When you’re looking for a new quick and easy appetizer idea, how about a tartine? Basically an open faced sandwich, the tartine sounds so much more interesting. Especially when topped with sweet, sticky roasted figs. A quick roast in the oven really concentrates their flavor, caramelizing their sugars, rendering them even sweeter and more complex. It is an easy step to make and just gives this simple yet elegant appetizer a bit more finesse. The tangy gorgonzola adds an extra savory note that I find irresistible and plays beautifully off the nutty tannins of the walnuts. Country style peasant loaves are often a good choice for the base as they are chewy and have a strong firm texture. Look for round loaves called pain de campagne and slice it down into a rough serving size, cutting the slice crosswise in half if need be. It all comes together to make a simple, late summer appetizer that really sizzles.
Kitchen Counterpoint: Figs can be in season for a very short time, usually June through September, so when I see them in the market I can’t resist bringing them home. There is something erotic and beautiful about figs. Though they come in many shapes and colors the usual suspects here in Northeast Ohio are either Black Mission (dark purple) or Calimyrna (green). When sliced, the flesh of mission figs has a lovely color and pattern that contrasts with their dark skin, adding drama to any dish. And couldn’t we all use a little more drama on our plates?
12 fresh figs, stemmed and quartered
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
6 slices country style bread
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Pinch grated nutmeg
6 slices prosciutto
1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 375ºF
Toss the figs, vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the figs have dried and caramelized slightly. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the bread slices and bake in the oven until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
In a small bowl combine the ricotta cheese, basil, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste for seasoning and adjust with more salt, pepper or nutmeg to taste.
Spread the cheese mixture over the bread and top with a slice of prosciutto, the roasted figs, gorgonzola and walnuts. Serve immediately.
Tip: Did you know that you can toast walnuts in the microwave? Lay them out on a plate and nuke for about 33 seconds. Move them around and nuke another 33 seconds. They are toasted when they give off a warm, toasty aroma.