Off the kitchen was a tiny porch and a steep iron staircase which led down to Nonna’s garden; the length of the railings were suffocated in zucchini plants. At the bottom of the staircase was a fig tree twice my height surrounded by robust basil and tomato plants and probably other stuff too but I always had my sights set on the figs.
I would pick some low hanging ones and then use Nonna’s nifty fig-picking device to snag the out of reach ones. The fig-picking device was a bottomless soda bottle fitted on the end of an old broomstick. A groove in the side of the bottle would catch and cut a fig stem when pushed upwards. The fig would fall in the bottle; I’d lower down the device and collect my prize, a plump juicy fig with white milk dripping from the stem.
My Nonna is no longer with us, neither is that apartment or that glorious fig tree, but what’s left is a great memory and a lasting love of figs. I look forward to them each summer, but these days I pluck them from a plastic container instead of a tree. Sometimes I pair them with prosciutto, fluffy goat cheese and honey all smashed on some toasty bread. The result is a marriage of flavors that will cause you to lose yourself. It’s meditation without all the sitting around and doing nothing. It’s a easy way to practice living in “the now”. Take a bite, close your eyes and find yourself under your own fig tree with Nonna looking down from above.
Makes 2 appetizer portions or 1 entrée portion
To make the baguette:
1 ten inch mini baguette (or palm sized piece of regular sized baguette), sliced lengthwise
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons goat cheese
Freshly cracked black pepper
2-3 slices prosciutto
3 large fresh figs, rinsed, de-stemmed, sliced
1-2 large leaves fresh basil, finely sliced
To make the dressing:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush cut sides of the bread with olive oil using a pastry brush (or drizzle and smear it on with a spoon if you don’t have a pastry brush). Sprinkle the cut sides of the bread with a pinch of salt and 3-5 turns of freshly cracked pepper per side. Spread the goat cheese evenly on each cut side of bread, using 1 heaping tablespoon per side. Place bread, cut sides up, on a cookie sheet and transfer to the oven, baking for about 18 minutes or until the bread and cheese are a light golden color and the bread is lightly crisped.
Meanwhile, to make the dressing , whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey, a pinch of salt and a few turns of freshly cracked black pepper.
To assemble the baguette, place 1 to 1 1/2 slices of prosciutto on each piece of bread, then place the fig slices evenly on top of the prosciutto. Sprinkle the basil and drizzle the dressing evenly over the baguette.
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