The only thing better than a good recipe? When something’s so easy that you don’t even need one. Welcome to It’s That Simple, a column where we talk you through the dishes and drinks we can make with our eyes closed.
Even as a professional chef, I have a reluctance to do anything to figs. When they’re plump, heavy, and so ripe that honey-like syrup oozes out, all you need is a plate, if that. But this jammy fig toast is my exception.
Broil olive-oiled bread until it’s rich and crunchy-chewy, then top with fresh figs. From there you only need a little salt and pepper, maybe some herbs and a splash of your favorite vinegar. It’s one of the most satisfying meals I know as summer blurs into fall.
Think pan con tomate—the popular Spanish tapa that originated in Catalonia, where it’s known as pa amb tomàquet—only without the tomate. Much like that dish (olive oil-saturated toast, rubbed with garlic and tomato), this one is a celebration of simplicity.
Figs are just as summery as tomatoes, yet their availability straddles two seasons: one in early summer, then another in late summer into fall. Like tomatoes, the sweetness of figs shines bright with olive oil. The type doesn’t matter: Something buttery and fruity is just as good as something pungent and peppery—it’s just your preference.
Also like tomatoes, figs want to be the focus, always. In pan con fig they can be, even if you don’t have Goldilocks figs on hand; ripe and overripe both work here. This is lucky. Figs tend to have a shorter shelf life than, say, a peach, apple, or pineapple, so there’s a sense of urgency to nail the timing.
If your figs have softened to a fragility level that needs a burst warning, grate them and spread them on toast; they were mush to begin with, so we’re just helping them along. And if your figs don’t taste like anything—not a ton of honey sweetness or juicy texture—also grate them and spread them on toast; a little seasoning draws out a lot of flavor.
Grab some crusty bread. The wider the crumb, the better. That way, the holes can catch the fig mash and olive oil. If you’re working with a baguette, slice off two 5-ish-inch pieces, then halve those horizontally, creating 4 open-face pieces. If you’re working with ciabatta, do roughly the same thing to get 4 pieces.
Turn on your broiler and drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over each piece of bread, covering as much surface area as possible. Arrange the pieces, cut side up in a skillet or on a sheet pan, and place under the broiler. Toast until the tops are golden brown (some light char is great) and any pooling oil in the bread’s crumb is glistening gold. Transfer to a plate. If you’d like to go in a savory direction, very-very lightly rub each toast with 1 garlic clove.
Snip the stems off 4–8 ripe figs. (Any variety will do. Black Mission, to me, is the most figgy, but raspberry-hued Kadota are beautiful too.) Now press that snipped end firmly into the large holes of a box grater set over a plate. Coarsely grate in small circular motions, leaving you with grated flesh and the skins to discard (or, if you’d like, you can mince the skins with a knife, then mix them in).
Evenly spread the grated fig pulp on the toast, filling every nook and cranny. Drizzle with more olive oil, followed by an ultra-light drizzle of your favorite vinegar (red wine and sherry are good) or even lemon juice. Sprinkle flaky salt on top, maybe some coarsely ground black pepper, and even a pinch of granulated sugar if your figs need the help. Finish with a few torn herbs such as basil and/or chives.