To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean. Elizabeth David
A few days ago, Lisa and I returned from an all too short vacation in France. We started up north in Puligny Montrachet then worked our way south to the golden sunshine of my family’s beloved Provence. When we arrived at our home in Cagnes sur Mer, near Nice (France), I only wanted to drink roses, pastis and red Bandols and eat Provencal food. The idea was solidified after I returned from the local farmer’s market armed with a beautiful wild sea bass caught that very morning and a basket of perfectly ripe figs.
Sweet, salty, fatty and crunch are close friends!
The figs were stunningly deep purple with a delicate perfume that captured the very essence of summer in their nose. They were perfectly sweet, only to be enhanced by the gentle introduction of Spanish Iberico ham and wrapped in a golden sheath of kataifi to offer a subtle crunchy texture. We uncorked the rose, and popped the figs into the dry heat of our wood fired oven.
The fatty ham crackled as we took our first sips of wine. Soon the smell of roasting figs was too much to ignore; I pulled the earthen casserole out of the oven and topped each one with a small spoonful of gently warmed goat cheese. I raised my glass in honor of Bacchus and thanked him for his single-handed contributions to the elevation of the human spirit.
These figs, like rose, celebrate the magical moment life offers. Make them this weekend and raise a glass to Life!
À Votre Santé!
- 1 fig per person
- 1 slice Iberico ham per person
- 1 box kataifi see note
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ ounce goat cheese per person
- 1 tiny sprig rosemary/thyme per person
- black pepper
Cut the tip of the fig off where the stem connects then, using a paring knife, make a cross in the exposed flesh. This will look beautiful and give a great spot to the spoon goat cheese.
Wrap a single slice Iberico ham around the base of each fig.
Remove kataifi from packaging, and try your best to straighten it out.
Sprinkle a little bit of olive oil over the pasta-like strands, and wrap around the base of the fig leaving some of the ham showing.
Arrange in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with remaining olive oil and pop into a 450 degrees oven, till browned, about ten minutes.
Remove from oven, and put a spoonful of goat cheese on top then garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a grind or two of black pepper.
Kataifi is an extruded dough that has mistakenly been called shredded filo. It can be found in middle eastern markets and certain larger grocery stores. Kataifi is a widely used dough in both the middle east and Greece.
Feel free to substitute any air-dried ham like prosciutto or Bayonne. If your figs aren't very sweet then drizzle a little lavender honey after they are roasted.
This recipe was inspired by one of the world's great unsung chefs, Greg Malouf.
Sweet, salty, fat and crunch are friends!