Fig, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto & Arugula Pizza
When I moved to Boston after college, I was flush with excitement about living in a big city. So many things to do, people to meet, excitement buzzing all around me. And since I was really beginning to fully realize my passion for food and cooking and eating (well, I’d always had a passion for eating), one of the things I was most excited about, of course, was all the great food and restaurants to try.
But not being from a big city, when I first moved there, all of the things to learn about getting around — learning the “T,” figuring out Boston’s streets (many of which seem to be laid out with no rhyme or reason) and just getting used to the city atmosphere was both exhilarating and a little overwhelming. I look back on that time now with a mixture of fondness and amazement, because after living there for some time, I came to regard Boston as a fairly small, walkable city — and pretty easy to get around (though I never did particularly enjoy driving there.)
One of my very first memories of my time in Boston was a dinner I had with a friend (who had gone to college in Boston, and who I therefore regarded as a pro in all things city-related) in Chestnut Hill, at Todd English’s restaurant Figs. Now, for anyone who lives in the Boston area, you know that Chestnut Hill isn’t really in the thick of Boston proper, but for someone new to the area and city life, it seemed plenty urban. I walked into the restaurant with my friend, thinking to myself “wow, here I am in Todd English’s restaurant. He’s a famous chef! I’m so sophisticated.” For dinner, we ordered salads and a pizza to share. But, this was not my hometown pizza, slathered with tomato sauce, gooey cheese and your standard toppings…no, we ordered pizza with figs. And prosciutto. And goat cheese. And oh, as I bit into a slice, I thought to myself “I’m eating a pizza with figs! I am so sophisticated.” But beyond my self-awareness (which yes, is funny to look at in hindsight) I was amazed at how really wonderful a combination figs and goat cheese were on a pizza. Sweet and tart and savory…amazing.
It was one of those experiences that created an indelible memory for me, and taught me that there was a world of flavor combinations out there ready for me to discover: all I had to do was seek them out and eat with an open mind. Figs and goat cheese and prosciutto have remained one of my favorite food pairings, though what I’ve since found I like even more with them are a bit of arugula. A bite combining those flavors is, to me, pretty perfect: savory, salty, a bit sweet, and touched with arugula’s pepperiness. Delicious.
We love this combination on pizza (though it’s also fantastic in a sandwich, or as a crostini topping.) I spread the fig spread on the crust, top it with crumbled fresh local goat cheese, and bake it; once it comes out of the oven I add soft folds of prosciutto and a generous handful of arugula that I’ve drizzled with a little good olive oil and sprinkled with just a bit of coarse sea salt. It’s wonderful, and always brings me back to that dinner in Boston when I was so wide-eyed and ready to absorb all the experiences life had in store for me.
On a (non-food related) note, I was taking a walk the other day and guess what I came upon?
A red-tailed hawk. About 15 feet in front of me, scoping out a bunch of squirrels that were hunting for seeds on the ground. One squirrel ran right up to the hawk before he realized what a huge mistake he was making.
Then the hawk took off, flew right by me – close enough for me to reach out and touch – and swooped close to the squirrels…
…only to miss and alight up on a tree to better survey the situation.
Super exciting! A truly beautiful bird. Stuff like this makes my whole day.
Fig, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto & Arugula Pizza
I’ve recently been making my pizza dough with a little semolina flour (Bob’s Red Mill brand), for a little boost of flavor. Also, I’ve been cranking the oven up a little higher than I was, to 525 or 550 degree F — as high as my oven will go — as I’m finding the higher heat + baking stone is a better simulation of a traditional bread or pizza oven. You get a crust that’s nicely crisp on the outside but chewy inside; I love it.
1 lb pizza dough (I most often use the recipe listed here, using 2 cups AP flour + 1 cup semolina flour)
fig spread (recipe below)
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
about 2 ounces prosciutto
two generous handfuls of arugula, gently tossed with a little olive oil and coarse sea salt
Preheat the oven to 525 or 550 degrees F with a baking stone inside. Place your pizza crust on a lightly floured pizza peel (or the back of a lightly floured aluminum sheet pan). Spread some fig spread on your pizza crust, enough to coat it but not too thick. Dot with crumbled goat cheese, then slide the pizza onto the baking stone. Bake until the crust is browned and the cheese is melted, about 5-8 minutes. Take the pizza out and top with folds of prosciutto and a mound of dressed arugula.
This spread is just sweet enough — more like a savory & sweet fig puree than a cloyingly sweet jam.
4 ounces dried black Mission figs, chopped
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine or ruby port
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and caramelized. Add the chopped dried figs, the balsamic vinegar and the red wine, scraping up any brown bits that have accumulated on the bottom of the pan. Once the wine is almost evaporated, add the water and sugar. Simmer to reduce until the water is mostly evaporated and the figs are soft. Pour the mixture into a food processor and puree to the thickness you desire (I like mine fairly smooth.) Remove and cool; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 cup.