Last year I got addicted to mission figs I picked from a tree in my friend’s backyard. Inspired by her plentiful harvest, I went in search of a tree at the nurseries in our area and last fall when I finally found one, I planted a fig tree in my own back yard. This year I was thrilled to spot a few baby figs on the tree and waited patiently for them to ripen. Unfortunately, I went abroad for ten days and on my return I discovered that the figs had ripened while I was out and the ubiquitous squirrels in my yard got to most of them before I could. To my dismay, I only managed to get my hands on the straggly few that they had not devoured before then. Not to be outdone by the squirrels, I tried to make up for the loss by buying figs in bulk at the local farmer’s market and I tried all kinds of preparations with them. I tried fig jam, fig tart and even fig compote. After all the experiments that I undertook, I concluded that raw figs are still probably my favorite. I combine them with prosciutto ham and various kinds of cheese to make tasty fig bites. One can use them as hor d’oeuvres or serve them as the final course at a formal dinner party. I made two separate kinds of fig bites – one with thin sliced prosciutto di parma drizzled with balsamic vinegar reduction and the second with goat cheese, honey, walnuts, peppercorns and olive oil drizzled over them.
1. A pound of fresh figs (I had a combination of green and black mission fogs)
2. 3-4 ounces of fresh goat cheese
3. ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar
4. 3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
5. 2-3 tablespoons of honey
6. 1 tablespoon of multicolored peppercorns
7. 3-4 slices of prosciutto di parma
8. 1/5 cup of shelled walnuts
1. Wash the ripe figs in cold water and gently dry them with paper towels (figs are very delicate, so try not to bruise them in this process).
2. With a knife cut the stems off the figs and slice each fig in two pieces and lay all of them flat on the serving platter (cut-side up).
3. Pour the balsamic vinegar in a small pan and heat it over low heat till the vinegar gets a tick syrupy consistency to make a balsamic vinegar reduction. This process usually takes 5-6 minutes and you may need to keep a close eye on the vinegar to prevent it from burning. Keep stirring frequently because balsamic vinegar has high sugar content and it gets burnt really easily.
4. When the balsamic vinegar is reduced to a thick consistency, let it cool in the pan for use later.
5. Cut bite sized pieces of the prosciutto di parma and lay a piece on each of the cut figs) for one half of the figs).
6. When the balsamic reduction has cooled down, drizzle a few drops of it on each of the fig halves that have been covered with a piece of the prosciutto di parma. Also drizzle a little bit of extra virgin olive oil on each of these figs. So one platter of the figs is ready.
7. For the second kind of fig bites (ideal for vegetarians), place a little bit of crumbled goat cheese (about ½ – 1 teaspoon) on each of the fig halves.
10. At the very end, place a piece or two of the shelled walnuts over the figs with the crumbled goat cheese on top.
11. Serve these two kinds of fig bites as hor d’oeuvres or with a cheese platter as the final course of a formal dinner. During fig season (which usually lasts less than two weeks of a year), I regularly eat a whole platter of these as my lunch (did I mention that I absolutely love figs!?!)