"Black mission figs, Panache figs and Adriatic figs," read the sign at the grocery story just hours after our return home from the Adriatic Coast of Croatia. We went to grab a few staples to fill the emptiness of our refrigerator (and empty bellies after the long trip.) One look at the sign and we thought we were on hidden camera. It was like that feeling you have when you've done a Google search and suddenly, for the rest of the week, all the ads on your computer screen circle back to your search results. Here we were, our visit still fresh on the brain and voila, hints of the Adriatic appeared at home. Feelings of being punked aside, we're calling it the power of beautiful memories.
How do you make a good experience last? We are always filling little notebooks with sketches and thoughts about things that leave an impression on us. Of course we snap a few photos. Another way we like to capture a moment is through flavor. But, it's a tough thing to do since sometimes things only taste the way they do at that particular place. The terroir is what makes an oyster slurped on the Puget Sound or a hot dog on Coney Island taste so special right then and there. Try to replicate it at home and you are missing the salty air or the sound of the rollercoaster screeching. The whole experience makes up the flavor.
So, we put our own twist on a flavor and took the inspiration from traveling to create something new with just a hint to remind us of where we've been. We paired two ingredients of the Adriatic that we can't get enough of, figs and prosciutto, and created a loosely assembled salad to share with friends. Pan-seared figs, a balsamic vinegar reduction and a tangy goat cheese with some crusty bread are a great launch point to gather and swap tales of how folks have spent the past few weeks.
Assemble it on individual serving plates if you wish, or create a less formal mood and put it together on a big platter so people can help themselves. Share your summer stories while you share a late summer meal. Making the balsamic reduction and searing the figs takes only a few minutes, while someone else pours the drinks.
While we savor our figs and relish the company of friends, here are some photos from which to draw inspiration and celebrate the beauty of Croatia. We'll continue to practice the art of positive thinking to see what reminders might pop up at home next. We're especially hoping to have peacocks roaming wildly through the yard as they do on Lokrum Island, off the coast of Dubrovnik along the southern Adriatic.
Pan-Seared figs and Balsamic Reduction with Prosciutto and Cheese
(serves 8 as appetizer)
While you can certainly serve this recipe as a salad in individual portions, we like to put it together on one large platter for a more informal gathering among friends. Or, pretend you are seaside on the Adriatic and serve it as an after dinner course, minus the greens.
10-12 ripe figs
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 lb thinly sliced prosciutto
1 wedge or log of tangy goat cheese (Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog pictured)
1 head of leaf lettuce or small bunch of assorted greens (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil (optional)
salt & pepper (optional)
Combine the balsamic vinegar and the granulated sugar in a NONSTICK sauté pan. Bring to a boil over medium/high heat. Reduce heat to low and bring to a simmer. Stir or swirl the pan gently until a syrupy consistency is reached and the vinegar is reduced to 1/3 of original volume. Dip a spoon into the vinegar. If it coats the back of the spoon evenly, the reduction is ready. Pour the reduction into a bowl to cool completely before serving. (Any remaining reduction can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for about a week.)
Wipe out the sauté pan. Slice the figs in half lengthwise. Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat. Once it starts to bubble, sear the figs, cut- side down, in the pan. After about 2-3 minutes, gently turn the figs over. Lower the heat and continue to cook until they are softened throughout. Once there is a little spitting and hissing going on in the pan (that’s the figs’ juices being released), the figs are done.
Drizzle the olive oil over lettuce and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange with all the remaining ingredients on a platter. Drizzle balsamic reduction over figs and serve remaining reduction in a small bowl.