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Autumn Delights: Figs and Pigs

Prosciutto-wrapped figs are an easy and elegant appetizer

Black mission figs, ready for this mission!

Black mission figs, ready for this mission!

The juxtaposition of salty-savory and sweet-fruity makes a rich place of rewarding and luxurious flavor. The combination of prosciutto and melon is a great way to get mouths watering in the summer; in the Fall prosciutto and figs fill the same niche with a richer, mellower burst of flavor.

Firmer figs are generally less ripe and therefore less sweet, but hold their shape well under the broiler; softer, sweeter figs deliver a little more lusciousness. Black mission and brown Turkey figs ripen brown or greenish brown on the outside with brown or purplish insides; green figs like Kadota and Adriatic are green outside and pink to magenta inside; candy-striped figs are festively striped green and yellow. Different varieties range from nearly neutral sweetness to candy-sweet. Any variety of fresh fig can be used in this easy recipe.

Just wrapping a raw fig in a thin slice of prosciutto and munching it immediately is delicious. For a more developed experience of flavor and texture, trim the hard stem end off washed and dried figs and wrap them in a thin slice of prosciutto (I like to envelop the fig entirely; the prosciutto could also be wrapped in a band around the fig and anchored with a toothpick), then arrange them on an oven-safe rack or pan and put them under a hot broiler for a few minutes.

Watch the figs carefully; broiling will only take about three to five minutes. You want the prosciutto to get a little crisp and the fig to be warmed through, without blackening or burning.

Serve warm or room temperature. Even the brief broiling will soften the figs so they burst delightfully in the mouth (be careful: they will also hold more heat inside than you might expect!).

For an added savor, serve prosciutto-wrapped figs with a balsamic reduction. For an easy sauce, take one cup of balsamic vinegar and add one tablespoon of sugar. Heat the mixture to boiling, reduce the heat, and simmer very gently for 20-30 minutes. The longer the mixture simmers, the more intense and concentrated it will be. The air will be redolent of vinegar!

The reduction will thicken as it cools to a syrupy texture. Serve the figs in a shallow dish and drizzle them with the balsamic reduction for a wonderful sweet/salty/tart/savory explosion of rich autumn flavor.

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