Figs are in season so if you've never tried a fresh fig, now is your chance. There is a small window of opportunity each year to enjoy these unique, nutritious fruits as they are picked at the height of ripeness and are very delicate, therefore must be consumed or cooked right away. Figs are very versatile and do well in both sweet and savory dishes.
This appetizer recipe is for fig and Gorgonzola crostini (Italian for "little toasts") and pairs well with red wines like Pinot Noir or Zinfandel. Don't care for blue cheese? Try them with goat cheese instead.
Fig and Gorgonzola crostini with balsamic syrup
Difficulty level: 1/5
Makes: 12 crostini
8-10 fresh figs (I used a mix of Brown Turkey and Black Mission) rinsed, dried and small diced
8 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola or other blue cheese
1 loaf hearty bread, such as multi-grain or a baguette
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh arugula
Balsamic syrup (recipe below)
Slice the bread into twelve 3/4 inch thick slices, each about 4 inches long by 2 inches wide, lay out on a cookie sheet and brush with olive oil. Toast in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until golden and crispy.
Place 1 tablespoon of chopped figs on each toasted bread slice and top with 2 teaspoons of crumbled Gorgonzola. Place crostinis on a cookie sheet and broil in oven for 1-2 minutes, just until cheese is slightly melted. Garnish with chopped arugula, balsamic syrup and extra virgin olive oil.
2 cups balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Whisk all ingredients together an a heavy-bottomed sauce pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally. Warning: the simmering vinegar will be strong enough to make your eyes water, so open a window.
Let reduce for about 45 minutes until mixture is thick and syrupy (syrup will also thicken more as it cools). Strain syrup, removing the bay leaf and peppercorns. (I keep mine in a squeeze bottle for easy access.) Let cool at room temperature. Store syrup in refrigerator.
Leftover balsamic syrup is great on strawberries, grilled meats and even ice cream.