In Italy’s winemaking regions, freshly pressed grape juice is slowly reduced to make saba (also known as vin cotto or mosto cotto), a sweet, aromatic condiment that is similar to balsamic vinegar but without the high acidity. In late summer and early fall it screams to be poured over the top of everything, including ice cream and, of course, figs, as it is here. If you can’t find saba, you can substitute an aged balsamic vinegar.
When choosing figs for this dish, gently squeeze them. If they are very soft, they are overripe and will turn to mush when cooked; if they’re hard, they are underripe and will be too dry. Look for perfectly ripe figs that are neither too firm nor too soft. If you prefer, you can broil the figs instead of grilling them, or you can grill them earlier in the day and reheat them in the oven right before serving.
Grilled Figs with Prosciutto and Goat Cheese
12 firm but ripe figs, preferably Adriatic figs, stemmed
1/2 to 3/4 cup (4 to 6 oz./125 to 180 g) fresh goat cheese, preferably Pennyroyal Farm
12 paper-thin slices prosciutto
A handful of arugula
Saba for drizzling
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Prepare a hot fire for grilling over direct and indirect heat.
Using a sharp knife, make a lengthwise slit in a fig starting at the stem end, cutting about three-quarters of the way through the fruit. Gently open the fig and stuff it with 2 to 3 teaspoons of the goat cheese (the amount that will fit will depend on the size of the fig). Press the sides of the fig together to close. Wipe off any goat cheese remaining on the outside of the fig, then wrap 1 slice of the prosciutto around the fig, making sure the opening at the top of the fig is completely covered by the prosciutto. Repeat with the remaining figs, goat cheese and prosciutto.
Thread a metal or wooden skewer horizontally through the center of each fig. Grill the figs over high heat, with the stem end (the side stuffed with goat cheese) facing up, until the bottom is nicely grill marked, about 1 minute. Using the skewer, turn the fig 180 degrees to form crosshatch grill marks and continue grilling about 1 minute more. Flip the figs so that the stem end is now facing down, move to a cooler part of the grill and cover the grill. This will allow the goat cheese to melt without the figs burning. Continue cooking until the goat cheese is just beginning to melt, about 3 minutes.
Remove the figs from the grill and remove from the skewers. Spread the arugula on a platter and arrange the figs on top. Drizzle some saba and olive oil on top of the figs, season with pepper to taste and serve immediately. Serves 6.
Ari Rosen, Co-Owner and Chef, Scopa, Healdsburg, CA