willi Galloway, West Coast Editor for Organic Gardening magazine. For this and more yummy recipes, visit her website at www.digginfood.com.