Getting figgy with itJanuary 25, 2010
About mid January each year I start stalking the grocery shelves for figs.
I’m not sure what it is about figs that just gets my blood fizzling – the textural feast, perhaps? The soft, creamy interior with that slightly powdery skin? Or maybe it’s just that I pretty much always eat them with prosciutto, and that ol sweet/salty flavour bomb is simply irresistible. And then there’s the absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder factor; with such a relatively short season, their arrival is cause for celebration and one is simply obliged to make a fig festival of the fact each year.
On Saturday I saw the first display in our grocer’s – of local figs that is, not Californians which have been there for a while, priced at something like four bucks each – and so of course I pounced on a big punnet of squat, heavy little beauties. That evening, before we had a chance to eat them, we went to dinner at our friends Mr & Ms Lilyfields’, and were served a fig salad so delicious that I was compelled to try to replicate it immediately the next day.
Ms Lilyfield used the classic combo of prosciutto, soft cheese & figs (I’ve used gorgonzola and other blue cheeses before – and oh, my it’s good) but she chose that amazing Persian feta, to which she added the lovely, slightly bitter, sharpness of radicchio. The finishing touch was a drizzle of luscious caramelised balsamic vinegar.
As I say, we loved it so much we tried a similar thing ourselves the next evening, and it was fantastic. So here’s my made-up copycat version. You gotta be careful not to overdo the sweetness in this, specially with the dressing. You can buy caramelised balsamic (I was given some of this last year and it is gorgeous stuff), but it’s also very simple to make. Oh and I reckon this salad would be incredible with labneh too; that’s my next plan.
Ms Lily’s luscious
fig salad with caramelised
– 1 punnet fresh figs
– 4-5 slices prosciutto, torn
– radicchio leaves
– basil leaves
– marinated feta cubes
– ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
– 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
- Cut figs into halves or quarters and brush with a teeny bit of olive oil.
- Grill these on a tray with the prosciutto for a few minutes until the figs are warmed & the prosciutto crisp.
- Meanwhile, simmer the balsamic vinegar and sugar in the smallest pan you have, and gently reduce it till it’s thick and syrupy.
- Arrange the radicchio leaves in a bowl (or, more glamorously, on separate plates for each person) and drizzle with good olive oil.
- Top with the figs, prosciutto and add as much feta as you like – about three tablespoons is probably plenty.
- Gently mix these and the leaves together with your hands, add the basil and drizzle the lot with the balsamic syrup and season.
- Stand by for groans of delight.
Of course there are lots of other things to do with figs, including just popping one in your mouth for the pleasure explosion – I’m keen to hear your faves. Any fig festival contributions to share?