Fresh Fig and Eggplant over Tomato Basil Risotto

Fig and Aubergine Risotto image

We’re nearing the end of our fig harvest, and we had some in the fridge that desperately needed to be eaten, so I decided to include them in risotto, which we haven’t had in awhile. Normally, we cook figs in a pasta dish with gorgonzola and walnuts, and last year, I even put them on pizza, so I figured this would work.

I decided on risotto in part because some of the figs had started to get pretty soft and even put off some liquid in the refrigerator, which I thought would carmelize well. We also had some Asian-style eggplant, and I thought they would soak up the juice and combine well with the figs.

Before starting the risotto, I sautéed garlic in olive oil with some baby portobello mushrooms and the eggplant cut in about 1/2 inch quarters. Then I added about half the figs (the ones that were juicy and a little too ripe), a little yellow squash (just because it needed to be used), and two small peppers, red and yellow. Then I halved the other figs (around 2.5 cups total) and set aside. For spices, I put in red pepper flakes and fresh oregano. I also added a little cooking sherry and a little vinegar from a jar of calamata olives, and I halved some olives to put with the reserved figs and cubed a tomato and cut some fresh basil to set aside.

While half the figs, eggplant, garlic, mushrooms, squash, and peppers sautéed, first on medium high and then on medium low, I cooked the risotto according to our usual recipe for 3 people: half an onion sautéed in butter and olive oil, 1 1/3 cup arborio rice, and 6 cups of vegetable broth, added 1/2 cup at a time, simmering until it is absorbed, then another 1/2 cup is added and so on.

When the risotto was nearly finished, I added the reserved figs and olives to the sautée pan and continued to cook on medium low. I then added the tomato and basil to the risotto at the very end and stirred in a little of the gorgonzola.

I served the tomato basil risotto with the fig/eggplant mixture on top, adding a healthy sprinkling of gorgonzola. You could mix the fig and eggplant in with the risotto, which is what we usually do with the veggies, but I thought it would look nice on top, and then the tomato basil risotto would be more distinctive both in color and in flavor. The figs and the eggplant were a good combination of flavor and texture, and the olives added just enough savory to combine with the slightly sweet figs, and the risotto made a delicious base.

If you have fresh figs on hand — either from your own backyard tree or from your local farmer’s market — give this recipe a try.

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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