Of all the recipes I’ve developed, this is the one my family and friends request most often.
Each year we patiently wait for Mission figs to show up in the markets, which happens round about mid-June. They’re as sweet as honey, with pink flesh and thin, black-purple skin.
These large, teardrop-shaped beauties are great to eat straight from the market, but you can create some wonderful dishes with them, too. They work very well with cheese or pork – and this recipe has both.
This year I didn’t see them until last week – just in time for our 4th of July party. If I didn’t serve these figs at that celebration there would have been hell to pay.
Each year the stuffed figs are proclaimed “the best ever,” which has more to do with absence making hearts grow fonder, but I’m happy to get the positive feedback, because, as everyone knows, cooks live to please others. After we cook and present the goodies we make some effort to dig in, but we’re really watching everyone else eat to see what they think.
My family is very generous with praise, but I can tell when something is a major hit versus just very good. I can see it in their faces and hear it in the noises they make. When my son reaches over the table for a serving spoon with a certain flair, or my husband stretches out his vowels when discussing the merits of a particular side dish, I know.
The real prize is the person who never has much to say. My stepfather was like that. I could give that man a beef wellington and he’d be stone-faced. However, when he did say something – and even then it was minimal – it meant something. When he told me my crab cakes were “terrific” – in a tone he’d use only when talking about his car or the Yankees – I set that recipe in stone! I’d like to think he’d feel the same about these figs.
Now, if Cali Mission figs were available in February, I’d make this dish for Valentine’s Day. It’s so sensuous. The fruit is sweet and earthy, the goat cheese ever-so-slightly funky, and the Prosciutto di Parma silky, salty perfection.
I hope you’ll give this a try now that figs are in the markets!
Figs Stuffed with Chevre, Pine Nuts & Prosciutto
Makes a whole lot, but why not?
2 pounds Mission figs, gently rinsed and dried. Not too ripe, please!
1 teaspoon each ground thyme, ground marjoram, ground sage and sea salt – mixed together
1/2 cup plain chevre (fresh goat cheese)
1/3 cup pine nuts
6 – 8 ounces thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
A little sea salt
Would be helpful if you have:
Large, non-stick saute pan (or the most stick-resistant pan you have)
Melon baller (or teaspoon)
Pastry bag and rosette tip (or teaspoon)
1). Place chevre in a small bowl and leave on kitchen counter along with your prosciutto, whose slices will be easier to separate if not ice cold.
2). Toast pine nuts in saute pan set over medium heat for 3 – 5 minutes, keeping them moving, until they are slightly golden. Set nuts aside.
3). Cut figs in half lengthwise with a sharp knife. Don’t cut off the stems – try to cut through them so you have half the stem with each half-fig. They look better this way.
4). Wipe saute pan with a little olive oil on a paper towel and sprinkle with some of the spice/salt mix.
5). Place pan over medium-high heat and add figs, cut side down, when pan is good and hot. Add no more than 10 halves, and remove the first when the last hits the pan. Work fast. You more or less want the figs to “kiss” the pan – you don’t want to cook them!
6). Remove pan from flame, wipe with more olive oil, add spice mix, and do another batch of figs – repeating the whole deal until all are seared.
7). Using the smaller end of a melon baller, or a teaspoon, scoop out a little flesh from the cut side of each fig half, being sure not to cut through the skin. You need to create a small indentation, so don’t be too aggressive. Place the scooped-out fig flesh into the bowl with the chevre as you work.
8). Mix chevre and fig pulp, adding a crank or two of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, until you have a well-combined filling.
9). With a spoon or pastry bag and tip, add a little filling to the center of each half-fig. The pastry bag set-up allows you to make it look better, but it’s just fine with a spoon, too. Arrange the figs on a nice serving platter as you work.
10). When you have all your figs filled, scatter half of the toasted pine nuts on top.
11). Take prosciutto and cut your first slice into three ribbons – the long way, with a sharp knife. Roll each third into a little rose, and place one in the center (filling) of each stuffed fig. If you do it correctly, the prosciutto roses will stand up and add some vertical interest while allowing all of the ingredients to shine, visually.
12). Serve right away, if possible, because they are very good just slightly warm.