It’s been a banner year for figs at the Blackman homestead. In the past, the small amount of fruit our tree produced tended to be gobbled up by our wild friends with just a few bites spared for my husband and I. This year, however, not even the squirrels can keep up with our happy tree. Given the abundance, I thought it only right to turn to David Tanis and his wonderful cookbook, A Platter of Figs, for this week’s cooking adventure. David is the head chef — i.e. Chief-Man-Behind-The-Scenes — at Alice Waters’ world famous restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley.
David’s recipes are an invitation to experience the simple extravagance of truly choice ingredients. As he writes, “Do you really need a recipe for a platter of figs? No. Is that the point? Yes… You wait all year for the best figs to arrive. The reward is heavy, juicy fruit with oozing centers — sweet figs to swoon over.” This week we will be curating rather than cooking. See page 99, Melon and Figs with Prosciutto and Mint, as reprinted below:
MELON AND FIGS WITH PROSCIUTTO AND MINT
This easy first course depends entirely on the expertise of growers at farm stands or farmers’ markets. Look for truly ripe, firm, locally grown melons like cantaloupe, honeydew, Charentais, or Crenshaw. Search out figs — Black Mission, Adriatic, or Kadota — that are soft to the touch, promising fruit that is juicy and sweet. A firm unripe fig will be neither.
2 or 3 ripe melons
24 ripe figs
12 slices prosciutto
A few mint springs
Halve the melons and remove the seeds. Slice into thin wedges, then remove the skin with a paring knife. Lay the melon slices in the center of a large platter. Cut the figs in half and arrange them over the melons. Surround with the prosciutto. Just before serving, cut the mint leaves in ribbons and scatter the mint over the platter.
For the melon, I headed to the Weiser Family Farms stand at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market for peak varieties, including Sugar Cube, Sugar Queen, and French Orange.
For the prosciutto, I made a visit to Guidi Marcello, an Italian importer and wholesaler in Santa Monica. My Italian friends swear by the selection and I was not disappointed. Among other treats, I walked away with two variations of the cured delicacy: Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto di Modena.
With our platter of carefully-chosen ingredients assembled, we gathered outside on a lovely summer eve to enjoy the flavors with a bottle of wine and the company of friends — all ingredients not directly listed in David’s recipe, but certainly implied. Buona sera.