I have a special relationship with figs.
When I was 9, my family and I lived on a ranch in San Rafael, California. My dad had just invested in a small Japanese restaurant across town and my mom was getting ready to give birth to my sister Elaine. My parents tell me that times were a bit tough back then. With so much of their money being funneled towards the business, we had very little left to get a place of our own, and so the family that my dad partnered with for the restaurant welcomed us into their home, their expansive acreage, for a short while.
The funny thing is, when I look back to our time spent there I am only filled with memories of joy. I played outside every chance I could get. I skipped pebbles across streams (or rather, tried my hardest to), chased deer along the waters’ edge, and trekked over small, rickety old bridges. To this day, the scents and sounds of my surroundings back then — old pine and cypress; gravel crunching beneath my shoes; critters scurrying among the foliage — remain vividly clear to me.
All along the expanse of the ranch grew beautiful and blissfully aromatic fig trees. On any given day, I’d walk up and pluck a ripe fig straight off the branch and eat it. They were always sweet and juicy and I just loved them.
And so, with autumn comes the arrival of figs at the market and my heart can’t help but gravitate towards them. Last year, I made mini fig and mascarpone cheese pizzettes to compliment their natural honeyed flavor. Today, I’m showing you a savory version that highlights the fig equally as well but on a different slant.
There’s something about the harmony of sweet and tangy that resounds so well with me. The bright zing of the goat cheese plus the twang of the balsamic-caramelized onions made a welcome canvas for the nectarous fig. And, I was lucky enough to find an easy no-knead pizza dough recipe that was both simple and delicious.
Fig, Caramelized Onion, and Goat Cheese Flatbread Pizza
1 grapefruit-sized ball of no- knead pizza dough*
6 black mission figs; sliced lengthwise
1 medium yellow onion; sliced thinly
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Fresh goat cheese; sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
*I used Steamy Kitchen’s instructions on how to make the no-knead pizza dough, which is an original recipe from the cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The recipe yields about 2 big pizzas or 4 smaller ones. I opted to make 4 smaller ones to experiment with different flavors. Jaden suggests letting the dough sit in the fridge overnight, which is a tip I had heard before but never tried until this time around, and I can really say that it does make a big difference. The flavor of the dough is much more subdued (not as “yeasty”) and it yields a nice chewy consistency. If you’re under time constraints or simply just can’t be bothered to make homemade pizza dough, by all means, find yourself a batch of the best quality store-bought or pizza parlor ready made dough and it will still turn out terrific.
Take the pizza dough out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter to come up to room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Start by caramelizing the onions. Grab a medium sauce pan and drop in the pat of butter. Turn up the heat to medium. Once the butter has mostly melted, toss in the sliced onions and stir. Add a pinch of salt. Let the onions cook down at about medium to medium-low heat until they’re soft and golden brown. You might have to play with the heat, you don’t want them to scorch. This all happens within about 20-30 minutes. At the very end, add the splash of balsamic vinegar and taste. Adjust the seasonings if necessary. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, lower an oven rack to its’ lowest possible position, raise another oven rack to its’ highest possible position (more on this later), stick your preferred pizza baking stone/tray onto the rack, and preheat your oven to its’ highest setting — mine is 500 degrees. Really important here: you want your oven to be screaming hot.
Sprinkle some flour onto your working surface, the dough, and your rolling pin, and start rolling out your dough. It should be easily manipulated and stretched at this point. If it keeps shrinking back to its’ original size no matter how many passes you make, let it sit for a moment longer to allow the gluten in the dough to relax.
Once you have the dough stretched and shaped however you like (I aimed for small and oval-ish and more on the thin side to make it crispier), transfer it to the (now hot) pizza stone or baking tray. Use a brush to cover the dough with olive oil and then put the whole thing in the oven to bake for about 7-9 minutes, or until the crust looks almost all the way done.
While the crust bakes, quickly make the arugula salad. Toss the arugula leaves with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
When the crust is golden brown, take it out and turn off the oven and turn on the broiler. Spread the goat cheese, caramelized onions, and figs over the crust and place under the broiler to melt the cheese for about 2 minutes. Then, take it out, drizzle with a touch more olive oil and sprinkle the light arugula salad over the top. Grab your knife, cut, and serve. Lovely.