I grew up on a little island in British Columbia. Life there was, and still is, different than my life in the “real world” down here in Colorado. There they have a thing called island time, where everyone seems to just amble along without much rush. It sometimes drives my type-A personality bonkers, but nevertheless I’m grateful for the slowdown whenever I visit.
I’ve always appreciated the intimate sense of community we have there. My mother, aunt, and uncle live on three adjacent properties, and I have a huge extended family of stepbrothers and stepsisters, most of whom live within a ten-minute walk or drive. We’ve also always been very close to our neighbors. A potluck of dozens of people was always a very real possibility when I was growing up.
Summertime on the island is even more relaxed than usual. The tranquility of the season paired with the extra daylight hours inspire less scheduling and more ease within everybody’s routine. It’s not uncommon to suddenly be hosting an impromptu dinner party, and often these last-minute whimsies are more lavish than you would expect.
I got to thinking about all this after visiting there recently. That sense of community and spontaneity on my island is something that seems to be lacking in my Colorado world, lost in the daily hustle and bustle. Children, responsibilities, and obligations make coordinating difficult. I have friends that live less than ten minutes from me, and often we don’t see each other for months. Slowing down just isn’t a top priority, even though it really should be.
Maybe my mind has been on island time, but I’ve noticed this summer that I’ve unconsciously been allowing myself more of the spontaneity I used to enjoy—to just drop my to-do list and head to the beach for a picnic or have a friend over for a meal. Recently, I was inspired to create an elegant dessert for an impromptu dinner, something exquisite that could be made in under twenty minutes but is equally welcome at a formal event and a casual get together. Thus was born one of my most delicious experimentations.
Figs are one of those foods, like tomatoes, that really speak to me. They’re exotic, unique, and incredibly flavorful. And their growing season is extremely short, which is a big part of what makes them so special to me. In desserts they really don’t need much to be highlighted. In fact, I usually prefer to let the fruit speak for itself rather than prepare some intricate dish with it.
Ricotta and figs are a match made in heaven. The rich, creamy cheese and the syrupy fruit pair so beautifully that you could easily serve them as is. But with just a couple of additional steps, I took the pairing from delicious to sublime.
First, I warmed a little honey to just above room temperature and steeped some fresh thyme leaves in it. Then I drizzled the infusion over the figs and ricotta, which gave them a deep, herbaceous flavor. Finally, I finished things off with a healthy dose of freshly cracked pepper fore even more complexity. Seriously, I think I’m in love.
Six ingredients and minutes to prepare—this is one dessert I know I’ll be making many times this fig season. Now I just need to host a last-minute dinner party to share it.
Fresh Figs and Ricotta with Thyme Honey and Cracked Pepper
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: less than 1 minute
Makes: 2 servings
1–2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (I used a mixture of regular thyme and lemon thyme)
2 tablespoons honey
⅓ cup ricotta cheese
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large, ripe figs
Freshly cracked black pepper
- Place thyme leaves in a small bowl and “bruise” them by crushing them lightly with your fingertips. In a small saucepan, warm honey over medium heat until runny. Pour honey over thyme leaves and set aside for 10–15 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, combine ricotta and vanilla. Divide mixture between two serving plates. Cut each fig in half and arrange three halves atop ricotta on each plate. Drizzle with honey infusion to taste and garnish with cracked pepper.
Image from Briana Goodall.