Tastes beyond the Newtons


This past weekend, we invited friends to our house for a Sunday night porch supper. As appetizers, I prepared fresh figs, halved and topped with creamy blue cheese and sprigs of rosemary, then wrapped with bands of prosciutto. Our guests, who love food and are passionate cooks, admitted that they had never tasted fresh figs and couldn't wait to try this hors d'oeuvre. Obviously, they liked them, because within minutes the tray was empty.

I was surprised that this delicious fruit was unfamiliar to our friends (who confessed that their experience with figs was limited to the popular cookies, Fig Newtons), because I have enjoyed figs since I was a youngster growing up in the South. My grandmother had a huge fig tree in her backyard and every summer spent hours picking the fruit to turn into delectable preserves.

These appetizers would be excellent offered before an entree of lamb or chicken, or you might serve them as I did to begin a light soup and salad menu. The following recipe makes 12 servings, enough for four, but you can increase the amount easily to accommodate whatever size group you are entertaining.

Figs, Creamy Blue and Wrapped in Prosciutto

Makes 12 wraps or 4 servings

6 ripe (soft but not mushy) Black Mission figs

1 (6-ounce) wedge creamy blue cheese, such as Saga blue

1 small bunch fresh rosemary

5 to 6 paper-thin slices of good-quality prosciutto (2 to 3 ounces)

Rinse figs and pat dry. Slice in half, lengthwise, through stems.

From wedge of cheese, cut small slices that will just cover tops of figs. (You will not need to use all of cheese.) Pat cheese onto cut sides of each fig, then place small, 1-inch-long sprigs of rosemary on top of cheese.

Place 1 prosciutto slice on work surface and trim and discard fat. Cut strips, about 1 inch wide and 5 inches long, from slice. Repeat with remaining prosciutto until you have 12 strips. Wrap each fig in 1 strip of prosciutto so that ends overlap on underside.

Place on foil-lined baking sheet. (Figs can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Refrigerate or leave covered loosely with plastic wrap at cool room temperature.)

When ready to serve, either broil or heat figs in oven. For broiler method, arrange broiler rack 5 inches from heat source and broil until cheese melts and figs are just slightly warm, 1 to 2 minutes. Watch carefully so figs do not burn.

For oven method, bake figs in oven at 400 degrees until cheese melts and figs are warm, 3 to 4 minutes. Watch carefully so figs do not burn.

Arrange figs on serving plate. Garnish plate with small bouquet of rosemary.

Note: I have broiled these figs and baked them. Baking takes a few minutes longer, but seems to yield figs that are warmer all the way through.

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