Fig's fleeting fall season is upon us. And for Dovetail chef John Fraser, that means the appearance of a semiannual fig dish on the restaurant's menu.

The chef always features a fig dish when the fruit is in season during early summer and late summer/early fall.

"I think people are excited by figs because the season is so fleeting, like white asparagus or truffles," Fraser says. "You get fresh figs in such a small window."

Fraser himself is also drawn to the fruit for its flavor.

"It has a very full mouth feel," he says. "It's super sweet and very, very seasonal. I think those things always get me excited."

In the beginning of the summer, Dovetail serves raw figs, while for fall the chef creates a cooked dish.

"It's nice to have something charred or grilled and red-wine friendly," Fraser says.

For this fall, Fraser is serving grilled figs marinated in a red wine reduction with stracciatella topped with a bulgur salad, shaved radishes and arugula.

Mission figs are currently in season, but this recipe would also work with Kadota or Turkey figs which come later in the season. Ripeness is key -- the fruit should be soft and give a bit, like an avocado, Fraser says. And they're perfect for grilling.

"Figs have so much sugar in them -- they react really well with a grill," says Fraser, who advises that home cooks makes sure their grill is super hot before you put the figs on it so that they don't stick.

The bulgur salad is an elevated play on a quinoa tabbouleh.

"One of the things we like to play with is health food," Fraser says. "There's always a lot of creativity around other types of cuisines -- a French chef will do a take on Chinese food -- but I think what I've realized in the last five years or so is healthy food is another genre of food and can have its own level of creativity."

This dish in particular plays on a quinoa salad that you would find in a health food store and throws in pistachios and chopped herbs.

The meat of the vegetable dish, so to speak, is the stracciatella.

"That's really just to fatten it up and make sure there's a little bit of depth on the palate," Fraser says.

The resulting appetizer is healthy but still satisfying, says the chef.

"I think when you go to a restaurant like Dovetail, you want to feel satiated, and that's not always associated with health," he says. "But it's very simple and not that complex."

 

Grilled figs with stracciatella, bulgur and pistachios


Serves four as an appetizer

For the cabernettreduction
1 bottle California cabernet (750 ml.)
1 stick cinnamon
3 pods star anise
3 whole cloves
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
Salt to taste

Combine all and reduce to syrup consistency. Pass through a fine mesh strainer. Reserve.

For the grilled figs
16 ripe California Mission figs
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Split figs in half lengthwise. Toss figs with olive oil and season with salt. Grill over charcoal until marked and warmed through. Let cool to room temperature and toss with reserved cabernet reduction.

For the cookeddbulgur wheat
1 pint bulgur wheat
1 pint water
Salt to taste

Toast bulgur on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly brown. Place bulgur in a metal mixing bowl. Bring water to a boil, season with salt and pour over bulgur. Stir briefly with a spoon and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow water to absorb. 

For the bulgur salad
Cooked bulgur wheat
1 cup toasted and chopped pistachios
1/4 cup chopped tarragon
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
Juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients.

To finish
1 pint stracciatella cheese
2 medium radishes, shaved thinly and held in ice water to crisp
1 pint baby arugula

Place three mounds of stracciatella on each of the four plates. Arrange eight grilled fig halves around the cheese. Top with bulgur salad. Garnish with shaved radishes and arugula as desired.