“Everyone has a childhood memory of a special recipe eaten at home, at grandma’s house or at a restaurant, that made a lasting and permanent impression. Forever after, the thought of that dish lingers, ready to be triggered by a related sight, smell, or taste, long after we enjoyed the original preparation. The point is, we all have special recipes we’ve loved and lost,” says author, home cook, editor and photographer Monica Kass Rogers. She is the author of Lost Recipes Found, the delightful food blog that exists to celebrate them. Before it was a food blog, Monica began Lost Recipes Found as a column for the Chicago Tribune, one of the many publications she’s written for over the last 30 years.
“I’d been writing for the food section of the Chicago Tribune, and I kept thinking about French novelist Marcel Proust and his childhood memory of a madeleine cookie. Even the scent of something similar put Proust back in connection with so many other lovely memories. I thought it would be fun to create a column about dishes that do that for all of us.” Eventually the newspaper column became Monica’s blog, and as she prepared, styled and photographed the recipes for each story, her professional photography business took off as well.
One of the recipes she developed is connected to her own childhood food memories, and those from her mother. “My mom,” says Monica, “grew up eating fresh figs from a large, spreading fig tree that grew by her house in Southern Texas. She spoke of that tree, the cool of its shade, the scent and flavor of its fruit, and passed that fondness down to me. I love fresh figs, the green ones, and the black ones, eaten right out of hand, or sliced and served with prosciutto. But when I have a lot of figs, I make them into preserves, so good on toast, brioche, or baked into this very moist cake. It has two layers and is glazed with a caramel icing. The preserves used in this cake also make the perfect filling for my Not-Newton homemade fig bars, and can also be used in the lovely single-layer version of the fig cake.”
Among the oldest fruits consumed by humans, figs tell a complex and symbolic story in culinary history. Figs sweetened all types of dessert before the widespread use of sugar, and still appear as the main ingredient in dishes and desserts. Figs are most flavorful at room temperature. They are rich in nutrients while being relatively low in calories, making them an ideal addition to a healthy diet. Figs are great in jams, cookies, muffins, cakes, breads, preserves, in salads with sweet, tangy dressings, served simply with an added ingredient or two as an appetizer, and, of course, incorporated into a beautiful dessert like this one from Monica Kass Rogers.