Thursday, November 18, 2010
Figs and prosciutto* with melon and mint
A friend just returned from Turkey and was telling me about the juicy, plump figs she had when she was back home. As she described the way the smooth skin was almost cracking from the plumpness and the honey-like syrup was just oozing from the bottom of the figs, my mouth was watering for fresh figs. We used to have a fig tree in our backyard when I was growing up, so thinking about the floral scent and luscious feel of super ripe figs just about to burst with juicy goodness took me back to my childhood. Luckily, I caught the tail end of fig season in California and I was able to find some beautiful, super ripe Turkish figs at Whole Foods!
Fresh figs are highly perishable so be sure to use them within a couple days of purchasing. Pick figs that are plump, but not mushy, and unblemished, with a sweet, floral fragrance. If not using immediately, store in a paper-towel lined container, covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.
As my mouth began to work on possible uses for the lusciously super-ripe figs, I remembered the classic combination of prosciutto and melon (and sometimes figs) found around Tuscany. I was really excited when I found a recipe elevating the classic combination with arugula and a light mint cream dressing. The sweet, juicy figs and melons contrast the salty and tangy prosciutto and peppery arugula, whereas the mint brings a refreshing brightness to the platter. The ingredients lend their way to a beautiful presentation for a light snack or an antipasto when entertaining. For maximum sweetness, look for melons that slap you with fragrant sweetness at the tip.
*Of course I omitted the prosciutto. In lieu of the cured meat, it would've been nice to add a salty/fatty/tangy component to the mix. From what I understand prosciutto is wonderful and there is no real replacement, and let's be clear that I don't think fake meat is wonderful. Maybe long shavings of pecorino and parmesan? What do you think?
Figs and prosciutto with melon and mint (adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques)
8 figs, super ripe (I used Turkish figs)
1/2 ripe cantaloupe, skin and seeds removed and sliced lengthwise into 1" slices (about 6)
6 thin slices of prosciutto di Parma
10-12 pretty arugula leaves, cleaned and dried
7 mint leaves
1/3 cup of heavy cream
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp sea salt
Using a mortar and pestle, grind 4 mint leaves into a paste. Gently stir in heavy cream and lemon juice. Do not overwork otherwise you will end up with a thick, lumpy dressing (obviously a mistake made by me, see photo). Season with salt and pepper, taste for balance and adjust as needed.
Slice the figs in half and slice half of them into quarters. Leave stems on some of the figs. Scatter the cantaloupe slices randomly around a large platter. Drape prosciutto over and under the melon slices, leaving some of the melon peeking through. Arrange figs in between and layer arugula over the wrapped melons.
Drizzle mint cream over the platter. Chop remaining 3 mint leaves and scatter over the platter. Finish with a couple quick grinds of black pepper.