Frozen, staring blankly in stunned silence, I am the quintessential deer in headlights, with an 18-wheeler coming straight my way. All I did was flip the calender page this morning, as one is typically inclined to do at the end of a month, I might add, and suddenly there weren’t nearly enough pages left. November, a tricky month indeed, means the holidays are here. No more avoiding them, turning your head from the early displays of lights and tinsel at the mall, pretending they don’t exist. November means both intense business and a time of celebration for me, mixed well with a generous pinch of stress. In typical fashion, fumbling through the morning and daily routine, I pushed it to the corner of my mind… And nearly choked on my coffee when every email in my inbox was splattered with festive graphics and messages. What a cruel wake up call.
But honestly, it’s still early, right? We can all save the panic over Thanksgiving menus and Christmas gifts for another day; I don’t know about you, but I’m just not ready. I’m still adjusting to the whole idea of leaving summer behind, for starters! But I have found a few things to help soften the blow, and truth be told, almost all of them are seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Not exactly shocked? I don’t blame you, it seems like even the most unspirited scrooges can still get into the spirit of enjoying sweet little treasures like perfectly ripe figs. Though they’re not my most favorite fruit, they’re a quintessential part of the fall transition, just like Aunt Mary’s leaden fruitcake must make an appearance before the holidays are officially set in motion. Okay, maybe that’s an unfair comparison, but figs aren’t something I would simply munch on unadorned. Thus, dressing them up in the simplest of clothing, a quick trip through the oven with a sprinkling of sugar does wonders for both texture and flavor. Park a few on top of warm, soft rice pudding, slowly cooked over the course of a lazy hour or two, and you have something to look forward to come November.
No real recipe is required here; just gather up a bunch of fresh figs, slice them in half, and toss them with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Arrange them with the cut sides up on a baking sheet, and sprinkle the tops evenly with a thin coat of granulated sugar. Bake in a 400 degree preheated oven for 15 – 25 minutes, until the sugar is caramelized and the figs are fork-tender. Let cool for a few minutes before topping off your favorite rice pudding with a couple halves, plus some toasted and chopped hazelnuts for crunch, if desired. If you don’t already have a favorite rice pudding, start looking here. I think the internet already has far too many standard vegan rice puddings weighing it down, so there’s no need to add mine to the fray.