There are few things more historically sensual than proscuitto and figs. Bring the two together, and your senses merge the salty sweet flavors in a union that lingers on your tongue in a way I am sure the Romans were fond of.
I’ve never been a big fan of prosciutto, mostly because I don’t like ham. Not even a little bit. However, when I was introduced to prosciutto di Parma everything changed. I found prosciutto di Parma lacking in that chewy salty texture you find in American prosciutto. Di Parma is a bit drier and earthier then its American counterpart. The flavors are rich without being fatty. The Italians have been making prosciutto di Parma the same way for more than 2000 years using only two ingredients: pig and salt. Add fresh figs to the mix, and well, there’s quite of bit of closed-eye moaning as you pop the duet in your mouth.
As fig season is coming to a close I felt the urge to play with them one more time. Once again, I turned to Judy Rodgers for inspiration. I’ve mentioned before that the Zuni Café Cookbook is not to be taken lightly. There are few corner-cutting tips in this book. Quite the opposite, in fact. Judy wants you to be involved with your food. Every recipe, every ingredient for that matter, has a story. She wants you to have your hands in the bowl experiencing each foods nuance with your fingertips. She wants you to become intimate with what you’re cooking. If you follow her recipes, you have little choice.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What you’ll need:
8-10 ripe black mission figs, halved
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons Walnut Picada (recipe below)
4-6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma
Gently roll halved figs in olive oil and place cut-side up on baking sheet. Warm for 3-5 minutes until the edges begin to caramelize. Lay prosciutto on plates.
Remove figs from oven, sprinkle with walnut picada and place on prosciutto. Roll figs in prosciutto and serve warm.
What you’ll need:
1 cup olive oil
1 ounce peasant bread, sliced about 1/2 an inch thick
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 clove garlic
4-6 fresh mint leaves
Pour olive oil in an 8-inch skillet and warm on medium-low heat. Place bread in heated olive oil and heat till firm in the middle, about 2-3 minutes on each side. You want to make sure your olive oil does not smoke, so lower the heat as necessary. Once fried through, remove the bread and place it on paper towels to cool.
This is where it gets involved:
Break the bread into chunks, discarding any parts that are still doughy. Place chunks between two clean paper bags and use a rolling-pin to crush into breadcrumbs. I had to do this on my knees on my kitchen floor. Doing it this way absorbs much of the excess of oil. Optionally, you can make your breadcrumbs in your food processor, but how fun is that?
Preheat oven to 325, place walnuts on baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and place in a clean kitchen towel. Squeeze and massage them to help remove some of their skins. Remove the nuts from the towel and finely chop to about 2 tablespoons.
Finely chop lemon zest, garlic and mint. Give it a quick sauté to warm and soften the garlic’s bite. Stir the mixture with the breadcrumbs and add salt as needed.