Remnants of figs have been found in excavations of sites traced to at least 5,000 B.C. This is the premiere fruit to grow for any Italian especially the old timers from the old country. Fig trees don't grow very large and they have to be taken care of like an infant child. I can remember the fig tree in my grandfather's yard that he guarded like gold. As soon as the cool weather started to come in he would protect that old tree with his life. He would bend that tree over and cover it with a large canvas tied to the ground with stakes too protect it from the winter cold and snow; it worked. You don't see many fig trees anymore because the old timers are all gone and they were God's guardian for these precious plants. It was like a quest bestowed upon them by their Father's Fathers Father. Too bad I don't have a fig tree because I would do the same.
- 12 ripe, fresh figs cut in half
- 1/2 Pound Thinly Sliced Prosciutto. Imported Parma or San Daniele from Italy are the best.
- 2 handfuls of mixed baby or mescaline greens
- Some good olive oil
- Some Balsamic vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
Trim the stems of the figs, wash and dry well and cut them in half from tip to bottom. Brush the cut end with a little olive oil and place them face down on a hot grill. Don't cook them too long because you just want to score the a little; when done set aside. Arrange the baby greens on individual plates. S & P the figs to taste, wrap each fig in half a slice of prosciutto and place on the greens. In a small saucepan, heat some balsamic vinegar and cook until it is reduced by half. Wisk in some olive oil, S & P to taste and remove from the heat cool to room temperature. When ready to serve, drizzle this mixture over the figs and greens and serve.
FIGS: DESCRIPTION & SOME HISTORY
THE FICUS CARICA: The pear-shaped fig is well known for its biblical connotations. The center of the fruit contains a soft, juicy red flesh which is full of tiny edible seeds. The skin varies in color; ripe figs can be green, black, purple or even white. Although it does not have a major nutritional value it was once one of the basic foods of the Mediterranean, The fig originated in Asia Minor and was spread throughout Europe by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The incident that started the popularity of figs in Italy was in front of the Roman Senate. When the Roman politician, Cato was discussing the conquest of Carthage, North Africa, he used as his crowning argument the advantage of acquiring fruits as glorious as the North African figs, specimens of which he pulled from his toga as exhibits in front of the Roman Senate.
How long have figs been around? Thousands of years; if you look at a picture of Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden, their private parts are covered with a fig leaf. Today there are hundreds of varieties, but Smyrna figs are still one of the best, although Brown Turkey figs are also a very good. In California, the Smyrna fig has been cross-bred to produce the succulent Calimyrna. California, Turkey, northern Africa and the Mediterranean countries are major producers of figs.
BUYING AND STORING
Figs have quite a surprisingly thin skin so pick out the un-bruised fruit. They are best to eat when a little soft to the touch, but are highly perishable and should be consumed as soon as possible. I usually start eating them on the way home from the market. August is fig season so when the time comes, run to the greengrocer and scoop up these small, soft-skinned, pear-shaped fruits.
Fresh figs really don't need much preparation but should be served slightly above room temperature to enhance flavor. The shape of figs is a great feature; they appear attractive served whole or halved, accompanied by cream or nuts or just with liqueurs. Figs are delicious with cured meat and are an ideal appetizer. They can also be poached whole in syrup or stewed as a compote; we're talking about fresh figs, of course. Dried figs?? That's another story. Many Americans are only familiar with dried figs that come in the form of gooey, chewy cookie fillings, or the brown, sticky-sweet dried figs you see packed in boxes or tied together with string. They do serve their purpose and may be eaten whole or chopped small and used in baking in the same way you would with any other dried fruits. If you are one of the unfortunate who have never had fresh figs, do yourself a favor and try these little buggers; you will be sorry you didn't sooner.
Prosciutto in Italian means ham, any kind. Prosciutto as we know it here is called Prosciutto crudo (raw), however it is cured for many months. And, salami would be Prosciutto salame. The most famous imported Prosciutto is Prosciutto di Parma made in the Tuscany Region in Parma. This Prosciutto is sometimes made from wild boar and could be a little saltier than other producers. Another excellent Prosciutto is produced in San Daniele, in the Friuli region, which is as good as, if not better than the Parma.
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Source: SOUTH SIDE SOCIAL CLUB COOKBOOK
Submitted By: VINCENZO PAOLINO
GRILLED FIGS WITH PROSCIUTTO