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Betsy Block


A Figgy Braggart

A Figgy Braggart
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Tuesday night, my dear old friend (and former editor) M and her family came over for a short visit. They live in New York, where her husband is a tenured professor. (Were good friends with a tenured professor! Its dumb luck on our parts, though not on his.) In other words, we dont get to see M and her family even close to often enough. So I wanted to make something really special, if not for dinner (which was just pasta with white beans and ham), at least for an appetizer.

BD had given me this incredible aged balsamic vinegar as a holiday present, and I thought, what better time to break it out than when making dinner for your first-ever food editor? So I asked him to pick up some figs and ricotta salata. (I would have bought them myself but its school vacation week and I would never be so foolish as to take the kids to the store for something like ricotta salata without at least one other adult on hand). While the kids were off playing ping-pong, M and I did the thing I always dream of: I cooked and we visited. Uninterrupted. For about six whole minutes.

As I cut Xes in the figs, slipped in a little piece of the cheese, then drizzled it all with the vinegar, M exclaimed, This looks incredible! Then she tasted it and got even more fervent in her praise. Just as I was about to blush modestly and tell her how easy it had been, especially considering I hadnt actually purchased any of the ingredients myself, BD piped up from the other room, Oh, shes just grandstanding.

What did you say? I asked, frowning. Whatd he say? I asked M, checking to make sure Id heard him correctly.

Im just kidding, he added jovially. I stared him down. Hed ticked me off all right, but I didnt let on until after hed taken the photo.

Gussied-up Figs
I'd ordered fresh figs from my supplier, but he reported there were none to be had in Greater Boston. I'd fire him, but in addition to making deliveries right to the house, he's also my chef, staff photographer and favorite plaything, so I decided that dried figs were actually perfect for this recipe.

So, take your figs -- fresh, dried, whatever your personal assistant can find -- and cut an X in them. Slip in a bit of ricotta salata, or maybe some goat cheese, then drizzle with outrageously expensive balsamic vinegar. The stuff that, apparently, can cause a backlash at any moment, but is worth it anyway.

Just ask M.