Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
If you're using young balsamic vinegar, place it in a small saucepan over medium-low heat with the brown sugar and heat until the vinegar is thick and syrupy and reduced by a little more than half.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Trim the crusts from the bread and cut each slice in half lengthwise, making 12 crostini. Brush them lightly with oil and wrap each crostini with a slice of pancetta in a spiral fashion, like a candy cane. Transfer to the baking sheet and bake until the pancetta begins to crisp, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, rinse and dry the figs. Quarter the figs lengthwise. If using, cut the grapes in half.
When the pancetta crostini are almost ready, in a large bowl gently toss the arugula, figs and, if desired, grapes with a pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper and about 3 tablespoons oil. Arrange the salad on individual plates and drizzle with vinegar. Garnish with the crostini.
Per serving (based on 6): 288 calories, 9 gm protein, 35 gm carbohydrates, 13 gm fat, 16 mg cholesterol, 4 gm saturated fat, 511 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber
Figs in Nightgowns Place 1 cup Nutella in a bowl and transfer to a warm place so it is easy to spoon. Whisk in 1 cup plain, preferably whole-milk, yogurt and whisk until completely smooth. Line a plate with wax paper. Rinse and dry 12 large ripe fresh Black Mission figs. Working with one at a time, dip each fig into the Nutella mixture and turn to coat or, if you prefer, place the figs on a sheet of wax paper and drizzle the sauce over the figs. Refrigerate until cold. If desired, serve with a dollop of yogurt on the side to cut the richness. Adapted from "Desserts 1-2-3," by Rozanne Gold (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2002).
FOR OVERRIPE FIGS
Fig Crostini or Sandwich Spread fresh goat or ricotta cheese on a warm pizza crust or sliced, toasted Italian bread and top with sliced overripe fresh figs. For something sweet, drizzle with honey. For a savory flavor, top with prosciutto and, if desired, arugula and freshly cracked black pepper.
Fig Ice Cream Stir coarsely chopped overripe fresh figs into vanilla ice cream that has been allowed to soften slightly.
Fig and Balsamic Vinegar In a blender or food processor, puree 2 to 3 stemmed overripe fresh figs with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (not the cheap stuff but not the $20-per-bottle kind, either). Taste and, if desired, add a touch of honey and blend again. Serve drizzled over arugula with additional fresh ripe figs, alongside grilled chicken breasts wrapped with serrano ham. Or drizzle over pecorino cheese .
Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs Wrap halved overripe fresh figs with serrano ham and broil or grill (skewered on rosemary sprigs, if desired), turning as necessary, until the ham is crisped and sizzling and the figs are warm and oozing.
FOR UNDERRIPE FIGS