This is one of my top-five appetizers. It was inspired by a lovely special at one of the best (and most underrated) restaurants in Minnesota, the New Scenic Café. A bright yet unassuming exterior with views of Lake Superior just across North Shore Drive hides wonderfully simple, local fare. Unfortunately, I don't get to make it there as often as I would like, but a version of this crostini was served as a special appetizer one of the last times I was there. Once I got home, I had to re-create it -- I love the contrast between the sweet balsamic-glazed figs and the salty gorgonzola cheese. You could also serve this as dinner with a salad (which I have definitely done).
I'm actually in Minnesota this week (hooray for vacation!), and won't be making it up to Duluth, but I can't wait to check out some favorite restaurants, like The Bachelor Farmer (I wrote about it last summer here), Anchor Fish & Chips (best fish and chips I have EVER had), and hopefully a few more. But mostly, it's so lovely to hang out with my family, see some friends, and relax. Are you taking any trips this summer?
Maple-Balsamic Fig Crostini (serves 6 as an appetizer, 2-3 as a main course)
1 baguette, thinly sliced on the bias
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
12 figs, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup white wine
1-2 oz gorgonzola or blue cheese
1/2 cup marcona almonds or walnuts, toasted
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place baguette slices on a large baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake until lightly toasted and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, melt butter over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. Place figs in pan, cut side down and cook for 30 seconds. Pour maple syrup, vinegar, and wine over figs and cook until liquid is reduced slightly and becomes syrupy, about 5 minutes. Season with black pepper.
To serve: spoon 2-3 fig halves on a piece of bread, then sprinkle cheese and toasted nuts over. Serve immediately.