Tomato Fig Masala

Life can take unexpected turns. Call it karma or misfortune, but I managed to temporarily lose the use of both my forearms and hands this summer. First, at the beginning of spring, my right forearm went out of commission because of a severe burn. My left hand took charge and sprang into action, and though I relinquished most of my cooking duties at the restaurants, I was sill able to cook at home. A few months later, just as my right arm was beginning to recover, my left ended up in a cast after a wrist fracture. I was forced to rethink my cooking process - and this masala is among the recipes that emerged. Simple became a keyword, and oven cooking that required minimal stirring took on a whole new appeal. Fresh masalas like this one are wealth in my refrigerator. I can enjoy it cold on a piece of warm toast or toss it into freshly steamed rice or pasta with chopped fresh herbs. Or keep it simple and eat the masala on sliced cucumbers.

makes 3-4 cups | 1 hr 45 minutes


1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes

1 cup minced red onions

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbsp minced garlic

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp black pepper

1 cup diced ripe fresh figs


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine half the cherry tomatoes, minced onion, olive oil, garlic, salt and turmeric and place in a cast-iron skillet or a heavy-duty pan and cover tightly with foil.

  2. Bake in the oven for 60-90 minutes or until the onions have cooked and reduced to a golden caramel color and the tomatoes are soft and jamlike. Depending on the consistency and circulation of the heat of the oven, this may take less or more time, so check the tomatoes every 20 minutes to ensure they are not burning.

  3. Stir in the remaining tomatoes and diced figs and cook the mixture uncovered for another 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.Lay the squash on a flat baking sheet and cover tightly with foil. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes then remove and take the foil off.


  • Use the best quality organic tomatoes you can find. If substituting regular tomatoes for cherry tomatoes, make sure to use the heirloom variety.

  • This masala is almost like a preserve; it will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. It can also be turned into a preserve by puttin it in jars and canning it.

  • The navy beans could be replaced with your favorite varietal of bean or with lentils.