With all the coverage of humans being incredible in Rio, it can be difficult to take pride in one’s own quotidian achievements. Yes, Usain Bolt has once again proven himself to be the fastest man alive, but I finally got around to cleaning my shower. Sure, Katie Ledecky is shattering world records and raking in gold, but I harvested a decently sized tomato from my garden. OK, Simone Biles has spun, flipped and leapt her way to the title of world’s greatest gymnast while another Simone (Manuel) made history by becoming the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal for swimming, but I made this jam, and it came out great.
Now, I’ve never won an Olympic medal, so I can’t say for sure that the taste of this fig and red onion jam is comparable to that feeling, but it must be pretty close, especially when paired with good bread and goat cheese (a combo I may have waxed poetic about in the past). Plus it’s a sure-fire hit when you need an impressive hors d’oeuvres. You might think that the fans in the stands in Rio are excitable but if you really want to see a crowd go wild, bring this jam to your next wine and cheese party.
And as a bonus, I’ve got some sandwich inspiration that’ll knock your socks off.
fig & red onion jam
16 dried figs, quartered
1 cup red wine
1 small red onion, sliced thin
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
good bread (ex. ciabatta rolls)
1 ounce goat cheese
a handful of arugula
Do as I say, not as these photos say, and start by quartering the figs. Place them in a large bowl and add wine. Let soak for at least an hour.
Meanwhile, caramelize those onions! Heat oil in a large pan and add onions (sliced as thinly as you can). Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for as long as you can. I ran out of time and had to go to church, so I only got about 20 minutes of cooking time in, but you could keep these babies going for up to an hour if you’d like. When it comes to caramelizing onions, the longer, the better.
Add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper, and let cook for about a minute, stirring so that the onions are well coated. Finally, add the figs and wine and let simmer until most the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated, 15 or so minutes. Don’t forget to give it a stir now and then; you can even mash a few figs with the back of a wooden spoon as they cook. Remember: the texture you’re going for is jammy.
Finally, place the jam in the refrigerator for a couple hours to let everything gel.
Voila! You’ve just created some deliciously fancy and deceptively easy fig and red onion jam. To take things to the next level, let’s talk panini.
No recipe is necessary here, but just for inspiration, I’ll share how I chose to get my jam on. It started with a quality ciabatta roll, sliced in two. One side slathered with jam, the other with irresistible goat cheese. Toss a handful of arugula in the middle for a fresh, peppery kick, and you’re in business.
I’m lucky enough to own a panini maker, thanks to a sweet birthday gift from my sweet friend Senyung. If you too are a proud panini maker owner, I recommend grilling the whole shebang for a couple minutes. If you’re panini maker-less, don’t worry! This sandwich is equally good sans grilling.
A shout out is in order. I was inspired to make this jam and, consequently, the panino, after trying a similar dish at the fantastic Function Brewing here in Bloomington. The combination of fig, goat cheese and a cold glass of Tangent IPA was near divine, especially given that it was enjoyed in the company of my parents, who were in town visiting. While I unfortunately cannot recreate every detail of that lovely night, this sandwich, at least, gets pretty darn close.