Sur La Table, the store at The Eton Collection that sells every cooking gadget and necessity known to man (woman), offers classes through their Culinary Program.
I attended "Fig Heaven" which was presented by Marie Simmons the author of the book by the same name.
Marie is actually the author of eighteen cookbooks and an absolutely delightful woman and teacher.
Thirty or so would-be chefs crowded the room to learn about, watch and most importantly of all taste, this strange little fruit. Well, technically we are told it is not a fruit at all, but a flower, or more precisely a garden of flowers. Each one of those things we think of as seeds are actually blossoms. I think I'll call it a fruit anyway, it just seems right.
Figs have been referred to in literature, ancient civilizations and as you probably remember, the Bible. It was after all the leaf of a fig plant that was first worn in the Garden of Eden or as Marie calls it "the lingerie of Biblical times".
Marie is passionate about figs and is graced by a bounty of them near her home in San Francisco. She first learned to love them in New York where she and her grandmother made Italian cookies stuffed with figs, but as she says, it was a Jewish neighborhood so the cookies they made had a New York Jewish influence.
Her grandmother once told her mother, in Italian, that Marie had "hands of gold" which gave Marie the confidence very early on to try new things and become the amazing chef she is today.
We watched her make Fresh Fig Quesadillas, Walnut Stuffed Marsala Plumped Dried Figs with Cream Cheese, Roasted Figs with Gorgonzola and Prosciutto di Parma, Wild Salmon and Potatoes Roasted on Fig Leaves with Fresh Fig Salad, Fresh Fig and Peach Crumble and topped it all off with Dried Fig, Orange and Chocolate Bonbons.
It was a very informative as well as tasty class. Marie's teaching method was at the same time funny, informal and very informative. The few people who had never tried figs but were just interested in the class came away with the same devotion to this fruit that the rest of us already had.
The class was well worth taking and it will be interesting to see what the next one is. Sur La Table is one of a number of places throughout the Greater Cleveland area offering these classes.
A few of the other books by Marie Simmons:
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