Kitchen Call: Give a fig on Mother’s Day

Linda Bassett

Two most popular days for eating out: New Year’s Eve and Mother’s Day.

While some moms enjoy the restaurant experience or the traditional breakfast in bed, I would rather not risk noise, crowds and overworked waitstaff. Neither do I want anyone messing around in my kitchen. I’d rather someone just grilled me something, anything, and picked up the sides at a decent carry-out place.

I’d be happiest of all eating a hot dog at Fenway Park with my kids. (Two wishes to make that afternoon complete, sun and a win for the home team.)

If you’re the one doing the cooking this Sunday, try something surprising: fresh figs. They are surprisingly easy, requiring hardly any prep work — no peeling or seeding, just washing and cutting off stems before starting the recipe.

Just now coming into season, a few figs take simple, basic grilling or roasting to new heights. In these recipes, the figs are added to a vinaigrette or sauce to transform them into a restaurant-style treat.

Two of my favorite, somewhat unique, recipes feature salmon and pork. The salmon cooks on the grill or under the broiler. The pork tenderloin, because it’s a small cut, roasts surprisingly quickly in the oven. (If you have a bigger crowd, buy two.) Both are a little pricier than an everyday meal but decidedly less so than restaurant dining.

The salmon should be cut into 4- or 6-ounce fillets at the fish counter. It’s served warm, meaning it doesn’t necessarily need to be hot off the grill, giving the cook time to whisk up the vinaigrette. Note: Measure out and prepare all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and pile into a bowl at room temperature before lighting the grill, so that the salmon is warm, not ice cold, when it gets to the table.

The pork might need just a little trimming, but usually these tenderloins are packaged ready to cook. Searing on the outside in a skillet gives it a caramelized crust that sweetens the whole. The recipe calls for putting the skillet into the oven, but not everyone owns an ovenproof skillet. It doesn’t make any difference if the tenderloin is transferred to a roasting pan to finish cooking in the oven. Actually, I prefer that, because the sauce can be made in the skillet on top of the stove while the roast finishes cooking. This one goes to the table hot.

Whatever the kids dream up, my kitchen will be closed. For one day only.


6 servings

1 shallot, minced

1/14 cup chopped basil

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 tablespoon port

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt, pepper

6 salmon fillets, 6 oz. 1-1/2 in. thick

9 fresh figs, stemmed, halved lengthwise

1. Mix together the shallot, basil, parsley, port, vinegar, salt in a bowl. Whisk in 6 tablespoons OO, and pepper to taste. Set aside.

2. Brush the salmon fillets and figs with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper, grill or broil on both sides about 3 to 4 minutes per side and lightly charred on the outside.

Set aside, keeping warm.

3. Grill or broil the figs until warmed through, 2-3 minutes. Chop the figs; whisk into the prepared vinaigrette. Spoon the vinaigrette over the warm salmon.


Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-1/2 pound boneless pork tenderloin

Coarse salt, ground pepper

1 shallot, diced

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup port

1/2 pound ripe fresh figs, stemmed, halved

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof skillet. Season the pork with salt and pepper and sear on all sides in the skillet, about 8 to 10 minutes. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the skillet; reserve the fat. Transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until pork registers 145 degrees, about 25 minutes. Transfer to the pork to a platter; tent with aluminum foil to keep warm and allow the juices to redistribute.

3. Return the skillet to the cooktop. Heat a tablespoon of reserved cooking fat (a larger skillet will need more than a tablespoon of fat so that it doesn’t burn) from the pork over medium heat. (If there is not enough reserved fat, then use a neutral cooking oil with a small amount of butter.)

4. Add the shallot, cooking until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds until the flour just starts to color. Gradually whisk in port, cooking until the sauce is thick enough to coat spoon, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the figs cooking until warmed through, about a minute or two. If the sauce seems too thick, add water, a tablespoon at a time.

5. Slice the pork roast on the diagonal; serve with fig sauce over it.

Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at Follow Linda on Twitter at @Kitchen Call for a daily kitchen hint, trick, shortcut or info.